The Writing and Language Test is the second section of the SAT. This test is made up of four passages with various words or phrases underlined. These passages will consist of one nonfiction narrative, one to two informative or explanatory passages, and one to two argumentative passages. These passages will cover a range of topics including humanities, history/social studies, science, and career-related topics. Your job is to determine whether or not each underlined portion needs to be replaced with one of the answer choices. The right answer, or the “best” replacement, will be grammatically correct, make sense in the context of the passage, and will be as concise as possible. You may also have to answer questions regarding rhetoric, such as where a given sentence would best be placed in the passage.
You have 35 minutes to answer 44 questions. This allows you 47 seconds per question, but some questions may take more time than others. This section is multiple choice, with one of the answer choices almost always being “no change.” Each of the four passages contains 11 questions. The final question of a paragraph or passage will often ask about the structure or the passage as a whole, so be sure to read the entire passage as you go so you have a sense of its purpose and structure.
|SAT Writing and Language Test|
|35 minutes||44 questions across 4 passages||8 minutes and 45 seconds per passage|
The SAT Writing and Language Test is used to test a student’s understanding of the written English language. The correct answer will usually be the choice that sounds most natural while adhering to the rules of written English, such as subject/verb agreement, comma placement, and correct usage of the various parts of speech. Students will want to avoid choosing unnecessarily wordy answer choices that don’t add anything to the sentence; the best answer tends to also be the most concise.
The SAT categorizes each question on the Writing and Language test into one of two categories:
1. Expression of Ideas (24 questions)
2. Standard English Conventions (20 questions)
We break these subsections down even further to focus on the specific skills necessary to be successful on the SAT Writing and Language Test.
When approaching a question, consider asking yourself the following questions:
1. Can you tell which answer choice sounds the most “natural” in the sentence?
2. Can you eliminate any of the answer choices?
3. Do you know what concept is being tested?
Familiarity with the written English language can be achieved by immersing yourself in all types of writing. If you read a lot, you will be able to more easily tell what sounds natural or not. If an answer choice sounds awkward or unnatural, it is probably not the right answer.
Even if you are a native English speaker, spoken English often doesn’t follow the grammar rules of written English. Understanding concepts such as subject/verb agreement and tense agreement is essential for success.
Since the SAT is a timed test, it is tempting to skip over the parts of the passage that aren’t underlined, since they might not be the focus of specific questions. However, some questions will ask you about the organization of the passage as a whole. Therefore, it is important to have a solid understanding of the passage. If you are a slow reader, you should at least skim the passage to gain a basic understanding of the structure and content.
Sometimes, the easiest way to determine the correct answer is to plug in each answer choice to the sentence and see what sounds most natural. This is also a good way to check your work.