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# Tip #25 to Get a Top SAT Critical Reading Score

By McGraw-Hill Professional
Updated on Sep 10, 2011

The SAT is tricky, but we know and expect their shenanigans. It's like a bad magician whose tricks you can totally predict. The SAT loves two kinds of subject/verb agreement tricks. Every test has at least one of them. They're always rated as "hard" questions, but since we expect them, they're easy for us.

Let's look at this question:

Solution: Great question. The SAT loves these. Every test has at least one! The trick is that "Jimmy" is the subject, not "friends." "Friends walk" sounds correct, but the subject of the verb is "Jimmy," so it should be "Jimmy walks."

"How can I ever tell that?" you say. Ahh, my friend, easy. A prepositional phrase, such as "with his closest friends," NEVER counts as the subject. Prepositional phrases always begin with a preposition ("on," "above," "below," "with," "by," "during," "until," . . . just Google "prepositions" for a full list) and end with a noun, such as "friends." Here are a few more prepositional phrases: "of awards," "with six kids," and "on the table."

So when you are identifying the subject of an underlined verb, if there is a prepositional phrase, cross it out! Then subject/verb agreement is obvious, and a "hard" question becomes an "easy!"

Jimmy with his friends walks

The number of awards proves

Billy along with six kids goes

The SAT's other trick is to put the subject after the verb. How do you catch these? When you see a verb underlined, look for its subject—notice what is doing the action of the verb. It's easy to tell, as long as you know to look. I love these, they are tricky, but we know they are coming!

### Example Problems

Cross out any prepositional phrases between the subject and verb, and underline the subject of the bold verb in each of the following sentences.

1. Stephen for two more weeks is single.
2. Margarita with her sisters currently runs a marketing firm.
3. Running from the bulls is Jimmy with his friends.
4. The way of samurais is a strict path.
5. Around the corner are a dog and a cat.
6. The PTA through generous donations is building a new school building.
7. The boys with their dog Alfred walk to school.

Now, let's see these tricks on a few SAT questions.

### Medium

1. Only recently has the careful craftsmanship of Mabel Seeley's mystery novels been appreciated by readers and critics.
1. Only recently has the careful craftsmanship
2. Only recently have the careful craftsmanship
3. Recently only has the careful craftsmanship
4. While recently only have the careful craftsmanship
5. Only recently becoming fully appreciated, the careful craftsmanship
2. ### Hard

1. Stephen for two more weeks is single.
2. Margarita with her sisters currently runs a marketing firm.
3. Tricky! Running from the bulls is Jimmy with his friends. ("Jimmy" is the subject.)
4. The way of samurais is a strict path.
5. Tricky! Around the corner are a dog and a cat. ("Dog and cat" is a compound subject.)
6. The PTA through generous donations is building a new school building.
7. The boys with their dog Alfred walk to school.
1. A The subject of the verb "has" is "craftsmanship," so "has" is correct. When a verb is underlined, identify the subject.
2. E This is a reminder that sometimes you will get a "No error." In fact, on the SAT about 20% of writing questions have no error. Usually, but not always, if one of these subject/verb tricks shows up in a "medium," then it is not the error; and if it shows up in a "hard," then it is the error. So here "has" is the verb of the subject "music" and is correct.
3. C When you see a verb underlined, ask yourself, What is the subject? Cross off prepositional phrases and notice what is doing the action of the verb. In this case, what is doing the "is-ing," not the office, but the trophies. The subject "trophies" came after the verb "is," which is a trick we know to look for. The verb should be "are." I love these, they are tricky, but we know they are coming!
4. B "Number" is the subject and "of milligrams" and "of various minerals" are prepositional phrases, so "demonstrate" should be "demonstrates." The cool thing about writing multiple-choice and our strategies is that once you find something that is definitely wrong, you know that it's the answer and no matter how strange other answer choices seem, there can be only one error.

Go to: Tip #26