Back to the grindstone

Your dear tutor, Reader, has spent a busy couple of weeks moving to a new place, navigating through a strange, AP-inflected schedule, and he also had to clean out his closet of childhood memories at his mother’s house (bonus points if you can correctly identify and correct the SAT error in that sentence).

Thus the long mostly-absence.

Enough excuses. Back to work. I want to talk about instinct and the Writing multiple choice. A lot of SAT tutors and blogs recommend relying on instinct when dealing with the Finding the Error and Sentence Correction problems; others say that you should lean instead on a comprehensive knowledge of the discrete set of issues that the SAT tests. Each side excoriates the other. The truth, as it usually (but not always) does, lies in the middle: trust your instinct, but verify it with the rules. 

When I begin working on the Writing section with new students, I usually have them read the sentences aloud, and I listen closely for any hitches or stumbles. On most problems, they hesitate for a split second over the part of the sentence with the error. Sometimes, they correctly identify that section of the sentence as erroneous, but often they don’t even realize that they hesitated.

That's a sharp grammar you've got there.

That’s a sharp grammar you’ve got there.

This is a mistake. You have to listen to your internal grammar, which you have sharpened for years like a sword on the whetstone of essays, conversations, and social media. It’s a powerful weapon, so use it!

Now, having identified the error, try to fix it. This is the more difficult part–anyone can tell that someone has a compound fracture, but only a trained professional can set it properly. We’ll talk about that in the next post.

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