The Scholastic Aptitude Test Writing & Language section will test your skill in reading comprehension, your mastery of the English language and rhetorical conventions. It will ask you to think critically about the passages you read and what they are saying. This can be a challenging part of the test, but it can be prepared for. In this blog, we’ll look at what’s covered on the SAT writing and language test, what strategies you can use to get a good SAT score and practice passages, questions and answers to help you study!

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SAT Writing & Language: What’s On It? SAT Writing & Language Study and Question Strategies SAT Writing & Language Sample Passages, Questions and Answers FAQs

Scholastic Aptitude Test Writing & Language Exam: What’s On It?

The Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) Writing & Language is the second “test” or section of the SAT. This part of the SAT asks you to use your critical thinking, reading comprehension and knowledge of the English language and rhetorical conventions to answer questions about complex passages.

The passages will be a varying level of challenging, and cover a wide variety of topics from science, humanities, social sciences, history and careers.

How many questions are on the SAT?

The SAT writing and language test consists of 44 multiple-choice questions and 4 text passages between 400-450 words. Each passage asks you to answer 11 multiple-choice questions about the passage.

How long is the SAT?

You will have 35 minutes to complete this section of the SAT. This averages out to just under a minute per question—around 48 seconds! This can be a little intimidating for first-time test-takers. Fortunately, there are only 4 short passages for you to read, and there are ways to improve your SAT reading comprehension, including familiarizing yourself with the SAT words and high-level vocabulary used on the test.

Types of SAT Writing and Language Questions

The SAT writing test includes 3 different types of passages. At least one of the passages will be a narrative nonfiction passage. The other 3 will be either argumentative or informational. Some of the passages may also include charts, infographics or graphs you need to interpret alongside the text.

  • Narrative – Describes events in a chronological or logical way. For example a historical account or description of a scientific experiment.
  • Argumentative – The passage presents a persuasive argument, backed up with evidence or subpoints.
  • Informational – The passage presents information on a topic in a logical and explanatory way.

There are 2 main types of questions on the SAT writing test: Expression of Ideas and Standard English Conventions.

Digital SAT: Writing and Language Section

In the Digital SAT version, the SAT writing and language and the Scholastic Aptitude Test Reading section have been combined.

This version presents you with short text passages, or pairs of passages, between 25 and 100 words. The texts may include materials from the subject areas of literature, history/social studies, the humanities, and science.

The types of questions you can expect from this version of the SAT writing test are as follows, per the College Board:

  1. Information and Ideas -- These types of questions rely on your reading comprehension, logical reasoning and ability to analyze text passages to find the correct answers. You may also use informational graphics (tables, bar graphs, and line graphs) provided to support your answers.
  2. Craft and Structure -- For these questions, you will need to evaluate text passages from a rhetorical standpoint or make connections between a pair of text passages. They will often use high-level vocabulary and rhetorical devices in the context of the text.
  3. Expression of Ideas -- To answers these questions, you'll be asked to revise or improve text passages to better express a point or to meet specific rhetorical goals.
  4. Standard English Conventions -- These questions ask you to identify and correct errors in sentence structure, usage, mechanics or punctuation.

If you’re still deciding whether to take the SAT or ACT, review both versions of the SAT, determine which one you will need to take and whether it is the better fit for you.

SAT Writing & Language Study and Question Strategies

To know how to study for the SAT writing test, there are a few strategies you can use that will help you better prepare for this section. We’ll cover these next:

#1 Read everything!

Reading SAT practice is one of the best ways to prepare for this section. It will help you improve your reading comprehension and understanding of the texts on the SAT, as well as expand your vocabulary. Try reading many sample passages in the subject areas covered on the test, such as science, history and literature. Remember, it’s about understanding what you read and being able to identify strong arguments, proper grammar and effective use of words. You don’t need to memorize everything about the subjects you read!

#2 Use Practice questions

Practice questions or SAT practice tests are some of the best ways to apply what you’re studying and get familiar with the SAT writing question types. Use a variety of different practice questions with different difficulty levels to test yourself. Review your answers and note down which ones you answered correctly or incorrectly. From there, determine why an answer was correct or incorrect so you understand what the correct answers is and why.

