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Introduction to the SAT Writing Test

A Few Words on the Multiple-Choice Writing Questions
The test writers refer to the three types of multiple-choice questions in the SAT Writing Test as "identifying sentence errors," "improving sentences," and "improving paragraphs." We'll refer to them collectively as "proofreading and editing questions" (or proofreading questions for short) because proofreading is what you're required to do.

Before we consider what grammar and writing topics are tested on these questions, here's what's not tested:

  • Spelling
  • Capitalization rules
  • Punctuation (though on a question or two you may need to decide which is required in a given sentence, a comma or a semicolon)
So what is tested on the proofreading questions? The good news is that five grammatical concepts account for more than half the difficult problems in this section! Here they are:
  • Idiom errors
  • Pronoun errors
  • Singular-plural errors
  • Comparison errors
  • Lack of parallel structure
All told a mere fourteen simple grammatical concepts are all you need to know to answer every single proofreading and editing question correctly. You're probably familiar with many of them already.

By the way, you'll be relieved to hear that you don't need to know all those formidable grammatical terms that strike terror in the hearts of students everywhere like gerund or subjunctive tense or past participle. We'll need a few simple grammatical terms to discuss the subject matter, of course, but if you have even a passing familiarity with the following words, you'll be fine:

  • noun
  • verb
  • pronoun
  • adverb
  • adjective
  • preposition
  • phrase
  • clause
  • subject
  • object
That's not so bad, is it? In the proofreading chapters we'll be covering these terms and everything else you need to answer the multiple-choice questions.

How the Multiple-Choice Section Will Be Scored
The multiple-choice writing questions are scored the same way the multiple-choice math or reading questions are scored. First, a "raw score" is calculated by subtracting those questions left blank (times 1.00) and those answered incorrectly (times 1.25) from the total number of questions in the section (45). For the mathematically inclined, here's the formula used to calculate your raw score on the multiple-choice writing questions:

Multiple-Choice Raw Score = 49 (1.00 x blanks) - (1.25 errors)

Notice that blanks do hurt your score in this section, just like they do in the multiple-choice math and reading sections. In fact, on the 200-800 writing scale, each blank you leave on a multiple-choice question lowers your eventual score by 10 points—10 points that you can never recover. So, if you've spent time on a question, be sure to put something down on your answer sheet even if you have to guess. (This ironclad rule applies throughout the entire test.)

As I mentioned earlier, this multiple-choice raw score accounts for two-thirds of your overall Writing Score.

Next, I'll discuss how your essay will be scored, and then I'll show you how your two writing section sub-scores are combined into a final 200-to-800 point score.



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From The RocketReview Revolution: The Ultimate Guide to the New SAT and the PSAT by Adam Robinson. Copyright © 2005. Used by arrangement with Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

If you'd like to buy this book, click here.


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