SAT Writing and Language Test - Best Approach

How to Approach

The 2016 SAT Writing and Language Test is intended to evaluate writing skills that are necessary for success in college. While the new 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 new 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.


It is essential for students to take advantage of available 2016 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 new SAT Writing and Language Test passages and questions. Self-study methods and prerecorded video instruction are available, but are less than ideal because they lack interaction with a live teacher, who can identify and respond to individual student preparation issues.


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 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. Students should answer all questions, since there is no penalty for guessing on the 2016 SAT. Process of elimination can narrow down answer choices and increase the odds of correct answers.

Managing Time

It is vital that students manage their testing time efficiently. Test-takers are given 35 minutes to complete 11 questions about each of the Writing and Language Test's four reading passages. This means that each passage should be completed in slightly less than 9 minutes, including both time to read the passage and answer the questions. Student preparation must develop the skills necessary for success within this timeframe. In this context, the ability to produce answers quickly is just as important as knowledge of writing.

Examples of Passages

Reading passages on the 2016 SAT Writing and Language Test have been newly written by College Board test writers, and they cover subjects such as 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 philosophy study 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.