SAT Writing : Correcting Conventional and Idiomatic Usage Errors

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for SAT Writing

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Example Questions

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Example Question #44 : Conventional And Idiomatic Usage Errors

Replace the underlined portion with the answer choice that results in a sentence that is clear, precise, and meets the requirements of standard written English. One of the answer choices reproduces the underlined portion as it is written in the sentence.

Kylie studied until morning in preparing her test stategy for the next exam.

Possible Answers:

in an effort to prepare her test strategy

in preparing her test strategy

for preparing her test strategy

for the preparation of her test strategy

to prepare her test strategy

Correct answer:

to prepare her test strategy

Explanation:

This is an usual utilization of the word "preparing." Simply "to prepare" is more practical.

Example Question #45 : Conventional And Idiomatic Usage Errors

Replace the underlined portion with the answer choice that results in a sentence that is clear, precise, and meets the requirements of standard written English. One of the answer choices reproduces the underlined portion as it is written in the sentence.

Some writers use literary illusions to tactfully reference authors who previously wrote about similar themes.  

Possible Answers:

use literary allusions to tactfully reference authors

use literary illusions to tactfully reference authors

tactfully use literary allusions to reference authors

tactfully use literary illusions to reference authors

use literary illusions tactfully to reference authors

Correct answer:

tactfully use literary allusions to reference authors

Explanation:

An illusion is a hallucination, an image that isn’t really there. An allusion is a reference or citation, especially to/from another text. Also, there is a split infinitive; the adverb “tactfully” must be moved elsewhere in the sentence so the verb “to reference” is kept together.

Example Question #46 : Conventional And Idiomatic Usage Errors

Replace the underlined portion with the answer choice that results in a sentence that is clear, precise, and meets the requirements of standard written English. One of the answer choices reproduces the underlined portion as it is written in the sentence.

Floridians often have to secure and fortify their homes in anticipation of an eminent costal hurricane

Possible Answers:

in anticipation of an eminent costal hurricane 

anticipating an eminent costal hurricane

in anticipation of an imminent costal hurricane

having to anticipate an imminent costal hurricane

as they anticipate an eminent costal hurricane

Correct answer:

in anticipation of an imminent costal hurricane

Explanation:

Eminent means famous or well known, while imminent means threatening or looming. These two words sound identical in speech, but only imminent can describe a hurricane (unless it is a specific and famous hurricane in history, such as Hurricane Sandy).

Example Question #751 : Improving Sentences

Replace the underlined portion with the answer choice that results in a sentence that is clear, precise, and meets the requirements of standard written English. One of the answer choices reproduces the underlined portion as it is written in the sentence.

During the political debate, it was quite obvious whom the speaker’s insult was directed at.

Possible Answers:

at who the speaker’s insult was directed

to who the speaker had directed his insult

whom the speaker’s insult was directed at

at whom the speaker’s insult was directed

who the speaker’s insult was directed at

Correct answer:

at whom the speaker’s insult was directed

Explanation:

In a grammatical sense, the person being insulted acts as an object, so we should use “whom” to describe him/her. Also, sentences should not be ended with prepositions, so the word “at” should be placed earlier on in the sentence. 

Example Question #48 : Conventional And Idiomatic Usage Errors

Replace the underlined portion with the answer choice that results in a sentence that is clear, precise, and meets the requirements of standard written English. One of the answer choices reproduces the underlined portion as it is written in the sentence.

If you enter the contest, you could win a sneak peak at the fall fashion line.

Possible Answers:

you could win a sneak peek to the fall fashion line.

you could win a sneak peak to the fall fashion line.

you could win a sneak peak in the fall fashion line.

you could win a sneak peek at the fall fashion line.

you could win a sneak peak at the fall fashion line.

Correct answer:

you could win a sneak peek at the fall fashion line.

Explanation:

In conventional usage, people take a peek “at” something, not “to” or “in” it. The word “peak” refers to a mountaintop; “peek” is the synonym for a glance or look.

Example Question #49 : Conventional And Idiomatic Usage Errors

Replace the underlined portion with the answer choice that results in a sentence that is clear, precise, and meets the requirements of standard written English. One of the answer choices reproduces the underlined portion as it is written in the sentence.

The magician performed a cunning illusion for the captivated audience.

Possible Answers:

The magician performed a cunning allusion for the captivated audience.

The magician performed a cunning illusion at the captivated audience.

The magician performed a cunning allusion to the captivated audience.

The magician performed a cunning illusion for the captivated audience.

The magician performed a cunning illusion to the captivated audience.

Correct answer:

The magician performed a cunning illusion for the captivated audience.

Explanation:

An “illusion” is a trick; an “allusion” is a reference (often literary). Tricks and illusions are performed “for” audiences, not “to” or “at” them.

Example Question #41 : Correcting Other Usage Errors

Select the underlined word or phrase that needs to be changed to make the sentence correct. Some sentences contain no error at all.

After Mindy reflected to her life, she moved back to her hometown and became a much sought-after piano teacher. No error

Possible Answers:

sought-after 

reflected to

move back

and became

No error

Correct answer:

reflected to

Explanation:

The correct idiom is "reflect on" rather than "reflect to."

Example Question #11 : Correcting Conventional And Idiomatic Usage Errors

Replace the underlined portion with the answer choice that results in a sentence that is clear, precise, and meets the requirements of standard written English.

The politicians couldn't hardly believe their luck.

Possible Answers:

could hardly believe their luck.

would not hardly believe their luck.

couldn't hardly believe his or her luck.

couldn't nearly believe their luck.

couldn't hardly believe their luck.

Correct answer:

could hardly believe their luck.

Explanation:

We are looking for the answer choice without negation. "Could hardly believe their luck" is the only answer that does not contain a negative.

Example Question #501 : Correcting Word Usage Errors

Replace the underlined portion with the answer choice that results in a sentence that is clear, precise, and meets the requirements of standard written English.

The birdwatching guide gave us a brief demonstration on which kinds of calls we could potentially here hear.

Possible Answers:

hear here

hearing hearing

here here

here hear

hear hear

Correct answer:

hear here

Explanation:

"Here" is the adverb; "hear" is the verb that has to do with ear. In this case, "hear here" is appropriate - the main verb "hear" follows the auxiliary verb "could," with the adverb "here" following that.

Example Question #502 : Correcting Word Usage Errors

1 If you’ve watched any environmental news reports in the last few years, it’s likely you’ve stumbled among the idea of fracking. 2 The word is short for “hydraulic fracturing” and involves injecting liquid into rock to create fractures and fractals, there allowing natural gas to be extracted more querulously.3 Proponents say the method facilitates oil drilling and allows countries, like the United States, to cut back on their foreign oil dependence. 4 Amateurs say that fracking, causes significant and sometimes irresponsible environmental damage.

5 Fracking can require sonorous quantities of water, and leach dangerous carcinogenic chemicals into the groundwater. 6 Some people have even inquired minor earthquakes to fracking: as the process thought to spurn tremors.7 Perhaps most worrisome, fracking allows governments to continue depending on fossil fuel rather than exploring renewable energy. 8 These sources could include wind turbines, solar panels, even hot springs and waterwheels.

In Sentence 1, what word should replace “among?”

Possible Answers:

among (no change)

around

across

between

within

Correct answer:

across

Explanation:

One stumbles “across” an idea, not another preposition. This is an example of an idiom, the only correct way to describe "stumbling" in relation to an idea is to "stumble across" it.

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