Questions on the SAT Writing and Language test fall into two categories: Expression of Ideas and Standard English Conventions. For many high school students, the organization of written material may seem like an afterthought or…
Questions on the SAT Writing and Language test fall into two categories: Expression of Ideas and Standard English Conventions. For many high school students, the organization of written material may seem like an afterthought or be difficult to grasp. But understanding the organization of written texts is essential, especially on the SAT Writing and Language test, where such “Expression of Ideas” items comprise part of the 44 total questions.
Here are some tips to help you prepare for the logical sequence and transition items.
Look for patterns. The passages students encounter on the SAT Writing and Language test often follow a fairly predictable pattern. Some authors begin by writing about a topic in a broad manner, and then they become more specific. This approach may take the form of an author who makes a wide claim and later illustrates it with detailed examples. In this case, each paragraph may be dedicated to one example or supporting idea.
With narrative texts, the author may simply tell a story in chronological order, where earlier paragraphs represent earlier events. At the very least, SAT test-takers should know which kind of text they are dealing with and what its general sequence may be.
Logical sequence questions are easy to identify because they involve sentence numbers and ask about inserting or relocating sentences. A logical sequence question stem looks like this: “To make this paragraph most logical, sentence X should be placed…”
Consider question 22 on page 25 of this document. Sentences should be relocated when they interrupt the flow or logic of the passage. To illustrate, sentence 4 points to “this crucial information,” but the central question for scientists appears in sentence 5 (“just how much the soot is contributing to the melting of the ice sheet”). It is for this reason that sentence 4 should be placed after sentence 5 (answer D).
Pay attention to transitions. SAT test-takers must also know the meanings of common transitional words and phrases — consequently, however and thus, for example. To test your knowledge of transitional words, see if you can substitute the word or phrase in question with an appropriate synonym.
You should also be aware of the precise function of transitional words, which you can learn by categorizing them. For instance, know that “therefore” and “consequently” are for showing effect, while “however” and “nonetheless” demonstrate contrast. To be considered correct, the transition as it is used in the text must align with its typical purpose.
We can apply this principle to sample question #14 on page 23. To answer this question correctly, we must know that the phrase “for example” is used to signal an illustration of a concept or idea. However, the Greenland Ice Sheet’s thawing in mid-July is not an example of the typical thawing pattern. On the contrary, it enumerates an exception to the rule. For this reason, the best choice is “however” (answer B), a transitional word that shows contrast.
Logical sequencing and transitional words are core components of the SAT Writing and Language test. Comprehending these elements can make high school students better test-takers on the SAT and, in the long term, better readers and writers in general.