The SAT writing section can feel scary–but it doesn’t have to be that way. Check out our guide with the best SAT writing tips to help you score a high grade.
Writers, we’ve all been there: sitting, pen in hand, with no idea how to start the first line. This paralyzing feeling can be challenging for any writer, but it’s incredibly nerve-wracking when you’re fighting the clock while working on the SAT writing section. The last thing you want to do is get stuck in your head, overanalyzing each question as the minutes dwindle away.
While the SAT writing section is a formidable foe, it’s not invincible. You can build on the writing skills that you already have to increase your SAT writing section score. Simply knowing that you’ve got some tips and tricks in your back pocket can give you the confidence to dig into the writing section, showing off your linguistic skills one answer at a time.
Whether you’re pumped to take on the writing section, or you can’t stand the thought of being hit with an unknown passage on the SAT, there are simple ways that you can boost your SAT writing score. Here, we’ll explore ten tips you can use to take your SAT writing score to the next level.
- 6 Tips To Improve Your SAT Writing Score
- 1. Justify Your Practice Answers
- 2. Understand (and Correct) Your Test-Taking Weakness
- 3. Hammer Your Grammar
- 4. Remember, It’s Not Always Black and White
- 5. Practice Makes Perfect–And Boosts Your Confidence
- 6. Watch Out For No Change Options
- Frequently Asked Questions
6 Tips To Improve Your SAT Writing Score
1. Justify Your Practice Answers
If you’re a writer (or even an avid reader), you will likely know when a sentence or phrase sounds incorrect. If you’re just getting into writing or you’re not a practiced reader, you may need to review grammar rules to identify which portions of sentences are incorrect.
For example, if you hear the sentence, “The white Cheshire large cat ran through the field,” and it sounds incorrect, you’re likely on the right track when identifying syntax and grammatical errors within the writing section of the SAT. On the other hand, if you’re not sure what’s wrong with the sentence (hint: it has to do with order force), you’ll likely be well-served by spending some time digging into grammatical rules to help you answer SAT writing questions. You might also be wondering, which colleges require SAT essay section for consideration.
2. Understand (and Correct) Your Test-Taking Weakness
Generally, SAT test-taking weakness falls into one of three categories: essay score, content, or time management. If you’re taking the essay portion of the SAT (which is on its way out and only available in a few states), you’ll want to be sure your writing skills are top-notch.
To boost your writing abilities and confidence in writing your essay, it’s wise to take a few one-on-one sessions with an SAT tutor to help you understand exactly where your weaknesses lie. If the content is your burden, you’ll want to dig into the grammatical rules that are tough for you. You’ll also want to spend time digging into texts that are tough for you, familiarizing yourself with upper-level writing so that you’re more familiar with dissecting the passages given to you on the SAT.
Finally, time management is key for successfully managing the SAT writing section. You’ll have 44 multiple-choice questions as you work through the writing and language section of the test, and you’ll only have 35 minutes to complete the section. It’s key that you figure out which questions to skip, which questions to answer quickly, and which questions to go back to if you finish with a few minutes. You may find it helpful to take a writing practice test without a time limit and compare it to your score on a practice test with a time limit. This can help you determine whether your issue is time management or a lack of content knowledge and can help you direct your test prep accordingly.
3. Hammer Your Grammar
Grammar is one of the most commonly tested themes in the SAT writing section. Even if your ear is finely tuned to find mistakes when you hear words read aloud, it can be tougher to nail down written grammar mistakes. You’ll want to focus on several areas of grammar, including verb tense, modifiers, pronouns, parallel structure, possessives, agreement, conventional expression or idioms, punctuation, sentence structure and syntax, and agreement.
While it can be frustrating to figure out the ins and outs of grammar, doing so won’t just help you answer multiple-choice questions on the writing section of the SAT–it will also help you as you move forward with your college career. Not sure where to focus? Punctuation is the most common grammar question focused on the SAT, so hit your semicolons, periods, and commas tricky as you prepare to rock the writing section of your test.
4. Remember, It’s Not Always Black and White
Some writing is subjective, and there isn’t always a correct answer to each SAT question. There is, however, the best answer. For example, when answering questions about rhetoric on the SAT, you may feel frustrated because you aren’t fully able to put your finger on precisely what’s wrong with a sentence or a passage. So instead, you’re asked to choose a way to improve the sentence. Reading a wide variety of texts can help you identify ways to change sentence structures to make them more reader-friendly. However, there are a few things you’ll want to consider as you decide how to improve sentences on the SAT, including:
- Precision: You’ll sometimes be asked to choose the best replacement for a word. You’ll want to choose a word synonymous with the world underlined in the sentence or passage but provides a higher level of clarity than the original word.
- Transition: Sentence segments should flow from one part to the next, and transition words are essential. This is also true for moving from one sentence to another. For transition questions, you’ll need to choose the transition word that best fits the sentence.
- Sentence function: Some questions will ask you to decide whether a sentence should be added to a passage. For sentence function questions, you’ll need to decide whether adding the proposed sentence enhances or detracts from the reader’s understanding of the author’s message.
- Logical sequence: Other questions will ask that you figure out the best sentence sequence. Reading and writing in your daily life can help you figure out these types of questions, as spending time immersed in the English language can make it easier to figure out what type of sentence order is best for passages.
It’s impossible to nail down exactly why one choice is better than another for specific questions in the SAT writing section. However, taking time to familiarize yourself with proper word choice and sentence syntax by reading and writing in your spare time can help make it easier to make the right decisions easier through this test section. You might also find these SAT essay examples helpful.
5. Practice Makes Perfect–And Boosts Your Confidence
When you take your first SAT writing practice test, it can be tough to keep your confidence up, especially if you’re surprised at your low score. However, don’t take it personally if you’re struggling at the start of studying for the SAT writing section. Many people have a tough time at the start, and it can take a while to get used to the different types of questions on the test.
Taking a practice test is an intelligent way to understand where you’re starting, but how you handle your results matters. Don’t simply take practice tests over and over again, hoping you’ll get a better result. Instead, use the questions you got wrong to target your studying, allowing you to find your weak spots and strengthen them as you prepare for your test. After you spend some time learning where you went wrong on your first practice test (try to give yourself at least a week), go back and try another practice test. As you take the test, notice questions on which your studying has helped you move forward. Remember, it’s a process, and not every practice test you take will likely result in an improved score. Take your time.
6. Watch Out For No Change Options
In many of your SAT writing questions, you’ll notice that you have a NO CHANGE option. This means that the passage is best and that making any of the suggested changes would negatively affect the grammar or syntax of the passage. While it’s easy to look at a sentence and decide that it’s OK, you’ll need to consider whether any of the answers provided could improve the sentence. Unfortunately, it’s unlikely that more than one out of every four questions will require no change.
Frequently Asked Questions
How can I improve my SAT writing and language section?
If you have plenty of time until your exam, exposing yourself to a wide variety of texts and audio is wise to boost your understanding of the English language. However, no matter how much time you have left until your SAT, it’s also wise to drill down on grammar and punctuation. Understanding the rules behind how to put together a sentence or passage properly can help you quickly boost your score.
How hard is SAT writing?
There’s no way around it–the SAT writing section is challenging, especially if you aren’t a big reader or writer in your free time. That being said, there are plenty of things that you can do to boost your score and increase your confidence before taking the test. Check out the tips above, and take extra time to read and write as your tests are near. In addition, spending yourself on language can help boost your confidence and scores.
If you are interested in learning more, check out our essay writing tips!
If you need help with grammar, check out our guide to grammar and syntax.