Tips For Doing Well On The Sat Essay Practice

Are you scoring in the 600–750 range on SAT Writing? Do you want to raise that score as high as possible—to a perfect 800?

Getting to an 800 SAT Writing score isn't easy. It'll require near perfection and a mastery of both grammar rules and essay writing. But with hard work and my SAT writing strategies below, you'll be able to do it. I've consistently scored 800 on Writing on my real SATs, and I know what it takes. Follow my advice, and you'll get a perfect score—or get very close.

Brief note: This article is suited for students already scoring a 600 on SAT Writing or above (this equates to a Writing Test Score of 30+ out of 40 on the New SAT). If you're below this range, my "How to Improve your SAT Writing Score to a 600" article is more appropriate for you. Follow the advice in that article, then come back to this one once you've reached a 600.

Also, the New 2016 SAT now has a single 800 Reading + Writing score, combining the individual Reading and Writing test scores. Technically, when I mention a perfect Writing test score, I'm referring to a perfect 40/40 test score, which is essential to getting an 800 Reading and Writing score. In this guide, I'll use 800 and 40 interchangeably to mean a perfect Writing score. We won't talk about Reading here, but if you want to improve your Reading score too, check out my Perfect SAT Reading score guide.



Most guides on the internet on how to get an 800 on SAT Writing are pretty low quality. They're often written by people who never scored an 800 themselves. You can tell because their advice is usually vague and not very pragmatic.

In contrast, I've written what I believe to be the best guide on getting an 800 available anywhere. I have confidence that these strategies work because I used them myself to score 800 on SAT Writing consistently. They've also worked for thousands of my students at PrepScholar.

In this article, I'm going to discuss why scoring an 800 is a good idea, what it takes to score an 800, and then go into the nine key SAT Writing strategies so you know how to get an 800.

Stick with me—as an advanced student, you probably already know that scoring high is good. But it's important to know why an 800 Writing score is useful, since this will fuel your motivation to get a high score.

This guide has been updated for the New 2016 SAT Writing and Language section, so you can be sure my advice works for the test you're about to take.

Final note: In this guide, I talk mainly about getting to an 800. But if your goal is a 700, these strategies still equally apply.


Understand the Stakes: Why an 800 SAT Writing?

Let's make something clear: for all intents and purposes, a 1540+ on an SAT is equivalent to a perfect 1600. No top college is going to give you more credit for a 1600 than a 1640. You've already crossed their score threshold, and whether you get in now depends on the rest of your application.

So if you're already scoring a 1560, don't waste your time studying trying to get a 1600. You're already set for the top colleges, and your time is better spent working on the rest of your application.

But if you're scoring a 1520 or below AND you want to go to a top 10 college, it's worth your time to push your score up to a 1530 or above. There's a big difference between a 1460 and a 1560, largely because it's easy to get a 1460 (and a lot more applicants do) and a lot harder to get a 1560.

A 1540 places you right around average at Harvard and Princeton, and being average is bad in terms of admissions, since the admissions rate is typically below 10%.

So why get an 800 in SAT Reading+Writing? Because it helps you compensate for weaknesses in other sections. By and large, schools consider your composite score moreso than your individual section scores. If you can get a perfect 40 in SAT Writing and a perfect 40 in SAT Reading, that means you only need a 750 in SAT Math. This gives you a lot more flexibility.


Princeton's 75th percentile for Writing is 800.


There's another scenario where an 800 in SAT Writing is really important: if you're planning to apply as a humanities or social science major (like English, political science, communications) to a top school.

Here's the reason: college admissions is all about comparisons between applicants. The school wants to admit the best, and you're competing with other people in the same "bucket" as you.

By applying as a humanities/social science major, you're competing against other humanities/social science folks: people for whom SAT Writing is easy. Really easy.

Here are a few examples from schools. For Harvard, Princeton, Yale, and Dartmouth, the 75th percentile SAT Reading+Writing score is an 800. That means at least 25% of all students at these schools have an 800 in SAT Writing.