#3 Review grammar and rhetorical concepts

This part of the SAT primarily relies on your ability to understand what you’re reading and apply the rules of grammar or rhetorical writing to the passages and questions. It’s a good idea to review the English grammar conventions, including punctuation, sentence structure and mechanics, word usage and spelling. Reviewing rhetorical writing concepts and how they are used is also a good place to start so you can understand how arguments are formed and supported in a text.

To prepare yourself for the SAT, you may also consider hiring an SAT tutor. A tutor can help you craft a personalized SAT schedule, identify which areas of the SAT writing test content are a struggle for you and how to improve the required skills you need to ace this section.

Scholastic Aptitude Test Writing & Language: Sample Passages, Questions and Answers

Below we’ve included some SAT writing test sample passages, questions and answers for you to practice with! Don’t forget to check out some SAT Reading practice questions and SAT Math practice questions during your studying, too.

SAT Writing & Language Sample Passage #1

Literary analysis is a crucial skill in the study of humanities. When examining classic works of literature, students often grapple with complex themes, character motivations, and figurative language. Proficiency in this area can enhance their appreciation of the arts.

Understanding literary works requires students to dissect the text, examining the author's choice of words, sentence structures, and literary devices. This analytical approach reveals deeper layers of meaning. It uncovers the symbolism, metaphors, and allegories that authors employ to convey their messages. Such insights transform reading from a passive activity into an engaging exploration of human expression.

Moreover, the ability to express one's interpretations and ideas clearly is equally important. It's not enough to recognize symbolism; students must articulate why it matters and how it contributes to the overall narrative. Articulating their thoughts fosters critical thinking and communication skills, both of which are highly valuable.

Consider, for example, a student reading William Golding's "Lord of the Flies." Beyond recognizing the symbolism of the conch shell, the student must convey how it represents order and civility and how its decline parallels the deterioration of the boys' society. Articulating these ideas in essays or class discussions is where expression of ideas comes into play.

In summary, proficiency in literary analysis is a gateway to deeper appreciation of the humanities. It involves not only recognizing literary elements but also effectively conveying their significance. This skill equips students to engage more profoundly with the arts and to communicate their insights eloquently.

SAT Writing & Language Sample Passage #2

The American Civil War, a defining moment in U.S. history, had profound social and political implications. While the war ended in 1865, its reverberations continue to shape the nation's identity. The complex nature of the conflict is a testament to the challenges faced during reconstruction.

The American Civil War, fought from 1861 to 1865, remains one of the most significant events in U.S. history. The war was rooted in deep-seated divisions over issues like slavery, state sovereignty, and the preservation of the Union. While it concluded in 1865 with the surrender of the Confederate forces, its aftermath was far from simple.

The process of reconstruction, which aimed to rebuild the Southern states and integrate formerly enslaved individuals into society, was marred by political turmoil and violence. The fight over civil rights and racial equality persisted long after the war's end. This tumultuous period shaped the United States' social and political landscape for decades to come.

Understanding the American Civil War requires a nuanced perspective. It was not merely a military conflict but a crucible for societal change. Its legacies, both positive and negative, still influence contemporary debates over race, equality, and the role of the federal government.

SAT Writing & Language Sample Passage #3

In today's competitive job market, a well-crafted resume is vital. It should not only list your qualifications but also highlight your unique skills. Additionally, proofreading for grammar and spelling errors is equally essential.

Your resume serves as your professional introduction to potential employers. It's your opportunity to make a strong first impression. To maximize its impact, a resume should be concise, informative, and tailored to the specific job you're applying for.

Effective resumes do more than provide a laundry list of qualifications. They showcase your unique skills and experiences, demonstrating what sets you apart from other candidates. This can be achieved through a combination of strategic wording and formatting. Highlighting your achievements, both in previous roles and in academic or extracurricular pursuits, can grab the attention of hiring managers.

