Last Updated On: September 14th, 2020

What does it test?

The SAT Writing section tests your ability to identify errors in sentences, your knowledge of grammar and usage, and your essay writing skills.

What types of questions does it include?

The Writing section includes one 25-minute essay and 49 multiple-choice questions. The Essay accounts for 30% of the writing score, while the multiple choice accounts for 70%.

The Essay: The College Board presents you with an excerpt (a quotation about an issue), and an assignment (a writing prompt). You have 25 minutes to write an essay in which you discuss your opinion about the prompt, giving details and examples to support your ideas.

25 Improving Sentences Questions: You’re given a sentence in which one part is underlined and asked to choose from five choices of how to improve it. The first choice (A) keeps the sentence the same.

Here is an example from the College Board

Laura Ingalls Wilder published her first book and she was sixty-five years old then.

(A) and she was sixty-five years old then
(B) when she was sixty-five
(C) at age sixty-five years old
(D) upon reaching of sixty-five years
(E) at the time when she was sixty five

18 Identifying Sentence Error Questions: You’re given a question, with four underlined parts, and must choose which part contains an error. If there are no errors, then you must choose E: no error.

Here is an example from the College Board.

The other delegates and him immediately accepted the resolution drafted by the                                 a                          b             c                                                            d

neutral states. No error 

6 Improving Paragraphs Questions: You’re given a paragraph that contains several errors and must answer multiple-choice questions about how to improve it. Click here for an example from the College Board.

What is the best way to prepare for the Essay?

To prepare for the Essay, you should develop your writing skills, prepare an “Idea Bank” with supporting details and evidence, and practice writing under a strict time limit.

Developing writing skills takes time and hard work and will not happen overnight. Reading examples of high-quality writing and putting consistent effort into your class assignments are good first steps. Practicing your writing skills and getting feedback from your teacher and tutor are also important. Though revising your work and writing a second (or even third) draft is not part of the SAT essay, it is an important step in improving your overall writing skills.

Since the SAT essay requires students to think of details and examples to support their ideas, it’s useful to have an “Idea Bank” of examples in your head when you go into the test. Make a list of historical events, important people, personal stories, works of literature, etc. that you might use in your essay, focusing on ideas that can be applied to many prompts. For example, you might apply aspects of the novel The Great Gatsby to prompts about capitalism, greed, love, and/or identity. Add to your Idea Bank throughout the days, weeks, and months leading up to the test.

It’s important to complete several timed practice essays using SAT-style prompts so you get used to planning and writing under a strict time limit. Then, read sample essays from the College Board and compare your essays to them. Since it’s often difficult to judge your own writing, your tutor can provide valuable feedback on your practice essays.

For more specific guidelines on how you might approach and format your essay, see the blog entry Speed Writing 101.

Note: The College Board is planning major revisions to the Essay section of the SAT that include making it optional, but until spring 2016 it’s a required section.

What is the best way to prepare for the multiple-choice section?

Review your grammar rules, especially the tricky ones: While overall knowledge of grammar, writing mechanics, and sentence structure is learned over time, some grammar rules tend to show up often on the SAT multiple-choice writing section. By learning and reviewing several specific rules, you can significantly increase your score.

Practice with sample questions and note concepts you need to review: Once you’ve reviewed the rules of grammar and sentence structure, apply that knowledge to practice SAT questions. When you correct your work, seek to understand the reasoning and rules behind the correct answers, and note any concepts for which you need additional practice.

How important are test-taking strategies?

The best way to do well on the multiple-choice writing section is to understand the rules of punctuation, usage, grammar, and syntax. There are some strategies and guidelines, however, which can help you apply these rules to find the correct answers. For example, when two answers both seem correct in an Improving Sentences question but one is more concise, you should choose the more concise option. Your tutor can help you learn the strategies you need to apply your knowledge and writing skills to the test.

How should I pace myself during the test?

For the Essay section, many students find it challenging to complete their essay within the 25-minute time limit. Because of this, it’s important to practice and to enter the test with an idea of how you are going to divide your time between planning, writing, and proofreading. Aim to write as much as possible in the time given, but give yourself time to finish and proofread your essay.

On the multiple choice sections, as with the other sections, it’s better to work carefully and leave a few questions blank than to work carelessly and get many questions wrong. Your tutor can help you decide whether to tackle every question or plan to leave a few blank.

How can a tutor help me prepare for the test?

Working with a tutor can provide the individualized help you need to raise your score. LA Tutors are experts on the content and structure of the test. They will help you build the writing skills and learn the strategies you need to get the best score possible on the essay and multiple-choice sections of the exam. Contact LA Tutors today to get started!

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