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Verbal practice is a big part of your SAT test prep. The verbal section can make or break your overall numerical and percentile scores, and can spell the difference between a free ride vs. long hours working once you're in college.
Unfortunately, the verbal section of the SAT is the most ambiguous for many students. It uses almost-right answers and odd contexts that can trip of the smartest and most studious of test-takers.
Fortunately, the right kind of SAT test prep will keep you on your toes against sly verbal traps and trick answers. The following three tips will go a long way towards keeping you mentally nimble for the verbal section of the test, and help you improve your SAT score.
Match Verb Tense
One of the most common tricks the SAT test creators like to throw out is nearly correct verb tense. These verb tenses are used in everyday speech, but that are technically incorrect. In fact, there will be many cases where more than one answer seems like it could be the right one, because of how they sound in everyday speech.
Don't worry when this happens – you have an easy way you! Just pick the one that matches the tense of the other verbs used in the reading sample. This is especially easy when the sample contains only one verb tense. In this case, the answer you pick should always match the verb tense of the reading sample.
Eliminate Invalid Choices Then Choose
There's another trick that SAT test makers will pull on you. They may put two or more verb tenses or time frames into the reading sample. The good news is that, even if you're not sure which tense to use, you can easily eliminate some and then make a very good guess (if need be) for your final choice.
First, you will want to eliminate any answers that are in a tense that was not even used in the sample.
From the remaining answers that match a verb tense used in the sample, one may or may not stand out. Contextual clues and other verb forms may help out here.
Once you've eliminate any possible answers, if you're still having trouble choosing, it is usually best to go with simple verb tenses instead of complex ones.
The simple tense is the one that doesn't require any modifiers, and that most accurately mimics the way most of us talk in real life. For example, the verb “drove” has several different past tenses:
I was driving.
I had driven.
I had been driving.
Of these four tenses, only the last one is considered simple. It gets the message across with fewer words than any other tense, is more direct, and is processed by your brain more quickly.
For reference, here are simple and complex verb forms in present and future tenses:
I have been driving.
I have driven.
I am driving.
I drive. (this is the only simple tense).
I will be driving.
I will have driven.
I will have been driving.
I will drive. (simple)
Another rule of thumb to keep in mind: When the sample reading focuses only one incident, action, or point in time, the simple verb form for that tense will be the one to pick almost every time.
Beware of Unusual Shifts in Tense
By the same token, you should avoid answers that shift verb tense for no reason, or are in a verb tense that does not appear in the sample.
It can be tempting to make the tense change when an answer fits the way that people speak on a casual basis. But this is a trap put there by the people who compile the test!
You should always pick a verb tense that keeps you in the same tense as your reading sample (or one of the same tenses, if more than one was used).
Verb tense doesn't have to be difficult. These three SAT test prep verb tense rules of thumb can help you raise your SAT score significantly, and with little effort.
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