Education and Learning

Learn More About the Essential Peculiarities of SAT Writing

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The SAT is a standardized college entry test in the United States. This test is developed and published by The College Board, a non-profit US organization. In the past, the test was developed, published, and verified by the Educational Testing Service. SAT was first conducted in 1926, and since then, the name and rating were repeatedly changed. The main purpose of this advanced test is to evaluate the level of the student's preparation for college. If you want to learn more about SAT writing, just keep reading our efficient manual and we will provide you with the essential information about the test, as well as effective SAT writing tips and secrets.

The SAT is always broken up into three major sections and an optional fourth section, the essay. The total time for the test is 3 hours, not including breaks. Writing an essay is an additional task that should evaluate the student`s writing, research, and analytical skills.

  1. Reading section: Includes 52 questions that should be answered within 65 minutes;
  2. Writing and Language section: Includes 44 questions that should be answered within 35 minutes;
  3. Math without calculator section: Includes 20 questions that should be answered within 25 minutes;
  4. Math with calculator section: Includes 38 questions that should be answered within 55 minutes;
  5. Essay section (optional): Includes one essay that should be written in 50 minutes.

Before we start our analysis of the possible tasks, let`s discuss the SAT organization aspects:

When Does the Test Start?

On the test day, doors usually open at 7:45 am and close at 8 am. Once the test-takers are ready for a test, the supervisor will take all their smartphones and other devices to make sure the students do not have an opportunity to cheat. In case the students need extra time, they are allowed to add the SAT Essay on the site. When all the students are checked in and ready to start the test, the supervisor provides them with the test materials and reads the instructions. Usually, the test begins between 8:30 am and 9 am, depending on how long the preparation stage takes.

How Many Breaks Are There in the SAT?

According to the standard schedule, there are several breaks in the test. The first break that may take up to ten minutes is allowed between the Reading Stage and Writing and Language stage. Later, the students can have a short 5-minute break after the first math test. Finally, if the student wants to write an essay, there will be an additional 2-minute break.

When the SAT Is Over?

If you want to find out how long is the sat with writing, you need to combine all its parts. The time of release for students taking the test may slightly vary and depend on the rules of the test center where they pass the test. The main sections of the test will take approximately 3 hours plus 15-20 minutes for breaks. Besides, explaining the peculiarities of each stage by the supervisor will also take some time. In addition, the time for passing the test depends on whether the student will write an essay or not. If yes, this stage will take additional 50 minutes. As such, the students taking the SAT with the essay section included should finish between 1 and 1:30 pm. In their turn, the students taking the SAT without an essay section will finish the whole test between 12:15 and 12:45 pm.

Once the test is finished and all test sheets are turned in, the supervisor will return all electronic devices and backpacks.

How Does the Student Know How Much Time Is Left?

Undoubtedly, knowing how much time is left is very important for answering all the questions quicker. However, there is nothing to worry about as the supervisor will announce the remaining time several times. Usually, the first time announcement comes at halfway. The second announcement is usually stated when 5 minutes remaining. When the time is over, the supervisor will say the standard phrase, “Please, stop working. It`s time to put your pencils down.”

Also, for your convenience, the supervisor will tell the exact time for each test section, as well as the exact time when the test resumes after the break.

What Is the Purpose of the Additional SAT Section?

In some centers, there can be an additional 20-minute section that depends on whether there are any pre-test items. This section can be added regardless of whether the student takes the test with the essay section or without it. Before taking the test, the proctor will inform you whether it contains an additional section or not.

Additional Information

We highly recommend you to access more information about the SAT before the test day so there won`t be any surprises. Make sure to bring a valid ID, two pencils, and a good calculator. Basically, you need to read the SAT checklist and make sure you have prepared everything. Indeed, good preparation is the only requirement for the successful passing of the test. What is more, keep in mind that your supervisor will take all the electronic devises, so you should not rely on them.

SAT Writing Section

The writing section includes three major parts: an essay section that will take approximately 25 minutes, a multiple-choose questions section that assumes identifying sentence errors, improving sentences, and enhancing paragraphs. Both identifying mistakes and improving sentences questions demonstrate the level of the student's literacy, as well as the ability to find grammatically incorrect sentences. When searching for errors, one needs to find the word that causes the error or indicate whether every word is spelled correctly. The breakdown of the paragraphs demonstrates the student's understanding of the logical organization of the text.

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Writing the SAT Essay

Writing an essay will take 25 minutes. All essays are written on one topic. Usually, the students are asked to reflect on a specific philosophical question. It should be noted that the topic should be clear to all students, regardless of their education and social status. For example, they may be asked to reflect on the importance of a career in a person's life. A philosophical topic assumes that there are no right or wrong answers. The common length of the essay should be around 300-400 words.

As the essay is usually opinion-based, the student can be very flexible when writing it. We highly recommend you to think a minute before writing as it will help you keep the thoughts organized in the logical order. Also, drafting a short outline can be a good option as it will help you not to focus your attention on the irrelevant details. The first paragraph of the essay should clearly state the student`s position. The following paragraph or paragraphs should support this position with strong evidence explaining the position being taken. Finally, the concluding paragraph should tie all the arguments together. Although the time for writing the essay is quite limited, one needs to make sure it is free from grammatical mistakes as they may significantly spoil the grade for the essay. After all, grammar and punctuation are important parts of the SAT writing essay grading rubric.

