SAT Writing Tips Strategies Tricks Test Exam

5 Must-Know SAT Writing Tips

The SAT Writing & Language Test is the second section on the new SAT, and it tests students on both standard conventions of writing and effective use of language. The SAT Writing section consists of 44 questions to complete in 35 minutes, which means you have less than a minute to complete each question. While this may seem fast-paced, it is very doable with the right approach. Read the tips below, and realize that the only “right” way to handle the SAT Writing & Language Test is the way that works best for you.

[See also: the Top 5 SAT Math Tips]

[And here are the Top 5 SAT Reading Tips]


SAT Writing Tip #1 Answer questions as you read.

With roughly 48 seconds to answer each question, you certainly don’t have time to read entire passages on the Writing & Language section. Don’t start the section by reading the passage—instead, immediately begin reading the first question and reading what you need to answer it.

SAT Writing Tip #2 Read only what is needed to answer the given question.

You will never have to read every word of a Writing & Language passage to be able to answer its questions correctly. Most just require you to skip around through the passage, reading only a sentence or two for each question. You may get an occasional question that requires you to use the main idea of a paragraph, in which case you should skim through that paragraph. Though you might be concerned about questions that ask you to consider the passage as a whole, realize that you can get all the info you need by quickly reading the passage’s topic sentences.

SAT Writing Tip #3 Make sure your answer is both concise and relevant.

When more than one choice seems to work well grammatically in the passage, you should gravitate towards shorter choices to eliminate wordiness. Furthermore, if an answer choice seems to go off-topic, eliminate it immediately! The correct answer will ALWAYS be relevant to the material surrounding it.

SAT Writing Tip #4 Know your punctuation.

Roughly two questions per passage on the Writing & Language section will specifically test you on punctuation, and you’ll be able to use your punctuating skills to answer many others. Here’s a summary of some important punctuation rules:

  1. Commas (,) are used to:

    • separate three or more items in a list (apples, bananas, and oranges)
    • separate two or more independent clauses with a FANBOYS (For, And, Nor, But, Or, Yet, So) conjunction (My mom was going to pick me up from school, but my dad came instead.)
    • set off introductory information from the rest of the sentence (In 2008, the Phillies won the World Series.)
    • set off non-essential descriptive information within or at the end of a sentence (I ran across the floor, which was painted with school colors, to meet Steve. OR I ran across the floor to meet Steve, who greeted me with a high five.
  2.  Semicolons (;) are used to join two independent clauses WITHOUT the use of a FANBOYS conjunction. The sentences on both sides of a semicolon MUST be complete, stand-alone sentences. (I entered the competition early; however, I decided to withdraw a week later.)
  3. Colons (:) are used to introduce and/or emphasize a short phrase, quotation, explanation, example, or list. (The greatest obstacle to completing my homework was imminent: the finale of Grey’s Anatomy.)
  4. Dashes (—) are used to:

    • indicate a hesitation/break in thought (I saw John the other day and he looked great—no, it was actually Greg.)
    • set off an explanatory example or list from the rest of the sentence. (Many facets of Jill’s personality—among them empathy, respect, and kindness—make her a great friend and human being.)
  5. Apostrophes (‘) are used to:

    • indicate possession (Bob’s book, my friends’ phones)
    • create contractions (there’s the rabbit, it’s important, who’s in charge)

SAT Writing Tip #5 Know the possible relationships between ideas.

Questions on the Writing & Language Test will ask you to make appropriate and effective transitions between ideas. In general, there are four relationships ideas can have, and you should select the right type of transition word to establish these relationships.

  1. Reinforcement means one idea supports or builds off another, so transitions to use include in addition, furthermore, for example, and also, among others.
  2. Contrast means one idea opposes another. Here, the right transitions might be however, on the other hand, despite, and unlike.
  3. Cause-and-effect means one idea directly leads to another. To indicate this relationship, use transitions like consequently, therefore, since, and because.
  4. Sequence transitions are used for items part of a series. Words like first, then, afterwards, and finally would establish this relationship.