But if you can work your way to an 800, you show that you're at an equal level (at least on this metric). Even if it takes you a ton of work, all that matters is the score you achieve at the end.



Know That You Can Do It!

This isn't just some fuzzy feel-good message you see on the back of a milk carton.

I mean, literally, you and every other reasonably intelligent student can score an 800 on SAT Writing.

The reason most people don't is they don't try hard enough or they don't study the right way.

Even if language isn't your strongest suit, or you got a B+ in AP English, you're capable of this.

Because I know that more than anything else, your SAT score is a reflection of how hard you work and how smartly you study.


SAT Writing is Designed to Trick You — You Need to Learn How

Here's why: the SAT is a weird test. When you take it, don't you get the sense that the questions are nothing like what you've seen in school?

You've learned grammar before in school. You know some basic grammar rules. But the SAT questions just seem so much weirder.

It's purposely designed this way. The SAT can't test difficult concepts because this would be unfair for students who never took AP English. It can't ask you to decompose Dostoevsky's The Brothers Karamazov. The SAT is a national test, which means it needs a level playing field for all students around the country.

So it HAS to test concepts that all high school students will cover. Subject verb agreement, run-on sentences, pronoun choice, etc. You've learned all of this throughout school.

But the SAT still has to make the test difficult, so it needs to test these concepts in strange ways. This trips up students who don't prepare, but it rewards students who understand the test well.


Example Question

Here's an example: find the grammar error in this sentence:

The commissioner, along with his 20 staff members, run a tight campaign against the incumbent.

 This is a classic SAT Writing question.

The error is in subject/verb agreement. The subject of the sentence is commissioner, which is singular. The verb is "run," but because the subject is singular, it should really be "runs."

At your level, you probably saw the error. But if you didn't, you fell for a classic SAT Writing trap. It purposely confused you with the interrupting phrase, "along with his 20 staff members." You're now picturing 20 people in a campaign—which suggests a plural verb!

The SAT Writing section is full of examples like this, and they get trickier. Nearly every grammar rule is tested in specific ways, and if you don't prepare for these, you're going to do a lot worse than you should.

Here's the good news: this might have been confusing the first time, but the next time you see a question like this, you'll know exactly what to do: find the subject and the verb, and get rid of the interrupting phrase.

So to improve your SAT Writing score, you just need to:

  • Learn the grammar rules that the SAT tests.
  • Study how the SAT tests these grammar rules and learn how to detect which grammar rule you need in a question.
  • Practice on a lot of questions so you learn from your mistakes.

I'll go into more detail about exactly how to do this. First, let's see how many questions you need to get right to get a perfect score.


What It Takes to Get An 800 in Writing

If we have a target score in mind, it helps to understand what you need to get that score on the actual test.

On the Writing section, there are 44 multiple-choice questions. How many questions you get right determines your scaled score out of 40.

From the Official SAT Practice Tests, I've taken the raw score to scaled score conversion tables from the first four tests. (If you could use a refresher on how the SAT is scored and how raw scores are calculated, read this.)

Raw ScoreTest 1Test 2Test 3Test 4


These grading scales are harsh. For every test, if you miss just ONE question, you get dropped down to a 39. This means your maximum Reading + Writing score becomes a 790, in the best case.

The exact score conversion chart depends on the difficulty of this test. This particular score chart is as strict as it gets—sometimes, you can miss one question and still get a 40. But I've never seen a test allow missing two questions and getting a 40. Sometimes, if you miss two questions, you drop down to a 37.

So the safest thing to do is to aim for perfection. On every practice test, you need to aim for a perfect raw score for an 800, and an essay score of at least 10.

It's pretty clear then that you need to try to answer every question. You can't leave any questions blank and expect to get an 800 reliably, which means you need to get to a level of mastery where you're confident answering each question.

Whatever you're scoring now, take note of the difference you need to get to a 800. For example, if you're scoring a 38 raw score now, you need to answer six more questions right to get to a perfect 40.

