Effective Sentence Structures and Organization
Out of the 49 MC questions in the SAT writing section, there are only 6 questions in the Improving Paragraphs sub-sections. Nonetheless, if you want to get a high grade, you cannot ignore this part. The level of difficulty is easy to medium, very rarely difficult.
Below is the instruction given in the Improving Paragraphs sub-section. Read it carefully, especially the parts highlighted in blue. The instruction is the same as that in the actual SAT, so do not waste time reading it in the exam center.
The passage is usually consisted of 2-4 short paragraphs with a total of 10-15 sentences. As “an early draft of an essay”, there are errors and areas for improvement. The questions can be intra-sentential (relating to constituents within a sentence), supra-sentential (relating to two or more sentences), paragraph or passage level. Intra-sentential questions require you to improve sentence structures or word choice while the other three require you to improve organization and development.
From the instruction above, you can see that the task requires you to choose an answer which is most effective in terms of sentence structures, organization and development. It requires that the sentence itself is effective in clearly and precisely conveying the writer’s intended meaning, as well as that the flow between sentences and between paragraphs are smooth and logical. You will also need to keep a lookout for grammatical errors if the question is intra-sentential.
Commonly tested areas
1. Improving sentences
- same as the Improving Sentences sub-section
- deal with 1 sentence
2. Logical and smooth flow of ideas between sentences or between paragraphs
- similar to the Improving Sentences sub-section but deal with 2 sentences instead of 1
3. Overall writing strategies
- writing strategies such as balance, relevance and flow of content as well as tone
- deal with 1 or more paragraphs, or even the whole passage
1. Read the entire passage quickly to get:
- the main idea of the entire passage
- the main idea of each paragraph
- writer’s attitude and tone
Remark: There are flaws in the passage which is an early draft. Do not stuck with these and edit them as you read.
2. Read the question and all the options
3. Go back to the passage for context whenever needed
4. Choose the best option which fits:
- both grammar & meaning (Similar to the approach of Improving Sentences, check grammar first.)
- the context of the preceding and following sentences and of the paragraph or the passage as a whole
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(Next Tue: Improving Paragraphs cont’d)