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SAT Writing Section - Things to know

Updated on 13 April, 2023

Mrinal Mandal

Mrinal Mandal

Study Abroad Expert

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Overview: SAT 

Originally known as Scholastic Aptitude Test, SAT is the widely acclaimed test that assesses students' ability to apply knowledge in the real world. SATs are the standard evaluation test to qualify for taking admission to colleges across the globe. Qualifying for the exam is beneficial for students to get esteemed scholarships and coveted jobs too. 

SATs are conducted by College Board seven times a year. The test determines students' proficiency in writing, reading, and comprehension in maths and English. 

Specifically, the exam gauges the applicants’ abilities through multiple choice questions in the three components of Reading, Writing and Language, and Math. Previously, the essay was an optional part of the assessment. However, only a few states administer SAT with the Essay component, comprising: 

  • Colorado 
  • New Hampshire
  • Illinois 
  • Oklahoma
  • Delaware
  • Michigan

It takes 3 hours to complete the English, Writing and Language and Maths assessment comprising 52, 44 and 58 questions, respectively. For each section, students get the allotted time of 65, 35 and 80 minutes each. 

Generally, the questions are multiple-choice. However, in the Maths section, the students might have to explain a few questions. 

Submitted tests are scored on a composite scale of 400 to 1600. The test scores are categorized into two main sections reading/writing and math. These sections weigh 800 and are combined to get an overall SAT score. 

Overview of Writing Test 

The SAT writing and language assessment follows an evidence-based pattern for checking students’ expertise. It comprises 44 multiple-choice questions, including four passages with 11 questions in each segment. The students must complete the language and SAT writing section within 35 minutes. 

The passages in the SAT writing section carry a range of questions requiring identifying the presented paragraphs' mistakes, weaknesses, and patterns. The complexity of the questions varies from one topic to another. 

Section in Detail: Syllabus 

The content and format in SAT writing section carry both simple and complicated passages. Usually, the length of these passages ranges around 400-450 words. The format can be narrative or argumentative. Additionally, some passages can include interpretative content like charts, graphs etc., to be analyzed along with the written part. 

The aim of the passages is to observe the student's critical and analytical ability. The Language and Writing test covers a huge range of topics, such as:

  • History 
  • Fictional and Non-Fictional literature
  • Humanities
  • Science
  • Career and Work 
  • Social Studies 

The questions focus on improving the expression and identifying the correct grammar usage, punctuation, and sentence structure. 

Enhancing the Expression 

These kinds of question target the enhancement of the quality of the message included in the passage. They can be either development-centered, organization-focused, or language-based. 

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Development Centered Questions 

These questions revolve around the passage's main idea, including thesis statements and topic clauses. To answer these questions, the students have to identify supporting information and quantitative details by reading charts, graphs, and tables. 

Organization Focused Questions 

These questions check the students’ critical ability by interpreting introductions, transitions, and conclusions. They are framed with a focus on the logical placement of the information provided. 

Language-Based Questions 

These kinds of questions improve the flow and precision of the paragraphs. They target style, tone, wordiness, and sentence structure to acquire the effect through appropriate emphasis. 

Usage of Grammar 

These questions require the students to correct the usage of grammar. They check students' expertise based on technical grammar rule applications involving word order, capitalization, syntax, punctuation, and spelling. These questions can revolve around correcting subject-verb agreement, positioning commas, correcting errors, etc. 

SAT Writing Section Scoring

Since scoring well on SATs give an edge to students applying for undergraduate courses, it's important to focus on all the elements forming the final score. 

The SAT writing section is scored on a scale of 200 to 800. 

The SAT writing score chart comprises top-line scores along with additional sets based on the performance in skill and subject portions in the test. Along with the main score, the assessment also includes 40 points in the writing component for test scores and cross-test scores each. Moreover, the test also carries subscores of 15 points for analyzing the strengths and weaknesses of students in different skill and subject categories. 

The cross-test marks provide insight into the candidate's understanding of topics in science, history, and social science categories. At the same time, the subscores offer an understanding of the technical proficiency in English grammar.

Sample Question and Answers 

Passage A: 

Dong Kingman: Renowned Painter of Popular Cities

 A 1954 documentary about famous watercolor painter Dong Kingman portrays the artist immersed in his work on Mott Street in Chinatown of New York City. People gathered around to admire Kingman taking colors out of his tin watercolor [1] box, using a few basic colors, Kingman paints dozens of serene hues as he gradually layers the translucent paint onto the paper that he has placed on his easel.  

Question 1:


B) box, using a few basic colors

C) box. Using a few basic colors,

D) box using a few basic colors, 

Question type: Sentence Structure 

Explanation: Choice B is the right answer because it provides punctuation

to construct a grammatically complete and standard sentence. 

Passage B: 

For wool dyeing,  the weaver Lillie Taylor from Navajo (Diné) utilizes plants and some vegetable variants growing in Arizona, where she resides. For instance, in 2003, she created the darker hues of reds and browns used in her popular rug called 'In the Path of the Four Seasons' from dock roots found in Arizona by drying them first and then grinding them in a powdered form. Thereafter she mixed the powder with water to formulate a blend of colors for dyeing the wool. To make the colors more intense, Taylor occasionally blends in clay acquired from Arizona soil.

Question 1: Which choice best captures the primary idea of the text?

A) Reds and browns are not commonly found in Taylor's rugs.

B) Colors and unique techniques made 'In the Path of the Four Seasons' widely popular.

C) Taylor searches for local resources to create dye for wool.

D) Taylor finds it tricky to look for Arizona dock roots in the desert. 

Question Type: Information and Ideas

Explanation:  Choice C is the most suitable answer. The passage emphasizes that Lillie Taylor utilizes resources like plants and vegetables to make dyes for wool in Arizona. 

How to Improve SAT Writing Score? 

The candidates keep pondering ‘how to get 800 on SAT Writing?" since it's essential for admission to a good college. Here is the top SAT writing tips that every candidate must abide by to enhance their score: 

  • Don’t forget to assess your strengths and weaknesses using the previous ears’ questions. 
  • Use the test papers to devise the revision schedule as per the weak areas.
  • Map out the areas where you need to put extra effort by analyzing the answers from the solved SAT question papers. 
  • Practice test papers simultaneously in an environment free from distractions.
  • Prepare for different skills by opting for practice sets with specific section-centric questions.

Frequently Asked Questions

What does SAT Writing section comprise?

SAT Writing section consists of 44 questions in multiple choices formats. The 35-minute long test gauges the candidate's ability to look for errors and weak structure in the given passages depending on grammatical rules. 

What is the syllabus of SAT Writing?

The SAT writing section contains questions about history, social studies, humanities, careers, and science. Based on these themes, test questions are framed from which candidates have to recognize flaws and erroneous grammatical usages.

What are the types of questions on SAT Writing?

The questions in SAT writing come from two categories: enhancement of expression and usage of grammar. In the expression question type, the candidate must detect the central theme, logical sentence sequences, and tonality of the content. In grammatical usages, the candidates are expected to identify the wrong use in structure and syntax.

What are the SAT Writing rules for taking tests?

The SAT Writing rules require the candidates to finish the test within 35 minutes. There are no negative marks for picking the wrong answers. Candidates can make an informed guess instead of leaving the answers blank. 

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Mrinal Mandal

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