As a final example, here's a screenshot from my exact score report from March 2014, showing that I missed 0 questions and earned an 800.

(This was from the older 2400 version of the SAT, but the grading scale was similarly tough back then.)


OK—so we've covered why scoring a higher Writing score is important, why you specifically are capable of improving your score, and the raw score you need to get to your target.

Now we'll get into the meat of the article: actionable strategies that you should use in your own studying to maximize your score improvement.


9 Strategies to Get an 800 on SAT Writing


What's your greatest weakness?


Strategy 1: Understand Your High-Level Weakness: Time Management, Content, or Essay Score

We're deliberately starting high level, before diving into grammar rules, because you need to know what type of game you're playing before you practice.

Every student has different flaws in SAT Writing. Some people don't have full mastery of the grammar rules. Others run out of time on the test. Yet others aren't fluent in their essay writing.

Here's how you can figure out which one applies more to you:

  • For each section, use a timer and have it count down the 35 minutes for the Writing section. Treat it like a real test.
  • If time runs out and you're 100% ready to score your exam, then do so. If you're not ready to move on, keep on working for as long as you need. For every new answer or answer that you change, mark it with a special note as "Extra Time."
  • Grade your test using the answer key and score chart, but we want two scores: 1) The Realistic score you got under normal timing conditions, 2) The Extra Time score. This is why you marked the questions you answered or changed during Extra Time.


See what we're doing here? By marking which questions you did under Extra Time, we can figure out what score you would get if you were given all the time you needed. This will help us figure out where your weaknesses lie.

If you didn't take any extra time, then your Extra Time score is the same as your Realistic score.

Here's a flowchart to help you figure this out:

Was your Extra Time scaled score a 35 or above?

If NO (Extra Time score < 35), then you have strategy and content weaknesses. All the extra time in the world couldn't get you above a 35, so your first angle of attack will be to find your weaknesses and attack them (We'll cover this later).

If YES (Extra Time score > 35), then:

Was your Realistic raw score a 43 or above?

If NO (Extra Time score > 35, Realistic < 35), then that means you have a difference between your Extra Time score and your Realistic score. If this difference is more than three points, then you have some big problems with time management. We need to figure out why this is. Are you taking too much time for each question? Or are particular types of questions slowing you down? More on this later.

If YES (both Extra Time and Realistic scores > 35), then you have a really good shot at getting an 800. Compare your Extra Time and Realistic score—if they differed by more than two points, then you would benefit from learning how to solve questions more quickly. If not, then you likely can benefit from shoring up on your last content weaknesses and avoiding careless mistakes (more on this strategy later).

Hopefully that makes sense. Typically I see that students have both timing and content issues, but you might find that one is much more dominant for you than the other. For example, if you can get a 40 with extra time, but score a 35 in regular time, you know with certainty that you need to work on time management to get a 40.




Strategy 2: Comprehensively Learn the Grammar Rules

There's just no way around it. You need to know all the grammar rules tested on the test and how they work.

Certain grammar rules, like punctuation usage, appear far more often than other rules. But because we're going for perfection, you'll need to know even the less-common rules.

In our PrepScholar program, we've identified the following as the most to least important grammar rules:

  • Punctuation
  • Sentence Structure
  • Conventional Expression (aka idioms)
  • Possessives
  • Agreement
  • Parallel Structure
  • Modifiers
  • Verb Tense
  • Pronouns

Within these general categories, there are a lot of rules, but they differ from each other in how often they appear on the test and how hard they are to study.

For example, Punctuation is by far the most common grammar rule on SAT Writing, but it only uses a few separate concepts. The Idioms skill is slightly less common, but it uses a wide range of idioms (like "as a means of" or the use of "whereby" vs "from which"), such that each unique idiom appears no more than once on each test.

As another example, Punctuation appears 4.12 times as often on SAT Writing as the least common concept, Pronouns. So, assuming you're equally weak across all skills, you get more bang for your buck by studying Punctuation and nailing it.

