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The Writing and Language Test assesses

your ability to revise and edit texts about


a range of topics.
Each Writing and Language Test consists of four passages with
11 questions each. You will have 35 minutes to complete the
Writing and Language Test.

What the passages look like:


Passages on the Writing and Language Test cover a range of topics and
vary in both format and content.

Topics: History/Social Studies, Humanities, and Science passages


typically look like short academic papers, while the Careers passages
may explore specific job fields.

excerpt from a Careers passage


excerpt from a Careers passage

Text Type: There are three different text types for Writing and
Language passages:
1) Argument passages take a strong position and use evidence to
support a claim
2) Narrative Nonfiction passages tell a story with a clear beginning,
middle, and end
3) Informative or explanatory passages aim to educate the reader
about a topic

What the questions are asking:


Questions are divided into two broad types:

Expression of Ideas questions will ask you to improve the


effectiveness of communication in a piece of writing.

Standard English Conventions questions will ask you to make


sentences consistent with standard written English grammar, usage,
punctuation and other conventions/rule.

A few more things to keep in mind . . .

Many of the test questions rely on the context of the passage, so


you may have to read more than the sentence that corresponds to the
question to choose the best answer.

When there are no additional directions or questions, assume that


you have to choose the option that is most effective or correct.

Some passages include one or more tables, graphs, or charts that


relate to the topic of the passage. A graphic may provide additional

support for a point made in the passage. Questions may ask you to use
information from the graphic(s) to correct an error in the passage.
Youll never have to make corrections to the graphic itself. Here's an
example:

The Writing and Language Test asks you


to edit and revise passages written by an
anonymous author.

You will encounter a variety of passages from four content


areas: Careers, History/Social Studies, Science, and Humanities.
Each passage will be 400-450 words in length.

Careers Includes passages that deal with trends, issues, and


debates related to major career paths, such as healthcare and
information technology, as well as general-interest topics related to
jobs, business, and industry.

History/Social Studies Includes passages that deal with


information and ideas drawn from the fields of anthropology,
communication studies, economics, education, human geography,
history, law, linguistics, political science, psychology, and sociology
and their various subfields. Passages can discuss such matters as
emerging trends, interesting hypotheses and theories, and innovative
research studies and methods.

Science Includes passages that deal with information and


ideas drawn from the fields of biology, chemistry, physics, and Earth
science and their various subfields. Passages can discuss such matters
as recent discoveries, interesting hypotheses and theories, and
innovative research studies and methods.

Humanities Includes passages that deal with information and


ideas drawn from the fields of classics, language, law, the performing
arts, philosophy, religion, theater, and the visual arts and their various
subfields.

You may have noticed that some of the passages include informational
graphics with data. Passages in any of the content areas can appear
with graphics, although it is more common for Careers, History/Social
Studies, and Science.
Passages will be one of three core text types: argument,
informative/explanatory text, and nonfiction
narrative. Argument passages aim to convince the reader of a claim;
informative/explanatory text provides factual information about a given
topic; and nonfiction narrative follows a story, often from history, with
a clear beginning, middle, and end. Any of the content areas can go
with any of these text types; for example, you may see an
informative/explanatory text about careers or an argument text about
science.

Expression of Ideas
On the SAT Writing and Language Test, You will encounter a variety of
questions that will ask you to revise and edit passages in different
ways.
Expression of Ideas questions ask you to improve the effectiveness
of a text by revising with an eye to topic development, accuracy, logic,
cohesion, and rhetorically effective language use.
A note on the images in this article: all Writing and Language Test
questions will be associated with a passage, but the full passages are
not included here, only excerpts. Each question pictured is just one
example of how questions in that category can look.

Some sub-topics within Expression of Ideas:


Development These questions will ask you to focus on revising text
in relation to rhetorical purpose.

Proposition: Questions will ask you to add, revise, or retain central


ideas, main claims, counterclaims, and topic sentences to structure
text and convey arguments, information, and ideas clearly and
effectively.

Support: Questions will ask you to add, revise, or retain


information and ideas (e.g., details, facts, statistics) intended to
support claims or points in a text.

