Dangling modifiers, the GMAT, and the dangers of over-complication

In an attempt to better understand the grammatical issues that students studying for the GMAT typically find most challenging, I’ve started — belatedly, I admit — dipping a toe into the Sentence Correction forums on beatthegmat and gmatclub.  The experience is something I can only describe as a flashback to the days when I used to read students’ obsessive parsing of SAT grammar questions on College Confidential. I don’t dispute that there’s a lot of helpful information, and some really outstanding analysis, but a lot of what I read also makes...
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SAT Essay tip: find alternatives to the word “say”

If you look at the SAT Essay scoring rubric, you’ll find in order to earn a top score of 4 in “Writing,” an essay must demonstrate “a highly effective use and command of language,” and “a consistent use of precise word choice.” Those are lovely-sounding directives, but they’re also extremely vague. It’s hard to dispute that these are characteristics of good analytical writing, but what do they actually mean, and how can you put them into practice?It’s easy enough to memorize grammatical rules, but style is something that can’t be...
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Update: last chance to win a free Critical Reader book!

Dear All:  My survey contest will be ending this Wednesday at 5pm, so if you’d like to enter for the chance to win a free Critical Reader book, there are only a few days left.  The response has been far beyond what I hoped for, both in quantity and in enthusiasm (it’s always nice to have your work referred to as the “holy grail” of SAT prep!). To everyone who took the time to provide their feedback, thank you so very much. To invoke the pre-2016 SAT, your comments have...
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Preview copies of my and Larry Krieger’s SAT vocab book will soon be available

Update: As it turns out, Larry and I are making much faster progress than expected on our new SAT vocabulary book. In fact, we’re hoping to have a full draft completed by the end of this week. We were originally aiming to make the book available in time for the May SAT, but we’re far enough along to be able to offer a beta version for March. (I think this is the first writing project I’ve ever been involved with that finished ahead of schedule!)  If you’re signed up for...
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When is a GMAT idiom question not an idiom question?

When it comes to the GMAT, idiom questions seem to cause a disproportionate amount of anxiety. To some extent, this is understandable. English is filled with idioms: fixed phrases that, by definition, are what they are for no other reason than that the language evolved a particular way. There is no logical reason that insist on is correct while insist at is not. And for ESL students, the sheer number of these phrases can seem overwhelming.  The reality, however, is that “pure” idioms are simply not that much of...
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Coming Attractions

I realize that my 2017 blogging record hasn’t exactly been stellar so far, but I’ve been hard at work on a number of projects.  First, I’m excited to announce that I am collaborating with Larry Krieger (of the original Direct Hits and APUSH Crash Course fame) on a vocabulary book for the new SAT. But, you say, didn’t the College Board get rid of all those (not really) obscure words? Isn’t vocabulary kind of…passé? As it turns out, vocabulary is still quite relevant. Both the Reading and Writing sections still include...
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Why a vocab app isn’t enough if you want to ace GRE verbal

A couple of times in the past few months, I’ve had chance conversations with people who were either preparing for the GRE or had recently taken it.  Inevitably, the subject turned to preparation for the verbal section, and both times, the GRE-taker in question lit up when they mentioned using an app to study vocabulary. As one of them enthused, “it’s like a game! You get to compete against other users and everything.”  I admit that my familiarity with GRE vocab apps is limited, but when I had...
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