Sample SAT English Questions

1. Writing Section

a. The Essay

"Passion is universal humanity. Without it religion, history, romance and art would be useless."
- Honoré de Balzac


"Our passions are like convulsion fits, which, though they make us stronger for the time, leave us the weaker ever after."
- Jonathan Swift


"Passion persuades me one way, reason another. I see the better and approve it, but I follow the worse."
- Ovid

Which is the better path to take - the one guided by reason and responsibility or the one lit by one's passion? Plan and write an essay in which you develop your point of view on this issue. Support your position with reasoning and examples taken from your reading, studies, experience, or observations.

b. Grammer

(i) Error Identification

Directions: The following sentences test your ability to recognize grammar and usage errors. Each sentence contains either a single error or no error at all. No sentence contains more than one error. The error, if there is one, is underlined and lettered. If the sentence contains an error, select the one underlined part that must be changed to make the sentence correct. If the sentence is correct, select choice E. In choosing answers, follow the requirements of standard written English.
 

1.On the Great Plains,the nineteenth-                    century settlers used sludge and grass
(A) (B)
to construct their houses,                                      doing it without timber and nails.
(C) (D)

Answer: make do with/ without (idiom) which means to substitute or manage with whatever is available. So ‘making do without’ should replace ‘doing it without’. Hence (D).

(ii) Sentence Improvement

Directions: The following sentences test correctness and effectiveness of expression. In choosing answers, follow the requirements of standard written English; in other words, pay attention to grammar, choice of words, sentence construction, and punctuation. In each of the following sentences, part of the sentence or the entire sentence is underlined. Beneath each sentence, you will find five options for phrasing that underlined part. Choice a repeats the original, so if you believe it is correct as is, this is the correct answer. Your choice should produce the most effective sentence—clear and precise, without awkwardness or ambiguity.

1. Raj went away to Delhi for his work and marrying his childhood sweetheart, who now lived in the capital.

  1. for his work and marrying his childhood sweetheart
  2. for his work and to marry his childhood sweetheart
  3. for working and to marrying his childhood sweetheart
  4. for working and marrying his childhood sweetheart
  5. for his work and in order to marry his childhood sweetheart

Answer: This is an error of parallelism. Raj went away for 2 reasons: first, work, and second, marriage. The sentence in its original form is wrong as ‘work’ and ‘marrying’ are not the same parts of speech: one is a noun and the other is a verb. In options C and D ‘to marrying’ and ‘for… marrying’ represent incorrect usage. In option E ‘in order’ is an unnecessary repetition as ‘for’ already indicates reason. Option B is the only one that follows the rules of grammar and does not alter the meaning. Hence, B.

(iii) Paragraph Improvement

Directions: The following passage is an early draft of a student’s essay, and parts of it need to be rewritten. Read the passage and answer the questions that follow it. Some questions are about individual sentences or parts of sentences. Here, you are asked to select the choice that will improve the sentence structure and word choice. Other questions refer to parts of the essay or even the entire essay and ask you to look carefully at its organization and development. You should follow the conventions of standard written English in answering the questions.

(1)The kite is the first of its kind to be recorded in the state and only the second in New England. (2) Normally, South Carolina marks its northern limit. (3) Which is why, since arriving on August 1st, the white-tailed kite has caused hundreds of birdwatchers (or twitchers, as the British like to call them) to migrate to Stratford. (4) The white-tail is not just the only southern bird to drift north recently. (5)Mississippi kites now nest in New England. (6) Black vultures, once just vagrants this far north, thrive in New Haven. (7) Rising temperatures in the north-east may have helped. (8) This year saw the hottest summer ever recorded, and that seems to suit the southerners. (9) Whatever the explanation, birdwatchers are entranced. (10) They hover in optimistic vigil, cameras and binoculars poised. (11) More than 6,000 people follow the updates on the Connecticut Audubon Society’s blog. (12) Many drive for hours, eager to glimpse the rarity before the cold fronts of autumn carry it back south.

1) In this essay, the author does all of the following EXCEPT

  1. Provide some information about twitchers
  2. Explain the possible reasons for migration of the southerners
  3. Categorize black vultures as a southerner
  4. Promote the usefulness of Connecticut Audobon’s Society blog
  5. Indicate that the presence of the southerners is a short phased phenomenon

Answer: D. This question is looking at the essay’s general organization or meaning. It wants to know if you understood what the author did—and did not do—in the essay. The essay did discuss twitchers (bird watchers), the reasons for migration, black vultures as a southerner and state that the migrant birds will disappear back home once autumn sets in. Although the essay did mention the Society’s blog, it did not state anything about the blog’s usefulness.

2)In context, which is the best revision of the underlined part of sentence 4 (reproduced below)?
The white-tail is not just the only southern bird to drift north recently.

