PSAT Writing and Language: The Kaplan Method

The Kaplan Method for the PSAT Writing & Language test is the method you will use to boost your score on the Writing & Language Test. By understanding what the question is looking for, how it relates to the passage, and the questions you should ask yourself on Test Day, you will maximize the number of points you earn. Use the Kaplan Method for Writing & Language for every PSAT Writing & Language Test passage and question you encounter, whether practicing, completing your homework, working on a Practice Test, or taking the actual exam on Test Day.

The Kaplan Method for Writing & Language has three steps:

  • Step 1: Read the passage and identify the issue
    • If there’s an infographic, apply the Kaplan Method for Infographics
  • Step 2: Eliminate answer choices that do not address the issue
  • Step 3: Plug in the remaining answer choices and select the most correct, concise, and relevant one

Let’s take a closer look at each step.


The PSAT will expect you to be able to recognize errors in organization, pronouns, agreement, comparisons, development, sentence structure, modifiers, verbs, wordiness, style, tone, and syntax.

The Kaplan Method

  • Step 1: Read the passage and identify the issue

    This means:

    • Rather than reading the whole passage and then answering all of the questions, you can answer questions as you read because they are mostly embedded in the text itself.
    • When you see a number, stop reading and look at the question. If you can answer it with what you’ve read so far, do so. If you need more information, keep reading until you have enough context to answer the question.
  • Step 2: Eliminate answer choices that do not address the issue

    Eliminating answer choices that do not address the issue:

    • Increases your odds of getting the correct answer by removing obviously incorrect answer choices
  • Step 3: Plug in the remaining answer choices and select the most correct, concise, and relevant one

    Correct, concise, and relevant means that the answer choice you select:

    • Makes sense when read with the correction
    • Is as short as possible while retaining the information in the text
    • Relates well to the passage overall

    Answer choices should not:

    • Change the intended meaning of the original sentence, paragraph, or passage
    • Introduce new grammatical errors

There is no wrong answer penalty on the PSAT. When in doubt, eliminate what you can and then guess. You won’t lose points for guessing.

LauraKaplan PSAT Expert

When you encounter a Writing & Language question, use the Kaplan Method, asking yourself a series of strategic thinking questions.

By asking these strategic thinking questions, you will be able to select the correct answer choice more easily and efficiently. Pausing to ask yourself questions before answering each question may seem like it takes a lot of time, but it actually saves you time by preventing you from weighing the four answer choices against each other; it’s better to ask questions that lead you directly to the correct answer than to debate which of four answers seems the least incorrect.

Let’s look at the following Writing & Language passage and questions. After the passage, there are two columns. The left column contains test-like questions. The column on the right features the strategic thinking a test expert employs when approaching the passage and questions presented.

On Test Day

If you have to guess, eliminate answer choices that are clearly wrong and then choose the shortest one—the PSAT rewards students who know how to be concise.

Sample PSAT Writing and Language Question

Interest in developing wind power as an alternative renewable energy source has increased in recent years. In the eastern United States, exposed summits or ridge crests in the Appalachian Mountains have high wind power potential, and psatwriting1 numerous wind power projects are being proposed by power companies. While generally supportive of energy development from renewable sources, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, state wildlife agencies, nongovernmental organizations, and the public are concerned about potential impacts of wind power development on wildlife.

Question 1:


(B) numerous wind power projects have been proposed.

(C) numerous wind power projects will be proposed.

(D) power companies have proposed numerous wind power projects.

Step 1: Read Passage & Identify Issue

Can you identify a grammatical issue? No, the underlined phrase is grammatically correct.

When there is no apparent grammatical issue, check style, tone, and syntax. Are there any style, tone, or syntax errors? The sentence is written in the passive voice: the subject—“power companies”—comes after the object: “wind power projects.”

Step 2: Eliminate Answer Choices

What answer choice(s) can you eliminate? Eliminate B and C because they just change the verb tense rather than addressing the error.

Step 3: Select Most Correct, Concise, & Relevant Answer

What is the answer? Choice (D)


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