Illogical Comparisons: Why You Can’t Compare Apples to Oranges

By | May 13, 2008

SAT Illogical Comparisons in Grammar: Comparing apples to orangesWow, I really suck at maintaining a blog. I thank those of you who’ve been reading regularly and letting me know that my advice is helping you prepare for your tests. You’ve motivated me to get back to blogging my SAT strategies more regularly.

On that note, today we continue with the fourth question type of the SAT Writing Error Identification questions: Illogical Comparisons.

This is a commonly missed error type that many students don’t even realize is tested on the SAT. However, once you learn this error type, it’s relatively easy to recognize and ensure you answer related problems correctly every time. So on to the learning…

Illogical comparisons errors are based on the old adage that states, “you can’t compare apples to oranges.” There’s simply faulty logic in this comparison; they’re too different to make a meaningful comparison of them. Aside from the fact that they’re both edible and that we as humans label them both as fruits, they have little else in common. An alternative, then, would be to compare apples to apples, or oranges to oranges. There are infinitely more meaningful comparisons to be made by comparing two apples or two oranges. But enough with the fruity metaphors. Let’s jump to an example:

Skateboarding in New York, (A) unlike California, (B) is usually (C) hampered by busy streets and (D) crowded sidewalks. (E) No Error.

Although it’s easy to understand what the writer of this sentence is trying to say (because we speak like this all the time in our daily conversations) there’s actually a fundamental error in this sentence. Although the point is clearly to compare skateboarding conditions in New York to those in California, what’s really being compared in this sentence is skateboarding (a sport or activity) in New York to California (merely a state).

This is what we call an illogical comparison:

Skateboarding vs. California

You can’t compare a sport to a state. It just doesn’t make sense. A more proper comparison would be the following:

Skateboarding in New York vs. Skateboarding in California

or

New York vs. California

Therefore, the correct answer here is (A). The sentence would be more properly rewritten as the following:

Skateboarding in New York, unlike skateboarding in California, is usually hampered by busy streets and crowded sidewalks.

So how do you make sure you don’t miss any of these error types? Well, any time you come across a problem that makes a comparison, make sure you check that it’s logically correct. It’s as simple as that. Don’t assume you know what the author means to say because it’s easy to read into her intent. Make sure that she is being precise with her words as to make the comparison logically. If the content of a SAT Writing Section question involves a comparison, 90% of the time there will be an Illogical Comparison error.

For more information on Illogical Comparison Errors on the SAT, get the Sparknotes Guide to the new SAT and PSAT.

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Topics: Error Identification Questions, SAT Writing | 13 Comments »

13 Responses to “Illogical Comparisons: Why You Can’t Compare Apples to Oranges”


  1. Jimmy Says:
    July 21st, 2008 at 6:51 pm

    MORE MORE MORE!
    This is really helpful– Thanks!

  2. Elissa Says:
    December 6th, 2008 at 9:42 pm

    omg i love you.
    But seriously, this has been a very resourceful blog.
    Thanks alot!

  3. Pavla Says:
    January 12th, 2009 at 2:52 pm

    Hello from the Czech Republic!
    This is really a great blog. Can´t wait till I try all those strategies in my January SAT.
    Thanks for help!

  4. TRhyne Says:
    March 2nd, 2009 at 7:58 pm

    Wow, I like the tips on this website. I too am trying to raise my scores to a high. I am a sophmore and I already took a SAT test and hope that I will improve my scores a lot. Thanks for this easy to understand website.

  5. Joe Says:
    July 2nd, 2009 at 12:14 am

    Actually, based on your passage, the old adage would be incorrect! Apples and oranges are both fruit, and one can rationally compare them in a sentence: “Apples taste better than oranges.”

    Nice site by the way. I wish I had stumbled upon this a year ago!

  6. ieshia Says:
    November 19th, 2009 at 4:30 pm

    this was very helpful. keep it up plz nd thank you!!!!!

  7. manika Says:
    January 13th, 2010 at 6:53 pm

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  8. manika Says:
    January 13th, 2010 at 6:54 pm

    thanks alot this has really helped me alot you should kum up with more and more info i love this!!!!!!!!!!!very easily understanding

  9. How to Ace the SAT Writing Sections, Even if you Suck at Writing | SAT Ninja: SAT Test Prep Expert Says:
    May 18th, 2010 at 3:31 pm

    […] IV. Faulty Comparison/Illogical Comparisons […]

  10. david Says:
    June 28th, 2013 at 5:36 pm

    this is so useful, im going to show this to my friends because this is just about the best guild blog ive ever read

  11. Oumaima Says:
    August 17th, 2014 at 7:31 am

    Wonderful tips! Thank you!!

  12. Abdulmalik Says:
    August 18th, 2014 at 2:55 am

    Thank you so much. Am really benefiting from your lessons. I’ll be sitting for SAT in October and this really helps. May you be blessed.

  13. nina Says:
    September 18th, 2014 at 10:50 pm

    this was soo helpfull. Can you please finish the section. better than any prep book i have bought

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