How to Improve Score on SAT Writing Section

To score high on the SAT Writing section, planning and organization are key for the essay while your ears are your most valuable tools for identifying errors.

SAT Writing Multiple Choice

The best way to identify sentence errors and improve sentences and paragraphs is to go with what sounds better. You don’t have to know why it’s wrong. You just have to know what is wrong, so to prepare for this section, you need to train your ears. Read SAT-level material, such as The Wall Street Journal, consistently, and you’ll be surprised at how much work your sub-conscious does for you.

SAT Essay

You only get 25 minutes to write a well-developed essay with evidence to back up all of your statements. Many will be tempted to read the prompt and go straight to writing, but not you, because you know better than that. Because you have such little time to write a good essay, you need to take a few minutes after you read the prompt to carefully plan your approach.

Make an Outline for Your Essay

The first thing you need to do is decide what side you’re going to take. Do you agree with the statement in the prompt? Disagree? Make sure you make it clear what side you’re supporting. Second, quickly make an outline. Write what you’ll put in the introduction, the body, and the conclusion. Write what points you are going to make and what evidence you are going to use to support.

Follow Your Essay Outline

Once you have your plan, you’ll be ready to write. Unlike the foolish SAT test-takers, you’ll have your plan right in front of you, so your essay will flow better and have well-supported ideas.

 

How to Improve SAT Critical Reading Section Score

To score high on the SAT Critical Reading section, you need to be used to reading SAT-level material and lots of it. You also need to know that SAT reading isn’t casual reading nor is it the textbook reading you do for school. When you’re reading for the SAT, you have to read actively and understand the main idea of each passage. What you don’t need to do is memorize every detail.

Read SAT Passages Actively

As you are reading, ask yourself questions about the passage. What is passage’s main idea? What style is the author writing in? Is the passage an opinion? Is it a report? These are all likely questions that could be asked in one form or another. Active reading will help you stay better focused on the passage. Don’t get caught asking yourself what you just read!

Staying focused on a passage is, for many, the hardest part of critical reading. This is why practice is crucial. You have to get used to actively reading SAT-level material for a long time. Read from sources like The Wall Street Journal or classic novels whenever you can. Reading a lot will also help you with the SAT writing section and sentence completions.

SAT Sentence Completion

The most valuable tool for SAT sentence completion questions is a good vocabulary. To improve your vocabulary, you can either memorize words from a list or learn vocabulary in context. The best way is the latter method. Why? Because that’s how your brain works. You gain a better understanding of a word when you know how it is used. This also forces you to think more about a word.

To learn words in context, read SAT-level material like The Wall Street Journal or classic novels. Surely you’ll come across words you don’t know. If you don’t know a word, look it up in a dictionary and write it down. Do this regularly and watch your arsenal of words grow.

However, if you don’t have much time, then you should learn words from a good vocbulary list. Study 30-50 words per day, and at the end of each week review all of the words you have already gone over.

SAT Test Strategies

Timing on the SAT Test

Your SAT score will suffer if you run out of time and don’t finish a section, so it’s very important that you manage your time wisely during the SAT test. The following are some SAT tips to make sure you don’t run out of time on test day.

Don’t Get Stuck on a Question

If you don’t know the answer to an SAT problem, don’t waste time pondering over it. MOVE ON. Mark the question in your booklet so that you can come back to it later. As you move on to the next question, make sure you fill in your answer sheet correctly.

Keep Track of Time During the SAT

You should always know how much time is left and where in the section you should be. Remember that different types of questions take different amounts of time. For example, you should not be spending the same amount of time on sentence completions that you are on reading reading comprehension.

If you’re spending more than a minute on a sentence completion question, you’re going too slow.

To clock in on fast you should be answering questions, take lots of SAT practice tests as if they were the real thing

Check Your Answers

During the SAT test you will probably a little nervous. While a little bit of anxiety is good, your nervousness might cause careless mistakes. Leave a couple of minutes at the end of each section to make sure you marked all of your answers correctly, to clean any stray marks, and make sure you didn’t miss any questions you know how to do.

Guessing on the SAT

A common misconception about the SAT is that it’s bad to guess. We hope that after you read this article you’ll think otherwise.

Omitted Answer Equals Zero

First of all, many students believe that because there is “no penalty” for an omitted question (i.e. leave question blank), then you should always omit rather than guess. Wrong! The problem with this thinking is that if you omit a question you are getting ZERO points for that question. To cover the other possibilities: you get one point for a correct answer and -1/4 point for an incorrect answer. By the end of the SAT, you want to have racked up as many points as possible.

