Grammar Tips for SAT Studying (SAT Writing Guide)

If you’re a high school student looking to go to college, you’ve probably heard of (or even started studying for) the SAT exam. It’s the most critical test of your time in high school and can play a huge role in which college you go to. Luckily, there are a few things that you can do for SAT prep to ensure you do well on test day. This article covers grammar tips for SAT studying and everything you need to know to prepare for the test.

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The Basics: What Is the SAT?

student studying SAT grammar rules to pass the SAT writing section

Before we jump into some SAT grammar tips for studying, let’s start with a brief refresher on what the SAT is.

The SAT is a standardized test used for college admission in the United States. Debuting in 1926, SAT initially stood for “scholastic aptitude test,” but as the test evolved, the acronym and original meaning slowly dropped.

The exam aims to measure whether a student is ready for college and give colleges more objective data to facilitate admission. However, schools use more than students’ SAT scores to determine admission. Admission is based on many other factors, including:

  • High school GPA
  • Classes taken in high school
  • Extracurricular activities
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Personal aspects

The exam is multiple choice and is usually taken by high school students either in the spring of their junior year or the fall of their senior year. People typically recommend preparing to take the exam twice. Prepare early and leave time before the end of the year for a retake.

Takeaway: The SAT is a standardized math & language test. The exam lasts about 180 minutes and is broken into different sections.

What Is on the SAT?

There are only two main components to the SAT: 

  1. Math
  2. Reading, writing, and language

There’s also a writing component — SAT Essay — in which you write an essay in 50 minutes. This was an optional part of the test, but it was discontinued for most people in 2021. (Some SAT School Day administrations still require the essay portion, so it is offered in some states. We briefly touch on it for those students who may need to take it.) If you are writing an essay for a homework, be sure to use our FREE Essay Checker.

The SAT math section is self-explanatory, with some sections requiring a calculator and others where a calculator is prohibited. It contains 58 questions, and you have 80 minutes to complete each section.

The reading and writing part of the test is broken down into two different sections.

  • The reading section contains 52 multiple choice questions that you have 65 minutes to answer
  • The writing and language part includes 44 multiple choice questions that you have 35 minutes to answer

The writing and language sections of the test are where your English grammar is tested directly, as well as your knowledge of basic writing skills.

So without further ado, let’s discuss SAT grammar tips for studying to ensure that you’re prepared to deliver your best on test day.

Takeaway: The SAT covers the subjects of math and grammar.

SAT Grammar Tips for Studying

With English grammar determining almost a third of your SAT score, it’s essential to diligently prepare for this particular part of the test. Of course, you need to understand basic spelling rules like the difference between openned vs opened. But there is more than that!

Here are four SAT grammar tips to help you do your best and get the highest score possible.

1. Know Subject-Verb Agreement

The grammar rule you will undoubtedly need to know for the SAT is subject-verb agreement, so you must understand what this means.

The basic understanding of the subject-verb agreement is that a singular subject must have a singular predicate, and a plural object must have a plural predicate. No matter if you’re using an action verb vs linking verb, these rules apply. See the following examples:

  • There is a mouse in the house.
  • There are mice in the house.

The first sentence contains correct grammar because the singular verb matches the singular object (“is” and “mouse”). Then, in the second sentence, the subject — mice —  becomes plural, which means that the verb must also be plural (“mice” and “are”). 

Tip: Be sure to never mix a singular subject & plural subject in the same sentence.

2. Understand How a Collective Noun Works

Another confusing concept that the SATs include is the idea that every collective noun is singular. 

Here’s what we mean by that: words used for grouping various objects, individuals, or ideas are singular when used in a sentence. These words include:

  • Group
  • Team
  • Crowd
  • Class 
  • Herd

When you see one of these words used in a sentence, the word itself is singular, even though it includes multiple people or items. Always be sure to read the previous sentence to get the appropriate context. Here’s an example:

  • Correct: There is a group of students in the museum.
  • Incorrect: There are a group of students in the museum.

