High-stakes standardized tests such as the SAT may seem daunting at first, but it is my firm belief that with the right instruction any student can improve their score. This is because the SAT is structured to test students on knowledge and mastery of specific concepts that do not change from test date to test date. With practice and a smart strategy these concepts can become second-nature to the motivated student (even writing an essay from an unknown prompt). Every student will come into the class with varying strengths and weaknesses, but I will do my best to help isolate difficulties and improve individual’s skills while providing a firm understanding of the structure of the SAT, the basic underlying concepts it tests, and the best strategies to ensure confidence on test day. The acquisition of these skills will go beyond test-day as well – helping your student communicate their ideas effectively in college essays, debates, and creative work, while gaining a deeper appreciation for good use of the English language around them.

At the end of this course, you will

  • Have a firm command of the grammatical/stylistic concepts tested on the SAT Writing MC section
  • Know the three types of questions that will test these concepts – Improving Sentences, Identifying Sentence Errors, and Improving Paragraphs
  • Be able to improve a piece of writing through revision and editing, and the identification of sentence-level errors
  • Understand how to clearly express ideas through sentence-combining and use of transitional words and phrases
  • Communicate ideas clearly and effectively and improve coherence of ideas within and among paragraphs
  • Understand the structure, approach, and style that S.A.T. graders are looking for in essays – and how to meet these requirements when faced with novel prompts in the time restricted, high pressure environment of test day.
  • Will be able to apply communication skills in writing and public speaking contexts, culminating in a debate in the final two weeks.


The key to success on the SAT is taking practice that weaknesses can be identified and addressed and confidence/speed can be improved. Once all the grammatical concepts have been covered, and the method for writing essays has been taught, the class will consist mostly in solidifying this information through actual practice tests. I will provide a guide to students outlining the methods for this in addition to the material taught in class


Week 1 Diagnostic Tests – Will administer a SAT Writing Practice Test and essay to assess the strengths and weaknesses of each student. Will also cover the structure of the exam and go over the course plan. If time permits, will begin going over grammatical concepts.
Week 2 Faulty Modifiers – words or phrases that describe something

  1. Dangling Modifier – a descriptive phrase that begins a sentence, has a comma after it, and has the noun it describes NOT placed right after the comma
  2. Misplaced Modifier – a descriptive phrase that’s not close enough to the thing it’s supposed to be describing, making it sound like it’s referring to the wrong thing

Parallel Construction – a list where all the items have the same grammatical format

Week 3 Sentences – made up of independent and dependent clauses

  1. Sentence Fragments – sentences made of anything less than and independent clause
  2. Run-on Sentences – multiple independent clauses joined by only a comma or no punctuation at all
  3. Dependent Clauses as Subjects – sentences can use a whole dependent clause as subjects; treat the dependent clause as a singular noun

Plurals and Possessives – plural is when there is two or more of

something; possessive is when something belongs to something else

  1. Plural Noun – add “s” to the end of a singular noun
  2. Possessive Singular Noun – add “apostrophe+s” to the end of a singular noun
  3. Possessive Plural Noun – add an apostrophe to the end of a plural noun
Week 4 Pronouns – parts of speech that stand in for a noun (its antecedent)

  1. Subject vs. Object Pronouns – pronouns change form depending on whether they are subjects or objects
  2. Who vs. Whom – who is the subject form, and whom is the object form
  3. Pronouns and Antecedents – it should be obvious which noun each pronoun is referring back to
  4. Pronoun and Antecedent Agreement – pronouns have to match their antecedents’ person and number
  5. That vs. Who – who is for a person or people, and that is for everything else
  6. Indefinite Pronouns – pronouns like “everyone” that seem plural are actually singular
  7. Its/It’s, Their/They’re/There, Your/You’re, Whose/Who’s – you have to memorize these

Verbs – the SAT tests tense agreement and subject-verb agreement

  1. Verb Tense – keep verbs in a single sentence within the same time period: present, past, or future
  2. Subject/Verb Agreement – a noun and its verb be the same number (singular or plural)
Week 5 Illogical Comparisons – you can only compare things that are alike in

some way; you can’t compare something to all things of that type? Concision and Redundancy – the SAT, however, is all about being as
succinct and to the point as possible

  1. Overly Wordy Phrases – often, one word is better than many; sometimes, extra words should just be deleted
  2. Redundancy – if a sentence expresses the same bit of information two or more times, delete the repetition
  3. Combining Simple Sentences – make one sentence into a dependent clause of the other through a repeated noun, using prepositions like “before,” “after,” or “following,” or by inserting whatever is being defined into the defining sentence
Week 6 Idioms and Standard English

