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SAT Secret 18: Writing and Language Test: The Format

SAT Secret 18: Writing and Language Test: The Format

I don’t understand the format of the questions! Help!

Don’t worry! The SAT Writing and Language Test assesses your ability to revise and edit texts about a range of topics, and to do that, the test uses specific formatting that can be confusing at first. You’re in the right place – you’ll be up to speed in no time! Here are a few things to keep in mind about how the test looks and how to interact with the passages:

  • Questions are flagged in the text: Each question in the text will include a gray box with a number, which corresponds to the question number. Here’s an example taken from a longer passage:

…and here’s the corresponding question:

  • Questions without questions: Many Writing and Language Test questions show just four answer choices without an actual question. “Stemless questions” reference a specific underlined portion of the passage (usually a sentence, part of a sentence, or parts of two sentences). You will have to decide if you need to make changes to this text in order to make it consistent with the conventions of standard written English.

Here’s an example snipped from a longer passage:

…and here’s what the corresponding question looks like:

Your job is to select the best version of the underlined text in context. Select “No Change” if the passage is fine just the way it is! Important! Remember that the excerpts above are each part of a longer passage. For the actual test and practice tests, you will have the context of the passage to consider.Here’s another stemless question where you must decide if you should make a change to the underlined portion of the passage in order for it to be consistent with standard written English:

For stemless questions, the incorrect choices will be grammatically incorrect, ambiguous, or have other technical weaknesses. You will never be asked to select which choice is the “best” among several correct options. In the case of question 5, the wrong answers include ambiguous pronouns, “their” and “them,” that have no clear antecedents. The correct answer to this question is D, “for circulation,” because it removes the vague pronoun “them” and results in a clear and grammatically correct sentence.Top Tip for Stemless Questions: Read around! When a portion of text is underlined and you must decide whether to replace the underlined portion with another choice, be sure to consider not only the entire underlined portion but also additional context (the entire sentence, surrounding sentences, and sometimes the passage as a whole) when choosing your answer. Deletions Sometimes a choice will suggest that you “DELETE the underlined portion.” Here’s an example of this:

[Explain]The correct answer to this question is D, “DELETE the underlined portion.” As written, the sentence says that “organic crops are safer for consumption than the people who purchase conventional food” – This is a faulty comparison – we’d certainly rather eat organic crops than people any day! If we eliminate the underlined portion, we create a logical comparison and proper parallel structure between “organically grown crops” being safer than “their conventionally grown counterparts” rather than being safer than “people.” All of the other choices result in an illogical comparison or faulty parallel structure.For example, choosing letter C would replace the entire underlined portion (“the people who purchase”) with one word (“purchasing”). It doesn’t make sense to say that organic food is “safer” than the action of “purchasing.” Read the whole sentence carefully in order to identify the only answer that is correct in this context.Additions Sometimes a question number in the passage will have no underlined text on either side. In this case, the question is asking you to consider the addition of new text into the passage at this point.

Questions about logical sentence order When you see numbers in [brackets] before sentences, there will be a question that will ask you to determine the logical sequence of the sentences in a paragraph. The question number will appear in a gray box at the end of the paragraph in question.For example:

Love
Haha
Wow
Sad
Angry
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