In instances when you refer to multiple groupings, the grouping noun turns plural:

  • There are groups of students in the museum.

Takeaway: Collective nouns are one of the most important grammatical rules that should appear in the SAT writing section. Always check to see if you should be using singular or plural nouns.

3. Keep Your Word Count to a Minimum

Another top grammar tip for studying is to limit your word count and look for concise writing. Going overkill with a high paragraph word count is a major mistake.

In the SAT reading section, the shortest grammatically correct answer choice that communicates all of the necessary information is the correct answer. Do some practice questions to get a feel for what to look for.

Try not to get swayed by answers that may sound correct but contain excess words, as they are usually incorrect.

When it comes to the SAT writing section, avoid using passive voice, know when to use a singular verb versus a plural verb, and watch verb tense. You should be able to identify a sentence fragment and dangling modifier (modifying phrase) and tell the difference between an independent clause and a dependent clause to ensure your writing is as clean as possible. (Again, not all test takers must complete the essay section.)

Takeaway: When it comes to SAT writing, it is more about the quality of your work than the number of words. Write in complete sentences and state your points clearly.

4. Learn to Recognize a Comma Splice and Use Semicolons

A comma splice is when a comma separates two independent clauses or thoughts, resulting in run-on sentences and other grammatically incorrect mistakes. 

If you write a sentence with a comma and notice that each thought in the sentence can exist independently, use a semicolon instead.

Here’s an example:

  • Comma splice: She was exhausted from work, however she had to do laundry later that night.
  • Semicolon: She was exhausted from work; however, she had to do laundry later that night.

Where the punctuation separates the sentence into two independent thoughts, use a semicolon instead of a comma. Mastering comma rules is critical to doing great on the SAT!

SAT Grammar Practice Questions

1. Choose the sentence that uses proper subject-verb agreement:

a) The group of students were excited for their field trip.

b) The group of students was excited for their field trip.

Select the sentence that uses proper punctuation:

a) Running late the bus was missed.

b) Running late, the bus was missed.

2. Choose the sentence that uses proper pronoun-antecedent agreement:

a) Each student must bring their own calculator.

b) Each student must bring his or her own calculator.

3. Select the sentence that uses proper parallel structure:

a) Sarah enjoys dancing, hiking, and to swim.

b) Sarah enjoys dancing, hiking, and swimming.

4. Choose the sentence that uses proper verb tense consistency:

a) I walked to the store and I will buy some groceries.

b) I walked to the store and I bought some groceries.

FAQs – Grammar Rules

Q: How can I improve my SAT grammar?

SAT grammar can be improved through a combination of both practice and knowing specific grammar tips. One of the best ways to practice is to take full-length mock exams under timed conditions. This will help you get used to seeing SAT-style questions, and force you to work on your speed and accuracy in identifying the correct answer. The SAT writing section can be tricky as many answer choices are very similar.

Q: Is grammar important for SAT?

There’s no doubt that grammar is important for the SAT. The test is, after all, designed to assess your reading and writing skills, and grammar is a key component of both of these. The college board you are applying to will certainly look for students that displayed a strong understanding of the SAT grammar rules.

Q: What grammar topics are on the SAT?

The SAT includes questions on a variety of grammar topics, including punctuation, verb tense (plural verbs), subject-verb agreement (singular vs plural subject), pronoun usage, and more. In order to prepare for the test, it’s important to become familiar with the most commonly tested concepts. Students that have a firm understanding of grammar and punctuation rules do well on the SAT writing section.

Q: How do I prepare for SAT grammar?

The best way to prepare for the grammar section of the SAT is to become familiar with the different types of questions that will be asked. There are three main types of grammar questions on the SAT: identifying errors, correcting errors, and improving sentences. You may even be asked to review a complete sentence to identify errors. Study the SAT grammar rules related to these subjects your SAT writing score should improve.

The Bottom Line

Grammar is a crucial part of the SAT. While there’s a specific section that tests grammar on the test, having a clear grasp of grammar is essential throughout the exam and any future writing you do.