April 16, 2013

SAT Writing Section and College Admissions

The SAT’s writing section is divided into two parts. One is a short essay and another is a multiple choice section like the others. For the short essay, you will be asked to defend a point of view. Here are some things to keep in mind when preparing for this section.

1. Unlike the other sections, there is little rote preparation you can do for this one.

Your topic will be given to you on the spot so you cannot prepare for it. However, you should think of this as an advantage. Everyone is under the same conditions as you are, write an essay in 25 minutes about a subject you could not predict. Your essay will be about 3 paragraphs and will be extremely rough. There is no need to worry about spelling - just spell to the best of your ability and move on.

2. Grammar is, however, very important.

The one bit of rote preparation you can do for this section is to learn your grammar rules. Some specific things to focus on are tense agreement and subject verb agreement. Tense agreement means keeping a consistent tense throughout a sentence. You should not begin a sentence in the present tense and then switch to past. Subject verb agreement means that the subject and the verb of your sentence must abide to the same number. If the subject is plural then ensure that the verb tense you use is the plural form.

3. Do not get excessively creative.

This is not the forum to begin pontificating or getting philosophical. Your objective isn’t to make a convert of the person reviewing your essay but to write something coherent and purposeful. For this reason you should spend too much time picking a side of an argument, or changing your mind after you have started. It is not worth the time. Write something formulaic and professional and the scorer will know exactly where you fit in on their rubric. The more convoluted your writing, the more convoluted the scoring will be and you may end up getting a bad score for decent piece.

4. The best way to get better at writing is to write.

Like anything else in life, practice makes perfect. The best way to become a better writer is to write. Specifically, find sample prompts online and then write an essay as if it were test time. Don’t trust your writing ability and decide not to study for this! You may be a superb writer of term papers but then realize on test day that you are not good at truncating your thoughts into a small format with the SAT’s guidelines. You MUST practice!

The second portion is the multiple choice section. Here the rules are simpler.

1. The primary thing tested on it is grammar. So again, know your grammar rules. Your primary responsibility here is to fix grammatical errors. You will be ill-equipped if you haven’t memorized your rules.

2. First try to find the error without looking at the choices. This way you will not fall into the traps they have set for you. You will not second guess yourself quite as much.

3. Use your choices. If you are unable to find the error without looking at the choices, then use your choices. The choices will point you in the right direction as to where to look. The idea for this strategy is to first check your ingrained intuitions. The ones that make something look awkward in a somewhat uncertain way. If this fails then you can consult your memory bank of grammar rules after you have been pointed in the correct direction by the answer choices.

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