SAT Parallelism that has Nothing to do with Math

By | April 29, 2008

Continuing along with the Error Identification Question on the SAT Writing Sections, we come today to Faulty Parallelism Errors.

Certain sets of words in a sentence, or the general design of a sentence, often require parallel construction in order to nicely balance the sentence. This is what Parallelism Errors on the SAT test for – balanced sentence structure. Parallelism Errors show up very frequently on the SAT in two general forms:

1. Unbalanced lists – simply put, each word or phrase of a sentence that comes in listed fashion should be in the same grammatical form, whether they all be nouns, noun phrases, verbs, or verb phrases. The classic example of this error looks something like this:

As a multi-talented performer, Madison enjoys singing, dancing, and to play the piano.

You’ll notice in this over-simplified example that the first two listed verbs singing and dancing are in the gerund form (a gerund is simply the noun form of a verb ending with –ing), but that the final phrase to play the piano uses the infinitive form of the verb. To fix this, you could simply change the infinitive to play to match the two gerunds as written below:

As a multi-talented performer, Madison enjoys singing, dancing, and playing the piano.

Now that you understand the concept, let’s look at an example that may more likely show up on an actual SAT test:

Teachers and students (A) agree that developing good writing habits (B) is (C) not only important but also (D) of necessity to achieve academic success. (E) No Error

The correct answer here would be (D) of necessity which does not correct balance the adjective important. Instead, the phrase of necessity should simply be replaced with the adjective necessary. Try re-reading the sentence with this replacement.

2. Word-Pair Parallelism Errors – Word Pair Parallelism refers to certain correlative words that should always be used in conjunction with other specific words. For example, the word either should be used in conjunction with or, and neither with nor. The following is a list of the word pairs you’ll find tested on the SAT:




not only…but also…

not only…but…


Let’s look at an example:

Neither his wife’s pleas (A) or the (B) doctor’s advice scientific evidence (C) was enough to (D) convince him to quit smoking. (E) No Error

The correct answer is (A) or because neither cannot be used in conjunction with or, as listed above. Simply enough. Let’s move to another example:

(A) Few people (B) were aware that the famous opera singer was also as (C) accomplished a composer (D) than any.

The correct answer here is (D) than. The phrase should be more properly written as: as accomplished a composer as any.

As simple a grammatical concept as this is, these Word-Pair parallelism errors show up quite frequently on the SAT, especially the either…or and neither…no pairs.

For more information on SAT Parallelism Errors on the Writing Sections, get the Sparknotes Guide to the New SAT and PSAT.

Be Sociable, Share!

Topics: Error Identification Questions, SAT Reasoning Test, SAT Writing | 3 Comments »

3 Responses to “SAT Parallelism that has Nothing to do with Math”

  1. D Says:
    April 29th, 2008 at 11:49 am

    i [b]laud[/b] your desire to help us scrubs, once again! Thankyou.

  2. nh2433 Says:
    October 4th, 2008 at 3:56 am

    this is like the Princeton book without the cost and BS in between… i hate the Joe Bloggs Comparisons…

  3. How to Ace the SAT Writing Sections, Even if you Suck at Writing | SAT Ninja: SAT Test Prep Expert Says:
    May 18th, 2010 at 3:28 pm

    […] III. Faulty Parallelism […]


« | Home | »