When to Guess on the SAT

So now you’re thinking, “I get NEGATIVE points if I guess incorrectly and zero points if I just omit. Isn’t it better to omit??” If you cannot eliminate any answer choices then yes, you should omit; however if you can eliminate just one answer then you should guess.

Why?

Benefit of Guessing on the SAT

Assume you’ve eliminated one wrong answer choice. That leaves you with four answer choices to guess from. If you randomly guess from the four remaining answer choices, then you have a probability of 1/4 of guessing correctly. Therefore the expected point value for your guessed question is

Expected points when you guess after eliminating one wrong answer choice

= (Probability correct X Point value for correct) + (Probability incorrect X Point value for incorrect)

= (1/4) X (1) + (3/4) X (-1/4) = 1/16 = .0625

The main thing to notice is that the expected value is positive! Hence, if you can eliminate at least one wrong answer choice, it’s more likely that you will get positive points rather than negative points. The more wrong answer choices that you can eliminate, the better your results will be.

Summing Up

If you can’t eliminate any wrong answer choices, omit the question. If you can eliminate one or more wrong answer choices, GUESS!

SAT Strategy for Reading Comprehension

The SAT Critical Reading section has two types of passage-based questions–short and long passages. For both types of passage-based questions, the keys to scoring high is the ability to keep your concentration on the reading passage and then to understand what you have read. This SAT test-taking strategy focuses on these two keys.

Find What Type of Passage it is

Is the passage from a report? A short story? Is it opinionated or factual? Before the actual passage is always a sentence or two about where the passage is from or who it is written by. Don’t skip this information. This sentence will give you a feel for what you are about to read.

Take Notes While You Read

A common problem among students is that by the end of a passage they end up asking themselves, “What did I just read?” To help keep yourself focused on passages, take notes while you read. For starters, try writing a summary sentence after each paragraph.

Answering the Questions

Remember it’s not reading memorization. It’s reading comprehension.

 

SAT Writing Multiple Choice Strategy

The SAT Writing section is made up of an essay prompt and multiple choice questions. In this article we discuss a useful test-taking strategy for SAT Writing multiple choice questions.

Writing Multiple Choice Question Types

Identifying sentence errors, improving sentences, and improving paragraphs are the types of questions you’ll see on the SAT Writing multiple choice.

For improving setnences, you will be presented with a sentence with four underlined portions. Your task is to decide which one of the underlined portions are gramatically incorrect or your fifth choice that there are no errors.

For improving sentences or paragraphs, you will be given a sentence or paragraph, respectively, and given answer choices that could possibly improve the sentence or paragraph. You can also choose to leave the sentence or paragraph to leave it as-is.

You can find more information on format at SAT Writing Section Format.

Key to Scoring High on SAT Writing Multiple Choice

The key to scoring high on SAT Writing multiple choice is the ability to listen for errors. You don’t have to know every grammar rule to do well on SAT Writing multiple choice. All you have to know is what sounds wrong and what sounds right, and then choose an answer choice accordingly. Nowhere on the SAT test does it ask you for why a sentence or paragraph is incorrect.

Good Grammar

Since you only have to know that something is wrong and not why something is wrong, design your SAT Writing preparation accordingly. You have to know what sounds right and what sounds wrong. The best way to do this is not from a grammar book! Rather, read from reputable resources like The Wall Street Journal or The New York Times daily.

If you read consistently for a month, you will start to see your SAT Writing score improve, because you will become accustomed to reading well-written sentence and paragraphs. When you read a sentence or paragraph that doesn’t sound like what you’ve been reading for a month, mistakes will be easy to spot! The more you read, the easier identifying errors will be.

How to Approach SAT Writing Multiple Choice

With an ear for listening for mistakes, first read the sentence or paragraph without looking at answer choices. Decide what is wrong with the sentence or paragraph (or what is not wrong) and predict an answer. Find your predication in the answer choices. If you look at the answer choices first, it’s more likely you’ll end up second guessing yourself and getting confused.

Bottom Line

On SAT Writing multiple choice, go with what sounds better.

 

Memorize Important Math Equations for the SAT

At the beginning of each SAT Math section you are provided with “reference information” which is a listing of equations and a few facts that might be useful in solving some of the problems. However, even though the SAT provides you with these equations, you should memorize and know how to use them before the test. Knowing the equations ahead of time will save you valuable minutes on test day.

The following is what will be given to you at the beginning of each SAT Math section.