It's therefore important for you to focus your time on studying the highest impact grammar rules. Our PrepScholar program, for example, quizzes you in relation to how common each grammar rule is, so that you focus your efforts on the rules that make the biggest difference to your score.


Strategy 3: Get Intimately Familiar With the Rhetoric Question Types

Aside from grammar rules, the other major category of questions in SAT Writing is what we call Rhetoric. These questions concern how to make persuasive arguments and construct logical sentences, paragraphs, and essays. The College Board also calls this "Command of Evidence" and "Expression of Ideas."

Unlike sentences with incorrect grammar, sentences in rhetoric questions don't usually have anything technically wrong with them. Instead, the SAT is testing you to find more effective ways to construct the sentence or passage.

Here's a rundown of the types, from most common to least:

  • Sentence Function
    • "At this point, the writer is considering adding the following sentence...Should the writer make this addition here?"
  • Concision
    • "Which choice most effectively combines the two sentences at the underlined portion?"
  • Transition
    • These questions underline a key transition word in between sentences or phrases. You need to pick the transition that makes the most sense.
    • Example: "This assertion is not supported by scientific research. For instance, one review published in..."
  • Logical sequence
    • "To make this paragraph most logical, sentence 2 should be placed..."
    • These questions require you to order the sentences to get the most logical flow.
  • Precision
    • These questions underline a word or phrase and ask you to pick the best replacement for them. This is as close to a vocab test as the SAT gets.
    • Example: "The reason for Siqueiros's secrecy became clear when the mural was confided." Answer choices: A) NO CHANGE, B) promulgated, C) imparted, D) unveiled.
  • Quantitative
    • These questions are the only ones in SAT writing that deal with graphs and data. You're usually asked to make sense of figures in the context of the text.
    • Note - if you don't consider yourself a math person, don't be scared - the graphs are never super complex. But you do need to be able to read graphs and charts quickly.
    • "Which choice offers an accurate interpretation of the data in the chart?"
  • Style and tone
    • These questions deal with maintaining the tone of the article - if it's a professional science article, it shouldn't use words like "icky" or "okay." 
    • Example: "The writer wants to convey an attitude of ___. Which choice best accomplishes the goal?"

Even though questions of a single type look the same, they do vary significantly in difficulty. The difficulty depends on how subtle the answer choices are and the passage context.

Once again, in our PrepScholar program, we break down every single Rhetoric skill and have thousands of practice questions to drill them to perfection.

Which brings us to:



Strategy 4: Do a Ton of Practice, and Understand Every Single Mistake

On the path to perfection, you need to make sure every single one of your weak points is covered. Even one mistake on all of SAT Writing can knock you down from an 800.

The first step is simply to do a ton of practice. If you're studying from free materials or from books, you have access to a lot of practice questions in bulk. As part of our PrepScholar program, we have over 4,500+ SAT questions customized to each skill.

The second step—and the more important part—is to be ruthless about understanding your mistakes.

Every mistake you make on a test happens for a reason. If you don't understand exactly why you missed that question, you will make that mistake over and over again.

I've seen students who did 20 practice tests. They've solved over 3,000 questions, but they're still nowhere near an 800 on SAT Writing.

Why? They never understood their mistakes. They just hit their heads against the wall over and over again.

Think of yourself as an exterminator, and your mistakes are cockroaches. You need to eliminate every single one—and find the source of each one—or else the restaurant you work for will be shut down.

Here's what you need to do:

  • On every practice test or question set that you take, mark every question that you're even 20% unsure about.
  • When you grade your test or quiz, review every single question that you marked, and every incorrect question. This way, even if you answered a question correctly by guessing, you'll make sure to review it.
  • In a notebook, write down the gist of the question, why you missed it, and what you'll do to avoid that mistake in the future. Have separate sections by grammar skill (e.g. Number Agreement, Idioms, Sentence Fragments).

