On the Writing and Language Test, there are four key ways you can mark up the test:1) Circle or underline important elements of passagesTo do your best, you’ll need to read passages on the Writing and Language Test just as actively as you read the passages on the Reading Test. That means underlining and circling the most important elements so you can stay engaged with the point the author is making. More on active reading strategies here.TOP TIP: Understand what the passage is saying! Contrary to what some people think, the SAT Writing and Language Test is not just about grammar. Grammar-related questions (also called “Standard English Conventions”) make up just one part of your score on the Writing and Language test. The other questions (the ones that fall into the “Expression of Ideas” category) require you to understand the point of the passage and the function of each paragraph within it, along with the function of each sentence in each paragraph. Underlining, circling and annotating can help.
[Explain]Observe how the first paragraph sets up a contrast – however and but are circled to emphasize that at first Kingman was compared to natural landscape artists BUT he started to focus more on cityscapes. The exclamation point is there to emphasize the “wow factor” – the more you can get excited about what you’re reading, the more you’ll engage and the better you’ll perform!In the second paragraph, the annotations emphasize the bones vs the details of the passage. Sentence 1 is about “fine brushwork” followed by details 1, 2 and 3, and Sentence 2, written in a construction that is parallel to that of Sentence 1, is about “broader brush strokes,” followed by supporting details. The question mark after D3 is there because the third detail is about small stuff, but the other two details are about big stuff, so it is a little out of place – this incongruity may well be the subject of question #20.Plusses ( +++ ) can be used when an author is indicating support for a topic or subject of a paragraph or sentence. Minuses ( – – – ) can be useful where appropriate, too! 2) Circle or underline important elements of questionsMany of the more challenging “Expression of Ideas” questions on the Writing and Language Test tell you very specifically what the correct choice has to do. It can help a lot to zero in on that part of the question, and just do what the question wants.
[Explain]The right answer had better contribute to a majestic city skyline! The answer is D. The other choices might sound nice, but they aren’t answering the question! C isn’t specific, and choices A and B represent small details.
[Explain]The correct choice will emphasize an enduring legacy. your job is to select the choice that does what the question wants. Try rephrasing the choices in your own words, then choose the one that talks about how his fame will endure. A) “he’s not as famous as other painters, but people still like him” B) “he died 15 years ago, but his paintings are now being shown internationally – they are now iconic.” C) “His name makes sense” D) “Kingman is one example from a long tradition – he’s good!” Choice D might be tempting, but it is too general. Only Choice B is specific, and describes how, after Kingman’s death, his work is still honored. TOP TIP: A wrong word can disqualify a choice! Always remember that a single word can make a choice wrong. If you find yourself making excuses for a choice, eg: “Well, this could totally work if only…” or “I could see how this might work…”, the choice is probably wrong. If a shoe doesn’t quite fit, try a different pair of shoes. The College Board calls the ELA portion of the SAT “Evidence-Based Reading and Writing” for a reason: the answer to every question will have evidence to support it. NOTE: Remember that there are many questions on the Writing and Language Test that don’t have questions at all – these are called “stemless” questions and your job is to select the best version of a brief underlined portion of the passage itself. These are always grammar questions that will contribute to your “Standard English Conventions” subscore.3) Cross out extra words to simplify complex sentencesIf you’re having trouble figuring out a grammar question, it can help to simplify the structure of complex sentences by crossing out extra words that describe – or “modify” – the subject or the verb. This can help a lot on subject-verb and pronoun agreement questions like the one below:
[What’s going on here?]This is an example of a “stemless question,” a grammar question that asks you to select the best version of the underlined portion of the passage – “occur, it is” is the underlined portion. The subject of this sentence is “any one of these changes,” and the verb is “to occur,” but if we had to choose just one word as the subject doing the occurring, it would be “any one,” which is singular – so it needs a singular pronoun IT and a singular form of the verb to occur: IT OCCURS. TOP TIP: Cross out extra prepositional clauses like “of these changes” if they stand in the way between the subject and its verb. The word OF is often misleading – it is a preposition, and prepositional clauses may modify the subject, but they can’t change its number.Here’s an example: The story of Goldilocks and the three bearsare/ismy favorite.What is the subject here? “Story.” Cross out the prepositional clause “of Goldilocks and the three bears,” and you’ve got a simplified sentence: “The storyISmy favorite.” 4) Use Process of Elimination!When you physically cross out a choice you have ruled out, it makes the rest of your task easier on your brain. Bad choices stop being distractions if you don’t look at them again.There are several ways to do this:
Some students like to cross out the entire choice – not just the letter of the choice – so they never have to look at it again:
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