1. Avoid the passive voice
Here's an active sentence:
I ate chicken wings.
Here's the passive version:
Chicken wings were eaten by me.
Notice how the passive version is a not only wordier but also more awkward. Passive sentences usually contain the word by.
On the SAT, you want to choose active sentences over passive ones. To make a sentence active, move the "main actor" to the front.
|Passive:||Eye contact with the raging bull was avoided by me.|
|Active:||I avoided eye contact with the raging bull.|
|Passive:||There is a wide variety of cuisine cooked by the chef.|
|Active:||The chef cooked a wide variety of cuisine.|
|Passive:||It was decided by the jury that the defendant was innocent.|
|Active:||The jury decided that the defendant was innocent.|
|Passive:||We were invited by our coworkers to attend the dinner party.|
|Active:||Our coworkers invited us to attend the dinner party.|
The passive voice, however, is NOT grammatically incorrect. Many students think that a passive sentence is always wrong. That's not the case. It's just that the passive voice is usually not the best way to express your thoughts. If you're given three grammatically incorrect answer choices and one that is passive, choose the passive one. Most of the time though, there will be an answer choice in the active voice.
2. Beware of double main verbs
|Wrong:||One of our school's students, came from India, was awarded the national scholarship.|
|Correct:||One of our school's students, who came from India, was awarded the national scholarship.|
|Wrong:||The dire warnings serve as reminders of our purpose in life is survival.|
|Correct:||The dire warnings serve as reminders of our purpose in life: survival.|
If you're lazy and just read the second half of the sentence, our purpose in life is survival, you might think the sentence is fine. Don't fall victim to such trickiness.
|Wrong:||The central train stations, which service thousands of people each day, need to expand the tracks, are undergoing construction.|
|Correct:||The central train stations, which service thousands of people each day, need to expand the tracks and are undergoing construction.|
3. Not only... but (also)
Not only is always paired up with but. The also is optional.
|Wrong:||The college experience is not only an exciting time to meet new people and also a stressful one because of the level of independence required.|
|Correct:||The college experience is not only an exciting time to meet new people but also a stressful one because of the level of independence required.|
|Wrong:||Not only were the books the most widely read, they influenced much of the philosophical thought during that time.|
|Correct:||Not only were the books the most widely read, but they also influenced much of the philosophical thought during that time.|
4. Whereby and Thereby
These two words aren't used very often in conversation, but they get thrown onto the SAT from time to time. Make sure you understand them.
Thereby means as a result of that or because of that:
Students practice hard everyday, thereby gaining a deeper understanding of the music.
Though they're used differently, thereby has a similar meaning to therefore.
Whereby means by which or in which. It's typically used to express the method through which something is done:
The government set up a system whereby people could vote using the Internet.
5. Prepositions with Multiple Idioms
|Wrong:||I am interested and familiar with graphic design.|
|Correct:||I am interested in and familiar with graphic design.|
|Wrong:||He always complains yet insists on my presence.|
|Correct:||He always complains about yet insists on my presence.|
|Wrong:||The son of immigrant parents, Jacob felt a need to reconnect and learn from the past.|
|Correct:||The son of immigrant parents, Jacob felt a need to reconnect with and learn from the past.|
|Wrong:||Ironically, the movement was both a revolt and a celebration of our cultural values.|
|Correct:||Ironically, the movement was both a revolt against and a celebration of our cultural values.|
The following example is correct because both idioms take on the preposition of. In this case, the preposition does not need to be written twice.
He is both a supporter and critic of the new law.