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Boundaries | Overview

A guide to "boundaries" questions on the digital SAT

What are "boundaries" questions?

On the SAT Reading and Writing Test, some questions will present you with a short passage that contains a blank. The question will then ask you to complete the text in a way that conforms to the conventions of Standard English.
On the SAT, these Standard English conventions are broken down into two categories:
Boundaries questions focus on how phrases, clauses, and sentences are linked together in written English.

Which Standard English conventions will be tested in boundaries questions?

Boundaries questions focus on these Standard English conventions:
You may be asked to link clauses using coordination, subordination, or end punctuation.
You may be asked to format and punctuate supplemental information provided within a sentence.
You'll need to know when and where to use (and not use) different punctuation marks. Correct punctuation is essential for all boundaries questions.
To learn more about these conventions, check out their corresponding lessons in our grammar practice unit!

How to approach boundaries questions

Because each question will focus on a specific convention of Standard English, it's a great first step to identify which grammar rule is being tested.
Here's one way to do that:
Step 1: Investigate the blank
Read the text closely. Where does the blank appear? Within a sentence? Between clauses?
Compare the choices. What changes from choice to choice? Are conjunctions added or removed? Is different punctuation used?
Any patterns we can identify will be useful in the next step.
Step 2: Find the focus
Based on our observations in the previous step, we should be able to identify which Standard English convention is being tested.
For example, if the blank comes between two independent clauses, and the choices offer a mix of commas and conjunctions, we should focus on avoiding errors with linking clauses.
If we can narrow our focus to the specific convention being tested, we'll have less to think about. This can save both time and brainpower.
Step 3: Eliminate the obvious errors
Now it's time to take a closer look at the choices!
Plug each choice into the blank, and read the passage through. Keeping in mind the grammar rules we identified as the focus, eliminate any choice that creates an obvious error.
Once we eliminate choices that create errors, we'll be left with only one remaining choice. We can select it with confidence!

Learn more:

Want to sharpen your skills on boundaries questions? Keep practicing, and check out our lessons for each of the grammar conventions below.

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