Approach to SAT Writing and Language Test Questions

How to Approach the SAT Writing and Language Test

The 2023 SAT Writing and Language Test is intended to evaluate writing skills that are necessary for success in college. While the current SAT is a substantial improvement in its assessment of those skills, it is important for students to remember that any test is ultimately an evaluation of the ability to take that particular test. Taking the SAT Writing and Language Test is itself a skill that must be mastered. The importance of subject-matter competence should not be underestimated, but students should likewise understand the value of astute test-taking approaches and thorough knowledge of the ways in which writing skills are assessed on the SAT Writing and Language Test. The best preparation should not neglect careful and ample guided practice, strategies to use on test day, and time management skills, all of which contribute significantly to the best possible student performance. Great Writing and Language Test scores are the result of both high-level writing skills and intimate familiarity with the test, which must include knowledge of the test reading passages, the test questions, and typical answer choices.

Preparing for the SAT Writing and Language Test

It is essential for students to take advantage of available SAT Writing and Language Test practice questions. Regular guided practice sessions with an experienced tutor or instructor help focus student effort, identify areas in need of improvement, and clarify the pedagogical reasoning behind SAT Writing and Language Test passages and questions. Self-study methods and prerecorded video instruction are available, but these are typically less than ideal because they lack interaction with a live teacher, who can identify and respond to individual student preparation issues.

Strategies for Taking the Writing and Language Test

When taking the test itself, various tactical approaches can boost Writing and Language Test scores. Though some questions are more focused than others, students should always consider the context of the reading passage as a whole when selecting the best answer. The test deliberately includes many answer choices that are both plausible and incorrect, which often have the effect of tricking students who approach the questions in an exceedingly narrow fashion. It is also recommended that students attempt to answer as many questions for each reading passage as possible before moving on to the next passage. Skipping from passage to passage can cloud student perceptions and cause frustration, not to mention confusion. Students should answer all questions, since there is no penalty for guessing on the 2023 SAT. Process of elimination can narrow down answer choices and increase the odds of correct answers.

Managing Time While Taking the SAT Writing and Language Test

It is vital that students manage their testing time efficiently. Test-takers are given 35 minutes to complete 44 questions, which breaks down to 11 multiple-choice questions for each of the four reading passages. This means that each passage should be completed in slightly less than 9 minutes, including both the time needed to read the passage, as well as to answer the questions. Student preparation must include developing the skills necessary for success within this timeframe. In this context, a student’s ability to produce answers quickly is just as important as their knowledge of writing.

Examples of Passages on the SAT Writing and Language Test

Reading passages on the 2023 SAT Writing and Language Test were rewritten during the test’s last major revision back in 2016. College Board test writers pulled from subjects including the humanities, history/social studies, science, and career issues. "The Consolations of Philosophy" is an example of a humanities-oriented passage, and it covers the relevance of studying philosophy to graduate school success and professional accomplishment. "Tiny Exhibit, Big Impact" is a first-person account of a visit to the Art Institute of Chicago. "Environmentalist Otters," a science-based passage, discusses the role of sea otters in maintaining kelp forests, which may help reduce global warming. "A Quick Fix in a Throwaway Culture," a social sciences-type passage, is an account of a Dutch movement to reduce waste by repairing consumer goods and combatting the notion of "planned obsolescence," which has long been conventional wisdom in the manufacturing industry. "Transforming the American West Through Food and Hospitality," a historical passage, describes the first restaurant chain in the United States, which was founded in the 1870s. "Creating Worlds: A Career in Game Design" covers the conceptual and technical skills needed to work as a video game programmer, along with the types of college courses that should be taken by individuals who aspire to this career path. "Coworking: A Creative Solution" is a first-person summary of problems faced by teleworkers, which include isolation and lack of collaboration, and the idea of coworking spaces as a solution to these problems.

In order to best prepare for this section of the SAT, students will need to use current and up-to-date study materials, which is most easily accomplished by working with a tutor or participating in instructor-led study sessions. Many of the SAT Writing and Language Test practice passages or study guides that can be found for free online are outdated, although this can be difficult to determine without expert knowledge. While this challenging section can be mastered through dedicated practice, it can also be anxiety-provoking for students, given the need to balance identifying the correct answer with the need to work at a rather quick pace. While practicing all sections of the SAT is highly recommended, practicing the Writing and Language test section can be especially helpful for students looking to improve sectional and/or total SAT scores.

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