Focus: Questions will ask you to add, revise, retain, or delete


information and ideas in text for the sake of relevance to topic and
purpose.

Quantitative Information: Questions will ask you to relate


information presented quantitatively in such forms as graphs, charts,
and tables to information presented in text.

Organization These questions focus on revision of text to improve


the logic and cohesion of text at the sentence, paragraph, and wholetext levels.

Logical Sequence: Questions will ask you to revise text as needed


to ensure that information and ideas are presented in the most logical
order.

Introductions, Conclusions, and Transitions: Questions will ask you


to revise text as needed to improve the beginning or ending of a text
or paragraph to ensure that transition words, phrases, or sentences are
used effectively to connect information and ideas.

Effective Language Use These questions will ask you to identify


stated central themes or determine themes that are implied in the
text.

Precision: Questions will ask you to revise text as needed to


improve the exactness or content appropriateness of word choice.

Concision: Questions will ask you to revise text as needed to


eliminate wordiness and redundancy).

Style and Tone: Questions will ask you to revise text as necessary
to ensure consistency of style and tone within a text or to improve the
match of style and tone to purpose.

Syntax: Questions will ask you to use various sentence structures


to accomplish needed rhetorical purposes.

Standard English Conventions


On the SAT Writing & Language Test, you will encounter questions that
will ask you to interact with and revise passages in different ways.
Standard English Conventions questions ask you to make sentences
consistent with standard grammar, usage, and punctuation
conventions.
A note on the images in this article: all Writing and Language Test
items will be associated with a passage, but the full passages are not

included here, only excerpts. Each question pictured is just one


example of how items in that category can look.

Some sub-topics within Standard English


Conventions:
Sentence Structure These questions focus on editing text to
correct problems in sentence formation and inappropriate shifts in
construction within and between sentences.

Sentence Formation questions will ask you to correct problems


with sentences, including issues with modifier placement, parallel
structure, sentence boundaries, and subordination and coordination.

Inappropriate Shifts in Construction questions will ask you to


correct inappropriate shifts in verb tense, voice, and mood.

Conventions of Usage These questions focus on editing text to


ensure conformity to the conventions of standard written English
usage.

Pronouns and Agreement questions will ask you to correct errors


in pronoun use and agreement.

Frequently Confused Words questions will ask you to recognize


and correct instances in which a word or phrase is confused with
another (e.g., accept/except, allusion/illusion).

Logical Comparison questions will ask you to correct cases in


which unlike terms are compared.

Conventional Expression questions will ask you to correct cases in


which a given expression is inconsistent with standard written English.

Conventions of Punctuation These questions focus on editing


text to ensure conformity to the conventions of standard written
English punctuation.

Within-Sentence Punctuation questions will ask you to correct


inappropriate uses of colons, semicolons, and dashes.

Possessive Nouns and Pronouns questions will ask you to correct


inappropriate uses of possessive nouns and pronouns as well as
differentiate between possessive and plural forms.

Items in a Series questions will ask you to correct inappropriate


uses of punctuation (commas and semicolons) to separate items in a
series.

Nonrestrictive and Parenthetical Elements questions will ask you


to correctly use punctuation (commas, parentheses, dashes) to set off
nonrestrictive and parenthetical sentence elements as well as
recognize and correct cases in which restrictive or essential sentence
elements are inappropriately set off with punctuation.

Unnecessary Punctuation questions will ask you to correct cases in


which unnecessary punctuation appears in a sentence.

I don't understand the format of the


questions! Help!
Don't worry! The SAT Writing and Language Test assesses your ability
to revise and edit texts about a range of topics, and to do that, the test
uses specific formatting that can be confusing at first.
You're in the right place - you'll be up to speed in no time!
Here are a few things to keep in mind about how the test looks and
how to interact with the passages:

Questions are flagged in the text: Each question in the text


will include a gray box with a number, which corresponds to the
question number. Here's an example taken from a longer passage:

...and here's the corresponding question:

Questions without questions: Many Writing and Language Test


questions show just four answer choices without an actual question.
Stemless questions reference a specific underlined portion of the
passage (usually a sentence, part of a sentence, or parts of two
sentences). You will have to decide if you need to make changes to this
text in order to make it consistent with the conventions of standard
written English.
Here's an example snipped from a longer passage:

