A good grasp of grammar is a must if you want a high ACT or SAT score. Fortunately, learning the grammar rules essential to acing either test isn’t as hard as it may seem. Here are the five main rules you’ll want to master before taking the ACT or SAT.
1. Verb Tense
Both the ACT and SAT test students on proper verb tense. To ace these questions, remember that only one verb tense should be used throughout a single sentence. If, for instance, you notice a sentence with both a past tense and present tense verb, something is wrong.
However, simple past, present perfect, past perfect, conditional, and future tense verbs aren’t the only ones you’ll need to be familiar with. Review present perfect verbs, past perfect verbs, and past participles so you’ll recognize each type of verb no matter how or where it is used.
2. Apostrophes and Possessives
Apostrophes may be small, but they can trip you up if you aren’t careful. Remember that apostrophes are used for only two types of words: possessives and contractions.
In possessive nouns, the apostrophe usually comes between the noun and the “s” at the end. However, if the noun is plural and ends in “s,” the apostrophe should come at the very end of the word. In contractions, the apostrophe is placed where the letters have been removed to join two words.
The most important punctuation rules to familiarize yourself with are those for commas and semicolons.
Commas are most often used in a list that contains three or more items. Commas can also be used to join two grammatically independent thoughts in a single sentence. However, this is only allowed if a FANBOYS word (for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so) is also used between the two after the comma. In addition, commas can be inserted so that an informative yet nonessential phrase can be added to a sentence.
Semicolons, on the other hand, are used to join two complete, interrelated thoughts, without a FANBOYS word. Remember, however, that an independent and dependent clause can never be paired together in a sentence with a semicolon, because each part of the sentence must be able to stand alone, and a dependent clause can’t do that.
4. Subject/Verb and Subject/Pronoun Agreement
Being familiar with subject/verb and subject/pronoun agreement is particularly important on the SAT. However, even ACT test-takers should know the basic grammar rules pertaining to subject agreement.
A common mistake many test-takers make is using a singular verb with a plural or compound subject. It’s important to read sentences carefully to ensure you have correctly identified the subject. If you do this, then knowing which verb to use should be fairly easy.
The rule for subject/pronoun agreement is also fairly simple: make sure the pronoun accurately reflects the subject it is replacing. If, for example, you are talking about an individual woman, then using “her” or “she” is a must; using “they” or “them” would be wrong. Once again, knowledge of the grammar rules coupled with careful reading will help you catch subject/pronoun agreement mistakes with relative ease.
5. Sentence Ordering and Context
Both the ACT and SAT require students to understand how words are used in context and how sentences should be ordered in a paragraph.
Using words in context not only means being familiar with basic vocabulary but also knowing which words are considered formal or informal, as these two types of words should not be in the same sentence.
Sentence ordering, as the term implies, means ensuring that sentences are in the proper order in a paragraph so that the author’s ideas flow logically. To get these questions right, you should not only learn about proper ordering rules but also practice reading non-fiction articles on a regular basis. Reading practice will help you get familiar with how ideas are typically arranged, which will help you quickly determine the most logical order when you take your test.
Another good way to discover grammar rules you should brush up on is to take an ACT or SAT practice test. In addition, using timed tests can get you in the habit of answering questions both accurately and quickly. This is a skill you’ll need no matter which test you’re taking, as both the ACT and SAT have numerous questions and short time periods for completing them.
UWorld offers helpful practice tests formatted to look just like the actual ACT and SAT, so you’ll feel confident taking the real test on the big day. With ample practice and review, you’ll soon master the basic grammar rules you need to get your best results on the ACT or SAT exam.