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Test PrepSATWriting

SAT Writing

Ah, the Writing portion of the test. Love it or hate it, this is a great section for making big score improvements. Indeed, you can be successful despite not being a grammar ace or the next Ernest Hemingway. You don’t need to master every obscure grammar rule, nor do you need to be on track for a Pulitzer Prize. The Writing section really only tests limited rules of grammar and some writing basics. 

The Breakdown

The Writing section focuses on two skill-sets: writing (in the form of a short essay) and grammar knowledge (in the form of multiple-choice questions asking you to identify errors or improve the grammar and usage in sentences). The full breakdown looks like this:

  • 1 essay
  • 25 multiple-choice questions asking you to improve sentences (Improving Sentences questions)
  • 18 multiple-choice questions asking you to identify sentence errors (Error ID questions)
  • 6 multiple-choice questions asking you to improve paragraphs (Improving Paragraphs questions)

Strategy Talk

Your strategy will be dependent on your current score, the score you hope to achieve and the gap between the two. If you have yet to take the SAT, you can use your PSAT score to predict your SAT performance (just add a “0” to the end). While this section is a great place to pick up extra points, you still want to be realistic, especially if you have limited time to devote to prep work. Improving your score requires dedication to learning and practicing new skills.

To do well on this section, you’ll want to focus your efforts on reviewing the grammar rules most frequently tested. Next, you’ll want to practice and gain familiarity with the ways in which the SAT applies those rules. The more time you devote to practice, the better you’ll be at effectively managing your time. Finally, for the essay, you’ll want to develop a “plug-and-play” structure that consistently works for you.

Preparation Tips

Whether you have a limited amount of time (say, just a few weeks) or a pretty large chunk of time (say, 3 or more months), the key to mastering the grammar portion is to focus on one rule at a time. Once you have a firm grasp on a particular rule, move on to the next. More limited time will require a more expedited schedule, such as a grammar rule per day. Regardless, don’t try to race through all the rules in one sitting! This will only result in getting them all muddled in your brain.

When it comes to the essay, practice makes perfect. Spend some time (a few days or a few weeks) sharpening your brainstorming skills and then move on to enhancing your outlining skills. Once you feel confident with these, practice writing full essays (but no more than one per sitting).

Methodical preparation is best as it allows you to develop strong skills in the areas being tested while also letting you get comfortable with the format and style of the exam. Cramming is not an effective way to prepare for any section of the SAT. Now let’s get started!

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Don Munce