Do you have nightmares about the SAT Writing section? Of course, it is not the simplest part of the race (it is important to keep an eye on the clock!), But knowing the structure of the section well you can do very well in it. Therefore, we show here everything that is evaluated in SAT’s Writing & Language and what types of questions you will find in it!
SAT Writing section format
The SAT Writing section (officially called Writing and Language) is the second section of the entire exam. Writing, together with Reading, composes its “verbal score” (also known as “ Evidence-based Reading and Writing score “).
This section is 35 minutes long and has 44 multiple choice questions. All questions are based on texts, with a total of four passages followed by 11 questions each. The tickets come from the areas of Careers, Social Studies, Humanities and Science:
- Career passages can discuss trends or debates in key professional areas, such as Medicine, Technology or Business
- Social study passages can be drawn from sources in History, Anthropology, Psychology, Political Science or Sociology
- Humanities passages can rely on a specific author or explore trends in Literature or the Arts
- Scientific passages will focus on topics in Biology, Chemistry or Physics
You will not receive any prose text – all passages are non-fictional, explanatory or based on scientific arguments. One or more texts will also be accompanied by visual material, such as a graph, a table or a flow chart.
What you need to know about the passages in the SAT Writing section is that they are full of problems. These texts will be full of punctuation errors, bad word choices, poor sentence structure and poor organization. In this way, multiple choice questions point to various parts of the passages and ask if and how each part should be corrected.
This means that the SAT Writing section evaluates, above all, its “editorial skills”. Let’s take a look at how this happens.
Types of questions in the SAT Writing section
Writing & Language asks you to read passages full of errors and improve them. Therefore, you must first recognize whether or not there is an error. If so, you must choose the answer that would fix or improve the sentence, paragraph or passage as a whole. To accomplish this task, you need to understand grammatical rules, how to organize ideas and how to use transient words and phrases.
According to the College Board (the institution responsible for formulating the SAT), the questions in this section test four main skill areas: Evidence Command, Words in Context, Expression of Ideas and Standard English Language Conventions. A little more than half of the questions refer to the first three skill areas, which are related to the development and organization of ideas and the effective use of language.
The other half of the questions cover standard English language conventions. These questions address sentence structure, function and punctuation and tend to be more detailed.
Let’s take a look at each of these skill areas and what they test.
Questions about the evidence command tend to look at the overall picture of the text. They want you to improve the way a passage presents information or conveys meaning. It may be necessary to add a supporting detail, an introductory sentence or a conclusion to make the passage more impactful. These questions often ask you to include the reason for the change (that is, your “evidence”).
Words in Context
Words in Context questions are more detailed than Evidence Command questions, as they point to a specific word. You may need to replace a word that doesn’t make sense or choose another that works best in your specific context.
None of the words will be particularly advanced, but they can be easily confused (such as the words ” outperform “, ” outweigh ” and ” outdo “) or take on different meanings, depending on the context.
As with many questions in the SAT Writing section, Words in Context questions will have the option “ No Change “. Therefore, before thinking about how to replace the word, you must decide whether or not there is a problem / error.
Expression of Ideas
As the name implies, the Expression of Ideas questions ask you to think about how concepts are presented in the text. Therefore, you can reorganize the order of sentences to improve flow, strengthen an argument, or choose to delete a sentence completely. These are “general” questions that ask you to make revisions that would make the passage as a whole more impactful.
Standard English Language Conventions
Nearly half of the questions in the SAT Writing section fall into this category of standard English conventions. This is where your understanding of grammar and punctuation rules comes into play. These questions ask you to correct mistakes in sentences and paragraphs. You can edit errors in tense, subject-verb agreement, use of the pronoun and use of commas or apostrophes.
EXTRA TYPE: Data interpretation
As mentioned above, one or more passages in the section will / will be accompanied by a graph, a table or some other visual material that contains data. The graph will always be related to the passage in some way, but it can be described incorrectly. The questions can then ask you to review an incorrect representation of the data or add a sentence based on the data to strengthen an argument.