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

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  • 0:00 The New SAT and…
  • 0:58 Question Types
  • 2:03 Strategies
  • 3:00 Example
  • 4:10 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.

While the SAT may no longer designate certain questions as being focused on improving sentences, it will still test your ability to make a sentence both stronger and more stylistically in place.

The New SAT and Improving Sentences

The SAT has underwent some pretty important changes as of March 2016, and to do your best on the test, you should know how they affect you. No, you don't get out of taking it, but you may be interested to know the College Board, the company that produces the SAT, has tried to make it more closely mirror what goes on in a classroom. This is especially true for the Writing and Language Skills Test. Instead of analogies or vocabulary, the emphasis is now on demonstrating your ability to improve on writing as you see it.

Improving sentences has long been part of the SAT, but now you'll have the benefit of greater context for each question. However, while the questions may now be in the context of larger paragraphs, that doesn't mean that there aren't a few tricks you can use to help you out. In this lesson, we'll take a look at the question types you can expect when it comes to improving sentences, as well as some strategies for tackling them.

Question Types

The biggest change is that questions will now be in the context of larger passages. This means that you'll have more information to draw upon but also means that there's plenty of text around to take your attention away. However, we can still roughly group sentence improvement questions into a few main groups.

One of the most basic of these is effective language use. As you might expect, this tests your ability to use the English language in a manner that is efficient but to the point. Put more precisely, don't use four words when one will do. This is a favorite question of SAT writers - they know that people may think more words is a more sophisticated way of saying something.

Next, keep an eye on the overall organization and development of a sentence. This largely means making sure your argument is in a logical order and well-developed. Additionally, it means making sure that your writing is in the active voice, if appropriate. Remember that the order for an active voice sentence is the doer, the verb, then the object of the doing.


So what are some strategies that we can use to help us tackle any sentence improvement questions that come our way? First of all, don't worry about spending a lot of time figuring out if the question is a sentence improvement question or something else. Instead, think about it like this. Now that the SAT no longer penalizes you for guessing, you shouldn't waste time on every question.

Now for some more specific strategies. First of all, watch out for verbose answer choices. Ask yourself if all those words are actually necessary. If the structure to an answer choice is confusing, then it is likely the wrong answer.

Additionally, keep an eye out for the active voice. Avoid answer choices that turn the sentence into 'It was done by', as this is passive. Passive writing is boring! Instead, in English, we like to know who did whatever was done!

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