However, a poorly edited resume can sabotage your efforts. Grammar and spelling errors reflect poorly on your attention to detail and professionalism. They can signal to employers that you may not take your work seriously. To avoid this, proofread your resume meticulously. Consider seeking the input of peers or professionals to catch any overlooked mistakes.

In summary, crafting an effective resume requires attention to detail, a focus on unique qualifications, and meticulous proofreading. A well-presented resume can open doors in the competitive job market.

SAT Writing & Language Sample Passage #4

The study of history and the humanities often delves into the complex interplay of ideas, cultures, and societies across time. It's a discipline that examines human experiences, exploring the factors that have shaped our world, from ancient civilizations to contemporary societies.

Historians and scholars in the humanities immerse themselves in primary sources, from ancient manuscripts to modern-day literature, seeking to uncover the motivations and perspectives of those who lived in different eras. This process requires the ability to synthesize a vast amount of information, recognize patterns, and draw meaningful conclusions.

One significant aspect of this endeavor is the study of cultural artifacts, such as artworks, sculptures, and architecture. These creations are more than aesthetic expressions; they provide insight into the values, beliefs, and technologies of the times in which they were produced. A careful examination of a Renaissance painting, for instance, can reveal not only artistic techniques but also the intellectual and social currents of that era.

Moreover, the humanities foster critical thinking and empathy. When studying history and literature, students encounter diverse perspectives and worldviews. They learn to understand and appreciate the experiences of people from different cultures, periods, and circumstances. This ability to empathize and analyze complex ideas is invaluable in navigating an interconnected and diverse world.

In conclusion, the study of history and the humanities is a multidimensional exploration of the human experience. It involves a deep analysis of primary sources, the interpretation of cultural artifacts, and the development of critical thinking and empathy. Through this discipline, we gain a richer understanding of the past and present, as well as the complexities of human society.

SAT Writing & Language Sample Passage #5

Effective communication in the workplace is paramount. Clear and concise writing, as well as proper grammar and spelling, are crucial for conveying your ideas accurately.

Emails are a common form of business communication. They should be well-structured, using proper punctuation and grammar. For example, when sending a professional email, always start with a salutation and end with a polite closing. Furthermore, ensure that your subject line is informative and relevant.

In addition to emails, you might be required to write reports, memos, or proposals. These documents should follow a consistent format and use appropriate language. Always proofread your work to correct errors. Grammar mistakes can detract from your professionalism and may lead to misunderstandings.

One of the most common grammar errors is subject-verb agreement. It is essential that the subject and verb in a sentence match in terms of number. For instance, "The team are working" is incorrect; it should be "The team is working."

Spelling mistakes can also diminish your credibility. Utilize spell-checking tools, but don't rely solely on them. Sometimes, words can be spelled correctly but used inappropriately, as in "there" and "their."

In conclusion, effective communication at work hinges on proper grammar, spelling, and writing style. Maintaining clarity and professionalism in your written communication is essential for career success.

SAT Writing & Language Sample Passage #6

Scientific writing is unique in that it demands precision and clarity. Scientific documents, such as research papers, must adhere to specific conventions to ensure that the information is conveyed accurately and transparently.

One of the critical aspects of scientific writing is the proper use of units of measurement. Using consistent units throughout a document is imperative to prevent confusion. For instance, mixing metric and imperial units in the same paper can lead to misunderstandings. Choose one system and stick to it.

Scientific language can also be challenging. Avoid unnecessary jargon and overly complex terms, especially when writing for a broader audience. It's vital to strike a balance between precision and accessibility. Define any technical terms the first time you use them.

Another frequent error is in the use of tenses. When describing established scientific facts or universal truths, use the present tense. For example, "Water boils at 100 degrees Celsius at sea level." However, when discussing research you conducted, use the past tense, such as, "The experiment showed that the hypothesis was correct."

The proper citation of sources is a non-negotiable requirement. Plagiarism is unacceptable in scientific writing. Cite your sources accurately and consistently. Different scientific fields have distinct citation styles, so ensure you're using the correct one.

