Here is a detailed breakdown for each type of question you will encounter in the SAT® Writing test. You can use this information to guide your studies or to recognize weak points. Some of the rules tested by the specific question types need to be looked at in much greater detail. Check out the links throughout the article for a broader understanding of the rules, formats, and complications any of these question types may have. If the Writing Section of the SAT test is stressing you out, it can help to break down your studies question by question. You can use practice tests, like the ones offered by UWorld’s SAT Prep Course, to determine the question types you need extra help on.
Add/Delete Questions on SAT Writing
The add/delete questions will ask you to decide whether a given sentence or phrase should be added or deleted from the passage. You will need to understand the structure and small details to accurately determine why a sentence should be added or deleted from the text. Ask what the sentence contributes to the text and whether the sentence’s placement is accurate and cohesive for its purpose. Once you have made these judgments, eliminating the choices that do not align with your decision will be easy. These questions are often straightforward once you eliminate the options that don’t match your judgments, but can they be confusing if you do not take the time to understand the sentence’s contributions.
Word Choice and Diction Question on SAT Writing
The word choice and diction question type will ask you to assess words’ meanings in various circumstances. Typical errors for this kind of question happen when words are used in unconventional and awkward ways. The goal of this section is to spot words that are misused and choose the correct replacement. Sometimes the word in question will sound like the right word but is spelled differently. You can check out a list of commonly mistaken words here.
Transition Questions on SAT Writing
Transition questions are the most common question type from the Writing section. These questions will ask you to either select a transitional word to complete a sentence or select the appropriate transition sentence or phrase to interlink two paragraphs, sentences, or ideas. Some of these transitions serve to introduce additional information. Some will serve to set up a contrasting idea or indicate causation. You should aim to make adjustments for the most logical transitions possible. The reader should be prepared for information that follows a transition.
Sentence Fragments and Run-on Questions on SAT Writing
The sentence fragments and run-on question type targets your skills with spotting incorrect sentence structures. Pay attention to whether the sentence has a verb and a subject. You also need to check if the sentence is a subordinate clause and if it has an incomplete main clause. Another red flag for sentence fragments is if the sentence has an “-ing” or “-ed” verb that does not refer to the past tense and does not have a helping verb. All of these are issues attributed to a sentence fragment. For run-on sentences, pay attention to whether a comma is joining two complete sentences or if the sentence lacks punctuation. If a sentence combines independent clauses with a conjunctive verb and a comma, it is likely a run-on sentence. You can find examples for all of these errors here.
Wordiness and Redundancy in SAT Writing
A common error on the Writing test is a lack of concision. For wordiness and redundancy questions, you will need to improve a complicated sentence by selecting a more concise option. The point of the sentence or phrase should be clear to the reader, and you can improve the reader’s understanding by editing for concision. For redundancy questions, you will need to edit out words or phrases that are not necessary to the meaning. Your goal will be to simplify the text by editing out what has already been said or implied.
Verb Tenses and Form Questions on SAT Writing
For verb tense and form questions, you will need to improve the consistency of verb tenses. Any variations in verb tense need to be contextually validated. If you cannot validate the inconsistency through the context, you need to edit the sentence. Knowing the different verb forms can help you recognize these variations and make the proper adjustments for consistency. Simple past tense, past perfect tense, present perfect tense, conditional tense, future tense, and present tense could be in question for this question type.
Subject-Verb Agreement Questions on SAT Writing
You will need to understand whether the subject and verbs agree to answer the subject-verb agreement questions. To be accurate, follow this rule: singular subjects can only be tethered to a singular verb, and plural subjects can only be tethered to plural verbs. You may miss the disagreement because of an interrupting description that distracts from the error. This complication is not an accident: the SAT test will try to trick you on more challenging questions. Some errors with subject-verb agreement happen through sequential flaws. When a subject comes after a verb, it can be challenging to pinpoint what the verb is meant to agree with. To answer these questions, you will have to focus on finding the subject affected by the verb. Keep an eye out for compound subjects that confuse subject-verb agreements as well. You can learn more about tricky rules and common confusing errors here.
