The SAT writing portion of the test includes an essay portion and a section of multiple choice questions and answers. The time given to students to complete this portion of the SAT as a whole is 60 minutes. The students are given:
- 25 minutes to provide a response to the essay portion
- 35 minutes to complete the multiple choice portion
The essay portion is completed by writing a response to a given prompt and assignment. This portion tests the student’s writing skills when presented with a topic that must be supported by facts and opinion.
The multiple choice section tests an individual’s knowledge by evaluating how well they can improve sentences and paragraphs and identify errors. The errors found in the multiple choice section are errors that are common while writing, and include diction, grammar, sentence structure, subject-verb agreement, proper word usage, and wordiness errors.
SAT Reasoning Test
The SAT Reasoning Test was formerly known as the Scholastic Assessment Test and the Scholastic Aptitude Test. It was first developed by the Educational Testing Service and is currently developed and owned by the College Board. The Educational Testing Service still administers the test.
The test is designed to measure whether or not a student is ready for college. It takes around four and one half hours to take, which includes the breaks and orientation. The actual testing time is three hours and forty-five minutes.
The SAT Reasoning Test has three sections which measure the student’s knowledge of mathematics, grammar, sentence structure, and writing ability. The three sections of the test are:
- Mathematics - The mathematics section of the SAT Reasoning Test covers basic computation, geometry, and algebraic equations. There are questions where the use of a calculator is allowed.
- Critical Reading - The critical reading section tests comprehension by having students read a few paragraphs and answer questions about them. Sometimes the students answer questions that compare two passages.
- Writing - The writing section evaluates the student’s knowledge of proper English grammar and sentence formation. There are questions where the student must identify if a sentence is correctly written. Some questions ask the student to complete a sentence or improve it. There is also a short essay that is required.
Each section has a possibility of 800 points.
SAT Writing Section
If you are taking the SAT Reasoning Test soon, you may want to know about the SAT practice writing topics. The writing section of the test is about 70 percent on knowledge of grammar and sentence structure, with the remaining consisting of an essay.
- The first section is pretty straightforward, with 35 minutes to complete multiple choice questions having the student decide if sentences make sense or have grammatical errors in them. The errors are commonly found while writing and include diction, grammar, sentence structure, subject-verb agreement, proper word usage, and wordiness errors.
- The essay section is concerning to many students. In the essay section, the student is given a prompt. The prompt will cover a very broad subject and the student will reflect on it, develop a point of view, and then write the essay expressing his thoughts and opinions. The essay is designed to test writing capability, not the student’s knowledge of a particular subject. The essay is considered a rough draft, as there is only 25 minutes to complete it.
Writing the Essay
In the essay for the SAT Reasoning Test, you will be expected to effectively develop the main idea and offer clear examples. The essay should show excellent critical thinking skills that show logical reasoning. It should be well organized, with a smooth flow of the main points. Also needed is mastery of the English language.
For your information, here is a sample prompt from the SAT Reasoning Test:
Usually, people look to others around them—ordinary people—for their heroes. They define heroes as decent citizens who make sacrifices or try to make a difference. For example, people name streets after local war veterans, parks after teachers, bridges after local politicians. Rejecting historical, literary, or national figures as heroes, people tend to believe that anyone can be a hero. A hero does not have to be superhuman.
Assignment: Should ordinary people be considered heroes, or should the term "hero" be reserved for extraordinary people? Plan and write an essay in which you develop your point of view on this issue. Support your position with reasoning and examples taken from your reading, studies, experience, or observations.
Writing success on the SAT will be based on your ability to create outlines that help you organize their thoughts on paper, as well as your ability to compose your essay using the brainstorming points that you have laid out in your outlines. Having the opportunity to write from prompts on a regular basis, well in advance of the SAT, is very important for SAT writing success.
SAT Test Practice Writing Exercises
A list of links follows that show examples of actual questions faced during the completion of the writing portion of the SAT:
- Multiple Choice Questions - This site from University Language Services provides a list of multiple choice questions such as those which would be seen on the actual SAT in the reading or writing section. These questions will provide practice indentifying errors in sentence structure and grammar.
- Sample SAT Questions - This site from Undergradzone provides sample questions for all sections of the SAT including the writing section. Correct answers are provided and a short explanation is provided to explain why each answer was correct.
- Sentence Improvement Questions: This site provides actual sample questions to multiple choice questions that might be seen on the SAT multiple choice portion of the writing section. There are a total of ten questions here that address the topic of sentence improvement. Just as on the SAT, each question contains an underlined portion of a sentence and five possible answers, four of which are a revised version of the underlined words. After an answer is provided to each question, the correct answer is highlighted in green and a description is provided below to explain why the other choices were wrong and why the right choice is correct.
- Paragraph Improvement Questions: This site provides an example of an actual question that may be posed on the SAT paragraph improvement section. The site provides an example paragraph to be read. Lines of the paragraph are numbered in correspondence to the question asked. There are a total of ten sample questions and five suggested answers for each question. The user must select the correct choice to make the sentence better and improve the paragraph. After making a selection, the correct answer will be highlighted with a green box and an explanation will be provided as to why this was the best choice and the other choices were incorrect.
- Identifying Sentence Error Questions: This site provides ten specific questions that test knowledge of sentence structure. The user must read each sentence. Each part of the sentence where there may be a error present is underlined and labeled with a letter which corresponds to the first four answer choices. Answer Choice E is always "No Error." Users must identify the underlined word or words where the error exists and select their choice. If no errors exists, then make the selection that corresponds with that option. Once a choice has been made, the correct answer will be highlighted in green and an explanation is provided as to why portions of the sentence were correct or incorrect.
Writing Topics and Prompts
There are sites online that can give practice on all sections of the SAT Reasoning Test:
- Majortests has 11 tests to practice for the writing section and it has tips on how to write a good essay.
- Pro Profs has a full SAT practice test which includes three writing skills sections and one section for writing an essay.
- Sample Essay Prompts - This site from majortests provides a list of ten essay topics. The prompts and assignments for each topic are seen on the SAT test.
- Online Math Learning.com has actual essay prompts that were used on the SAT Reasoning Test.
- CollegeBoard has three prompts that were used on the SAT Reasoning Test in May 2013.