Area of a Circle

A = πr2 where A = area; r = radius

Circumference of a Circle

C = 2πr where C = circumference; r = radius

Area of a Rectangle

A = lw where l = length; w = width

Area of a Triangle

A = bh/2 where b = base; h = height

Volume of a Box

V = lwh where V = volume; l = length; w = width; h = height

Volume of a Cylinder

V = πr2h where r = radius; h = height

Pythagorean Theorem

c2 = a2 + b2

Special Right Triangles

30-60-90 and 45-45-90 (You will need to know the proportions of these special triangles. Most likely you will be tested on these.)

A circle is 360 degrees; a straight angle is 180 degrees; and a triangle is 180 degrees.

Memorize the preceding equations and know how to use and apply all of them.

How to Improve Your SAT Vocabulary Skills

The SAT’s emphasis on vocabulary isn’t as strong as it once was, but good SAT vocabulary skills will still help you earn a high score on the SAT.

Learn Words from SAT Vocabulary List

Although learning SAT vocabulary in context is the best way to learn words, some might not have enough time to read a lot. In this case, learning vocabulary in from a list is the best way. Learning from a list is the quickest way to improve SAT vocabulary.

Here’s a weekly routine to learn words from a list:

Day 1-2 Study 30-50 words a day.
Day 3 Don’t try to learn any new words. Review the words you went over the past two days.
Day 4-5 Study 30-50 words a day.
Day 6 Don’t try to learn any new words. Review the words you went over this week.
Day 7 Take a break.

If you follow this routine, by one month you’ll have memorized about 800 words! The hardest part of learning SAT vocabulary from a word list is that it can get pretty boring. Try to mix it up your routine with flash cards or try to do useful vocabulary exercises from SAT practice books.

SAT Writing Section Format

There are three SAT writing sections–one is the Essay and two are multiple choice.

SAT Essay Section

For the SAT Essay section, you will have 25 minutes to write about a given topic. The Essay section doesn’t require you to have a vast knowledge on any specific subject; rather it tests you on your grasp of English language conventions and your ability to develop a point of view supported by evidence based on reading, experience, and studies.

Here’s an example from the official SAT website:

Think carefully about the issue presented in the following excerpt and assignment below:

A sense of happiness and fulfillment, not personal gain, is the best motivation and reward for one’s achievements. Expecting a reward of wealth or recognition for achieving a goal can lead to disappointment and frustration. If we want to be happy in what we do in life, we should not seek achievement for the sake of winning wealth and fame. The personal satisfaction of a job well done is its own reward.

Assignment: Are people motivated to achieve by personal satisfaction rather than by money or fame? 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.

You can see the prompt is a very general topic that all students can write about.

SAT Writing Multiple Choice

In addition to the Essay, SAT Writing has two multiple choice sections with identifying sentence errors, improving sentences, and improving paragraphs. For identifying sentence errors, you will be given a sentence and have to decide if there are any mistakes that deviate from standard English. There are five answer choices where four are possible mistakes and one is for no mistakes.

For improving sentences and paragraphs, you’ll be given a sentence or paragraph and answer choices that propose different wordings or sentence order that would make the sentence or paragraph more readable.

Check out the StudyBeans SAT Study Guide for tips on improving your SAT Writing score.

Timing on the SAT Test

Your SAT score will suffer if you run out of time and don’t finish a section, so it’s very important that you manage your time wisely during the SAT test. The following are some SAT tips to make sure you don’t run out of time on test day.

Don’t Get Stuck on a Question

If you don’t know the answer to an SAT problem, don’t waste time pondering over it. MOVE ON. Mark the question in your booklet so that you can come back to it later. As you move on to the next question, make sure you fill in your answer sheet correctly.

Keep Track of Time During the SAT

You should always know how much time is left and where in the section you should be. Remember that different types of questions take different amounts of time. For example, you should not be spending the same amount of time on sentence completions that you are on reading reading comprehension.

If you’re spending more than a minute on a sentence completion question, you’re going too slow.

To clock in on fast you should be answering questions, take lots of SAT practice tests as if they were the real thing

Check Your Answers

During the SAT test you will probably a little nervous. While a little bit of anxiety is good, your nervousness might cause careless mistakes. Leave a couple of minutes at the end of each section to make sure you marked all of your answers correctly, to clean any stray marks, and make sure you didn’t miss any questions you know how to do.

What You Need to Apply to College

The purpose of your college application is to show colleges why you deserve admission. Most college applications have several parts, and all of those parts need to show your potential and what you can bring to the college.

1. Grade Point Average (GPA)

The grades you earned in high school are heavily considered in the college admissions process as they are somewhat of a guage for how you would do in higher education.