It's not enough to just think about it and move on. It's not enough to just read the answer explanation. You have to think hard about why you specifically failed on this question.

By taking this structured approach to your mistakes, you'll now have a running log of every question you missed, and your reflection on why.


No excuses when it comes to your mistakes.


Always Go Deeper—WHY Did You Miss a Writing Question?

Now, what are some common reasons that you missed a question? Don't just say, "I didn't get this question right." That's a cop out.

Always take it one step further—what specifically did you miss, and what do you have to improve in the future?

Take the Subject/Verb Agreement example I gave above (with the Interrupting Phrase trick). You likely already know how Subject/Verb Agreement works. But if you missed that question, you'd need to think about why you missed it (because the interrupting phrase made you confuse the subject and verb). Then you need to write down a strategy for noticing this in the future.

Here are some examples of common reasons you miss a Writing question and how you should take the analysis one step further:

Content: I didn't learn the grammar rule needed to answer this question.

One step further: What specific rule do I need to learn, and what resources will I use to learn this grammar rule?


Overlooked Rule: I knew the grammar rule, but the SAT question was written in a way that made me miss it.

One step further: How do I solve the question now? Is there a strategy I can use to notice this grammar rule in the future?


Careless Error: I knew the grammar rule and normally would get this right, but I slipped up for some reason.

One step further: Why did I make this careless mistake? Was I rushing? Did I misread the question? What should I do in the future to avoid this? 


Get the idea? You're really digging into understanding why you're missing questions.

Yes, this is hard, and it's draining, and it takes work. That's why most students who study ineffectively don't improve. 

But you're different. Just by reading this guide, you're already proving that you care more than other students. And if you apply these principles and analyze your mistakes, you'll improve more than other students too.


Bonus: If all of this is making sense to you, you'd love our SAT prep program, PrepScholar.

We designed our program around the concepts in this article, because they actually work. When you start with PrepScholar, you’ll take a diagnostic that will determine your weaknesses in over forty SAT skills. PrepScholar then creates a study program specifically customized for you.

To improve each skill, you’ll take focused lessons dedicated to each skill, with over 20 practice questions per skill. This will train you for your specific area weaknesses, so your time is always spent most effectively to raise your score.

We also force you to focus on understanding your mistakes and learning from them. If you make the same mistake over and over again, we'll call you out on it.

There’s no other prep system out there that does it this way, which is why we get better score results than any other program on the market.

Check it out today with a 5-day free trial:


Strategy 5: Justify Every Answer. Point Out Specific Grammar Errors. Justify the Rhetoric Choice.

Many top students take a "soft approach" to SAT Writing. They learn the grammar rules when studying, but on the test they go "by ear": if a sentence sounds off, they'll assume it's wrong without thinking too hard about why.

When you've mastered grammar rules, this can serve you well. For example, if I said "The bee fly to the hive." You know this is wrong instantly—it just feels wrong. You know simple subject/verb agreement so well that you can tell something is wrong before you can articulate what exactly it is.

However, most students never get to this level of familiarity with all SAT grammar rules. This makes trusting your ear unreliable for many rules.

What's the strategy to counter this? Point out the specific error, and justify it to yourself.

This is especially true in rhetoric questions, where the answer choices can be vague and subtly different. You have to understand why one answer is definitely the right answer, and the other three answers are definitely the wrong answers. This is a standardized test.


Let's take one of the more difficult questions in an SAT practice test:


Try to solve it yourself if you like.


Here's what I'm thinking as I read the question (a "stream of consciousness"):

" 'Likewise, anyone considering a career as a video game designer must be skilled writers and speakers,' and 'skilled writers and speakers' is underlined. There's no clear glaring problem, but the end of the sentence is funky. 'Anyone' is singular, as is 'video game designer,' but it switches to plural 'skilled writers and speakers.' This is a number agreement error - it should be "a skilled writer and speaker." Let's look at the answer choices. B is exactly what I predicted. C and D both have the same issue of inappropriate plural forms, and, aside from this error, neither is that much better than A. So I'm pretty confident B is the best answer."


