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Course: SAT > Unit 11

Lesson 3: Writing: Grammar

Writing: Sequencing sentences — Video lesson

David shows you how to do a Sequencing Sentences question on the SAT Writing and Language test. Created by David Rheinstrom.

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Video transcript

- [Instructor] We are looking at question 38 here, which comes at the end of this big, long paragraph and asks where sentence four should be placed. Should it be where it is now after sentence one, sentence two or sentence five? This question requires us to really understand the whole paragraph. And I'll read the whole thing in just a minute but let's talk about what kinda question this is first. Because of what it's asking us to do, I can tell that this is a sequencing sentences question. You're going to see one to two of these on your official SAT. Questions like these ask you to look at a paragraph as a whole and evaluate the flow of ideas within it. When I go back to the passage I'm gonna look for a few things. Does the paragraph go in chronological order? That is to say, does the order in which events unfold make logical sense? Or are ideas explained before they're introduced? A good way to check for that is to identify unclear pronouns. Pronouns that don't clearly refer to an antecedent or a noun that comes before it. If the passage says she, for example, we need to know who that she is. And I'm gonna look for transition words and phrases as a way to identify sentences that need to be next to one another. We might wanna look for sentences that are linked by cause and effect relationships or transition words that express contrasts or continuity like however or therefore. So that's our strategy. I'm gonna be looking for a weird order of events, unclear pronouns and sentences that need to be next to each other. Let's go back to the passage. Let me read the passage so we can get some context And as we go, I'm gonna circle pronouns and any kind of transition words or phrases. Under certain circumstances when lightning strikes sand or rock, evidence of the strike is left behind in the form of a fulgurite, sometimes called petrified lightning. Now, if you're reading a paragraph on the writing and language test and you see numbers like these, they indicate that there's going to be a sentence sequences question coming up, so you can start looking sharp for sequencing issues. First discovered in 1706, these formations are found in two varieties, sand fulgurites and the much less common rock fulgurites. As it cools, the silicone lining forms a glass walled cavity that may look like a plant's root system. Sand that adhered to the molten silica as it solidified forms a casing around the fragile glassy structure. Sand fulgurites form when the intense energy of a lightning bolt rapidly heats moist air trapped in sandy soil and the resulting explosive expansion creates a void lined with melted silica. Rock fulgurites found almost exclusively on the peaks of mountains, appear as a thin glassy crust on the surface of a rock or along fractures within them. Okay, so a strategy I'm going to use in order to save time is to not test each answer in context. I'm going to make a prediction about where sentence four ought to go. So let's through these pronouns. Okay, so we have these formations in sentence one but that refers to fulgurites in the previous sentence in the previous paragraph. So that's all right. Let's talk about, as it cools, what does it refer to? Okay, so it refers to the silica lining. So we don't have a pronoun mismatch there but it does expose something weird. What's the silica lining, right? This feels like something I talked about earlier, the weirdness of describing something before it's been introduced in the passage. Sentence one doesn't talk about silica linings cool or otherwise but sentence four, our target sentence does, Right, it refers to silica melting as a result of a lightning strike. So if we were going to reconstruct the order of events, we'd say that a lightning strike happens first, heats up the sand, so plus, plus, plus to heat and then melt some of it and then it cools down and solidifies into glass, minus, minus, minus getting cold. So that's what I'm gonna say in order to preserve the logical order of events, the lightning strike makes the sand hot and then it cools into glass. So I'm going to predict that sentence four should be placed after sentence one. So right here. And is that a choice? Yes it is, choice B. We can also see that most of the other sentences in the paragraph are about sand fulgurites until sentence five, which transitions to a discussion of the other kind, rock fulgurites. So that also plays into the logical sequence of events, Sentence one introduces the two varieties of fulgurite sand and rock then you have a few sentences about sand fulgurites followed by one sentence about the much rarer rock kind. Let's take a little bit more time time to prove to you that I have the right answer even though I wouldn't do this on test day. So let's look at choice A. If I leave sentence four where it is right now then that sequence with the melted silica cooling before it becomes melted stays in place. So that's not good, let's knock out choice A. Choice B, we'll skip because that's the right answer we've already talked about that. Choice C, if we put sentence four after sentence two, so here, it still describes cooling silica out of order before the heating is introduced. And it also interrupts this relationship between glass walled cavity and the fragile glassy structure in sentences two and three. So we can cross that off too. Choice D, after sentence five here, introduces sand fulgurites after the rest of the paragraph is done talking about the sand kind and has moved on to the rock kind, so that's not logical either. You can see the strategies that I modeled in this worked example. I was looking for unclear pronouns and transition words or phrases because that can help me identify if there's a weird order of sentences, if the sequence of sentences is scrambled. And once I found the slightest hint of weirdness that led me straight to the answer.