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"Rewording" Questions On the SAT Writing and ACT English Sections

The SAT Writing and ACT English sections features various questions types which tend to repeat themselves throughout the course of the section. Learning to identify each question and its appropriate approach will make the Writing section seem a great deal more accessible.


Today we'll discuss "rewording" questions. Rewording questions refer to an underlined phrase in the passage, where the options are various rewordings of that phrase. Rewording questions don't feature specialized punctuation like commas, hyphens, or semicolons. They don't focus on words which play a unique function, like linking words. Neither are they asking you to correct a grammatical error. Usually, the underlined phrase in the passage is grammatically correct.

What these questions are actually asking is to provide a "better" wording, if there is one. In these cases, "better" usually means simpler, shorter, and devoid of repetition. In general, the simplest answer is the correct one - so long as that answer is grammatically correct, of course. Adding adjectives, clauses, or superfluous descriptions doesn't necessarily make the sentence "better", and often detracts from it.


So the rule of thumb in "rewording questions" is simple: Always pick the shortest, simplest, but still correct answer.


Below are five examples where this principle should be applied.


Example #1:


'In broad terms, philosophy is the study of meaning and the values underlying thought and behavior. But more pragmatically, the discipline encourages students to analyze complex material, question conventional beliefs, and express thoughts in a concise manner.'


Question:

A) NO CHANGE

B) speaking in a more pragmatic way,

C) speaking in a way more pragmatically,

D) in a more pragmatic-speaking way, (1)


The answer here is A), NO CHANGE. There's nothing grammatically incorrect with the current phrase, and so there's no need to replace it. Options C) and D) especially are so convoluted as to render them almost unusable. C) is also grammatically incorrect.



Example #2:


'Also, studies have found that those students who major in philosophy often do better than students from other majors in both verbal reasoning and analytical writing. These results can be measured by standardized test scores.'


Question: Which choice most effectively combines the sentences at the underlined portion?

A) writing as

B) writing, and these results can be

C) writing, which can also be

D) writing when the results are (2)


The simplest answer here, A), is also grammatically correct. This is the right answer.


Example #3:

'Response to the advertisement was overwhelming, even tremendous, and Harvey soon replaced the male servers at his restaurants with women.'


Question:

A) NO CHANGE

B) Response to the advertisement was overwhelming,

C) Overwhelming, even tremendous, was the response to the advertisement,

D) There was an overwhelming, even tremendous, response to the advertisement, (3)


The simplest answer here is B), which is obviously grammatically correct.

Every other option, including the original phrase, utilizes both "overwhelming" and "tremendous." The two words mean essentially the same thing, and neither is significantly more forceful than the other. Thus, the "even tremendous" phrase used in every other option is redundant and meaningless. Options C) and D) simply engage in a reshuffling of words.


Example #4:


'New theories, new practices too, and technologies are transforming the twenty-first-century workplace at lightning speed.'


Question:

A) NO CHANGE

B) also new practices,

C) in addition to practices,

D) practices, (4)


Option D), the shortest option, is grammatically correct. So, according to our guiding principle with rewording questions, it's also the correct answer.

Note that all the other options, including the original phrase in the passage, utilize addition words: "too", "also", and "in addition." But the sentence already incorporates an addition word, in the form of "and":

'New theories, new practices too, and technologies are transforming the twenty-first-century workplace at lightning speed.'

This renders the other addition words redundant. The only option without an addition word is D), 'practices.'


Example #5:


'Then it is the duty of those employees to identify, and even pay for, appropriate resources to show them how and why they are falling behind and what they should do about it.'


Question:

A) NO CHANGE

B) address their deficiencies.

C) deal with their flaws and shortcomings.

D) allow them to meet their employers’ needs in terms of the knowledge they are supposed to have. (5)



The answer is B), 'address their deficiencies.' Note that what's currently written in the passage (the underlined section) is grammatically correct. However, B) encapsulates the entire underlined section in three words. Similarly, C) is correct, and a commonly used phrase as well. However, it engages in unnecessary repetition, since "flaws" and "shortcomings" are almost the same thing. Since B) is the most concise option here, it wins the day.


So when there are questions simply asking about rewording the current phrase, keep your eyes open. Is the simplest word combination grammatically correct? Unless there's something blatantly wrong with it, that's the correct answer.

For more tips and methods, or to get help personally tailored to your needs, consider working with me. I've helped people from all over the world get into their dream school. In coaching you, I adopt my methods specifically to your personality, schedule, and learning style. For this reason, studying privately with a skilled coach is the best way to increase your test score.


Happy learning, Tova




(1) 'SAT Practice Test #1 | SAT Suite of Assessments – The College Board', https://collegereadiness.collegeboard.org/pdf/sat-practice-test-1.pdf

Accessed 12 Dec. 2021

(2) 'SAT Practice Test #1 | SAT Suite of Assessments – The College Board', https://collegereadiness.collegeboard.org/pdf/sat-practice-test-1.pdf

Accessed 8 Dec. 2021

(3) 'SAT Practice Test #3 | SAT Suite of Assessments – The College Board',

https://collegereadiness.collegeboard.org/pdf/sat-practice-test-3.pdf

Accessed 8 Dec. 2021

(4) 'SAT Practice Test #7 | SAT Suite of Assessments – The College Board',

https://collegereadiness.collegeboard.org/pdf/sat-practice-test-7.pdf

Accessed 8 Dec. 2021

(5) 'SAT Practice Test #7 | SAT Suite of Assessments – The College Board',

https://collegereadiness.collegeboard.org/pdf/sat-practice-test-7.pdf

Accessed 8 Dec. 2021