SAT Writing Section | 5 Hacks For Test Day Success

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The SAT Writing section is especially tough if you don’t prepare for it. The time constraints and attention to detail often derail unprepared students. Use the five strategies below both before, and on, test day to ace this section.

To make life even easier, we’ve also outlined the most common SAT Writing mistakes we see students frequently make.

5 Helpful SAT Writing Section Hacks

Answer Questions While Reading

Maximize your time through skimming.

You have roughly 48 seconds to answer every SAT Writing question. That’s an incredibly tight pace to work within, so you have to make every second count.

To make things easier, skim through the provided passage to crack the main idea and identify the writing style. When you reach an underlined segment, figure out the issue, if one exists, and then choose the best possible answer. You’ll improve your overall pace this way.

Don’t Answer Long Questions First

Some questions need you to read the entire passage first, save them for last.

Besides the underlined segments, some questions will ask you about the sentence or paragraph placement. In addition, you may also be asked if the overall passage accomplishes the author’s purpose and explain.

These questions require you to read and consider the entire passage as a whole. Save them for the end, in order to answer what you can through skimming first. You’ll also find it easier to go back and consider the entire passage.

Choose Answers That Are Relevant And Concise

Often, the shortest answer is the best answer.

When multiple answer choices seemingly work grammatically, it is hard to pick the right one. An easy tip to help is looking for the answer that isn’t wordy.

If two answers say the same thing, but one is much shorter, choose the short one. Also, any answer choices that go off-topic are there to trick you. Eliminate them immediately.

Practice Your Punctuation Rules

Approximately two questions every passage will test your punctuation understanding.

These questions will look to trip you up over-usage. Don’t let them. Here are some basic rules that will help you:

  • Commas are used in four main ways:
    • separating three or more items in a list
    • separating two or more independent clauses with a conjunction
    • rearranging introductory information from the rest of the sentence
    • separating non-essential descriptive information either within the sentence or at the end
  • Semicolons join two independent clauses without using a conjunction.
    • Remember that sentences on both sides of the semicolon must be complete thoughts that can exist independently
  • Colons introduce and/or emphasize:
    • short phrases
    • quotations
    • explanations
    • examples
    • lists
      • The sentence section before the colon must operate as an independent clause.
  • Dashes have 2 main objectives:
    • indicate a break in thought or hesitation
    • separate an example or list from the rest of the sentence
  • Apostrophes have 2 main objectives:
    • indicate possession
    • indicate contractions

Understand Idea Relationships And Transitions

Questions on the Writing & Language Test will ask you to make appropriate and effective transitions between ideas.

SAT Writing questions also include ones that test your ability to correlate ideas. You’ll need to understand how ideas can relate to one another, and identify those relationship rules.

There are 4 main relationship types to know. You’ll use them to figure out which transition word to pick for completing the correct relationship. When you see transition words underlined, quickly ask yourself how the ideas are related to each other.

The main relationship types are:

  • Reinforcement – one idea supports or builds off another.
    • Example transitions – in addition, furthermore, for example
  • Contrast – one idea opposes another.
    • Example transitions – however, on the other hand, despite, unlike
  • Cause-and-effect – one idea directly points to another idea.
    • Example transitions – consequently, therefore, since, and because.
  • Sequence – ideas, or items, are part of a series.
    • Example transitions – first, then, afterward, finally

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