  1. Verbal Phrases – verb + preposition pairs that always go together
  2. Prepositional Idioms – groups of words that always end on a specific preposition
  3. Commonly Confused Words – English has a lot of homonyms (words that sound similar to each other but mean very different things)
  4. Language Formality – avoiding slang and words and phrases that sound too casual

Conjunctions and Conjunctive Adverbs – words that explain how two clauses in a sentence or successive sentences relate to one another

  1. Explanation – conjunctions like “because,” “consequently,” and “for example” link events in a cause and effect relationship
  2. Contradiction or Digression – conjunctions like “however,” “but,” and “nevertheless” describe a negative or opposing relationship between events
  3. Similarity and Emphasis – conjunctions like “moreover” and “likewise” connect things that are equal or similar, or add examples to the argument
Week 7 Punctuation

  1. Punctuating Modifiers – if the sentence needs the modifier in order to make sense, then the modifier doesn’t need commas; if you can take out the modifier without losing meaning, then the modifier should be surrounded by commas
  2. Using Dashes – separate out a sentence piece that is explanatory, but isn’t crucial
  3. Punctuating “Such As” – put a comma before “such as,” and then no comma after it
  4. Formatting Lists – list items are typically separated by commas, with a comma before the “and” or “or” that precedes the last list item
  5. Using Colons – indicating that a list is coming up, and that after the list the sentence will end; indicating that an explanation, a definition, or an example is coming
  6. Using Semicolons – separating list items that have commas; fixing run-on sentences by separating two independent clauses without a conjunction

Throughout the course, we will get to know the three types of questions that will test these concepts – Improving Sentences, Identifying Sentence Errors, and Improving Paragraphs, and their variants.

Week 8 Will begin class with Practice Tests on the above material, and begin introducing the concepts related to the essay section.

First we will cover how the essay section is graded, as this will focus students on meeting the criteria that graders are looking for – Each essay is given a score of 1-4 in the categories of reading, Analysis, and Writing by two different graders, with maximum possible score of 8 in each category. I have included a link to this rubric below.

Writing an SAT essay in 50 minutes consists of four major stages which

will be taught in depth:

  1. Reading: 5-10 minutes
  2. Analyzing & Planning: 7-12 minutes
  3. Writing: 25-35 minutes
  4. Revising: 2-3 minutes

We will also cover the 6 types of prompts you’ll see on Essay section and

how to approach them.

Type 1: Discuss what people should do

Type 2: Discuss which of two things is better

Type 3: Support or refute counterintuitive statements

Type 4: Analyzing Cause and Effect

Type 5: Generalizing about the State of the World

Type 6: Generalizing about people/human nature

The key to doing well on the essay section is confidence on test day and a solid grasp of what is desired by graders. Also invaluable is a wealth of general knowledge to help provide examples, and the ability to draw evidence from the text to support a thesis. The only homework assigned in this class (in addition to studying the grammatical/stylistic concepts presented) will be a requirement to read and analyze one op-ed piece a week from an outlet such as the New York Times or a comparable source. This will assist students with acquiring general knowledge and exposure to a variety of essay formats. There will also be a debate in the final two weeks, the subject of which is TBD. Students will apply the analyses of structure, use of evidence, and rhetorical techniques that they have learned in class to express and argue for their own points of view.

Week 9-12 Weeks 9-14 – These will be spent solidifying the material presented in the previous section of the course through practice tests and the identification of individual needs for additional refreshing on specific topics. I will grade each student’s practice essays/tests and give personalized feedback on how to improve their scores and what concepts they need to review/practice.
Week 10 Practice Tests and Essays
Week 11 Practice Tests and Essays
Week 12 Practice Tests and Essays
Week 13 Debates
Week 14 Debates  (if we have this week)



General Rules:

Students will be expected to arrive on time and behave respectfully to everyone in the classroom. If a student will be absent they can either tell me in class the week before or e-mail me at the following address so that I can provide them with class materials and make sure they don’t fall behind. The only homework currently planned for this class is the article review assignment given above and studying the grammatical concepts/essay strategies given in the guide I will provide on the first day of class.



Online Resources from College Board

  • – sample questions
  • – Information on Essay Section
  • -Information on Writing Section



Davis Grubin,