29 March 2011

Dealing with Transition Questions

Transition questions tend to be one of the trickier kinds of questions that show up on both the SAT Writing and the ACT English sections. Unlike straight-up grammar questions, they don’t present obvious errors that can be easily caught by ear. Instead, they require you to (gasp!) think.

Transitions can be divided into three major categories.

Continuers include and, furthermore, moreover, and in fact, which tell us that an idea is continuing on in the same direction it began

Contradictors include but, yet, although, despite, nevertheless and however, which tell us that the an idea is being contradicted or moved in a different direction

Cause and Effect include so, therefore, and consequently tell us that something is happening as a result of something else.

On the SAT, you will be dealing primarily — but not exclusively — with and, but, however, and therefore; on the ACT, you will encounter a much wider variety of transitions, and such questions will appear far more frequently. The essential technique for making sure you get these questions right is the same on both tests, however: whenever you see a transition underlined, you need to take your pencil and cross it out. It is important that you physically cross it out, not just imagine you’re crossing it out. Then, examine the relationship between the two clauses (same idea or different ideas) before you look at the answers.

Original sentence: People who are happy to be alone are often viewed as as odd or threatening, and research suggests that spending time by oneself is necessary to interacting well with others.

Cross out transition and consider clauses separately

1) People who are happy to be alone are often viewed as odd or threatening

2) Research suggests that spending time by oneself is necessary to interacting well with others.

Determine relationship: Contradiction

Plug in correct transition: People who are happy to be alone are often viewed as as odd or threatening, but/yet research suggests that spending time by oneself is necessary to interacting well with others.

Or: People who are happy to be alone are often viewed as odd or threatening; however, research suggests that spending time by oneself is necessary to interacting well with others.

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