Can you really test writing on a multiple-choice test?

We’d say no, but ETS and The College Board seem to think the answer is yes. When you take the SAT Writing and Language Test, you will have 35 minutes to answer 44 multiple-choice questions that ask about a variety of grammatical and stylistic topics.

Grammar-phobe? Don’t panic! You can ace the SAT writing section by learning a few of our expert strategies.

Conquering the SAT writing section

Sample SAT Writing Question

This Writing & Language Test question comes straight from our book Cracking the SAT .


Language is a living [2] document shows how people think and communicate.


(A) NO CHANGE
(B) document it shows
(C) document that shows
(D) document, which showing

Here's How to Tackle It

Essentially, the SAT Writing Test is asking you to be an editor—to fix mistakes in sentences and passages and revise them to make them better.  But how are you supposed to pick an answer when there’s no explicit question? Follow these three strategies.

Check what’s changing in the answer choices.

The word “document” remains the same in each, but what comes after it changes each time. This question, then, seems to be asking, Which words will best link the two ideas in the sentence?

Learn from the answer choices.

The way we speak is often very different from the way we write. Use the answer choices to reveal mistakes that you might not otherwise have spotted (or heard) in the sentence.

Process of Elimination Does the Heavy Lifting

Once you have a sense of what the question is testing, Process of Elimination can get you closer and closer to the answer. Cross off just one or two wrong answers, and the correct answer becomes more obvious.

Answer: (C)

Choices (A) and (D) make the sentence incomplete, so those should be eliminated. Choice (B) creates a run-on sentence, so that should also be eliminated. Only (C) appropriately links the ideas without adding new errors.


Put these SAT Writing strategies to the test. Challenge yourself with these SAT practice questions.


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