The SAT Writing and Language Test: Overview

An overview of the SAT Writing and Language Test.

The Writing and Language Test assesses your ability to revise and edit texts about a range of topics.

Each Writing and Language Test consists of four passages with 11 questions each. You will have 35 minutes to complete the Writing and Language Test.

What the passages look like:

Passages on the Writing and Language Test cover a range of topics and vary in both format and content.
  • Topics: History/Social Studies, Humanities, and Science passages typically look like short academic papers, while the Careers passages may explore specific job fields.
excerpt from a Careers passage
excerpt from a Careers passage
Text Type: There are three different text types for Writing and Language passages:
1) Argument passages take a strong position and use evidence to support a claim
2) Narrative Nonfiction passages tell a story with a clear beginning, middle, and end
3) Informative or explanatory passages aim to educate the reader about a topic

What the questions are asking:

Questions are divided into two broad types:
  • Expression of Ideas questions will ask you to improve the effectiveness of communication in a piece of writing.
  • Standard English Conventions questions will ask you to make sentences consistent with standard written English grammar, usage, punctuation and other conventions/rules.

A few more things to keep in mind . . .

  • Many of the test questions rely on the context of the passage, so you may have to read more than the sentence that corresponds to the question to choose the best answer.
  • When there are no additional directions or questions, assume that you have to choose the option that is most effective or correct.
  • Some passages include one or more tables, graphs, or charts that relate to the topic of the passage. A graphic may provide additional support for a point made in the passage. Questions may ask you to use information from the graphic(s) to correct an error in the passage. You’ll never have to make corrections to the graphic itself. Here's an example:
Why not go ahead and begin familiarizing yourself with the Writing and Language Test? Start here!

Attributions

This article was adapted from the following sources:
“SAT Practice Tests” from The College Board.
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