Pronoun and Number Errors: Tips and Tricks To Crack This Error on the SAT® Writing Exam

Cartoon people vector illustration of tiny characters with huge magnifying glass and red pencil edit along with correct mistakes in paper test. Teacher or Student fix grammar and punctuation underline errors.

The SAT Writing exam will present you with text that contains errors in grammar, structure, organization, punctuation, and evidence. Your ability to improve these kinds of errors is measured through questions that fall into the following categories: Words in Context, Command of Evidence, Expression of Ideas, and Standard English Conventions. Questions that ask you to solve errors with pronoun agreement are common. 

Here are some steps to follow when approaching errors with pronouns. Ask yourself these questions when you come across a pronoun that has been underlined.

1. What word is the pronoun replacing?

The first step should be pinpointing the antecedent. Which word is being replaced by the pronoun?

This question seems simple, but the SAT exam will purposefully try to trip you up by distancing the pronoun from its antecedent or giving you a sentence that contains multiple pronouns tethered to multiple antecedents.

Take your time with the more complicated sentence structures, and ensure that you are focusing on the correct pronouns and antecedents.

2. Is the antecedent clear?

If the antecedent is hard to decipher, you may have to edit the sentence to clarify which noun the pronoun is replacing. Remember, the antecedent must be a noun! If you come across a sentence that has too many antecedents or no antecedents at all, you should automatically flag the error and make improvements when necessary. 

Get in the habit of paying attention to pronouns that are underlined throughout the SAT Writing test. You may need to make an improvement in order for the antecedent to agree with the pronoun in number.

3. Do the pronoun and antecedent agree in number?

If the pronoun and antecedent are clear, then check to ensure that they agree in number. 

Here is an example of a disagreement in number:

The girls forgot her shoes.

The pronoun “her” is in the singular form, but the antecedent “girls” is plural. To correct this sentence, switch the pronoun to the plural “their.”

Correction: The girls forgot their shoes.

The general rule for this error is that a singular antecedent agrees with a singular pronoun, and a plural antecedent agrees with a plural pronoun. 

You can practice spotting and improving mistakes with pronoun and number agreement using UWorld’s SAT Prep Course. The prep course contains thousands of practice questions to perfect your skills. It also offers performance tracking tools to pinpoint areas that could improve the most. 

You can shape your study plan around this data. You should also know that the prep course offers detailed question explanations to help you learn from your mistakes. Take advantage of these resources to maximize your score in the Writing section of the SAT exam.

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