...and here's what the corresponding question looks like:

Your job is to select the best version of the underlined text in context.
Select "No Change" if the passage is fine just the way it is!
Important! Remember that the excerpts above are each part of a
longer passage. For the actual test and practice tests, you will have the
context of the passage to consider.
Here's another stemless question where you must decide if you should
make a change to the underlined portion of the passage in order for it
to be consistent with standard written English:

For stemless questions, the incorrect choices will be grammatically


incorrect, ambiguous, or have other technical weaknesses. You will
never be asked to select which choice is the best among several
correct options. In the case of question 5, the wrong answers include
ambiguous pronouns, "their" and "them," that have no clear
antecedents. The correct answer to this question is D, for circulation,
because it removes the vague pronoun them and results in a clear
and grammatically correct sentence.
Top Tip for Stemless Questions: Read around! When a portion of
text is underlined and you must decide whether to replace the
underlined portion with another choice, be sure to consider not only
the entire underlined portion but also additional context (the entire
sentence, surrounding sentences, and sometimes the passage as a
whole) when choosing your answer.
Deletions Sometimes a choice will suggest that you "DELETE the
underlined portion."
Here's an example of this:

Additions Sometimes a question number in the passage will have no


underlined text on either side. In this case, the question is asking you
to consider the addition of new text into the passage at this point.

Questions about logical sentence order When you see numbers in


[brackets] before sentences, there will be a question that will ask you
to determine the logical sequence of the sentences in a paragraph. The
question number will appear in a gray box at the end of the
paragraph in question.
For example:

On the Writing and Language Test, there are four key ways you can
mark up the test:
1) Circle or underline important elements of passages
To do your best, you'll need to read passages on the Writing and
Language Test just as actively as you read the passages on the

Reading Test. That means underlining and circling the most important
elements so you can stay engaged with the point the author is making.

TOP TIP: Understand what the passage is saying! Contrary to


what some people think, the SAT Writing and Language Test is not just
about grammar. Grammar-related questions (also called "Standard
English Conventions") make up just one part of your score on the
Writing and Language test. The other questions (the ones that fall into
the "Expression of Ideas" category) require you to understand the point
of the passage and the function of each paragraph within it, along with
the function of each sentence in each paragraph. Underlining, circling
and annotating can help.

2) Circle or underline important elements of questions

Many of the more challenging Expression of Ideas questions on the


Writing and Language Test tell you very specifically what the correct
choice has to do. It can help a lot to zero in on that part of the
question, and just do what the question wants.

TOP TIP: A wrong word can disqualify a choice! Always remember


that a single word can make a choice wrong. If you find yourself
making excuses for a choice, eg: Well, this could totally work if only
or I could see how this might work, the choice is probably wrong. If
a shoe doesnt quite fit, try a different pair of shoes. The College Board
calls the ELA portion of the SAT Evidence-Based Reading and Writing
for a reason: the answer to every question will have evidence to
support it.
NOTE: Remember that there are many questions on the Writing and
Language Test that dont have questions at all - these are called
stemless questions and your job is to select the best version of a

brief underlined portion of the passage itself. These are always


grammar questions that will contribute to your Standard English
Conventions subscore.
3) Cross out extra words to simplify complex sentences
If youre having trouble figuring out a grammar question, it can help to
simplify the structure of complex sentences by crossing out extra
words that describe or modify the subject or the verb. This can
help a lot on subject-verb and pronoun agreement questions like the
one below:

4) Use Process of Elimination!


When you physically cross out a choice you have ruled out, it makes
the rest of your task easier on your brain. Bad choices stop being
distractions if you don't look at them again.
There are several ways to do this:

Some students like to cross out the entire choice not just the letter of
the choice so they never have to look at it again:

When you see a question that looks like this:


"To make this paragraph most logical, <sentence X> should be
placed..."

