A monthly grammatical guide to help you build your English skills.

5 Good Grammar Rules from College Admissions Experts

Apr 26, 2016

In the article “6 Handy Grammar Rules for Your College Application” by the Princeton Review®, college admissions officers reported that good grammar lets your ideas “shine through.” These officers read and analyze essays every day and, ultimately, decide who gets admitted to the universities where they work. While admissions officers say grammar mistakes are distracting, according to the article, “good grammar fades into the background.” This lets the reader focus on the content of the essays.

Here are some important good grammar rules that college admissions officers recommend:

Rule 1: Put a modifier (a word or phrase that describes something) next to the word or phrase it modifies.
Example: Purchased last week, the new preparation materials helped the student study.
Common Mistake: Purchased last week, the student studied with her new preparation materials.

Rule 2: Make sure a pronoun refers to a specific noun and agrees with the singular or plural form of that noun.
Example: The professor is a favorite at the university, but he is now taking a semester off. 
Common Mistake: The professor is a favorite at the university, but they were now taking a semester off.

Rule 3: Keep the subject of the sentence in mind and make sure it always agrees with the verb.
Example: Each of the authors involved in writing the book was a sociologist.
Common Mistake: Each of the authors involved in writing the book were sociologists.

Rule 4: Use a similar grammatical form when there are two or more parallel ideas in a single sentence.
Example: The teacher thought he was a good student because he turned in his papers on time, tested well on exams and appeared enthusiastic.
Common Mistake: The teacher thought he was a good student because he turned in his papers on time, tested well on exams and his enthusiasm was high.

Rule 5: Choose the active voice (instead of the passive voice) in which the subject performs the action.
Example: After I spent the past semester meeting with my study group in the library, I decided to change the location.
Common Mistake: After meeting in the library with my study group for the past semester, changing locations was my decision.

While you are studying for the writing section of the TOEFL® test, keep these important grammar rules in mind. This will help keep those evaluating your responses focused on what matters—your smart ideas!

Want to get more grammar advice from college admissions officers? Take a look at this article from The Princeton Review®.