Every Idiom You Need to Know For SAT® Exam

Idioms for SAT

Important SAT Update: Transition to Digital SAT
Effective December 3, 2023, the traditional paper-and-pencil format of the SAT has been discontinued. Starting in 2024, all students are required to take the Digital SAT, ushering in substantial changes in duration, format, material coverage, and question types. This shift to the Digital SAT represents a departure from traditional testing methods. It is crucial for students, educators, and test-takers to acquaint themselves with the new examination structure. Read more about the Digital SAT here.

Defining Idioms: Phrases That Use Gerunds, Infinitives, and Prepositions Vs. Figurative Expressions

When most people think of an idiom, they think of expressions that are more figurative. But you won’t need to know the definitions of these kinds of sayings on the SAT® exam. Instead, you should be prepared to recognize idiom errors with gerunds, infinitives, and prepositions.

You will need to make adjustments for gerunds and infinitives used with idioms. Look for words that end in “-ing” and are used as nouns (these are gerunds). Gerunds look like “singing” and “walking.”

You will also need to pay attention to infinitives. An infinitive is a verb that operates as a noun. An infinitive typically looks like: “to (verb).”

Some examples are “to be,” “to do,” or “to go.”

Here are some examples of idioms containing gerunds:
     The boy was accused of stealing.
     I could not imagine walking to school in this weather.

Here are some examples of idioms containing infinitives:
     We did not plan to go to the lake.
     My sister offered to help me wrap presents.

Questions with prepositional idioms require you to look at the surrounding information in order to decide if a preposition has been used correctly.

There aren’t any rules for making this decision: instead, you will have to go off what sounds the best. Some sentences may be grammatically sound, but the idiom contains an error.

Here is a correct idiom:
      Her mother insisted on wearing a coat.

Here is an example of an incorrect idiom:
      Her mother insisted at wearing a coat.

This sentence is grammatically correct, but there is an idiom error. Fixing this sentence will rely on your familiarity with prepositions.

To fix this sentence, you will need to know that “on” is the proper preposition to follow “insisted.”

What To Expect From Idiom Questions On The SAT Exam

Practice recognizing gerunds, infinitives, and prepositions. If you see that a gerund, infinitive, or preposition is in question, it is a good idea to look for idiom errors. Be sure to include the answer choices when scanning for gerunds, infinitives, and prepositions.

There aren’t any specific rules that will help you with these questions. Instead, you will need to rely on your knowledge of the English language. You don’t need to memorize every idiom in the list below, but you should familiarize yourself with them.

If you are familiar with the majority of these expressions, these questions will be easy for you. If English is your first language, basing the answer on what sounds right will be relatively straightforward. On the other hand, these questions can be difficult for students whose first language is not English: they may struggle to base answers on what sounds right.

Here is a list of idioms that you may encounter on the SAT exam. It is a good idea to become familiar with them.

Some Prepositional Idioms

  • Enter into
  • Move on 
  • Talk about 
  • See as
  • Take advantage of
  • Amazed by
  • Known for
  • Abstain from
  • Decide against
  • Succeed in
  • Think over
  • As a means of 
  • Look at
  • Wait for
  • Contribute to
  • Identify with
  • In order to be 
  • Serve as

Some Idioms with Gerunds

  • Insist on (-ing)
  • Effective at (-ing)
  • After (-ing)
  • Discuss (-ing)
  • Plan on (-ing) 
  • Refrain from (-ing)
  • resume (-ing)
  • Before (-ing)
  • Imagine (-ing)
  • Without (-ing)
  • Accuse of (-ing)

Some Idioms With Infinitives

  • Mean (to ___)
  • Offer (to ___)
  • Want  (to ___)
  • Plan  (to ___)
  • Choose  (to ___)
  • Expect  (to ___)
  • Agree (to ___)

You can practice spotting idiom errors through UWorld’s SAT Prep Course. Our practice exams will provide you with realistic experience, and our performance tracking tools will pinpoint your weak areas. While taking practice exams, you should keep an eye out for underlined gerunds, infinitives, and prepositions, and pay attention to questions where every answer choice is a preposition.

Try UWorld’s SAT Prep Course today, and get all of the practice you need to reach your scoring potential!

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