Now, I'm not literally thinking all these words in my head, but it matches my thinking process as I go through the question and evaluate each answer choice.

As you learn the different grammar skills and how they appear on the test, you'll start evaluating answer choices for common ways that the SAT tries to trick you.

Is a verb underlined? I'm going to check the subject to see if it follows subject/verb agreement. Then I'll check the verb tense.

Is a pronoun underlined? I'm going to check the antecedent to see if it matches.

Does an underline come right after a comma? I'm going to check if there's a faulty modifier error.

I can justify every one of my answers because I know the grammar rules. This makes my answering more robust, not just based on whether something 'feels' right or wrong.


Let's try another example for fun.



Try to solve it yourself if you like.


I'll start my stream of consciousness after I read the question:

"This is a classic illogical comparison error - you're comparing "organically grown crops" with "people." Crops aren't more nutritious than people! We need to compare organic crops with conventionally grown crops. So I need an answer choice that solves this:

  • A: same as original, which is wrong
  • B: "organic crops are safer than the purchase of their conventionally grown counterparts" - no - it's better than comparing crops to people, but it's still not comparing crops to crops
  • C: "organic crops are safer than purchasing their conventionally grown counterparts" - no, same error. This would be fine if the sentence read "they believe purchasing organic crops is safer than purchasing conventionally grown counterparts." But it doesn't.
  • D: "organically crops are safer than their conventionally grown counterparts" - yes! It's crops to crops, perfect.


You can see how I first identified the illogical comparison error in the original sentence. That made it very clear to me how I could find an answer choice that fixed this error.

Then I went through each answer choice, replacing the text and seeing if it fixed the error.

Note that in these questions, the SAT often fixes the original error in an answer choice—but then introduces another error. You need to make sure the answer you choose is 100% correct, in terms of both grammar and logic.

Don't be intimidated if you can't do this right now. With practice and reflection, you will get to this point.

Once again, it's like "the bee fly to the hive." You want to get to a point where all SAT grammar rules automatically sound as wrong as that sentence.


Find patterns to your mistakes, and make sense of the chaos.


Strategy 6: Find Patterns to Your Weaknesses and Drill Them

Remember Strategy 4 above, about keeping a lot of every mistake? You need to take this even one more step further.

If you're like most students, you're better at some areas in SAT Writing than others. You might know pronouns really well, but you'll be weak in sentence constructions and fragments. Or maybe you really like parallel construction, but you have no idea what faulty modifiers are.

If you're like most students, you also don't have an unlimited amount of time to study. You have a lot of schoolwork, you might be an athlete or have intense extracurriculars, and you have friends to hang out with.

This means for every hour you study for the SAT, it needs to be the most effective hour possible.

In concrete terms, you need to find your greatest areas of improvement and work on those.

Too many students study the 'dumb' way. They just buy a book and read it cover to cover. When they don't improve, they're SHOCKED.

I'm not.

Studying effectively for the SAT isn't like painting a house. You're not trying to cover your bases with a very thin layer of understanding.

What these students did wrong was they wasted time on subjects they already knew well, and they didn't spend enough time improving their weak spots.

Instead, studying effectively for the SAT is like plugging up the holes of a leaky boat. You need to find the biggest hole and fill it. Then you find the next biggest hole, and you fix that. Soon you'll find that your boat isn't sinking at all.

How does this relate to SAT Writing? You need to find the grammar rules that you're having most trouble in, and then do enough practice questions until they're no longer a weakness. Fixing up the biggest holes.

For every question that you miss, you need to identify the type of question it is and why you missed it. When you notice patterns to the questions you miss, you then need to find extra practice for this grammar rule.

Say you miss a lot of misplaced modifier questions. You need to find a way to get lesson material to teach yourself the main concepts that you're forgetting. Then you need to find more practice questions for this skill so you can drill your mistakes.

