THE MUST-KNOW RULES THAT HELP NAIL THE SAT WRITING SECTION

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The SAT Writing Section – There is no denying that the ‘new’ SAT (not so ‘new’ anymore) is a scoring test even on the English sections. That is probably because the test, unlike its predecessor, has defined content as far as the WRITING SECTION; the READING SECTION, too, allows even test-takers without clear reading skills to negotiate the passages more by technique than by reading. These assertions may well spark a debate and hence merit elaboration.

This article seeks to establish the assertion that the WRITING section has ‘defined content’ and, as such, can be mastered through regular practice that spans different materials available, exposing the test taker to different difficulty levels. The 44 questions can skillfully be broken down into 4 types- punctuation-based, grammar-based, logical reading-based, and structure-based – with approximately 11 questions of each type.

In the first of a 4 part series of articles, let me demonstrate what approach is needed for Punctuation-based Questions.

Test-takers must be adept at using the comma, colon, semi-colon, and dash for the punctuation-based questions. These are significantly the most commonly tested punctuations, so one must master them. The four answer choices will proffer a clever combination of these punctuations.

They will expect the test taker to be able to eliminate answers that are using any of these punctuations incorrectly. Once the elimination step has been carried through, the answer choices left (probably just 2) will afford a clearer picture to pick the right one out of. Here is an example to illustrate my point.

In a classroom in Guatemala, Maya students are learning how to read and write the 44 scripts under the guidance of their teacher; they press the once-suppressed script of their ancestors into fresh clay.

44.
A) NO CHANGE
B) script, under
C) script. Under:
D) script. Under

Elimination: C because using a colon after simply a preposition (“Under”) at the start of a sentence is wrong. And B because if we interpret the sentence to mean that “students are learning how to read and write the script” under the guidance of their teacher, it will be inappropriate to place a comma before the preposition “under.”

Analysis: If we go for A, in which the comma after “script” has been removed, we read the sentence to mean that “In a classroom in Guatemala, Maya students are learning how to read and write the script under the guidance of their teacher” it will be incorrect to place a comma after “ teacher” because the next bit of the text
(non-underlined and therefore not open to correction) is an independent sentence starting with “ they?”
(A comma between 2 independent sentences is a comma splice error!!!!)

Selection: Only D works. 2 independent clauses separated by a full stop! And don’t ignore the smartly placed comma after the prepositional modifier (“Under the guidance of their teacher,………….”)