“I can’t stand grammar.” Scott, a junior at Westbrook High School said. Scott, like many Connecticut high schools, was worried about his deficient grammar skills as he prepared for the ACT. He was hopeful that the new SAT would provide salvation from grammar. It won’t!
The new SAT Writing and Language section is now nearly identical to the ACT’s English section in format. Both sections are essentially multiple choice questions focused on grammar and writing style.
In both cases, the key skill is editing. This is a challenge for most students. Students learn writing through writing assignments, not through editing assignments. For that reason, even some students who use grammar correctly when completing writing assignments do not always pick up grammar mistakes when editing the works of others. SAT students often tell me, prior to my training them, that they edit by correcting what sounds wrong. I respond that using one’s ear is effective when grammar mistakes are easy. “John are going to the store” creates an easy to spot subject-verb error. But the new SAT does not have such easy to see mistakes.
Here’s an example: “The number of grammar rules illustrate the need to spend more time learning formal grammar.” All but a few grammarians would hear that “number” is the subject and “illustrate” is the verb, requiring “illustrates” to correct the sentence.
Fortunately, we have trained our students easily enough in the art of editing, so much so, that I worry they’ll point out grammar mistakes on our education blog!