What are the most common writing mistakes on the SAT®?

Common mistakes on SAT writing

Here are some tips for common errors and easy mistakes to look out for on the Writing section of the SAT® exam. You may make some mistakes because a question has tricky wording or because you have minimal time. These mistakes require better test-taking strategies. Other mistakes occur because you don’t understand the material.

For these common errors, you must study the grammar rules and topics. You should take the time to understand why you are missing a question. If it is because you need to study more, then you must spend time learning the skills.

If you are missing points because of your test-taking strategy, it is important to test some new techniques.

Areas That Require More Studying

1) Grammar Rules

If you find yourself choosing answers based on what sounds right, then it is a good idea to spend time reviewing grammar rules. Remember, the SAT test will provide answer choices designed to confuse you. This can mean that some answer choices sound right while being grammatically wrong, and some answers sound wrong but are grammatically correct. To avoid this error, be sure that you can explain each answer choice or error through grammar rules.

2) Gerunds

Mistakes with gerunds are common because there are so many questions that test your knowledge of them. You should know that gerunds are nouns that end in “-ing.”

They are commonly misused in wordiness questions, sentence fragment questions, and parallelism questions. You may come across a gerund that could be replaced by a more concise phrasing or a gerund that disturbs the sentence’s parallel structure.

You may also find a gerund in place of a verb. Knowing the rules about gerunds and verbs is important for spotting and correcting these errors.

3) Dangling modifiers

Mistakes with dangling modifiers should also be on your radar. The rule you need to remember to ace these questions is that a modifying phrase must immediately precede the noun it describes. A modifier is a descriptive clause, and if it is separated from the noun it modifies, then it is called a dangling modifier.

4) Idiom

Idiom questions are difficult because finding their correct answer often involves using what sounds right. Sometimes gerunds are used where infinitives should. Sometimes the wrong preposition follows a verb. You should learn about prepositional idioms, idioms with gerunds, and idioms with infinitives.

5) Pronouns and their antecedents

Spend time understanding the grammar rules for pronouns and their antecedents. The antecedent is the noun that a pronoun replaces. Antecedents and pronouns should agree in gender and number. Some SAT test questions present an unclear antecedent, making any errors with pronoun agreement hard to recognize. If you aren’t sure what noun a pronoun is replacing, you will need to correct or flag the error.

5) Faulty Comparisons

Lastly, be sure that you understand the rules for faulty comparisons. To avoid this mistake, the most important rule to know is that you can only compare equivalent nouns. Be sure that the items in comparison are specific and that the two items are of the same category.

Mistakes That Require Better Test-Management Skills

  1. Rushing or ignoring grammar rules when making decisions are test-taking errors that could benefit from some strategizing. Be sure that you use tools (like the process of elimination and time management techniques) to work effectively.
  2. Rushing through the questions and answer choices is a significant mistake students make. Be sure that as you read the answer choices, you understand that multiple answers could work, but only one option is grammatically accurate and concise. Your goal is to make improvements, and errors occur when students replace the underlined error with an answer choice that is functional but not the most accurate.
  3. Rushing to select the first answer that sounds right and is grammatically correct can harm your score. This error will typically occur when a student ignores grammar rules. Remember, the goal of this section of the SAT exam is to assess your ability to improve writing mistakes. This is reliant on your knowledge of grammar rules. Strategize by ensuring that each answer you select can be backed up by a grammar rule.
  4. Because multiple answers could be correct, it is essential to read each answer choice. Sometimes the most challenging part of the Writing section is narrowing the answer choices that work down to the choice that works the best. Instead of rushing through the answer choices, or selecting one answer too quickly, go through each option and eliminate them one by one to make your selection.

Come back to this page as a resource to target your errors and learn more about grammar rules or strategies! You may need to try new test-taking techniques or study to better understand grammar rules. You can practice avoiding these common mistakes through UWorld’s SAT Prep Course.

The course includes practice exams with performance tracking tools that can help pinpoint your common mistakes. You can use the scoring data to create a study plan and boost your performance in the Writing section of the SAT exam.

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