Try this:
1) Your own words Work through the paragraph sentence by
sentence and say in your own words what each sentence is DOING what is sentence X telling you? Why is it there?
2) Trust yourself Next, underline sentence X and ask yourself if it
feels like it's in the right place. What is its function? Is it doing the right
thing at the right time?
3) Test the choices Try out the locations suggested by the choices
one by one and choose the position that makes the most sense to you.
TOP TIP: Use pronouns to help. On this type of question you may
notice that there are some very helpful pronouns nearby. Words
like those, these, they, it, and even the can give you a clue as to the
correct sequence of sentences in the paragraph. If the sentence says
"these steps," for example, you know that the sentence needs to come
after a sentence that mentions steps of some sort. If the sentence says
"the experiment," then the chances are good that an experiment was
mentioned in a prior sentence.

TOP TIP: Look for sequencing clues. Sometimes you'll notice that
the sentences in the paragraph are following a chronological or just
plain logical progression. Chronology clues: first/then, next/finally,
or before/after. Logic
clues: since, because, however, therefore, although, yet, nevertheless,
etc... These are important, helpful words underline or circle them and
let them show you the way to sequencing the paragraph properly.

When you see a question that looks like this:


"To make the passage most logical, paragraph X should be placed..."

Try this:
1) Your own words Work through the passage paragraph by
paragraph and use your own words to describe what each paragraph
is DOING - what role does "paragraph X" serve in the entire passage?
Why is it there? What is its point?
TOP TIP: For this purpose, the first and last sentences of paragraphs
are usually more helpful than the sentences in the middle.
2) Trust yourself! Next, circle "paragraph X" and ask yourself if it
feels like it's in the right place.
3) Test the choices If it doesn't feel right where it is, try out the
locations suggested by the choices, one by one, and choose the
position that makes the most sense to you.
TOP TIP: Use transition clues to help. The first and last sentences
of each paragraph are the ones you should focus on. Most of the
passages on the SAT Writing and Language Test flow fairly smoothly
from one paragraph to the next. The last sentence of a paragraph may
introduce the main idea of the next paragraph, or the first sentence of
a paragraph may refer back to an idea from the preceding paragraph.

If a transition seems a little random or "jumpy," then you may have


found the clue you need to get the question right.
TOP TIP: Tell the story of the passage. Most of the passages follow
a classic progression of introduction, body paragraphs and conclusion.
The paragraphs usually move along in a logical or chronological
sequence. If one paragraph is talking about a famous person's early
childhood, the next paragraph might discuss accomplishments in
adolescence or early adulthood, followed by paragraphs discussing
events that occurred in the subject's later life. Look out for paragraphs
at the end that seem like they belong in the middle, or paragraphs in
the middle that sound like conclusions. Body paragraphs that feel like
false endings probably actually do belong at the end!

When a question on the SAT Writing and Language Test asks you to
consider whether to add or delete information, it's helpful to identify
what the purpose or function of that information is.

When you see this:


"The writer is considering deleting the underlined sentence.
Should the writer do this?"

Try this:
1) Review the title of the passage and say back to yourself
what the point of the passage is

2) What is the purpose of the paragraph and what is the


purpose of each sentence?
3) Say in your own words what the information being
considered for deletion is doing.
4) Ask yourself a few questions:

Is that information relevant?


Or does it blur the focus of the paragraph?
Give question 8 below a try! This is taken from a passage entitled A
Life in Traffic

When you see this:


"At this point, the writer is considering adding the following
sentence:<<sentence being considered>> should the writer make
this addition here?"

Try this:
1) Read the paragraph actively. Focus on the topic sentence and
state in your own words what the point of paragraph is.

2) Say in your own words what the proposed addition would


do:
3) Ask yourself a few questions:

What kind of information would it add?


Is that information relevant?
Or would it blur the focus of the paragraph?
More variations on the questions to ask about a proposed
addition/deletion:

Does it introduce unnecessary information?


Does it provide additional evidence or examples to support the

claim being made in the topic sentence?

Is it repetitive?

Does it reinforce or contradict the point of the passage or the


paragraph?
TOP TIP: Keep it simple If you have to choose between a choice
that will make the paragraph repetitive and long-winded and a choice
that will keep the point of paragraph clean and focused, keep it clean!

