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Typical Errors on the SAT Proofreading Section

Category:
Comparison Errors

Illustrative Sentences

  • In some regions of the state, May's average rainfall is greater than April.
  • The basic policies of the incumbent senator are no different from the candidate challenging her in the upcoming election.
  • Like many other insects, the camouflage strategy of the viceroy butterfly is imitative: potential predators have a hard time distinguishing the tasty viceroy butterfly from the toxic monarch butterfly.
Comparison errors are a type of parallel structure error: the two things being compared must have similar forms. These errors are easy to understand once you observe how a comparison error innocently arises. Using the first illustration, let's write out fully the comparison the writer intended:
    In some regions of the state, May's average rainfall is greater than April's average rainfall.
Okay, so far so good. The average rainfall in one month is being compared with the average rainfall in another month; no problem, yet. Now let's omit a couple of words that would be implied by the sentence structure:
    In some regions of the state, May's average rainfall is greater than April's.
Okay, this sentence is perfectly fine, too. Unfortunately, this version is different from the original sentence: April is not the same as April's. It's easy to read right past this type of error because we unconsciously realize what the sentence "really meant." Notice how carefully you must read this sentence: a single letter and an apostrophe—changing a noun into its possessive form—make all the difference between a correct and an incorrect comparison.

In the second illustration, the basic policies of the senator are being compared with the challenger. A proper comparison could have been the following:

    The basic policies of the incumbent senator are no different from those of the candidate challenging her in the upcoming election.
Notice that a mere two words—those of—make all the difference.

In the third illustration, a strategy (the camouflage strategy of the viceroy butterfly) is being compared with insects (other insects). A proper comparison would have been the following:

    Like that of many other insects, the camouflage strategy of the viceroy butterfly is imitative: potential predators have a hard time distinguishing the tasty viceroy butterfly from the toxic monarch butterfly.
If you're on your toes about this important error, it should not give you much trouble on the SAT.

Related Errors
If this type of error tends to trip you up, you should also review the following categories:

  • ambiguity
  • parallel structure errors


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From The RocketReview Revolution: The Ultimate Guide to the New SAT and the PSAT by Adam Robinson. Copyright © 2005. Used by arrangement with Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

If you'd like to buy this book, click here.


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