Lastly, grammar and punctuation errors can detract from your scientific work. Misplaced commas or inconsistent verb forms can confuse readers. Always proofread your work for these issues.

In summary, precision and clarity are paramount in scientific writing. Correct usage of units of measurement, avoiding excessive jargon, maintaining proper tense, citing sources accurately, and ensuring grammatical accuracy are essential components of effective scientific communication.

SAT Writing & Language Sample Passage #7

Historical research relies heavily on the examination of primary sources. These documents, artifacts, and accounts provide insight into the past. To be a competent historian, you must navigate the complexities of historical records and correctly interpret their meaning.

Primary sources include diaries, letters, official records, and artifacts. Analyzing these materials requires attention to detail. You must consider the context in which they were created and the author's perspective. Additionally, the authenticity of primary sources is paramount; forgeries and misattributions can lead to inaccurate historical narratives.

Additionally, proper citation is essential. When quoting or referencing primary sources, use an appropriate citation style. Different historical disciplines favor specific citation formats, such as Chicago, MLA, or APA. Be consistent in your citations to avoid confusion.

Furthermore, avoiding anachronistic language is vital. Anachronisms occur when you use terms or concepts that did not exist during the period you're studying. For instance, describing a medieval castle as "medieval" is redundant; it should suffice to say "castle." Such language errors can compromise your credibility as a historian.

A significant aspect of historical writing is maintaining objectivity. Avoid presenting personal biases or opinions as historical facts. Your interpretations should be based on evidence and research. When discussing historical controversies or debates, acknowledge different perspectives and provide a balanced assessment.

Lastly, when it comes to historical grammar and mechanics, ensure that your writing is clear and precise. Ambiguous or convoluted sentences can impede comprehension. Proofreading for spelling and grammar errors is critical to maintaining the quality of your historical work.

In conclusion, the meticulous examination of primary sources, correct citation, avoidance of anachronisms, objectivity, and attention to grammar and mechanics are vital components of proficient historical research and writing.


1. What does the SAT writing and language test?

The SAT writing and language test evaluates your skill in reading comprehension and critical thinking, your ability to recognize and correct standard conventions in English and your ability to recognize and improve rhetorical writing. 

2. How do I prepare for the SAT writing and language section?

To prepare for the Scholastic Aptitude Test Writing & Language section, it’s important to read widely and read broadly on some of the topics that will be covered on the test. It’s also wise to review standard English grammar conventions, rhetorical writing concepts and practice using sample passages and questions to apply your studying.

3. How hard is the SAT?

The SAT is challenging, but not impossible. Many students may choose to write the ACT instead of the SAT, or may choose to apply only to colleges that do not require the SAT. If you’re wondering whether you should take the SAT, check what the requirements are and review the content of both tests before making a decision.

4. Do I need to write an essay for the SAT?

The SAT includes a 50-minute optional essay. It is not required to write this essay to complete the test, and it is unscored.

5. Is the SAT writing or reading harder?

It may depend on the individual student. Both sections require strong reading comprehension, a grasp of the SAT’s vocabulary and a firm understanding of both the English language and rhetorical concepts.

6. What type of passages are on the SAT writing?

The SAT writing passages may cover topics from careers to social sciences, history, science and literature.

7. What type of questions are on the SAT writing?

There are two types of questions on the SAT writing test: Expression of Ideas and Standard English Conventions. The first asks you to improve the ideas or expression of arguments in the text passage. The second question type will ask you to correct incorrect grammar, usage or sentence mechanics in a text passage.

8. How many times I can take the SAT?

How many times can you take the SAT? There is no limit to the number of times you can take the SAT. However, colleges may all have a different policy when it comes to SAT scores. Some colleges will view only your highest SAT score, and others may look at all your SAT scores from all attempts. How your scores are considered in admissions is up to each individual school.

When choosing your SAT test dates you will want to consider when SAT scores are released, what your college application deadlines are and whether you want to give yourself time for a re-test.

To your success,

Your friends at BeMo

BeMo Academic Consulting

Source: College Board SAT Suite of Assessments

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