SAT Writing: Idioms

Idioms are phrases that are correct just because that's the way we say them. On the SAT, idiom errors come in the form of an incorrect preposition.

Example 1
Wrong:He is regarded to be an awesome speaker.
Correct:He is regarded as an awesome speaker.
Example 2
Wrong:That painting is similar with the red one.
Correct:That painting is similar to the red one.
Example 3
Wrong:She is suspicious towards me.
Correct:She is suspicious of me.
Example 4
Wrong:I have an interest to fishing.
Correct:I have an interest in fishing.
Example 5
Wrong:The winner was awarded of a gold medal.
Correct:The winner was awarded of a gold medal.
Example 6
Wrong:The company was accused to donate millions of dollars to the President's campaign.
Correct:The company was accused of donating millions of dollars to the President's campaign.

There's no rhyme or reason behind these phrases and the right preposition can depend on the meaning of the sentence. Some are downright obvious because they sound so unnatural but some can be tough to spot, especially if you haven't encountered the idiom before. Practice will expose you to the most common ones, but sometimes, you'll have no choice but to rely on your instincts. Fortunately, the new SAT won't go out of its way to test you on obscure idioms.

  1. His speech was meant at inciting conflict within the other party.

    (A) NO CHANGE
    (B) in inciting of
    (C) to incite
    (D) inciting

  2. He wrote to the President in the hope to persuade him to veto the bill.

    (A) NO CHANGE
    (B) to hope to persuade
    (C) in the hope of persuasion
    (D) in the hope of persuading

  3. The architecture of the building is based for the elaborate designs of the Persians.

    (A) NO CHANGE
    (B) after
    (C) on
    (D) by

  4. The couch made a temporary place to sleep while the bed was being replaced.

    (A) NO CHANGE
    (A) made for
    (B) made as
    (C) was made to

  5. I was assigned a seat across the table to a young boy who was fiddling with his pencil.

    (A) NO CHANGE
    (B) at
    (C) from
    (D) with

  6. When working in a nuclear power plant, one must be careful of exposure to radiation.

    (A) NO CHANGE
    (B) careful from exposure of radiation.
    (C) careful of exposure from radiation.
    (D) careful about exposure with radiation.

  7. The violence in that neighborhood points at the failure of existing public safety measures.

    (A) NO CHANGE
    (B) to
    (C) on
    (D) out

  8. Joanna's parents are so lenient that they allow her buying anything she wanted.

    (A) NO CHANGE
    (B) to buy
    (C) in buying
    (D) OMIT the underlined portion.

  9. In preparation for Valentine's Day, the restaurant workers lined both sides of the walkway between candles and flowers.

    (A) NO CHANGE
    (B) along
    (C) with
    (D) around

  10. The general ordered his officers watching over the prisoners.

    (A) NO CHANGE
    (B) watching
    (C) to watch at
    (D) to watch over

  11. When her cousins were in town, Angela urged them to visit the local zoo.

    (A) NO CHANGE
    (B) visiting
    (C) to visit
    (D) their visiting

  12. She managed to get a position in the director of the engineering department.

    (A) NO CHANGE
    (B) for
    (C) as
    (D) into

  13. The law will hold on him accountable for his actions.

    (A) NO CHANGE
    (B) hold for him accountable with
    (C) hold him accountable to
    (D) hold him accountable for

Want more questions? Our SAT Writing Advanced Guide and Workbook contains over 500 additional practice questions (grouped by topic) and 3 practice tests.

  1. C
  2. B
  3. C
  4. A
  5. C
  6. D
  7. B
  8. B
  9. C
  10. D
  11. A
  12. C
  13. D