These 5 Strategies Can Improve Your SAT Writing 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.
While this raises the stakes for the tests themselves, it should come as good news for devoted students. This is because 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. In this post, we outline our top five tips for improving your score on the writing section of the SAT.
1. Know What Skills Are Assessed on the Writing Section of the SAT
In order to focus on improving your score on the writing section of the SAT, you’ll need to understand what this portion of the test assesses. According to the College Board, the Writing and Language section of the SAT measures your skills in five core areas. These include:
Command of Evidence
Here, you’re tasked with improving the ways in which passages develop information and convey ideas. You might improve an argument or clarify supporting details.
Words in Context
These questions typically assess your vocabulary as you improve word choices according to a passage’s tone or style. You might also choose words that are more precise or concise.
Analysis in History/Social Studies and Science
On these types of questions, you’ll “read passages about topics in history, social studies, and science with a critical eye and make editorial decisions that improve them.”
Expression of Ideas
Questions that measure your skills in this area typically focus on organization of written ideas, structural changes to passages, and how a passage’s structure contributes to its impact.
Standard English Conventions
Here, you get back to basics with sentence structure, punctuation, and grammatical conventions.
Master the subject matter above, and your score on this section of the SAT is bound to soar.
2. Master the Format
Some students get tripped up by the format of the Writing and Language SAT section. This is because, visually, the test doesn’t flow well. Instead, passages are presented along the left side of your test booklet, and questions are presented along the right hand side of it. This means a lot of looking back and forth between the passage and the question.
You can easily overcome any confusion caused by this by taking as many practice tests as possible. You’ll get used to the chronological questions and soon realize that you don’t even need to read the entire passage to answer many questions. In fact, because questions tell you specifically which lines they refer to, you often need only to read a single sentence to answer a specific question, especially if it is related to grammar.
3. Become a Grammar Fiend
Speaking of grammar, one of the simplest ways to boost your score is to master the basics of grammar. These are usually fairly simple rules that you can learn in a relatively short period of time. Here are the most important areas of grammar for this section of the SAT:
While there are many other grammar rules that often pop up on the SAT, these core rules typically account for the majority of questions that test your grammar. In fact, questions testing these skills account for nearly 80% of the grammatical questions on the Writing and Language SAT.
4. 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.
Also, don’t dwell on questions that you don’t grasp quickly. You have less than one minute per question, and far less if you’re reading significant portions of the passages. If you don’t understand a question, make your best guess and move on to the next one.
5. 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.
Preparing for the SAT is no easy feat, but luckily for most students, they get more than one shot at the test itself. Use the tips above to improve on the Writing and Language section of your SAT and ensure that you garner as many points as possible in this crucial subject area.
For more help preparing for the SAT, consider enlisting the help of CollegeVine’s full service, customized SAT Tutoring Program, where the brightest and most qualified tutors in the industry guide students to an average score increase of 140 points.
To learn more about preparing for the SAT, see our posts:
Want more SAT tips sent to you?
Sign up below and we'll send you expert SAT tips and guides.