General Strategies on Prepping for SAT Writing and Language

Studying grammar can be a pain. Punctuation? Subject-Verb agreement? Clausal errors? If you’re already shaking your head, don’t worry! Once you learn some key strategies, you’ll find that the SAT Writing and Language test isn’t so bad.

One of the best ways to prepare for the SAT Writing & Language test is to organize your preparation into three parts. Start your prep by understanding the structure of the SAT Writing & Language test. After that, master grammar rules and learn specific strategies. Finally, focus on pacing and endurance.

To get you started, here are some general strategies you can use to prep for the SAT Writing and Language test.


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Part One: Get to Know the Test

When it comes to test prep, it’s important to know test format inside and out. That way, you’ll be more relaxed. Here are some key facts about the SAT Writing & Language test:

  • The SAT Writing & Language test is the second section you’ll encounter (SAT Reading is the first).
  • You’re given 35 minutes to tackle 44 questions that are distributed among four passages.
  • There are two question types you’ll encounter:
    • Grammar: these questions will test your knowledge of grammar rules.
    • Essay editing: these questions will focus on identifying the best transition word between sentences, adding or deleting sentences, and more.
    • Keep in mind that some of the passages have graphs—you’ll also be asked about the data in these graphs.

Besides familiarizing yourself with the test structure, it’s also good to know that one of the main challenges of the SAT Writing & Language test is its placement in the context of the SAT as a whole. The first section you’ll encounter is SAT Reading, for which you’re given 65 minutes. You’re then given just 35 minutes for SAT Writing & Language. As long as you know that the change in the time allotted is basically cut in half, you can anticipate and prepare for this challenge.

Part Two: Master Grammar and Develop Your Favorite Strategies

When it comes to the SAT Writing & Language test, you’ll need to master grammar and develop strategies for tackling questions that ask you to edit the featured passage.

It sounds intimidating to learn grammar, but here’s a step you can take to make this process easier: take a SAT Writing & Language test without any prep. Go through and see which grammar questions you missed. Keep a running list of each question type. You can then see which areas are weak and review just those areas. For example, let’s say you’re strong at pronoun agreement but weak at punctuation. Save time by focusing your energy on punctuation since you’re already awesome at pronoun agreement!

Here’s a sample list of the general types of grammar questions you’ll encounter:

  • Punctuation
  • Sentence Clauses
  • Parallel List Structure
  • Subject-Verb Agreement
  • Verb Tense
  • Pronoun Agreement

Once you master grammar, focus on the question types that ask you to edit the essay. See if there’s a pattern. If so, focus on mastering that question type.

A general strategy you can use for questions related to editing the essay is to identify the paragraph’s main idea. By identifying the main idea, you can determine if a question’s proposed edit supports the paragraph. If not, you can eliminate that answer choice until you find one that does support the main idea.

Part Three: Work on Pacing

Be sure to initially focus on accuracy before adding pacing. Once you have decent accuracy on practice questions, you can start timing yourself.

Start working on pacing by timing how long it takes for you to complete an individual passage. Based off this initial time, you can see how much you need to speed up. For the SAT Writing & Language passages, you’ll want to complete each passage in about 8.5 minutes. Once you have individual passage timing down, you can start timing how long it takes for you to do two passages and go from there. For instance, give yourself 17 minutes to complete two passages. Add more passages to build your endurance for a full-length SAT Writing  Language test.


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