2. Types of Classes You Took in High School

College admissions will also see what classes you’ve taken. The types of classes you’ve taken are very important. As an example, a student with a 4.0 GPA who has taken ten Advaned Placement (AP) classes has chosen a more challenging path than a student with a 4.0 who has only taken introduction classes.

3. Extracurricular Activities

What do you do in your spare time? Sit around and watch TV or help out at a nearby nursing home? Play sports? Work? Colleges are looking for well-rounded students and what you do in your spare time not only fills the empty hours, but demonstrates your values and your interests.

4. SAT Test Scores

Like all standardized tests, the SAT provides colleges with an equal measurement across the board. Simply put, one high school might have a more difficult curriculum than the other, and the SAT is something else colleges can use to measure your skills. Still wondering why you have to take the SAT? Find out here.

5. Statement of Purpose

This is also known as Statement of Interest, Personal Statement, Admissions Essay, and plenty of other things, but basically this is an opportunity for you to tell colleges anything that wasn’t included in your basic application. Be honest.

6. Letters of Recommendation

Some colleges require that you submit letters of recommendation. Ask teachers whose classes you did well in (at least a B) to write your letters. Give them plenty of time before the deadline and remind them when the deadline is approaching.

These will be the main parts of your college application. It’ll vary slightly by college, so always double check that you have everything. You don’t want colleges to get a bad impressions, because in college admissions, first impressions are everything.

Writing a College Admission Essay

College admission essay topics vary by college but topics usually run under the same theme– why do you want to attend college and why are you qualified?

What to Include in Your College Admission Essay

Colleges want students who are self-motivated and show a lot of potential for success. Hence, in your essay, provide examples of how you are a good worker and can set and accomplish goals. Additionally, colleges like well-rounded students. Demonstrate an eagerness to learn while also showing a desire to participate in school activities or work with the community. Remember to back up all of your statements with examples!

What not to Include in Your College Admission Essay

Keep in mind that college admission reviewers will have the rest of your application in front of them while they read your essay. Why does this matter? This affects what you want to include in your admission essay. Don’t write about things that can be found elsewhere in your application! The essay is your chance to tell colleges more about yourself that can’t be seen through GPAs and test scores.

Importance of College Admission Essay

There are not many parts to your college application that let admission committees how good of a student (and person) you are. The essay is another chance to demonstrate to admissions why you deserve to be part of their college. It also is a way to show colleges the real you. Let your personality shine through and stand out from the crowd of thousands of college applicants. With the essay’s importance in mind, write lots of drafts, revise, revise, revise, edit, edit, edit, and proofread, proofread, proofead.

Average SAT Scores and Percentile

To be frank, the most important part of the SAT test is your SAT score. Everyone wonders what an average SAT score is and what he needs to get into a certain college.

Quick Answer

An average SAT score is about 1500, or put differently about a score of 500 on the Writing, Math, and Critical Reading sections.

Somewhere in the Middle

An average score means 50th percentile, so if you earn an average score, about 50 percent of test takers will have SAT scores lower than yours and 50 percent of test takers will have scores higher than yours. A score of this level fulfills the minimum requirement for most state colleges and universities.

More Selective Universities

However, if you’re interested in applying to the nation’s top universities, most applicants have a score in the 90th percentile or above. This means you should have a score of 2100 or higher. Keep in mind that an SAT score at this level won’t automatically earn you an acceptance letter, but a high SAT score will certainly help your application look better!

On the other side, a lower SAT score doesn’t necessarily mean you won’t be able to get into a good university or college since your application is comprised of your SAT score, GPA, extra-curricular activities, and statement of interest.

StudyBeans Tip

Now you know what kind of score you need to get into your prospective universities, so go for it! Don’t forget though to work hard on the rest of your college application (i.e. GPA, extra-currics, and statement of interest).

College Financial Aid Opportunities

Paying for college can seem daunting at first, but once you learn a bit more about the types of college financial aid available, things can seems a lot less scary. Financial aid comes in the form of scholarships, grants, and loans. Scholarships and grants are types of aid that you do not have to pay back. You have to pay back loans.

College Scholarships

Scholarships are awards usually based on merit, and the best thing about scholarships is that you do not have to pay them back. The size of scholarships range anywhere from less than a hundred dollars to paying for your entire tuition.

A common mistake by may students is not applying for any scholarships,because they feel they are not qualified to receive such an award. Well the StudyBeans philosophy is that it doesn’t hurt to try. What’s the worst thing that could happen? You don’t get a scholarship. What’s the best thing that could happen? You don’t have to pay for college. The benefits greatly outweigh the negatives, so go for it.

