Error Types on the SAT Writing Section (Part 1)
On the SAT Writing section, it’s important that you know what type of grammar error is being tested the moment you look at the answer choices. If you have not gotten to this level, you haven’t studied enough for the Writing Section. Sure, you can sound it out and probably get a decent score. But that’s not how high scorers think. The English language does have many rules and idiosyncrasies. However, the SAT cannot test you on all of that. There are only certain things it can test you on and by memorizing these error types, you can start to recognize the pattern that shows up on this section.
First, there are four main errors that I see throughout the four passages. They are
I usually see at least 3 of these error types on any single passage. The first one is “Transitions,” which I have broken down into two types. A regular transition question asks you to determine what is the best way to go from one sentence to the next. It asks you to choose between answer choices such as “Therefore,” “For Instance,” “Instead,” etc. In some way, this is also a vocab question. Thus, during your studies, if you run into a transition you don’t know, write down the definition. The second of the transition question type is “Combining Sentences.” These are the questions that have a long portion of the passage underlined and it’s asking you to find the best way to combine the sentences. I categorized this under “Transitions” because it’s important for you to determine the flow of the two sentences. Some transition words may be used, but main you’re looking for answer choices that keep the flow AND original meaning of the sentences.
The second main error type is “Placement.” This error type will usually ask you for the correct placement of a sentence and in rarer cases, the placement of a paragraph. This question is not necessarily harder, but it takes more time. As a result, you should skip it if you’re the type who runs out of time. It’s better to spend the time on two extra questions as opposed to spending it on this one question. For those of you seeking to get a perfect score, it comes down to looking at context clues. While this explanation might seem vague, that is the essence of it. There is more, but for lack of space, I won’t elaborate on it here.
The third main error type is the “Add/Delete” questions. These questions will give you a phrase and ask you if it should be added to the sentence. Another version will reference an underlined portion and ask you if it should be deleted. Overall, they’re essentially the same question. When you run into this error type, ask yourself these two questions:
1) Is this new information?
2) Is it relevant to the paragraph?
The first question is rather easy to answer. Does this “addition” provide you with new knowledge? If so, it’s not redundant info. The harder part is knowing whether this is relevant or not. Notice that it should be relevant to the paragraph, not to the passage, which gives it a narrower perspective. To determine the answer, read the first line of the paragraph and then read around the sentence in question from the passage. That should be enough to help you determine if it’s relevant. If you answer “yes” to both questions, eliminate the “no” answers and you now have a 50/50 chance of getting the problem correct.
Lastly, almost every passage will have a “Diction” question. These questions will ask you about word choice. You can tell you’ve run into these questions because they give you four word options and they all kind of mean the same thing. However, there are subtle differences that make one word better than the other three. In this way, the SAT still retains their hard vocab element of older versions.
That’s it. Today, I went over the four main error types on the SAT Writing Section. For part 2, I’ll go over the smaller miscellaneous error types that are sprinkled throughout the whole section.