Grammar Guide: the usage of “those”

Confused about how “those” works on the SAT, ACT, GRE, or GMAT? Let’s take a look at a question from Manhattan GMAT that uses this word!

Salt deposits and moisture threaten to destroy the Mohenjo-Daro excavation in Pakistan, the site of an ancient civilization that flourished at the same time as the civilizations in the Nile delta and the river valleys of Tigris and Euphrates.

A) that flourished at the same time as the civilizations
B) that had flourished at the same time as had the civilizations
C) that flourished at the same time those had
D) flourishing at the same time as those did
E) flourishing at the same time as those were

In general, “those” is the plural of “that.” It’s in a group called “determiners” along with “this”, “that”, “these”, “those,” “here” and there that are technically pronouns but often function more like adjectives.

For C, D, and E, “those” is meant to mean something like “the ones” and could be used as a pronoun to replace a plural antecedent if there was one in the sentence, and if the construction was parallel.

The correct answer is (A).


SAT Identifying Sentence Errors: the Ultimate Strategy

Did you know that there are only 18 Identifying Sentence Errors on the SAT Writing section? They count for the largest percentage of your Writing score out of the Writing question-types, and if you rock the grammar skills you already have, and practice a few hundred ISE’s, you’ll easily get most of these questions correct!

Step 1 –Identify the part of speech. What part of speech is underlined? Is it a verb, preposition, adjective, adverb, pronoun, etc? The SAT loves to test the same errors over and over, and we know that each part of speech comes with some predictable errors.
Is the underlined section a Verb? Double-check that it agrees with its subject in number and plurality and that the verb tense is logical with the timeline of the sentence.

Is the underlined section a Pronoun? Make sure it has a clear Antecedent, and that the Pronoun agrees with the antecedent in number. Make sure as well that the personal pronouns (“who” and “whom”, for example) are only being used to refer to people, not things.

Is the underlined section a Preposition? The preposition could be part of an Idiom – does the preposition make sense with the word that immediately precedes it?

For example, we can’t say “afraid from,” only “afraid of.” Is the transition appropriate? Make a flashcard of the most common Idioms and learn them like you would vocabulary words. Idioms alone account for approximately 10% of your SAT Writing score!

Is the underlined section an Adverb or Adjective? Adjectives can only describe nouns, while adverbs can describe verbs, adjectives and other adverbs. Is there a word that is modifying a verb that needs an –ly suffix?

Step 2 – Check for Parallelism errors. Once you’ve examined each of the underlined portions, identified the parts of speech, and double-checked for the most-likely errors associated with that part of speech, re-read the sentence as a whole and look for any Parallelism. Items in a list (separated by commas), comparisons, and (in general) multiple verbs must be in the same format! For comparisons, remember that only “like” things can be compared to each other: people to people and things to things.

Step 3 – Still no error? Choose (E). Remember to trust yourself. After you’ve worked through each underlined part of speech and checked for Parallelism in the sentence as a whole, you still may not be able to find an error. Don’t worry — 5-8 of the ISE’s on Test Day will have “No Error”. That is approximately one-third of all ISE’s!

As you prep for your SAT, if you find yourself choosing (E) too often, it’s likely you’ll need to spend more time studying the most common types of grammatical SAT errors: idioms, run-on sentences, fragments, parallelism, subject-verb agreement, etc. If you find yourself hardly ever correctly choosing (E), then you need to relax and trust yourself. Don’t look for errors that aren’t there!

The Most-Tested Grammar Rules on the SAT

For the SAT Writing section, the key to better scores is to familiarize yourself with the tested grammatical rules. Rather than read an entire book on English grammar, check out this list of the Top 10 grammar rules tested on the SAT!

1. Idioms. Idioms are expressions native to the English language. There are two part Idioms such as “neither…nor” and” between…and” as well as prepositional idioms like “interested IN” and “afraid OF.”

2. Run-ons & Fragments. These are two kinds of incomplete sentences. To be a complete sentence, a subject and a predicate verb is required. If either is lacking, the sentence is called a fragment. A run-on contains too much information, usually because two independent clauses (two complete thoughts) are being improperly combined.

