About SAT® Writing And Language Test

The SAT® Writing and Language Test is one of two sections on the SAT that assesses a student's proficiency in English language arts. It measures a student's ability to read and analyze written text, identify and correct errors in grammar and usage, and revise text for clarity and effectiveness. This article discusses the key aspects of the SAT Writing and Language section, including its format, question types, scoring pattern, difficulty level, and preparation tips.

SAT Writing Format and Scoring

The SAT Writing and Language Test, also known as the SAT Writing Test, requires you to fix errors, fill in omissions, improve word choice, structure, and tone. Passages cover a range of topics—including humanities, science, history, and social studies. They may be argumentative, persuasive, informative, or explanatory, and at least one will contain a narrative about historical events or scientific experiments. Some may also include charts, graphs, and other infographics.

The Writing and Language section is a separately timed test on the paper-and-pencil SAT, but on the digital SAT, it will be combined and tested alongside the reading section as a single component called the Reading and Writing section. While the question types and the skills tested in this section will remain the same on the Digital SAT (DSAT), there will be changes regarding format. Click on the tabs below to learn about the structure of the writing section for both versions.

Paper and Pencil SAT Writing Test

Students have 35 minutes to read 4 passages (400-450 words) and answer the 11 questions that follow each passage. For the paper-and-pencil SAT, the Writing and Language score is combined with the Reading score to derive your Evidence-based Reading and Writing (EBRW) section score. The raw scores of each test are converted to a score of 10–40 and multiplied by 10 to calculate the scaled scores. These two scaled scores, ranging from 100 - 400, are added together to form the EBRW section score, ranging from 200 - 800.

Your score report for the paper and pencil test will also provide SAT Writing Test score percentiles ranging from 1 to 99, subscores, and cross-test scores. To learn more about how the final SAT score is calculated and how raw scores are converted into scaled scores, read our SAT scoring guide.

Digital SAT Writing Test (DSAT)

The Reading and Writing section of the DSAT is divided into two 32-minute modules, each consisting of 25 questions and 2 pretest questions. In other words, students have 64 minutes to complete 54 multiple-choice questions. The writing section accounts for about 46% of the questions, the rest focus on reading.

On the digital test, raw scores of the Reading and Writing section are added together and then converted into a scaled score ranging from 200-800. No percentiles, subscores, or cross-test scores will be reported for the digital test.

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Looking deeper at verbs, main verbs, and helping verbs

What Type of Writing questions are on the SAT?

The writing section features two types of questions for both the paper and pencil SAT and the DSAT. One asks you to refine ideas and expressions, the other asks you to correct grammar, punctuation, and usage errors.

Expression of ideas

The "Expression of Ideas'' questions on the SAT Writing Test evaluate a student's ability to improve the quality of the text without changing its intent or meaning. This question type has three sub-types:

Subtypes for SAT Writing Question Type “Expression of Ideas”
Subtypes for SAT Writing Question Type “Expression of Ideas”

Standard English conventions

The “Standard English Convention” questions on the SAT Writing Test focus on the usage, grammar, and mechanics of sentences. These questions ask you to correct sentence structure, grammar and usage, and punctuation.

How Hard Is the SAT Writing Test?

If you already have strong language skills and are familiar with the question types, you’re off to a great start. However, keeping up with the pace of the test may prove difficult as you have less than a minute to answer each question. Fortunately, through preparation, you will gain confidence and efficiency. Read our SAT writing study guide for expert tips on how to develop an effective study plan.

Is the SAT Writing Test harder than ACT English?

The SAT and ACT are different in many ways. The SAT Writing Test requires you to complete 44 questions in 35 minutes, whereas the ACT English Test gives you 45 minutes to answer 75 questions. The SAT Writing Test emphasizes your ability to improve content and interpret information from graphic data, while the ACT English section focuses more on grammar, idioms, and vocabulary. Which test is more difficult depends on where your competencies lie.

SAT Writing Test Review Tips

Here are a few tips to remember as you prepare for the test:

  1. Familiarize yourself with the test format: Before you start your SAT Writing Test prep, it’s important to familiarize yourself with the test format, topics, concepts, and scoring pattern.
  2. Save time wherever possible: Reading the entire passage is time-consuming. Review the questions first so you know exactly what to look for as you read the passage.
  3. Use the elimination method: If all four answer choices seem correct and you can’t find enough evidence to answer confidently, use the process of elimination.
  4. Practice as much as possible: Solving exam-like questions is the most effective way to improve your grammar and language usage. Try UWorld’s SAT Writing practice test and take your next steps towards your dream college!

By following these tips, you can boost your confidence and increase your chances of getting a good score.

Writing rules that students should be familiar with for the SAT Writing Test

Students must have a thorough knowledge of a number of writing conventions to be successful on the SAT Writing Test. Some specific grammar concepts that students must know include:

Must Know Grammar Concepts for SAT Writing test

Take time to understand these concepts. Practice identifying them, correcting errors, and improving clarity.

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Removing nonessential information that interrupts a subject and main verb

Frequently Answered Questions (FAQs)

The College Board® does not specify a minimum passing score. Try to aim higher than the most recent national average.

Average SAT Writing Test scores are published every year. Shoot higher than this. Ultimately, a good SAT Writing Test score depends on the standards of your desired college(s).

The highest possible SAT Writing Test score is 400, a perfect score for the Reading and Writing test score together is 800, and 1600 for the entire SAT.

The average score for the EBRW section was 529 in 2022.

The SAT Writing Test is not optional.

The SAT Writing Test is a required component of the SAT. Not only will colleges evaluate your critical thinking skills and readiness for higher education, but your score will also factor into your total SAT score and may help you win scholarships. The weight college admissions give to the SAT Writing Test varies. Check the official website of your prospective colleges to learn more about your desired college’s admission requirements.

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