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A Look Inside the SAT – Part 2: The SAT Writing and Language Test


Welcome to our series, A Look Inside the SAT. In Part 1, we explained how the SAT Reading test was structured and provided helpful tips for taking the test. Now, in Part 2, we’ll take a look at another core component, the SAT Writing and Language test.

What’s on the SAT Writing test?

On the SAT Writing and Language test, you will evaluate and improve 4 short essays. The test assesses your skill in two content areas. First, your knowledge and application of standard English conventions such as punctuation, sentence structure, parts of speech, and word choice. Second, your ability to edit and revise essay-style passages to improve the “expression of ideas” (in other words, how well you can make the message more effective by applying the principles of idea development, effective use of language, organization, and relating data to the topic). If, in your English classes, you have learned the rules of English grammar and have done peer editing, these lessons will be good preparation for the test.

Logistics of the SAT Writing and Language test

Logistics of the SAT Writing and Language test


3 strategies for taking the SAT Writing and Language test

  1. DO answer the questions as you read the passage. The instructions suggest you read the entire passage first, but this approach is unnecessary and time-consuming. Instead answer the questions as you read the passage.
  2. DON’T always trust your ear. Standard written English may be more formal than what you are used to hearing. Even if something sounds right on your first read-through, double check for frequently tested grammatical errors. Certain things you might say, hear, or write in everyday life may be grammatically incorrect.
  3. Learn to recognize common grammar errors. Some mistakes of grammar can be hard to spot if you don’t know what you’re trying to find. Logical errors, such as misplaced modifiers and ambiguous pronouns, are especially tricky. Practice until you can spot these errors whenever they appear.

Test preparation best practices

Start with a testing plan – in our one-on-one tutoring programs, we have always counseled families to craft a sensible, individualized plan early in the process so everyone knows which tests to take, when to take them, and how and when to prepare for the tests. You can read our blog post about test prep planning for more information.

Fundamentals of good test prep – With a testing plan in place, students can focus on preparation. There are 3 key building blocks necessary to successfully prepare for college admissions tests: content mastery, test taking strategy, and practice tests. Summit tutors review content areas and teach students how to apply these to the actual test. We also focus on understanding the patterns of the test questions and teaching test taking techniques to give students the tools that put them in control of the test. And, just as with a scrimmage or dress rehearsal, taking practice tests under realistic conditions removes the mystery of the test process, reduces anxiety, and increases confidence. We typically recommend 3 full-length timed practice tests throughout our students’ test preparation cycle.

NEED HELP? Have more questions or interested in taking a free practice test ? Please contact us if we can lend our expertise or if you’d like to learn more about our one-on-one test prep tutoring programs.


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