Beyond the fact that Fixing Sentences comprises about half of the SAT multiple-choice Writing questions (25/49), it is significant for another reason: it’s always Section 10, the last section of the test.

The good news is that at 10 minutes, it’s the shortest section. The bad news is that when you get to it, you’ll have already sat through 4.5 hours of testing.

Unfortunately, Writing has the steepest curve of the three sections. While missing five questions will cost you about 50 points on Critical Reading, it will cost you 100 on Writing.

You must therefore be absolutely systematic in attacking each question. And given that you won’t have a brain cell to spare when you deal with the last of Fixing Sentences, you need to know what you’re looking for.

The following rules provide general guidelines for selecting answer choices. They won’t get you the answer for every question, but for the vast majority, they will allow you to eliminate incorrect options faster and with less chance of second-guessing yourself.

1) Shorter is better

Since the SAT prizes conciseness, shorter answers are more likely to be correct. To save yourself time, look at answer choices from shortest to longest.

Particularly at the beginnings of sections, it is highly unlikely that one of the longer answers will be correct, and by checking the shorter ones first, you can save huge amounts of time.

Furthermore, whenever you are stuck between two answers, both of which are grammatically correct and express the same essential information, the shorter one will always be correct.

2) Gerunds (-ING), especially “Being” = BAD

Gerunds create sentence fragments and make things unnecessarily awkward. When given the the choice between a gerund a conjugated verb, assuming that both are grammatically correct, always go for the latter.

If you cross out all of the gerunds and don’t see anything that works, then you can reassess. Normally, however, if you start out by assuming that answers containing gerunds are incorrect, you’ll be right.

3) Passive Voice = BAD

Active: The politician gave the speech.

Passive: The speech was given by the politician.

Like gerunds, passive voice can make things unnecessarily wordy and long (and shorter is better, remember?) If you have to choose between an active and a passive version of the same sentence, go for the active one.

In addition, make sure you look out for the following:

-Comma Splices (always wrong)

-Non-Essential Clauses (answer is always right when it contains a correctly used NEC)

-Semicolon + however, therefore, moreover, or consequently (probably right)

-Semicolon + FANBOYS conjunction (always wrong)

-Answers that include the following words: plus, whereby, this, it, and that (usually wrong)

-Parallelism problem on the last question of the section.

Let’s see how that applies to a real question:

A poetic form congenial to Robert Browning was the dramatic monologue, it let him explore a character’s
mind without the simplifications demanded by stage productions.

(A) monologue, it lets him explore
(B) monologue, which let him explore
(C) monologue that lets him explore
(D) monologue; letting him explore
(E) monologue by letting him do exploration of

Strategy: if you recognize that (A), the original version of the sentence, is a comma splice, so it can be eliminated immediately.

(D) and (E) contain gerunds, so they can also be eliminated, leaving us with (B) and (C).

Choice (C) is shorter, but the verb (“lets”) is in the present, whereas the rest of the sentence is in the past, so (B) is the answer.