Improving Sentences

In this lesson, we are heading into the second kind of question type: “Improving Sentences”.

“Improving Sentences” is probably the single most important question type you can find on the SAT. Out of 49 grammar MC questions, 25 are Improving Sentences questions. In fact, it is so important that among the 10 sections, 1 section (sec. 10 the last one) is completely devoted to it.

This type of question is very similar to Identifying Sentences Errors, and chances are you will find a bunch of similar grammar mistakes. So if you’re familiar with all those common grammar points for ISE questions, you’re half-done with Improving Sentences.

But yes, you are only HALF-done. The other half lies in the fact that there are grammar mistakes that can’t be fully tested with the Identifying Sentence Errors format. Examples include run-on sentences, passive voice, misplaced modifiers, etc., that will be discussed in this lesson.

Another point to take note of is the difference between the words “identifying errors” and “improving”. In ISE, the mistake has to be grammatically wrong, whereas in Improving Sentences, the correct answer may simply be a better version of the original one that is still grammatically correct.

Step 1: Predict an Improvement for the Underlined Portion

Step 2: Eliminate the Choices that include Grammar Mistakes

Step 3: Eliminate the Choices that Change the Original Idea

Step 4: Pick the Most Concise Choice or “A” if it’s the Best One

 

IMPROVING SENTENCES: AN EXAMPLE

In an Improving Sentences question, you will be given one sentence with one group of words being underlined. Your goal is to find the best revision among the five choices. Similar to Identifying Sentence Errors, some sentences need no improvement. Don’t feel obligated to improve a sentence. In the case where the original one is the best to you, choose “A”.

Example:

Considered to be his greatest work, the Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoevsky penned the novel “Crime and Punishment” that influenced subsequent writers like Franz Kafka and Ernest Hemingway.

A. the Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoevsky penned the novel “Crime and Punishment” that

B. the novel “Crime and Punishment”, after written by Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoevsky,

C. the novel “Crime and Punishment”, being written by the Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoevsky,

D. the Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoevsky, upon writing the novel “Crime and Punishment”,

E. Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoevsky’s “Crime and Punishment”

What is the correct response to this question? Why?

Let’s apply our “P-E-E-P” method in tackling the above example:

Step 1: Predict an Improvement for the Underlined Portion

By inspecting the sentence, we notice that “Considered to be his greatest work” is a modifier. We then ask the question: what does it modify? Apparently “a novelist” can’t be considered to be a great work, only “a novel” can! So we can try to spot at those choices that begin with “the novel”

Step 2: Eliminate the Choices that include Grammar Mistakes

After step 1, we should be able to eliminate choices A & D, which introduce grammar mistakes.

Step 3: Eliminate the Choices that Change the Original Idea

We should eliminate choice B in this step. Nowhere from the original sentence was it mentioned about the concept “after”

Step 4: Pick the Most Concise Choice or “A” if it’s the Best One

Even though C & E essentially express the same idea, we choose E because it’s the most concise one.