Pronoun Agreement Questions on SAT Writing
For the pronoun agreement questions, you will need to pinpoint when a pronoun does not match its antecedent and select an answer choice that resolves the error. Sometimes the pronoun and the antecedent disagree in number, and other times they disagree in person. You can start your improvements by first finding out what the antecedent is. Mixing up who or what is doing the action will only complicate things. You should also take some time to learn the specific rules for non-gendered singular pronouns that the SAT tests. Words that refer to a group of people can be confusing too, so pay special attention to the collective nouns when checking for pronoun agreement. Another common error occurs when the pronouns “one” and “you” are interchanged without consistency. Relative pronouns should be consistent as well. If a pronoun does not have an antecedent, the specificity necessary for the sentence’s logic is absent. Words that commonly lack an antecedent are “that,” “this,” and “which.” To read more about these common errors and deepen your understanding of how to improve them, click here.
Pronoun Case Questions on SAT Writing
The pronoun case questions require your judgment of whether a pronoun functions as a subject or object. Subject pronouns refer to words doing the action. The following pronouns are subject pronouns: “I,” “you,” “he,” “she,” “it,” “one,” “we,” “you,” “they,” and “who.” Object pronouns refer to words receiving the action. These are object pronouns: “me,” “you,” “her,” “him,” “it,” “one,” “us,” “you,” “them,” and “whom.” You should start pronoun case questions by determining whether an underlined pronoun is receiving the action or doing the action. If the pronoun is misused, then there is an error you will need to improve. You can read here for more examples of pronoun case flaws and steps to improve them.
Whether a pronoun functions as a subject or object. Subject pronouns refer to words doing the action. The following pronouns are subject pronouns: “I,” “you,” “he,” “she,” “it,” “one,” “we,” “you,” “they,” and “who.” Object pronouns refer to words receiving the action. These are object pronouns: “me,” “you,” “her,” “him,” “it,” “one,” “us,” “you,” “them,” and “whom.” You should start pronoun case questions by determining whether an underlined pronoun is receiving the action or doing the action. If the pronoun is misused, then there is an error you will need to improve. You can read here for more examples of pronoun case flaws and steps to improve them.
Parallelism Questions on SAT Writing
For the parallelism questions, you will need to edit sentence structures to display equal importance between ideas or items. This means that listed items or ideas need to all be in the same form of either noun, gerund, or verb. Phrases also need to be parallel on either side of a conjunction (like “and,” “or,” “yet,” “so,” or “either”). You can find more tips and practice questions for questions about parallelism here.
Faulty Modifier Questions on SAT Writing
The faulty modifier questions will require you to pinpoint flaws with words or phrases that provide a description. The biggest thing to remember is that the modifying word or phrase must be next to the word it is describing. If a sentence begins with a modifier or the modifier is misplaced, it is a faulty modifier. If a modifier is at the beginning of a sentence, it may be a dangling modifier. If the modifier is separated from the thing it describes, then it may be a misplaced modifier. Gerunds and the noun that does the action must be next to each other as well, so pay attention to “-ing” words and make corrections if it is not next to the noun doing the action. You can read more about faulty modifiers here.
Faulty Comparison Questions on SAT Writing
The faulty comparison question type will ask you to pinpoint and correct illogical comparisons. For example, some comparisons compare things that are not of the same category. Other comparisons compare something to everything. This is not logical, and you will have to make corrections. Specificity is critical for these improvements, but make sure to avoid redundancy or wordiness. This is a thin line to walk. You can read more about improving faulty comparisons here.
Words like “who,” “whom,” “where,” “when,” “that,” “whose,” “which,” and “where” replace nouns. These are called relative pronouns, and they must agree with the type of noun they replace. “That” can be used to replace or refer to any noun. “Who” and “whom” can replace or refer to people. “Where” can only replace or refer to a location. “When” can refer to or replace a time period or a point in time. “Which” can replace or refer to anything but a person. “Whose” refers to a possessive and can be used for people or objects. A common complication for these rules comes with the use of “that” and “which.” A rule to simplify this confusion is that “that” is used to present an essential clause, while “which” is used to present a non-essential clause. “Where” is commonly misused as well. You should also pay attention to unclear antecedents, fragments, and run-ons caused by incorrect use of relative pronouns.
You should practice these question types as you prepare for the Writing section of the SAT exam. Practice exams are a great way to gain experience and boost your confidence in the Writing section. You can gain experience finding and resolving any errors with adding or deleting information, word choice, transitions, sentence fragments, run-ons, wordiness, redundancy, verb tense, verb form, subject-verb agreement, pronoun agreement, pronoun case, parallelism, faulty modifiers, and faulty comparisons through UWorld’s SAT Prep Course. Try it out to find your weak points in the Writing section, and boost your scores!