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8 Grammar Tips to Help Kids on the SAT

Teens biting their nails over this portion of the College Board exam? Or simply looking for tricks to brush up on the ol' English? Get help here!

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2. Matching Pairs: Subject-verb agreement

The second rule has to do with matching singular subjects with singular verbs and plural subjects with plural verbs. The College Board tries to trick students by interposing prepositional phrases between the subject and verb – sort of like stuffing Styrofoam peanuts into a FedEx gift box. To get to the gift, you have to first throw out the extraneous packaging.

For example: The harmful effects of insulin resistance on the metabolic system is well know.

Notice how the unnecessary prepositional phrases of insulin resistance and on the metabolic system subvert the true relationship between the subject and verb. The subject (harmful effects) is plural, so the verb (is) must also be plural. The sentence should read: The harmful effects of insulin resistance on the metabolic system are well known.

To put this concept into play with SAT-style questions, consider the following examples and choose the best way to improve the sentence:

  • Each of the 5,000 spectators are cheering wildly at the game.
  • The spectators cheering wildly at the game are among the 5,000.
  • At the game, each of the 5,000 spectators in attendance are cheering wildly.
  • Each of the 5,000 spectators at the game is cheering wildly.

The last choice is correct. To analyze this correctly, ignore the prepositional phrase in the sentence ("of the 5,000 spectators") and focus exclusively on the subject, which, in this case, is "Each." Since "Each" is singular, the verb must also be singular. This technique for parsing sentences is both extremely powerful and easy, once you get the hang of it. I have my students do practice test after practice test in order for the techniques to sink in.

OK, time for a breather. The next rule is the easiest of all to understand and follow!

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