The SAT writing section continues to stress out high school students across the country and with good reason. According to College Board, which administers the SAT, a student’s performance on the writing section is the biggest indicator of college success. Aside from predicting future success, answering 49 multiple-choice questions and writing an entire essay in only an hours’ time can be a daunting task. Knowing how to organize your time and what to focus on can make approaching the writing section less stressful and help you improve your score.
The Writing Section
The writing section is divided into two main parts: multiple-choice questions and an essay. You have an hour to complete both sections, but each section has its own time constraints. Beyond the time constraints, College Board outlines the requirements and skills tested during the writing section. Instead of going into the test blind, reduce your stress levels and review the basics of the test.
- – Discover the format, time constraints and specific skills tested on the writing section of the SAT.
- – Get an overview of the writing section and tips on what to focus on as you take each section of the test.
Most students focus their preparation for the writing section on the essay portion, but it is the multiple-choice section that makes up 70 percent of the total score for the writing section. If you know what to look for, answering these questions can be a breeze and boost your score so that you are less stressed going into the essay.
What to Look For
When choosing between answers for each multiple-choice question, look for the choices that create the simplest, most concise sentences. Wordier sentences are more likely to be redundant and contain hidden errors. Use these resources to brush up on your basic knowledge of grammar and sentence structure to ensure that you will know what to look for when you’re answering the questions on the test.
Practice answering questions as much as you can to familiarize yourself with the format of the questions and learn to recognize the types of errors the test asks for. Most of these practice questions include explanations for correct and incorrect answers. Pay close attention to these explanations, particularly when you select an incorrect answer to make sure you understand the skills being tested.
MajorTests.com: SAT Grammar – These online tests follow a similar format to the SAT test and are designed to be taken and scored in only 10-15 minutes.
Grammar Bytes – Many of the questions offered through these quizzes are similar to the questions found on the SAT.
- – These sample questions focus on improving sentences by changing the structure.
Sample Identifying Sentence Errors Questions – Use these sample questions to test your knowledge of grammar as you correct sentence errors.
Sample Improving Paragraphs Questions – These questions focus less on grammar and more on overall details and structure.
Even though it is only worth 30 percent of the writing section score, it is important to prepare for the essay section. The 25-minute timeframe leaves little time for revising, so you need to be able to write from the minute the clock starts.
You may be surprised to learn some of the biggest things to earn students zeroes or low scores have little to do with the overall content of the essay. Simply taking the time to write neatly and fill up the pages may be enough to raise your score a point or two. Making sure you read the question carefully and answer that question the test is also important. These websites provide sample prompts to get you ready for the type of questions you will encounter on the actual test.
- – These prompts come from the actual test and will give you an idea of the type of question asked and the format that is used on the SAT.
- – Use this guide to learn the format of the essay exam and find sample prompts to practice with.
- – Find a list of every SAT essay prompt since the essay section started in 2005.
What to Include
Occasionally, you will get an essay topic you know little about or do not have an opinion on. When that happens, form an opinion anyway. The SAT essay is not the place to be wishy-washy or fall in the middle of the road. Take a stance for or against an issue, even if it is not how you truly feel. You are being judged on the content of your essay, not your overall opinion and the essay graders have no idea who you are, so you have nothing to lose by taking a stand or forming a concrete opinion. These resources will help you take a stand and form your essay around it.
- – Determine how to structure your essay with this handy guide.
Know Your Ingredients – Discover the components of a strong SAT essay and learn how to take a stand and defend your position.
- – Use the sample essays in this document to understand how the essay is scored and see the components of a strong essay.
- – Explore the tips in this two-part series to figure out what your essay needs to get a perfect score.
- – Find tips, tricks and sample essays to help you learn how to write your own perfect essay on test day.
- – Learn the difference between a perfect score and an average score by comparing two sample essays.
Return to the Resources Page to continue your research.