New PSAT/SAT Part 2-Writing

writingIn my previous entry, I analyzed the reading section of the new PSAT and SAT( The new PSAT reading section).  The tests will have two sections instead of three because the reading and writing sections will be combined in one section: “Evidence-Based Reading and Writing.”  Last week the College Board finally  released The Official SAT Study Guide for the March 2016 administration. I have analyzed the sample tests, cataloging the types of questions. The focus of this entry is the Language and Writing portion of the tests.

The table of contents lists two major sub-divisions for the writing portion of the tests: “Expression of Ideas” and “Standard English Conventions.” These questions appear in multiple choice form with four answer choices. The new SAT will also have an optional essay that differs in focus and duration from the current exam. The workbook chapter devoted to the Writing and Language Test provides the following explanation: The passages on the test “vary in purpose, subject, and complexity.  Some passages (and possibly questions) will also include one or more informational graphics, such as tables, graphs, and charts, and you’ll be expected to use the information in these graphics to inform decisions about revising and editing the associated passage.”  (p. 127)

As I mentioned in the previous entry, the various test sections are no longer separated into shorter sections as they are on the current test.  For example, only one Writing and Language section exists. Both the PSAT and SAT contain 44 questions with a 35 minute time limit. The questions are presented in paragraph form, much like the “paragraph improvement” section of the current SAT or the English section of the ACT.   Each entry has underlined sections that require the test taker to decide on correct grammar, essay development, coherence, and unity. Specifically, the workbook states,

“Expression of Ideas includes a wide range of rhetorical question types. Within Development, Organization, and Effective Language Use are a number of specific testing points”(p.135-136). The explanation continues with definitions of a variety of skills: proposition, support, focus, quantitative information.

In previewing the four practice tests provided, I have found emphasis on the following topics: punctuation, sentence combining, transitions, agreement, word choice, paragraph unity. Thus, students need to identify an error and rectify it.

Students must know how to recognize a well developed, clear essay with good grammatical form. Thus, they must be able to produce such writing in order to recognize any deficiencies.  Regular writing practice with instruction in good rhetorical style must be an integral part of the learning process. Holistic scoring will be ineffectual, as students need to learn the hallmarks of clear, concise writing. In summary, students need to practice writing from elementary school through high school often and receive specific, substantive feedback from teachers.

Handle Associates can help.




Leave a Reply