The Semicolon ( ; )
On the SAT, the Semicolon ( ; ) is used to connect two related
independent clauses. The semicolon indicates a pause that is longer
than that suggested by a comma ( , ), but shorter than the full stop of
a period ( . ).

What is an independent clause?

An independent clause is a string of words that could stand alone as a


sentence. It must have a subject and a verb.
Examples:

Teddy loves stuffed bears.


Alex cooks his brownies with lard.
His collection includes 54 specimens.
They taste great!

Using semicolons to separate independent clauses


In the above examples, a semicolon may be placed between the two
related independent clauses.

Teddy loves stuffed bears; his collection includes 54 specimens.


Alex cooks his brownies with lard; they taste great!

The Before and After Test for Semicolons


On the SAT, a semicolon is only correct if it is separating two
independent clauses. So, if both the first and the second parts of the
sentence could stand alone as their own sentences, then the semicolon
is correct!
1) Check the part before the semicolon could it be a solo
sentence?
2) Check the part after the semicolon could it be a solo
sentence?
3) If the answers to 1 and 2 are YES, then the semicolon is
good to go.

Beware the COMMA SPLICE

WARNING: When you try to connect two independent clauses using


just a comma, you create an error known as a comma splice.
WRONG: Teddy loves stuffed bears, his collection includes 54
specimens.
WRONG: Alex cooks his brownies with lard, they taste great!
WRONG: Depp is a versatile actor, Clooney is more hunky.

How to fix a COMMA SPLICE ERROR


Option 1: Change the comma into a period ( . ) or a semicolon (
;)
Option 2: Add a conjunction When a conjunction is present
such as, and, or, because, while or but one of the two clauses is
converted to a dependent or subordinate clause. (Dont worry, you
dont need to know these terms on the SAT, but you do need to know
your options for correcting a comma splice).
RIGHT: Teddy loves stuffed bears, and his collection includes 54
specimens.
RIGHT: Because Alex cooks his brownies with lard, they taste great!
RIGHT: Depp is a versatile actor, but Clooney is more hunky.

The Colon ( : )
A Colon ( : ) is sometimes used after a statement that introduces a list,
a quotation, an explanation or an example.
Examples:

Lincolns Gettysburg Address began with the following preamble:


Four score and thirteen years ago

The English language abounds with irregular verbs: drink drank

drunk, break broke broken, swim swam swum, shrink shrank shrunken,
fall fell fallen, blow blew blown.

The conscious brain controls only some of the bodys functions:


while we can exert some control over our breathing rate, we have less
control over our heart rate, and, except via lifestyle choices like diet
and exercise, we cannot consciously influence the processes of our
digestive or immune systems at all.
TOP TIP: What comes before the colon must be an independent
clause: it must be able to read as a complete sentence all on its own.
WRONG: Snape advised them to: stay up all night, practice spells, and
eat bonbons. (Snape advised them to is not a full sentence)
RIGHT: Snape advised them to stay up all night, practice spells, and
eat bonbons.
RIGHT: Snape gave them the best advice he could muster: stay up all
night, practice spells, and eat bonbons.

The Dash ( )
One dash ( ) = Colon ( : )
Just like the rule for colons, what comes before the single
dash ( ) must be an independent clause: it must be able to read as a
complete sentence all on its own. (See what we did there? We could
have used a long dash instead of that colon)
NOTE: The dash ( ) is not to be confused with the hyphen ( - ),
which has its own rules that are not tested on the SAT.
Examples:

You were right he did eat the whole thing.


Learning to ride a unicycle is easy if you dont mind a few
bumps and bruises.
Two dashes ( ) = open/close parentheses ( )

In order for two dashes to be correct, the sentence that surrounds the
clause that is being set off be it a descriptive flourish or a
prepositional aside must be grammatically complete. This rule holds
true for evaluating the correctness of parenthetical statements as well
as Comma Clumps. We can set off non-essential clauses with two
commas, whether you like it or not, but we cannot do so with just one.
TOP TIP: Think of the two dashes, two commas or two parentheses as
chopping tools that can slice out the non-essential clause. Remove the
clause in question and read the sentence again if the sentence reads
through without the clause, then the double punctuation was ok!
Examples:

Sitting at dinner that night, Finn usually a talkative

chap refused to answer a single question about his day.