3. Subject-Verb. The SAT loves to give long sentences where the main subject and the verb are separated by many words or clauses. You must identify the subject of each sentence and make sure the verb matches it in number. Generally, a plural noun takes a singular verb and a singular subject takes a plural verb.

4. Pronouns. The most common error associated with pronouns is pronoun-antecedent agreement. The antecedent is the word the pronoun is replacing. A pronoun must have a clear antecedent in the sentence; the lack of an antecedent is itself an error. The antecedent may often be present, but will disagree with the pronoun in number.

5. Parallelism. Parallelism is tested on the SAT in a series of phrases or items in a list. In parallel construction, the phrases or items must be in the same form. This can be tested with a number of parts of speech: nouns, verbs, prepositions, etc.

6. Modification. Modifiers are words and phrases that describe nouns. Adjectives, adverbs and modifying clauses will be incorrectly placed, or in the wrong form. Adverbs can only modify verbs, while adjectives modify nouns. Be on the lookout for suspicious adverb-noun and adjective-verb pairings. Also be aware that many sentences will begin with a modifying phrase and a comma. The subject after the comma must be the person or thing doing the action of the modifying phrase.

7. Comparisons. The SAT likes to compare similar things. People can only be compared to people, and things can only be compared to things. It also tests the comparative/superlative forms. Use better and more when comparing two things. Use best and most when comparing three or more things.

8. Wordiness. Wordiness means just what it sounds like, too many words! As long as there are no new grammar errors introduced, the shortest answer choice is often correct. Redundancy is a type of wordiness where the same thing is said twice. For example, the SAT would never call someone “intelligent and smart.” Keep it simple and to the point, and don’t repeat yourself!

9. Passive Voice. Passive Voice puts the object of the sentence first. Make sure to keep the subject (the person or thing doing the action) before the verb.

10. Diction. This is rarely tested on the SAT, so you are likely to only see 1-2 questions with this concept. Diction means “word choice.” The SAT may try to fool you by using a word that sounds similar to the intended word, but does not make sense in context (for example, replacing “imperious” with “impervious”). It’s important not to rush on the SAT.

Use this as a checklist to begin your studies. You’ll find articles for most of these tested areas right here on the GMAT Rockstar blog! As you study, focus on labeling each question with the “tested-concept” behind it. It’s not about getting every question correct individually, but learning to recognize the concepts. The questions will always change, but these concepts are guaranteed to show up on test day.

All About the SAT!

Fast facts to help you cover everything you need to know about registering, prepping for, and taking the SAT exam!

  • The SAT is a 10-section test, testing three areas: Critical Reading, Writing, and Math.
  • The SAT is offered seven times each year in the U.S. and six times internationally. It is offered in October, November, December, January, March (U.S. only; SAT only), May and June.
  • High school students in the U.S. or U.S. territories who can’t afford to pay test fees may be eligible for SAT fee waivers! Find out if you qualify here!
  • If you have a documented disability, you may be eligible for accommodations on SAT Program tests. Arrangements can be made if you need accommodations such as: wheelchair accessibility; preferential seating; special test formats such as Braille or large print; written copy of spoken directions; or other accommodations.
  • Your raw scores are calculated for each section based on the number of questions you got correct or incorrect, or that you omitted. From this raw score, a scaled score is derived. Finally, you’ll receive a percentile score.

Looking for a diagnostic to see where you’re at? Take a free Princeton Review practice test here!

Learnist: How to Write a Great SAT Essay

The SAT essay is about 25% of your SAT Writing score, but you’ll only have 25 minutes to write it! Here’s how to beat the timing pressure, develop the topic successfully, and score a perfect 12!

Tip #1 – Have the directions and instructions down cold.

If you are super-familiar with the directions ahead of test day, you won’t waste precious time reading them. Bullet points:

  • you can only write in pencil
  • the essay must be written in the space provided, NOT the test booklet
  • you’ll receive 2 scores from 2 readers (between 1 and 6)
  • the “issue presented” will usually come in the form of a quote
  • the actual prompt is the question after the “Assignment” bolded word

Tip #2 – Choose one side ONLY.

