Want help on the Writing and Language portion of the SAT®? You’ve come to the right place! Here I’ll share 3 tips, strategies, and tricks that you can use to strengthen your test-taking skills and improve your overall score.

SAT® tip #1: Know What You’re Being Tested On

One of the keys to succeeding on this test is to know what you’re being tested on and to respond to that accordingly.  There are only so may types of questions on this exam, and 60-70 percent of them involve a specific grammar or usage rule that you should know.  Step one to solving these problems is often figuring out which rule is being tested.    To do this, compare your answer choices, then respond accordingly once you find out what’s being tested.  Granted, you have to know what strategy to employ with every type of question– but step one is figuring out what is being tested.

To be efficient in recognizing what is being tested, your best bet is to study all the grammar rules tested and the proper approach for each with prep guides!  We have a list at the link at left of the grammar guides we most recommend.

Sometimes, though, questions are not solely grammar based.  These questions deal more with style, placement, or sentence and paragraph organization.  For questions like these, rather than read the answer choices first, reference the passage and try to figure out what’s being tested by looking at the context, figuring out what’s wrong with it, and identifying what could use clarification or correction. In these instances I find students often don’t study the passage enough for context and nuance if they allow themselves to look at the answer choices first.  Forcing yourself to search in the passage will help you actually analyze the passage structure and content so that you are armed with enough information to get the question right.

TIP: For Keep or Delete Questions or other organizational and writing style questions: look at the passage first to see what’s being tested!

SAT® tip #2: Compare Your Answer Choices

When you’re stuck or don’t know what the answer is, compare answer choices to try to figure out how one is different from the others. You can cross out words that mean the same thing to better clarify the wording and see the differences between choices.

Even in style questions, comparing your answers allows you another step in the analysis game you can use to get you closer to certainty.  You’re not always looking for “right” — you’re often looking for “best” and comparison is a the best tool in such a situation.

TIP: If you find two answers that are essentially equivalent, they’re probably both wrong.

SAT® tip #3: Read When You Need

Some tutors will tell you to read the whole passage before you start answering the questions on the writing and language section.  I don’t necessarily disagree: reading the whole passage can often be a waste of time.  Many grammar questions are local to the sentence in play (particularly the easy ones), though other questions may require more context. My motto is “Read when you need.”

That does NOT mean that you should never read.

Though when to read often comes down to particular questions and how difficult they are, in general, you should be reading the passage on:

1-Placement Questions

Placement questions ask where sentences should go or what order sentences should be in.

2-Structure Questions

Structure questions ask which one of the sentences create a similar parallelism to the other sentence.

3-Keep or Delete: 

4-Transition Words:

Keep or Delete problems and Transition Words are all about context; you need to read whole paragraphs until you have a thorough understanding of the passages.

In general, if you get stuck on a question that’s more rhetorical strategy-based as opposed to grammar rule-based, you probably need to read more context.


If you liked this post, check out our posts on every other section of the SAT® right here on our blog!