Thriller represented, by most standards of the day, a gigantic


leap forward in cinematic storytelling via music video.

Learning to ride a unicycle a time-consuming endeavor is


easy if you dont mind a few bumps and bruises.

Mr. Ed was, however, quite insulted by the implication that he


was nothing more than a dumb animal.
TOP TIP: Look out for choices that offer you a comma before or a
comma after a non-essential clause, but not both. You need both!
WRONG: He learned, consequently that humans were not to be
trusted.
WRONG: He learned consequently, that humans were not to be
trusted.
RIGHT: He learned, consequently, that humans were not to be trusted.
TOP TIP: If the SAT gives you a choice between commas on both sides
of a clause and commas on neither side of a clause, the chances are
very good that the NO COMMA choice is correct.

TOP COMMA TIP: Exaggerate the pause If youre wondering if a


comma is correct, read the sentence through and emphasize the pause
the comma creates if it sounds really weird to your ear, its probably
wrong.

Apostrophes
We use an apostrophe ( ' ) to indicate possession (e.g. Spots
spots), or to substitute for one or more letters in
a contraction (e.g. dont, theyre).

What is a contraction?
Contractions are words that are created by combining two other
words - we add an apostrophe to stand in for the letters we take out.
Examples:

they're (they are)


don't (do not)
didn't (did not)
can't (can not)
shouldn't (should not)
couldn't (could not)
wouldn't (would not)
he's (he has or he is)
she's (she has or she is)
I'll (I will)
you'll (you will)
he'll (he will)
she'll (she will)
we'll (we will)
they'll (they will)
let's (let us)

won't (will not)


and a fun one:

fo'c's'le (forecastle the room where the crew is housed in front of


the mast of a sailing ship)
Note: When writing an expository essay for school, avoid using
contractions. They create an informal style that is inappropriate for an
academic setting.

Possessive Pronouns
The Rule: Possessive pronouns never use apostrophes!
Wrong: your's, her's, our's, their's
Right: yours, hers, ours, theirs, its

The Trouble with Its


Its is a possessive pronoun think of it just as you think of yours,
ours, hers and theirs - none of these have apostrophes - ever!
It's is a contraction for "it is"

Singular Possessive
The Rule: to make a singular noun possessive, add an apostrophe and
an s ( 's )
Examples:

sister's smartphone
cat's collar
Justin's moves
nurse's uniform
horse's hooves

Plural Possessive
The Rule: to make most plural nouns possessive, just add an
apostrophe ( ' )
Examples:

my friends' playlists (for more than one friend)


the dogs' barking (for more than one dog)
The Beatles' third album
the nurses' uniforms (for more than one nurse)
horses' hooves (for more than one horse)

Plural Possessive: The Tricky Ones


The Rule: When the plural noun you want to make possessive doesn't
already end with an s, then just add an apostrophe and an s ( 's )
Examples:

children's toys
women's clothing
men's room
mice's whiskers
dice's spots

Expression of Ideas: The Writing and Language


Test
Questions that fall within the Expression of Ideas category focus on
three broad elements:

Development questions ask you to refine the content of a

passage to achieve the writers purpose

Organization questions require you to improve the structure of a


passage to enhance logic and cohesion

Effective Language Use questions ask you to revise text to


improve written expression and to achieve the writers purpose
In this three-part series of articles, we will look at these elements in
greater detail, and share some strategies about how to approach them!

Development
Development questions on the Writing and Language Test get to the
heart of what the writer is trying to express. When you answer a
Development question, youll be looking for ways to enhance the
writers message by clarifying the main points, adding or changing
supporting details, sharpening the focus, and in some passages
using data from informational graphics such as tables, graphs, and
charts to make the passage more accurate, more precise, and
generally more effective.
There are four different kinds of Development questions:

Proposition: Add, revise, or leave unchanged thesis statements,


topic sentences, or claims in other words, the main ideas of a
passage or paragraph.