The structure of the essay is not strictly controlled. The College Board states that the examples taken from books, as well as from personal experience and observations, are accepted. Two trained people check each essay and score it from 1 to 6 points, but if the essay is blank, off-topic, not written in English, or difficult to read, the examiner can put 0. The total is obtained by adding two marks from two checkers. However, if the scores differ by more than 1 point, the final score is determined by the third person. Usually, it takes about 3 minutes to test one essay.

Grammar Questions

The tasks of this type are primarily focused on the main idea of the passage and usually offer the student to explain what guided them when correcting a specific error. In such questions, one needs to replace the word or phrase with a better option, or press “no change” if the original wording is quite appropriate. There are three major types of multiple-choice grammar questions: indicating sentence mistakes, improving sentences, and enhancing paragraphs. A multiple-choice grammar section contains all three main types of questions. Noteworthy, these questions are not arranged according to their difficulty. However, the longer sentences are usually in the back to enable the students to answer the shorter questions first and get more points. Since the grammar test is based on the common grammar rules, below you will find a reminder of the rules that should be studied before taking the test:

  • Subject-verb agreement. This task checks the students’ subject-verb agreement knowledge by inserting a confusing clause after the subject to make some distance between the subject and the verb. Thus, you need to identify the subject of a sentence trying to block out the following clauses. This strategy will help find the verb.
  • Parallel structure. When the specific things are listed in one sentence, they are usually treated in a parallel way. Most probably, the test will include a sentence like, “I like to watch TV, to travel, and visiting libraries.” (in this sentence, the word “visiting” is not treated in the same way the other verbs in the sentence. Thus, it is incorrect.).
  • Pronouns. When it comes to pronouns, a few things should be considered. First, it should be clear which noun a pronoun is identifying. Also, it is necessary to remember which pronouns are objects of a sentence (me, him, them) and which ones are subjects (I, he, they).
  • Sentence fragments. A sentence should always have a subject and a verb. Otherwise, it is not a sentence but a sentence fragment. The exception is a dependent clause, which has a subject and a verb, as well as a modifier indicating that it does not stand alone. For instance, "When I was in Italy." In this case "when" is a subordinating conjunction that makes it obvious that another part of the sentence is missing.
  • Double negative. You need to remember that double negatives are not allowed in academic writing. Sometimes, the test questions are very tricky introducing the words “hardly” or “barely,” which may not seem negative. For instance, the sentence “They cannot hardly listen” is incorrect because of the double negative.
  • Diction. Although it may seem a vocabulary exercise rather than a grammar one, it is also included in SAT. Thus, if you want to succeed, you need to train your diction understanding. Sometimes, the words may sound very similar though having completely opposite meanings. When the wrong word is used, it is considered an error. The examples of the words that may be often confused are as follows:
  • Affect and effect.
  • Elude and allude.

Grammar Question Types

There are three common types of grammar questions. Though they aim to test the same skills, their format is different. Answering the questions incorrectly will not allow getting the expected outcome. Therefore, the students should take a look at the questions before taking the test in order to find out what kind of questions may be included in the test.

Improving Sentences Questions

Such questions are the most frequent questions in the SAT writing section. These questions usually present long sentences with some parts underlined. The first choice is always identical to the sentence written. Thus, if the student chooses the first option, it means that he or she opines that the sentence is written correctly and there is no need to improve it. Actually, choice A is correct in 20% of all sentences, so if you think that the sentence is correct, chances are high it really is. These questions may include all the grammar rules mentioned above.

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Identifying Sentence Errors Questions

These questions present the sentences in which four words are underlined. The student should identify the error in the sentence. There are also five possible answers. The first four answers suggest different mistakes and the last option assumes that there are no mistakes in the sentence. Thus, if the sentence looks fine, no need to read it, again and again, trying to find the mistake. Most probably, the sentence is ok.

Improving Paragraphs

The improving paragraph questions begin with a reading excerpt approximately four paragraphs long. Each sentence has its number. The passages will be followed by grammar questions. It is recommended to have a quick look at the grammar questions first to understand the areas of the paragraphs that should be given maximum attention. Each of the grammar questions will address a particular sentence. There are three types of enhancing paragraph questions. The first type asks to revise a particular sentence. This question will always re-print the necessary sentence and there is no need to look back into the paragraph trying to find the necessary sentence. This question will ask the test-taker to select the best way in which the sentence can be improved. Unlike the previous questions, this type does not have a “no errors” option.

Another question type will ask you to conjoin two sentences. The two or more parts that should be combined into one unit are provided along with the question. This will also save your time on looking back to the passage. When answering this question, you need to choose the correct conjunction and join two thoughts in a smooth manner without modifying their meaning.

The last type of question refers to the content. The question may be the following “Which sentence from paragraph three can be inserted into paragraph one?” Alternatively, it may ask you to write a sentence that would summarize the paragraph. To answer this question, you may need to look back into the paragraph and read it once again.

These exercises suggest that you think of different ways to express ideas using words. More precisely, you need to rearrange, add, combine or delete sentences, making the overall flow of the story smoother. About half of the tasks in this section are based on the rules of literary English. Therefore, one cannot even count on a good grade for this part, if they do not master the basic grammar and language norms. In the learning process, one will read various texts to refine their own editing skills, identify introductory structures, and word-connectives.

In conclusion, it should be said that the College Board states that the SAT evaluates those literacy skills and letters that are required for the successful study, and shows how well candidates are coping with the tasks they have learned in school. Also, the test indicates which areas should be improved. If you want to learn how to improve sat writing score, you should know that there are a lot of manuals containing the questions that may appear on the test. All in all, you need to realize that only by constantly practicing your skills, you will be able to achieve the anticipated outcome.


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