A good place to start looking for scholarships is FastWeb.

Grants and Loans

Like scholarships, grants don’t have to be paid back, so if you are awarded a grant, accept it! Grants are awarded based on financial need and sometimes also merit, so you have to fill out a FAFSA.

Loans are also offered according to the information you provide on your FAFSA. There are many types of loans, but the main thing you need to know is the difference between subsidized and unsubsidized loans. You will have to pay interest on unsubsidized loans while no interest will have to be paid on subsidized loans while you are in school.

Final Word

Whatever you decide, don’t let lack of money be the reason you don’t go to college. Even if you don’t get a scholarship or grant, with a college degree, you’ll be able to pay off your loans in no time.

 

No SAT Secrets Available

SAT test-takers flock into expensive SAT test preparation centers expecting to find secrets of the SAT. Let me say this now. There are no SAT secrets, and on top of that, SAT test preparation courses are a ripoff. Sure, if you (or your parents) have money to burn, sure, go for it. However, all it takes is some self-motivation, and you’ll be able to accomplish to same amount and learn the same material that you would in a prep course.

“But the test preparation company guarantees that I score higher.”

Read the fine print. For most guarantees to be valid, you have to be sure to do all of their practice problems, go to all the sessions, etc. All these guarantees are really saying is that if you do the work, your score will improve. That should be a given.

You will learn the same material in a $1000 course as you would from a $20 book from your local book store. Basically, the extra $980 is the fee for motivation. You can even find SAT test preparation books on eBay for just a few bucks.

“What about SAT secrets?”

Open up an SAT test preparation book and you’ll see what you need to know. No class required. You can also refer to the StudyBeans SAT study guide for tips on preparing for the SAT.

Basically, it all comes down to this:

Don’t be lazy.

Either way you’re going to have to do work, so you might as well save a few hundred dollars.

That’s all there is to it! Follow the StudyBeans (free) SAT study guide, and stay motivated. You’ll be fine. If you’re still not coninvced, by all means, take a course, but don’t say we didn’t warn you. Good luck, whichever path you choose.

Until next time, let the StudyBeans grow…

What to do the Day Before SAT Test Day

Don’t study for the SAT the day before test day. Rest, relax, and recharge for the big day tomorrow. The SAT is a comprehensive test, so what you study in one day won’t make a difference, so you shouldn’t stress.

Relax the Day Before the SAT

Read a book, watch a movie, or do anything that helps you relax and get your mind off the SAT test. After your day of relaxation, go to sleep at a decent hour so that you are well rested for the test.

Get Everything Ready for Test Day

Make a checklist and make sure you have all of your things ready.

  • Pencil (at least 3)
  • Calculator (with spare batteries)
  • Some form of ID (like a driver’s license)
  • SAT admission ticket
  • Bottle of water
  • Tissue

You don’t want to be stressing out in the morning gathering everything that seems to be scattered at all corners of the house.

That’s it. Go to bed. Rest up for the big day. Relax. You’ve been preparing for the SAT and you’re ready. Good luck.

Differences Between New SAT and Old SAT Tests

The new SAT test has several changes from the old SAT test, but it’s not so different that you won’t recognize the question types. The main differences between the new SAT and the old SAT are:

  • Verbal section changed to Critical Reading section
  • Writing section added
  • Math section now also tests advanced Algebra

Verbal Section Changed to Critical Reading

The old SAT Verbal section was comprised of passage-based questions, sentence completion, and analogies. The new SAT Critical Reading section is comprised only of passage-based questions and sentence completion. No analogies! Another change is the passages on the new SAT are long (about same length as old SAT passages) and short (1 or 2 paragraphs long).

Writing Section Added

The new SAT Writing section has two parts — the written essay and multiple choice. Improving sentences, identifying sentence errors, and improving paragraphs make up the new SAT Writing MC. If you’ve taken the PSAT, you’ll be familiar with the Writing MC.

For the essay, you are presented with a prompt that you agree or disagree with. Your stance on the issue doesn’t affect your score; your arguments and idea development do.

Math Section now also Tests Advanced Algebra

The type of Math questions you’ll see on the new SAT are about the same as the old SAT, except you’ll see more difficult Algebra problems on the new SAT’s Math sections. Another change–Quantitative Comparison questions have been eliminated!

Length of New SAT

With these changes to the SAT test, the new SAT is a bit longer (due mostly to the addition to the Writing section). Expect to be at the test center for about 4 and a half hours.