Tag Archives: grammar

Punctuation is definitely stressed on the ACT and SAT, and comma rules are probably among the most commonly tested. While many rules are just that (a guiding principle), some rules are more ‘guiding’ than ‘principle.’ This is the case with the Oxford, or serial, comma that is optional depending on preference. The Oxford comma (named for the preferred style of the Oxford University Press) is the last comma that appears in a list. For example, I went shopping and bought a pen, pencil, and stapler. The Oxford comma is the last comma in the list (between ‘pencil and the word ‘and’). Many would leave out this comma so that the sentence looks like this: I went shopping and bought a pen, pencil and stapler. In this case, it’s clear what the person means. However, there are situations where leaving out the Oxford comma affects the meaning of the sentence. Consider…

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For a growing number of our nation’s teens, the question is never, “Am I ready to go to college?” Rather, they ask, “How soon can I get there?!” But the first question deserves further consideration. Since 2003, the twelfth-grade mathematics and reading assessments from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) have been used as an indicator of students’ academic preparedness for college. According to the 2015 data released in The Nation’s Report Card, only 37% of twelfth-graders met the standard for success in mathematics or reading. Even more troubling, the percents of students meeting preparedness standards are down across the board from last year. College readiness is no joke. Students who arrive at school with deficient math, reading, and writing skills face a higher likelihood of struggle and failure. Even the ones who don’t drop out are forced to take remedial no-credit classes, which extends the already pricey proposition…

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English expression is not easy. Not only does our language lack internal consistency in terms of pronunciation and spelling, but common conventions seem to change all the time. Many of us work so hard to stay current that we often forget the basic phrases that come up so often. No matter how many times you might hear, “for all intents and purposes,” you might still succumb to saying or writing “for all intensive purposes” when it matters. Even if you haven’t mastered the fine distinctions between who and whom, affect and effect, or less andfewer, (all of which are tested often on the ACT & SAT) you should still be prepared to avoid the following misused phrases. Better yet, use them properly!   WRONG: Use to RIGHT: Used to WRONG: Suppose to RIGHT: Supposed to WRONG: Could care less RIGHT: Couldn’t care less WRONG: One in the same RIGHT: One…

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Testing grammar and writing has caused the College Board all kinds of headaches over the last decade. Everything seemed peachy back when colleges looked at the SAT II Writing Test as proof of English language proficiency. But once the College Board essentially stapled that test to the SAT in 2005, in large part to appease those selfsame colleges, things went south. Not only did the last SAT revision open the door for the rise of the ACT, but even the SAT Subject Tests have lost their luster. Nonetheless, the assessment of grammar adds value to a college entrance exam. Rather than give up on testing this content, the College Board is learning from the mistakes of the past by lashing this section more tightly to the exam as a whole. No longer can colleges marginalize the grammar portion of the SAT when it is part of the larger Evidence-Based Reading…

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Believe it or not, Weird Al Yankovic nails a few commonly tested grammar and usage errors in his new song parody, Word Crimes. Just don’t kid yourself that listening to the song a few times counts as test prep. It is catchy though…

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