April 6, 2014

SAT Writing Section

The SAT writing section is designed to evaluate the individual’s knowledge of English grammar, sentence structure, and language flow, as well as evaluate the individual’s writing ability. The SAT Writing section consists of an essay question and 49 multiple-choice questions. The multiple-choice questions include 25 questions related to sentence improvement, 18 questions related to sentence error identification, and 6 questions related to paragraph improvement. The multiple-choice questions included in this section of the exam relate to subtopics such as correcting grammatical mistakes, improving sentence flow by repositioning sentences within a paragraph, correcting or improving sentence structure, identifying mistakes in language usage, and clarifying and/or linking ideas with transitional words and phrases.

The essay portion of the SAT writing section of the exam presents the individual with a specific issue that the individual must write an essay about. The writing prompt will challenge the test taker with a controversial or multi-faceted issue. There is no “right” or “wrong” answer to the question; the writer is expected to address the important sides of the issue in question and to organize the arguments in a logical and coherent fashion with language suitable to the topic.

The individual will be asked to analyze the issue, offer his or her opinion on the particular issue, and offer examples and other support for his or her view of the particular issue. Because there is no “correct” answer, the individual will be scored on his or her ability to analyze the issue and defend his or her point of view on the subject. Performance scores will increase for those individuals who can express complex arguments with logic and clarity and who use language concepts with a high degree of skill. Vocabulary skills are part of the scoring criteria but should by no means be over emphasized. The appropriate word is always better than the hyperbolic or extraneous word; clarity is preferred to excessive or confusing verbiage.

The essay portion of the SAT writing section of the exam may introduce a wide variety of topics. However, the writing prompt does not assume the writer to have specialized technical writing information. A controversial medical issue presented on the exam will not require an extensive medical background, for example, but the writer is expected to analyze and delineate conflicting facets of the issue on the basis of information provided in the prompt. Likewise, it’s not necessary to be a lawyer to write about current and contemporary conflicts regarding 1st or 2nd Amendment constitutional interpretations.

In other words, the individual taking the exam does not need to demonstrate significant knowledge of a specific topic, but instead must show his or her ability to structure an essay that can integrate particular points of view and then formulate a logical, articulate, and clear written presentation of the argument.