Last week, we talked about 5 ways to score higher in math, and this week we’ll take a look at how to do that in the writing section. It’s actually easier than it sounds! I used to personally loathe (hate) this section of the SAT. I would have anxiety dreams about it: a giant semicolon would be trying to eat me and my children (I don’t have children). As time went by, however, I found that there is no need to fear as there are concrete steps that you can take to ace this section of the SAT. Here are 5 tips to help you succeed on the writing section of the SAT:
1. Build an Essay Template
Building an essay template is the easiest way to ensure that your essay goes smoothly. This is not cheating! Essentially, an essay template is simply a reminder of the structure of a good essay, which always contains the same elements. For instance, a good introduction contains the following: A thesis, an acknowledgment of the opposition, a statement about why this topic matters, and the evidence that will be used to argue the thesis. By keeping the elements of a good essay in mind, the writing becomes easy! Here’s an example template.
“The assertion that [question asked] is supported/not supported by evidence in fiction and history time and again. Although there are those that would assert [opposition point of view] this view does not adequately examine the full spectrum of [topic]. [why topic is important]. Three illustrations of [topic] that exemplify[thesis] are [example 1] [example 2], and [example 3].”
With this intro, we are halfway done with our essay! From here, the only other things to keep is mind are that topic sentences must relate back to your thesis, and it’s important to show how the examples show the thesis instead of summarizing the example. Oh, and avoid personal anecdotes (stories). It’s not impossible to score well with personal anecdotes, but it is stronger to show that you can use concrete examples from different academic areas to support your ideas. Show how smart you are!
Let’s apply the remaining rules to two different examples of writing problems, shall we?
In the modern era, there is no leader in any industrialized country, taking into account that leaders today are far less powerful than in the past, whose scope match that of Russia’s prime minister.
2. Read Question To See If Errors Jump Out
On first look, there isn’t much that jumps out. I notice that it is a very long sentence and that there are a number of descriptive phrases. I consider this a clue! Test makers often hide subject/verb agreement issues, and a number of other issues, by throwing in a bunch of other stuff like prepositional phrases and descriptions. Let’s take them out and re-read.
3. Read Question Without Prepositional And Descriptive Phrases
When we remove the prepositional and descriptive phrases, we are left with: “There is no leader whose scope match that.”
Ah ha! The issue becomes much more clear. The verb “match” should be changed to “matches” so that is agrees with “no leader”. Hooray! Let’s look at a slightly trickier problem.
With a decline in the modern era of a certain type of primitive masculinity, there has been a resurgence with fictional characters that embody a classical form of maleness.
4. Avoid Passive Voice And Awkward Phrasings
After reading this sentence with and without prepositional and descriptive phrases, the answer still isn’t clear. The next two things to check are the passive voice and awkward phrases. Passive voice is, of course a reversal of normal sentence construction, often using the word “by”. For instance “The ball was thrown by John,” instead of the active “John threw the ball”. Passive voice isn’t always wrong, but it’s often stronger to put a sentence in the active voice. Regardless there aren’t any passive voice issues here. There also aren’t any of the classic indicators of awkward phrasing like “being”, “is because”, or sometimes “having been”. Let’s move on to our last step.
5. Check Idioms, Pronouns, And Modifiers
There aren’t any pronouns, and the introductory clause doesn’t seem out of place (and it isn’t underlined). This leaves only problems of idiom. These can be really tough to spot, but they aren’t impossible. These are generally problems with prepositions, specifically that a preposition doesn’t match the word that comes before it.
There are two phrases with prepositions in the underlined portion: “resurgence with” and “form of”. The phrase “form of” seems alright. You could put that in a different context and would sound fine: “Copying is just another form of flattery.” The phrase “resurgence with”, on the other hand, seems weird: “There has been a resurgence with new orders.” It should be “resurgence of new orders.” Voila! We have identified the idiomatic error!
This one was tough, but by no means impossible. If you use these steps to attack the writing section, nothing can stop you from getting a 700 or beyond on the writing portion of the SAT. YOU GOT THIS! Happy test conquering!
David Greenslade is a Veritas Prep SAT instructor based in New York. His passion for education began while tutoring students in underrepresented areas during his time at the University of North Carolina. After receiving a degree in Biology, he studied language in China and then moved to New York where he teaches SAT prep and participates in improv comedy. Read more of his articles here, including How I Scored in the 99th Percentile and How to Effectively Study for the SAT.