SAT - Structure, Patterns and Scoring

Video Lesson on SAT - Structure, Patterns and Scoring

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The SAT can be divided into three independent tests: Math, Reading, and Writing and Language. In this lesson, we'll take a closer look at the Writing and Language test.

The SAT Writing and Language section is a part of the Evidence-Based Reading and Writing section. It evaluate you on the grammar and usage that you read in passages.

On the real test, you'll read through several passages, and you'll have to edit parts of sentences in them. You might have to correct grammar errors or change the language of the passages to be more rhetorically effective. You might also have to find and correct errors that test your comprehension of the passage as a whole, or of graphs and charts attached to the passage. All questions are MCQ - multiple-choice questions.

The most encouraging is that the SAT tells you exactly what rules they want you to apply. There's no hidden thing, and there are no surprises. So, take a look at what you'll see on the test, and what you need to know to crack it.

SAT Writing and Language Section

On the new SAT, the Writing and Language test is a part of the Evidence-based Reading and Writing section. On this part of the test, you'll get four passages, one from each of the following fields:

  • Careers
  • History/Social Studies
  • Humanities
  • Science

Each passage will have 11 questions, for a total of 44 questions and you are to give answers in 35 minutes. That's less than one minute per question. All questions will be MCQ - multiple-choice questions, with four option choices. You should keep in mind that at least one of the passages will also have some kind of graphic: a chart, diagram, or some other visual form of representing the information in the passage.

Grammar Questions

Now let's explore the questions. 20 of the 44 questions on the SAT test will focus on grammar rules. These questions evaluate how well you know and apply rules like:

  • Subject Verb Agreement Matching singular subjects to singular verbs, and singular pronouns to singular antecedents. For example, it's 'The dogs run in the park,' not 'the dogs runs in the park.'
  • Usage When to use they're vs. there vs. their
  • Punctuation When to use a comma, a semicolon, and a period and how to use punctuation in a list

These are just examples. The actual SAT will test you on more rules than those three, but these give you an idea of what kinds of questions you can expect.

Here's an example of one of those questions:

Example

(1) Another contentious topic is the so-called 'runner's high.' Some runners report feeling a sense of euphoria, that, overcomes them a few miles into a good run. (2) Other runners run for years but never experience a runner's high. (3) Running also has cardiovascular benefits. (4) Researchers have been unable to pinpoint precisely what causes the 'high' in runners who report enjoying it. euphoria, that overcomes.

  1. NO CHANGE
  2. euphoria, it overcomes
  3. euphoria. That overcomes
  4. euphoria that overcomes

The correct answer is D. This sentence has unnecessary punctuation: both commas are unnecessary. Answer choice B introduces a comma splice, so B is incorrect. Choice C awkwardly breaks up the sentence for no reason. Choice D eliminates the unnecessary commas, so D is correct.

Questions about Expression of Ideas

The other 24 of the 44 questions will base on the expression of ideas, which means how well the writer communicates his or her point of view. On these questions, you'll have to know:

  • Support Which of four pieces of information adds the best support for an argument
  • Un-necessory information When to delete information that isn't relevant to the argument
  • Organization How to organize an argument in a logical sequence
  • Conciseness How to be concise and avoid unnecessary repetition and wordiness

Again, these are examples of the types of skills you'll need. The real SAT will evaluates a whole long list of skills like these. Most of the questions will be based on the written passages. A variable number of the 44 total questions will be based on the graphics that accompany the passages.

Example Question

(1) Another contentious topic is the so-called 'runner's high.' Some runners report feeling a sense of euphoria, that, overcomes them a few miles into a good run. (2) Other runners run for years but never experience a runner's high. (3) Running also has cardiovascular benefits. (4) Researchers have been unable to pinpoint precisely what causes the 'high' in runners who report enjoying it.

What should be done with sentence 3?

  1. NO CHANGE
  2. Delete it.
  3. Move it to before sentence 1.
  4. Move it to after sentence 4.

The correct answer is B. This sentence is not relevant to the topic of the paragraph, which is the runner's high. The information in the sentence is true, but not an effective detail for supporting the author's argument.

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Analytical Reasoning with Explained Questions
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