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English grammar

One topic which can be transformational for students preparing for standardized testing, especially logical-mathematical students who are underperforming on the writing SAT, is formally learning English grammar.  A large proportion of writing MC questions in particular focus on the sequence of tenses, and tense sequence errors or unintentional tense shifts can greatly harm submitted writing.  The English language does not have a "past tense".  It has multiple past tenses which are non-identical and which all have their uses.  Working with a tutor on grammar can be a great help to the student who is not well served by whole-language and literature-centric approaches to English class (i.e. the students most likely to seek SAT verbal but not math tutoring in the first place).

Comments

I think this is excellent and spot-on. Here's a question:  When confronted with, say, a high-school junior or senior who has never encountered formal grammar per se (or at least not learned it), how do you remediate, especially if your time is limited? I'd love to see an example of an SAT-prep lesson in which you cover these bases. 
 
Incidentally, my daughter studied Latin throughout high school and began college thinking she'd be a classics major (Greek defeated her, however, and she's now an English major). I think that her study of Latin probably had as much to do with her very high SAT verbal scores as anything else, for precisely the reason you outline above. 
Thanks for your feedback!  I'm concerned about giving a precise example of how to remediate quickly because I'm sensitive to giving away valuable info for free instead of getting clients, but I have successfully taught the formal English tense system to seniors.  Hint--geometry is very useful as an analogy, especially if you have a client with a high math score who needs to bring verbal up.  Teaching a very small amount of Latin (actual Latin, not just vocab, as you observed with your daughter) can be a workable strategy with a junior as well.