Example: "Which choice best introduces the main topic of the


paragraph?"

Support: Add, revise, or leave unchanged evidence that supports


a passages points or claims
Example: "Which choice most effectively sets up the information that
follows?"

Focus: Add, revise, leave unchanged, or delete material on the


basis of relevance to the purpose (e.g., deleting an irrelevant
sentence) These questions ask you to consider a new sentence that
the writer wants to add or delete at a particular point in the passage.
Example 1: The writer is considering adding the following sentence .
. . should the writer make this addition here?
Example 2: The writer is considering deleting the following
sentence . . . should the writer make this deletion here?

Quantitative information: Use data from informational graphics


(e.g.: tables, graphs, charts) to enhance the accuracy, precision, and
overall effectiveness of a passage.
Example: Which choice most effectively represents the information
provided in the table?

Organization:
Some Expression of Ideas questions require you to improve the
structure of a passage to enhance logic and cohesion in other
words, organize it.
Here are some examples:

Logical sequence: Make sure that material is presented in the


most logical sequence.

In these questions, sentences in a paragraph will be numbered. You will


be asked to change the placement of an existing sentence or add a
new sentence in the order that makes the most sense given the
context of the passage.

Introductions, conclusions, and transitions: Improve the


openings and closings of paragraphs and passages and the
connections between and among information and ideas in a passage.
Example 1: Which choice best concludes the passage?
Example 2: Which choice provides the best transition to the topic of
paragraph 3?
Example 3: Which choice best introduces the topic of paragraph 2?

Effective Language Use:


These questions ask you to revise text to improve written expression
and to achieve the writers purpose.

Precision: Making word choice more exact or appropriate for the


context
Example: ...As Kingman developed as a painter, his works were often
compared to paintings by Chinese landscape artists dating back to CE
960, a time when a strong tradition of landscape painting emerged in
Chinese art. Kingman, however, vacated from that tradition in a
number of ways, most notably in that he chose to focus not on natural
landscapes, such as mountains and rivers, but on cities. . . .
A) NO CHANGE
B) evacuated
C) departed
D) retired

Concision: Make word choice more economical by eliminating


wordiness and redundancy.
Example: Sometimes language can be repetitive, duplicative, and say
the same thing more than once.
A) repetitive
B) wordy and verbose
C) redundant and repetitive
D) overly wordy and full of repeated repetitions of the same words
used over and over again.

Style and tone: Make word choice consistent with the overall
style and tone of a passage.
Example: Which of the following best maintains the style and tone of
the passage?

Syntax: combining sentences to improve the flow of language or


to accomplish some particular rhetorical goal.
Example: . . . During his career, Kingman exhibited his work
internationally. He garnered much acclaim. . .
Which choice most effectively combines the sentences at the
underlined portion?
A) internationally, and Kingman also garnered
B) internationally; from exhibiting, he garnered
C) internationally but garnered
D) internationally, garnering

On the SAT Writing and Language test, you will be asked to fix parts of
a passage where a writer has not used a standard convention. There
are three main elements of Standard English Convention that the SAT
is primarily concerned with: Sentence Structure, Conventions of Usage,
and Conventions of Punctuation.

Sentence Structure
On these questions, the task is to recognize and correct problems in
how sentences are formed.

Sentence boundaries: Recognize and correct grammatically


incomplete sentences.
Example: Unable to keep her eyes open. Sarah fell asleep in the
passenger seat

Subordination and coordination: Recognize and correct


problems in how major parts of sentences are related.
Example: Although he loves ice cream, Bert tried every flavor at the
new dessert shop downtown.

Parallel structure: treat grammatically similar structures in the


same way.
Example: In her spare time, Renata spoke to the iguanas, ran with the
wild boars, and was climbing coconut trees.

Modifier placement: Recognize and correct problems with


modifier placement, including dangling and misplaced modifiers.
Example: Speechless, it was hard for Margo to believe that her friends
had forgotten their beach towels on their beach trip.

Inappropriate shifts in verb tense, mood, and


voice: inappropriate shifts from past to present tense, indicative to
conditional mood, or active to passive voice
Example: Until yesterday, Ana has never been to the zoo.