We live in a world of greys, but for SAT Essay purposes, we have to pretend the world is “black and white.” In 25 minutes, you won’t have time to effectively present a “middle of the road” approach, so choose one side and stick to it. This is one of the most challenging (and most frustrating) aspects of writing the SAT Essay.

For example, let’s say you had a prompt that asked: Is honesty the best policy? In the “real world,” we know the answer is complex, sometimes yes and sometimes no. However, you must build a thesis either 100% in favor of perpetual honesty, or 100% not in favor of perpetual honesty.

As this blog points out (rather aptly), you don’t even need to agree with your thesis statement – you just need to demonstrate that you can make a strong argument for it.

Read more tips on how to write a great SAT essay on Learnist!

Fragments and Run-ons on the SAT: How to Spot ‘Em and Fix ‘Em!

Before we can spot Fragments and Run-Ons it’s important to understand a few key definitions when it comes to sentence construction. A clause is a group of words with a verb and a subject. An independent clause can stand alone as a complete sentence. A dependent or subordinate clause cannot. Let’s look at a couple of quick examples:

Independent clause: I love studying for the SAT.

Dependent clause: Because I use

The first sentence is a complete thought and can stand on its own while the second can not. The dependent clause is what we would call a fragment. A fragment is missing one of three things: a subject, a predicate verb, or the information needed to logically complete the sentence (like the dependent clause above). A subject is the main noun of the sentence. It is the person or thing doing the action. A predicate verb is the verb that says what the subject is doing. It must be in a tense that matches the subject.

Here are some examples of fragments:

Missing a Subject
WRONG: Climbed to the top of the mountain.
RIGHT: He climbed to the top of the mountain.

Missing a Predicate Verb
WRONG: She sleeping like a baby.
RIGHT: She sleeps like a baby.

In both of these examples we fixed the Fragment by adding the missing subject or the missing predicate verb. You can also fix a fragment by keeping it as it is and joining it to an independent clause:

Because I use, I love studying for the SAT.

A run-on is a sentence that contains more than one independent clauses which are not properly combined. The most common run-on you will see on the SAT is two complete sentences separated by a comma.

Example: They went to the store, she bought a candy bar.

You CANNOT combine two independent clauses with a comma. That is a big SAT no-no! So let’s look at the ways we can fix this Run-on:

#1. Make it Two Sentences
They went to the store. She bought a candy bar.

#2 Add a FANBOYS (leave the comma)
They went to the store, so she bought a candy bar.

FANBOYS is an acronym for all of the coordinating conjunctions. These are special words that can link independent clauses. FANBOYS stands for:


#3 Add a Semi-colon
They went to the store; she bought a candy bar.

#4 Making One Clause Dependent
Because they went to the store, she bought a candy bar.

Those are the most common ways to fix a run-on! Occasionally, you can also fix one with a Colon or a Dash.

A colon (:) is used to introduce a list, an explanation or a quote. If the first independent clause is doing one of those things, then adding the Colon is acceptable.

INCORRECT: She packed her lunch an apple, a sandwich and a soft drink went into the bag.
CORRECT: She packed her lunch: an apple, a sandwich and a soft drink went into the bag.

A dash (-) indicates a sudden change in thought:

Our teacher wanted all of us to fail the test – or so we thought.

For SAT purposes, the most common ways to fix the run-on will be to add a FANBOYS or a Semi-Colon. Run-ons can also contain no commas or more than two independent clauses, so let’s make sure we can identify those as well:

INCORRECT: She went surfing the wave she caught was huge. (No comma)
CORRECT: She went surfing; the wave she caught was huge.

INCORRECT: She went surfing the wave she caught was huge she fell off her board.
CORRECT: She went surfing; the wave she caught was huge and she fell off her board.

One important thing to remember is that the correct answer will always be the one that fixes the error, without introducing a new one. If there is more than one answer choice that fixes the error, compare them. Does one introduce a new grammatical error? Is one wordier or slightly awkward? Look for the subtle differences in style between the two.

The best answer choice on the SAT will fix the error and will be the most concise choice that does not change the sentence’s meaning.