SAT Writing and Language Test - Scoring Areas

One of the motives behind the redesign of the SAT was the simplistic nature of the assessment provided by earlier versions. With only reading, writing, and math scores on the old SAT, college admissions officers came to see the test as less than ideal in assessing applicants. The 2016 SAT is intended to be a much more specific evaluation of college applicants, with a number of new scoring areas that provide schools with a much greater amount of information about student performance and potential. The new SAT Writing and Language Test provides subscores in the areas of Expression of Ideas and Standard English Conventions in addition to the overall Writing and Language Test score, and Writing and Language Test questions are also used to evaluate students across multiple sections of the SAT. Command of Evidence and Words in Context are subscores built from both verbal tests, and Analysis in History/Social Studies and Analysis in Science are scored across all three of the tests. In general, Writing and Language Test questions ask students to choose answers that either add to passage excerpts, revise them, or leave them unchanged. Many of these questions count toward multiple scores. Section scores (Evidence-Based Reading and Writing and Math) range from 200 to 800, while test scores (such as the Writing and Language Test) and cross-test scores (e.g. Analysis in Science) are given on a scale of 10 to 40. Subscores, such as Command of Evidence, range from 1 to 15.

Expression of Ideas

The Expression of Ideas score is based on how well students are able to improve the writing quality of test passages in terms of substance. Expression of Ideas questions are generally of three types: development, organization, and effective language use. Correct answers to development questions strengthen thesis statements and other claims, provide the best supporting evidence, and clarify the writing. Organization questions require test-takers to address the issue of structure, including sequence of material and connections between ideas. Effective language use questions are primarily concerned with word choice and linguistic coherence with respect to precision, concision, syntax, and style.

Standard English Conventions

The Standard English Conventions score is an evaluation of student knowledge of "correct" English. This assessment is divided into three areas: sentence structure, conventions of usage, and conventions of punctuation. Sentence structure questions necessitate student recognition of errors such as grammatically incomplete sentences, poor relationships between clauses, incorrect verb tenses, and incorrect pronouns. Successfully answering conventions of usage questions requires test-takers to identify and correct ambiguous pronouns, subject-verb agreement, illogical comparisons, and unconventional word use. Conventions of punctuation questions are focused on standard usage of periods, commas, semicolons, dashes, question marks, and exclamation points. Some questions also ask about parenthetical statements, and students must decide if phrases are essential or nonessential.

Command of Evidence

The Command of Evidence subscore is reflected in two ways on the 2016 SAT Writing and Language Test: interpreting data in informational graphics, and improving a passage's structure, support, and focus. Some of the reading passages on the Writing and Language Test include charts, tables, or graphs, and students are required to use these graphics to correct or refine statements made by the author. Command of Evidence questions about structure, support, and focus ask students to add supporting data, improve the precision of ideas, and excise unnecessary information.

Words in Context

The Writing and Language Test's contribution to the Words in Context subscore is based entirely on the concept of making effective use of language. This concept includes such tasks as correcting inappropriate style or tone, making choices that create more precise or concise expression, and combining sentences or phrases for more coherent writing.

Analysis in History/Social Sciences

The 2016 SAT Writing and Language Test contains a single reading passage on a topic in history or the social sciences. 6 of the 11 questions associated with this passage factor into the Analysis in History/Social Studies cross-test score, all of which are within the Writing and Language Test's Expression of Ideas question category.

Analysis in Science

One reading passage on the Writing and Language Test will be about a scientific topic such as chemistry, physics, or biology. The passage will not require knowledge of those specific disciplines, but the Expression of Ideas questions (6 of the total of 11) on this passage represent a portion of the Analysis in Science cross-test score. Standard English Conventions questions do not contribute to either cross-test score.