  1. As it is now
  2. Is just now not the only southern bird to drift north
  3. Is now not the just only southern bird to drift north
  4. Is recently not the only southern bird to drift north
  5. Is not the only southern bird to drift north recently

Answer: B. This is a question that focuses on revising or improving a sentence within the essay. In this example, the adverb just is incorrect, as the sentence indicates that further information is going to be given on the kite, whereas the essay goes on to state that there are other birds from the south migrating north. Option B states that the bird’s migratory status is temporary and C states that the change in status is temporary. Option D is not grammatically correct as the placement of recently interrupts the flow of the sentence and is not separated by a comma as it should be either. The only correct choice is b, which states that there are other birds in addition to the kite that have migrated to the north.

2. Critical Reading Section

a. Sentence Completion

This question type tests the ability to think logically. One should work on improving one’s knowledge of vocabulary, idioms and grammatically structures. Guessing the meaning implied in the sentence is a crucial strategy to eliminate the incorrect alternatives.

Directions: Each sentence below has one or two blanks, each blank indicating that something has been omitted. Beneath the sentence are five words labeled A through E. Choose the word or set of words that, when inserted in the sentence, best fits the meaning of the sentence as a whole.

1. As congestion plagues every significant thoroughfare, similarly it also _______ the narrow lanes of every city.

  1. restricts
  2. delays
  3. prevents
  4. clogs
  5. obliterates

Answer: The use of the words 'as' in the beginning of the sentence and 'similarly' in the latter half of the sentence indicate that the missing word should be a synonym of the word 'plagues'. Among the choices given, 'clogs' is the only word having a similar meaning, and thus is the answer. Hence, D.

b. Reading Comprehension

This question type tests the ability to apply effective reading strategies. One needs to read the questions first and focus on them more than on the passage.

Two short passages are at times given together and questions comparing the two on the basis of content, style and tone are asked. Understanding the tone of the passage is important as questions may be based on this aspect. Eliminating incorrect options is also a crucial strategy.

Directions: The passages below are followed by question based on their content; questions following a pair of related passages may also be based on the relationship between the paired passages. Answer the questions on the basis of what is stated or implied in the passages and in any introductory material that may be provided.

Healing from within

Life today is full of stress and strain, of tension and nervous irritability, of passion and hurry. If man puts into practice a few of the elementary principles of Yoga, he would be far better equipped to cope with his complex existence.

Yoga brings in perfection, peace and lasting happiness. You can have calmness of mind at all times by the practice of Yoga. You can have restful sleep.

You can have increased energy, vigour, vitality, longevity and high standard of health. You can turn out efficient work within a short space of time. You can have success in every walk of life. Yoga will infuse in you new strength, confidence and self-reliance. The body and the mind will be at your beck and call.

Yoga brings your emotions under control. It increases your power of concentration at work. Yoga discipline gives poise and tranquility and miraculously rebuilds one’s life. Yoga leads from ignorance to wisdom, from weakness to strength, from disharmony to harmony, from hatred to love, from want to fullness, from limitation to infinitude, from diversity to unity, and from imperfection to perfection. Yoga gives hope to the sad and forlorn, strength to the weak, health to the sick and wisdom to the ignorant.

Through Yogic discipline, mind, body and the organ of speech work together harmoniously. For a Yoga practitioner, a new outlook, a new health, a new awareness and a new philosophy rush in and vividly transform his life.

1. What is the main essence of the passage?

  1. Yoga brings in perfection, peace and lasting happiness.
  2. One can achieve calmness of mind with the practice of Yoga.
  3. There will be an increase in energy, vigour, vitality, longevity and high standard of health.
  4. With Yoga one would be better prepared to manage one’s multifarious survival.
  5. One can have success in every walk of life through Yoga.

Answer: yoga definitely brings all that are mentioned in options (a), (b) and (c) and (e) but the main gist of the passage is that by perfecting one’s life in all these areas Yoga helps one to become better equipped to cope with one’s complex existence. Hence (d).

2. Suppose a person is very fidgety and panicky in life and you want to recommend Yoga to him. Which sentence in the passage would justify your proposal?

  1. You can turn out efficient work within a short space of time. 
  2. Yoga discipline gives poise and tranquility and miraculously rebuilds one’s life.
  3. You can have increased energy, vigour, vitality, longevity and high standard of health.
  4. You can have success in every walk of life.
  5. Yoga can lead you from ignorance to wisdom.

Answer: if a person is restless and nervous to make him do efficient work is not the correct suggestion. So (a) is ruled out. Neither is it reasonable enough to make him feel the success of life; so option (d) is also not relevant. Energy, vigour, vitality, etc. are not the solution of his problem, hence (c) is also ruled out. Option (e) is not the correct recommendation for a fidgety and panicky person, so it is ruled out. It is only the discipline in Yoga that can bring in composure and serenity and, thus, can be recommended to the person. Hence (b)

3. ‘The body and the mind will be at your beck and call.’ What does the sentence signify?

  1. We can easily relate ourselves to our body and mind whenever we want.
  2. Our body and mind will be at our own control.
  3. Our body and mind will ceaselessly work for us.
  4. We will face no problem with our body and mind.
  5. We will be able to adjust our body according to our mind.

Answer: ‘at beck and call’ means at one’s own command. From all the options given (b) is the most appropriate one. The rest of the options do not justify the meaning of the idiom. Hence (b).

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