The Best SAT Strategies for the Writing Section: Your Comprehensive Guide

The Best SAT Strategies for the Writing Section: Your Comprehensive Guide

The SAT, a standardized test used for college admissions in the United States, is a rite of passage for many high school students. Its purpose is to measure a student's readiness for college and provide colleges with one common data point that can be used to compare all applicants. The Writing and Language Test, one section of the SAT, is a crucial component that assesses your ability to understand written text, identify errors, and correct grammatical mistakes.

In this blog post, we'll delve into some of the best strategies to approach the SAT Writing section. We'll also provide detailed examples to help you understand these strategies in practice. Whether you're just starting your SAT prep or fine-tuning your skills, these strategies will be beneficial.

1. Understand the Structure

Before we dive into the strategies, let's briefly discuss the structure of the SAT Writing section. This section consists of 44 multiple-choice questions to be completed in 35 minutes. The questions are based on passages, and each passage is accompanied by a set of questions.

The SAT Writing section tests your understanding of three broad categories:

  • Command of Evidence: Can you improve the way passages develop information and ideas?

  • Words in Context: Can you choose words or phrases to make sentences more precise or concise? Can you maintain the tone of an essay?

  • Standard English Conventions: Do you know the rules of grammar, usage, and punctuation?

2. Read the Entire Passage

Although it might be tempting to jump directly to the questions, one of the most effective strategies is to read the entire passage first. This gives you a complete understanding of the context, tone, and purpose of the passage. By understanding the author's intent, you'll be better equipped to answer the questions accurately.

For instance, consider this excerpt:

"The turtle, unhurried and unbothered, slowly moved across the sandy beach. It was a tortoise, not a hare, yet it had a destination in mind and was steadfast in its approach."

If a question asks you to replace the word "unbothered" with an alternative, without understanding the entire context, you might choose a word that doesn't quite fit.

3. Learn Your Grammar Rules

Grammar forms the backbone of the SAT Writing section. It's essential to have a strong grasp of English grammar rules, including but not limited to subject-verb agreement, pronoun-antecedent agreement, parallelism, and punctuation.

Take, for example, the sentence: "Either my brother or his friends is responsible for the mess." This sentence might seem incorrect because "friends" is plural, but the rule of subject-verb agreement in the context of "either/or" or "neither/nor" constructions states that the verb should agree with the subject closer to it. Therefore, the sentence is, in fact, grammatically correct.

4. Know the Difference Between Concision and Clarity

The SAT Writing section often tests your ability to make sentences more precise and concise. While it's generally good to remove unnecessary words, never sacrifice clarity for conciseness.

Consider the sentence: "The scientist made a determination that the results of the experiment were inconclusive." A more concise version could be: "The scientist determined that the experiment's results were inconclusive." This version conveys the same information but in a more direct and efficient way.

5. Practice, Practice, Practice

The old adage "practice makes perfect" is especially true for the SAT. Regular practice will help you familiarize yourself with the types of questions asked and the specific skills tested. Make use of SAT practice tests, prep apps, and resources to hone your skills. One of the most comprehensive guides we recommend is the PrepScholar's Complete Guide to SAT Writing. This guide, created by experienced tutors, thoroughly dissects the SAT Writing section, covering high-level ideas about the test, grammar skills you need to master, and strategies for approaching SAT Writing questions. This guide can be used as a walkthrough of the SAT Writing section and is excellent for practicing the skills explained within it​1​.

Several specific topics covered in this guide are:

  • Understanding the unique structure of the SAT Writing test.

  • Reading the SAT Writing passages effectively to save time and improve your answers.

  • The 12 most important grammar rules that appear on the test.

  • Improving word choice and syntax in sentences.

  • Choosing evidence to support your answers and ensuring they accurately reflect the information in the passage.

  • Tips and tricks for organization questions, where you must decide where to place a certain sentence or paragraph in a passage.

  • Figuring out whether to add or delete a sentence from a passage.

  • Understanding how often the "No Error" option is the correct answer​1​.

The guide also includes detailed information on specific grammar and punctuation skills that are tested in the SAT Writing section. Some of these are:

  • A complete summary of every possible grammatical structure you can encounter in the SAT Writing.

  • Important rules for punctuation such as commas, colons, and dashes.

  • The correct usage of apostrophes.

  • Understanding word choice and diction errors.

  • Using the correct transitional words to connect different ideas.

  • Identifying sentence fragments and run-on sentences.

  • Recognizing and correcting wordiness and redundancy.

  • Understanding and correcting verb tenses and forms.

  • Addressing subject-verb agreement issues.

  • Ensuring pronoun agreement​1​.

This comprehensive guide is a great starting point, and combining it with consistent practice can drastically improve your performance in the SAT Writing section.

6. Time Management

Given that you have 35 minutes to answer 44 questions, time management is crucial for the SAT Writing section. You roughly have 45 seconds for each question, which includes reading the question, finding the relevant part of the passage, and deciding on the best answer.

To manage your time effectively, focus on answering questions you're confident about first. If a question seems particularly challenging, skip it and return to it later if time permits. This way, you can ensure that you're not sacrificing potential points on easier questions by spending too much time on the more difficult ones.

7. Eliminate Wrong Answer Choices

Another effective strategy for the SAT Writing section is to eliminate wrong answer choices. Often, you can eliminate one or two options that are clearly incorrect. This increases your chances of choosing the right answer. For instance, if a question asks you to identify a grammatical error in a sentence, and you know that two of the options are grammatically correct, you can eliminate these choices and focus on the remaining options.

8. Beware of 'No Change' Answers

One of the answer choices for every question in the SAT Writing section is "No Change". While it's possible that "No Change" is the correct answer, don't automatically choose this option without carefully considering the other choices. The 'No Change' option is correct approximately 25% of the time, so make sure to scrutinize all options before making a decision.


The SAT Writing section can seem daunting, but with the right strategies and plenty of practice, you can master it. Understanding the structure of the test, reading the entire passage, learning your grammar rules, knowing the difference between concision and clarity, practicing regularly, managing your time effectively, eliminating wrong answer choices, and being cautious about '

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