Inappropriate shifts in pronoun person and


number: recognize and correct an inappropriate shift from a second
person to a third person pronoun (such as from you to one) or from
a singular to a plural pronoun
Example: I bought a crate of oranges and delivered them to my
grandmothers house.

Conventions of Usage
Usage is a term used to describe a range of language practices that
are widely accepted and understood by people speaking and writing
the same language within a particular culture or community. Particular
rules for speaking and writing solidify over time (often over many
generations) and become the standard by which formal speech and
writing are judged. The SAT focuses on a small subset of rules about
which there is little to no disagreement in academic circles.

Pronoun clarity: Recognize and correct ambiguous or vague


pronouns (pronouns with more than one possible antecedent or no
clear antecedent at all)
Example: Molly and Saira had tea and sandwiches at her house
yesterday afternoon.

Possessive determiners: Distinguish between and among


possessive determiners (its, your, their), contractions (its,
youre, theyre), and adverbs (there)
Example: Als Cake Shop is known for its old-fashioned glazed
donuts.

Agreement: Ensure grammatical agreement between subject


and verb, between pronoun and antecedent, and between nouns
Example: Rita and her friend Jorge has decided to join the swim team

Frequently confused words: Distinguish between and among


words that are commonly mistaken for one another (e.g., affectand
effect)
Example 1: Maria was in shock as she climbed the stage
to except her award for Best Actress.
Example 2: The movie Colonel Justice had a profound affect on me.
Example 3: Kelsey chose a blue sweater that would compliment the
color of her eyes.

Logical comparison: Recognizing and correcting cases in which


unlike terms are compared
Example: The cost of living in the city differs from the suburbs.

Conventional expression: Recognize and correct cases in which


word choice doesnt conform to the practices of standard written
English. These questions can be especially tough for those who are
learning English as non-native speakers. There isnt necessarily a good
reason why an expression might use one preposition instead of
another, but the more fluent you become, the more you will recognize
how to fix these problems!
Example 1: Trevor realized, after Suki failed on responding after six
weeks for daily text messages, that she would never fall on love at
him.
Example 2: Clara arrived at San Francisco three days
ahead on schedule.
Example 3: After she sat with the bubble gum for her new skirt, she
was next to herself.
Example 4: I never thought I would run from office, but I hope for you
will vote on me.

Conventions of Punctuation
The SAT Writing and Language Test includes questions that require you
to recognize and correct the misuse of various forms of punctuation,
including end punctuation (periods, question marks, and exclamation
points), commas, semicolons, colons, and dashes. In some cases, youll
be asked to add punctuation to clarify and enhance meaning.

End-of-sentence punctuation: Use the correct form of ending


punctuation (period, question mark, or exclamation point) when the
context makes the writers intent clear.
Example: Andrs wondered if he should save his money for a rainy
day or go to an amusement park instead?

Within-sentence punctuation: Correctly use, as well as


recognize and correct misuses of colons, semicolons, and dashes.
Example: I cant wait for this weekend, my friends and I are going
river rafting.

Possessive nouns and pronouns: Recognize and correct


inappropriate uses of possessive nouns and pronouns and decide
between plural and possessive forms.
Example: My dogs favorite treat is his milk bone.

Items in a series: Use commas and sometimes semicolons to


separate lists of items.
Example 1: Tina got a car wash; went to the pharmacy, and bought a
sled.
Example 2: Juan has been to Paris, France, Venice, Italy, and Kyoto,
Japan.

Nonrestrictive and parenthetical elements: Use punctuation


to set off nonessential sentence elements and recognize and correct

cases in which punctuation is wrongly used to set off essential


sentence elements
Example 1: Aris Candy Corn Emporium, located off Highway 12 is a
popular tourist attraction.
Example 2: The Boston Symphony a world-renowned orchestra -played Tchaikovskys 1812 Overture.
Example 3: The bat -- a type of small mammal, can glide and fly.

Unnecessary punctuation: Recognize and eliminate unneeded


punctuation
Example: Emily cant decide if she wants a pet unicorn, or a pet
griffin.