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How to Improve Your SAT Reading/Writing Section Score

For millions of students each year, the SAT is a defining feature of the college admissions process. While the importance of these scores varies from school to school, at many selective colleges, standardized test scores remain a determining factor. Raising your SAT score is indeed possible, and there are specific ways to achieve your standardized test goals. In fact, significant test score improvements can be achieved, especially by students who receive lower scores initially.

This section of the SAT can be confusing and complicated. You have to remember all the grammar rules you were able to avoid learning throughout your schooling. You have to identify subtle grammatical errors that are often committed by gifted writers.

Exam Details for SAT Writing

SAT SectionDuration (in min)QuestionContent/skill coveredQuestion type
Writing& Languages3544Grammar, vocabulary in context, and editing skillMultiple-choice

SAT Writing & Language Includes

  • Major professional fields, such as medicine, technology, or business.
  • Topics from history, anthropology, psychology, political science, or sociology.
  • Humanities trends in literature, drama, art, music, or dance.
  • Science passages will focus on Earth science, biology, chemistry, or physics.

Writing & Language: Skills Tested

  • Expression of Ideas (24 questions)
  • Standard English Conventions (20 questions)

Some tips for success on SAT Writing:

Focus on Using Grammar Rules to Answer the Questions:

Many of the SAT Writing sentences are lengthy or use uncommon phrases. The sentences might sound odd to your ear, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re wrong. Similarly, some of the sentences contain grammar errors that are so common that these sentences are likely to sound fine to you.

Use Process of Elimination to Rule Out Answers:

For every SAT question, you should eliminate answer choices you know are wrong to help you pick the correct answer.

Given Two Grammatically Correct Answers, Pick the More Concise One:

The shortest answer will not always be right, but if you can narrow a question down to two choices that are both grammatically correct.

Watch for Consistency Issues:

Many of the grammar rules on SAT Writing are related to consistency. Generally, verb tense, subject, and person should remain consistent in a sentence.

Know that “Being” Is Almost Always Wrong:

While “being” can be used correctly, it is often an indication of a grammar error. The word “being” can signal wordiness, idiom, and fragment errors. Whenever you see the word “being” in a sentence improvement or identify the error question, you are likely to find a grammar error.

Read the Passage First for Improving Paragraphs Questions:

In the paragraph improvement subsection, you should quickly read the paragraph improvement passage before answering the questions. While reading, note any obvious errors and identify the main idea.

Don’t Be Afraid to Pick “No Error,” But Don’t Pick It Every Time:

On the improving sentences and identify the error questions, the sentence will be correct about 10%-20% of the time. Do not fear the “No Error” answer, but if more than 30% of your answers are “No Error,” you’ve definitely made mistakes and need to look at the sentences more closely.

Manage Your Time Well

Part of mastering the Writing and Language section of the SAT is knowing how quickly to move along. Pacing is key.

On this portion of the test there are four passages and 44 multiple-choice questions, and you’ll only have 25 minutes to complete them. Each of the passages is 400-450 words long, and you should aim to complete every passage and its questions with a few minutes remaining so that you can review your work.

To do this, you should spend eight minutes on each passage, leaving yourself three minutes to review at the end. After two passages, check the time. You should have just about 20 minutes remaining if you’re staying on pace. To stay on top of time, answer questions while you’re reading. Because passages and questions are arranged alongside, it’s easy to complete each question as you arrive to it in the text. Reading the passage first and then returning to answer questions is a waste of time in this case.

Understand Your Mistakes

Practice tests are your friend, but you won’t get the most out of them if you don’t assess your mistakes. After each practice test, go through your mistakes and categorize them. Were you rushed? Are you making repeated mistakes in the same content areas? Are you making careless errors?

By understanding your mistakes, you’ll be better able to avoid them in the future. Never walk away from a practice test without understanding what types of mistakes you made and what you can do to improve in those areas.

To Prepare smartly for the upcoming SAT August, download our free e-book “Smart and effective way SAT prep”.

To score high students can use Socrato to practice online and get insights beyond scores. Socrato’s Companion Series helps you get the most from your Official Study Guide.

What is on the SAT?

The SAT is a standardized test that assesses a student’s skills in four core areas: Reading, Writing & Language, and Math.  In the US, the Essay is no longer tested.

Exam Details

Table 1: Content and curriculum coverage of each subject of SAT.

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SAT Scoring System

Table 2: Table 2: SAT Scoring System.

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SAT Reading Includes

In this section, there will be four individual passages and one passage pair, which means there will be about 10-12 questions for each passage/passage pair. At least one of the passages will have graphics, such as tables, graphs, and charts accompanying it. Each passage, or passage pair set, will be at about 500 to 750 words.

There will be at least one passage from each of the following topics:

  • U.S. or world literature
  • U.S. founding document or a text inspired by one
  • Social science (such as economics, psychology, sociology, etc.)
  • Science (Earth science, biology, chemistry, or physics)

Section 1-Reading: Skills Tested

  • Command of Evidence (10 Questions)
  • Words in Context (10 Questions)
  • Analysis in History/Social Science and Science (32 Questions)

SAT Writing & Language Includes

Like the Reading section, all questions in the SAT Writing and Language are based on passages. This section contains four passages with 11 questions following each passage. Passages will cover either Career, Social Studies, Humanities, or Science:

  • Major professional fields, such as medicine, technology, or business.
  • Topics from history, anthropology, psychology, political science, or sociology.
  • Humanities trends in literature, drama, art, music, or dance.
  • Science passages will focus on Earth science, biology, chemistry, or physics.

Section 2- Writing & Language: Skills Tested

  • Expression of Ideas (24 questions)
  • Standard English Conventions (20 questions)

SAT Math Includes

SAT Math is divided into two sections, depending on whether or not a calculator is allowed. During the first section, when you cannot use a calculator, you’ll have 25 minutes to answer 15 multiple-choice questions and 5 grid-in questions. For the second section, when you can use a calculator, you’ll have 55 minutes to answer 30 multiple-choice questions and 8 grid-ins, including an Extended Thinking problem.

Section 3- Math: Skills Tested

  • Problem Solving and Data Analysis (17 questions)
  • Passport to Advanced Math (16 questions)
  • Additional Topics in Math (6 questions)
  • Heart of Algebra (19 questions)