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Suniti's Advice Corner

Rocking the SAT Writing Section: Tenses

Posted by Sybil St. Hilaire on Fri, Aug 02, 2013

Of the 1200+ students I’ve taught for the SAT, I have noticed that many of them lose points in the writing sections for tiny errors, which can easily be fixed. The secret to success is to take a step-by-step approach to preparing. It is useful to go back to the basics to figure out exactly what you’re being tested on.

The writing section of the SAT tests you on 8 different subtopics:

SAT writing
  1. Subject & Verb Agreement
  2. Verbs
  3. Pronouns 
  4. Run-On Sentences 
  5. Improving Paragraphs 
  6. Rules of Comparisons
  7. Tenses 
  8. Essay Writing

Each subtopic is designed to test for your ability to recognize certain rules. The good news: there are only a finite number of rules! So if you can learn and understand them, you can really rock the SAT writing section.

Let’s take a look at Tenses. What are the four rules for doing well on tense questions?

  1. Subject - verb agreement Always ensure that any verb and its subject agree in number. Remove any phrases between a verb and its subject so that you can select the correct verb tense.
  2. Maintain verb tense consistency When asked to decide whether the underlined verb is in the right tense, be sure to look at the tenses of the other verbs in the sentence. If all the verbs in a sentence are past tense, the underlined verb should probably be past tense as well.
  3. Note any shifts in tenses. In a sentence, any changes in verb tense will signal the period of time when an event took place. Verb tense should shift whenever an action is happening over a different period of time. 
  4. Always pay attention to the sequence of events in a sentence. When you look at a sentence that has many different events in a series, put the events in the correct order. As a general rule, actions taking place in the present use the simple present tense, actions that already happened use the simple past tense, and actions that will occur use the simple future tense.

Enjoyed these tips? Then you might want to join TestRocker's upcoming ACT vs. SAT webinar. Learn how to choose the test that is right for you. Register today!

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