Improving Paragraphs on the SAT: Question Types, Samples & Strategy

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  • 0:00 The New SAT &…
  • 0:55 Question Types
  • 1:58 Strategies
  • 2:57 Example
  • 4:39 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Kevin Newton

Kevin has edited encyclopedias, taught middle and high school history, and has a master's degree in Islamic law.

With the shift towards a passage-based exam, you can bet that there will be plenty of opportunities to improve paragraphs on the SAT. In this lesson, we'll review the skills you'll need to master those questions.

The New SAT and Improving Paragraphs

As of March 2016, the SAT has undergone some pretty impressive changes. This means that the types of questions have changed. Gone are the days of having questions about improving paragraphs simply being lonely paragraphs without any other context. Instead, questions that ask test-takers to improve the quality of a paragraph will offer much more to help place the information in context. In other words, simple tricks may not help any more. You're going to need to step up your game in order to do well on the questions of the SAT Writing and Language Test. However, that doesn't mean that you can't have a little help along the way. After all, knowing what to expect on the test is a major asset. Therefore, in this lesson, we're going to take a look at how the SAT will start testing your ability to improve paragraphs and some strategies that you can use to anticipate what to do.

Question Types

From just looking at a question on the SAT, you'll have no way of knowing if it is an improving paragraph question or not. However, don't let that bother you. All questions now refer to the underlined section of the passage with a number of samples on how to improve it.

Assuming that there is no error in the underlined portion and there is no way to improve the sentence to flow better, then chances are you're dealing with an improving paragraph question. There are two types of improving paragraph questions.

An organization question will test your ability to make sure that the paragraph is as organized as it can be. For example, a passage may have an argument that requires different steps to be written in a logical fashion. An organization question may test your ability to put those steps in a logical order.

Meanwhile, a development question will also test your ability to write well-constructed paragraphs, but this time it will be about the development of the overall passage. As a result, the ability to properly use devices, such as repetition, will be assessed here.


As a general rule, these new questions about improving paragraphs will require more thought than simple sentence improvement questions or those that require you to identify an error. As a result, if you find yourself getting stuck on a particular question, feel free to skip it and come back. Also, note that the new SAT does not penalize for guessing. Because of this, make sure that you leave no question blank at the end of the assessment.

When it comes to paragraph improvement questions, however, don't spend too much time trying to figure out if a question is a development or an organization question. Instead, simply try to figure out how to make the underlined portion as strong as possible. In your mind, substitute each of the answer choices into the blank, reading a couple of sentences before and a couple of sentences after. Look for themes, like repetition and similar constructions, and even literary devices, like alliteration. Once you have selected the strongest answer, move on.


Since the new SAT features plenty of great works from the English literary tradition, I think it's appropriate we look at a paragraph from a famous speech by British Prime Minister Winston Churchill to see how these question types work. The paragraph in question is as follows:

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