This is the best way for you to improve your Writing score.


Strategy 7: Be Careful With NO CHANGE Answers

In SAT Writing, most questions have a NO CHANGE option. In Improving Sentences types, A is the answer choice that doesn't change the underlined section.

The SAT loves tricking students using these answer choices, because it knows that students who don't know grammar rules won't see anything wrong with the sentence. NO CHANGE is a really easy answer to choose.


NO CHANGEs are one of the most common careless mistakes—make sure you don't fall for them.


Be very careful whenever you choose one of these NO CHANGE answer choices. Typically, these are correct answers around 25% of the time—not much more. If you find that you're choosing NO CHANGE 40% of the time, you're definitely not detecting grammar errors well enough.

Every time you choose NO CHANGE, try to double-check the other answer choices to make sure you're not missing a grammar error. Especially take note of grammar rules that you tend to ignore mistakenly. Like I mentioned in Strategy 2 above, if you write down your mistakes and study your weaknesses, you'll be able to know which grammar rules you're weak at and then pay special attention to them.

Personally, this was my most common careless error mistake. When I could see the error, I got the question correct nearly 100% of the time. The only times I missed questions were when I accidentally ignored an error.

I solved this by double-checking each of the answer choices to make sure I wasn't leaving any stone unturned.


Strategy 8: Think About Grammar in Everyday Life

Among all subjects, Writing on the SAT is special because it appears in your everyday life.

For school, you have to read a lot and you have to write a lot. Use these experiences as opportunities to notice grammar rules and sentence constructions.

This is unique to SAT Writing. SAT Math is so bizarre compared to everyday life that you won't just naturally find ways to apply the Pythagorean theorem at breakfast. SAT Reading similarly requires very specific skills when reading a passage.

But you can practice your grammar skills throughout the day. Here are some ideas:

  • Proofread your friends' essays. Challenge yourself to uncover every grammatical error.
  • Notice common errors around you. A lot of people comma splice, for example.
  • Read high-quality, formal publications, like the New York Times or the Economist. These articles go through editors, so they rarely have grammar errors. You'll develop that ear for language I mentioned.
    • Note that this isn't very efficient studying, and I don't recommend this for the sake of improving reading comprehension for SAT Reading. If you read like this for fun anyway, then go for it, but don't spend 100 hours reading for the sake of SAT Reading+Writing - spend that time on practice questions instead.

The more you think about grammar as a fundamental skill rather than something specialized for the SAT, the more natural it will feel to you.



Strategy 9: Finish With Extra Time and Double Check

Your goal at the end of all this work is to get so good at SAT Writing that you solve every question and have extra time left over at the end of the section to recheck your work.

In high school and even now, I can finish a 35 minute Reading section in 20 minutes or less. I then have 15 minutes left over to recheck my answers two times over.

The best way to get faster, as explained above, is to get so fluent with SAT grammar that you rapidly zero in on the grammar mistakes without having to think hard about it. And to get fluent with Rhetoric questions so you can spot the trap answers.

Try to aim for a target of spending 35 seconds on each question, reliably. This gives you enough time to doublecheck comfortably.

What's the best way to double-check your work? I have a reliable method that I follow:

  • Double-check any questions you marked that you're unsure of. Try hard to eliminate those answer choices. If it's a NO CHANGE question, double-check that you're not missing any grammar mistakes.
  • If I'm 100% sure I'm right on a question, I mark it as such and never look at it again. If I'm not sure, I'll come back to it on the third pass.
  • At least two minutes before time's up, I rapidly double-check that I bubbled the answers correctly. I try to do this all at once so as not to waste time looking back and forth between the test book and the answer sheet. Go five at a time ("A D E C B") for more speed.

If you notice yourself spending more than 30 seconds on a problem and aren't clear how you'll get to the answer, skip and go to the next question. Even though you need a perfect raw score for an 800, don't be afraid to skip. You can come back to it later, and for now it's more important to get as many points as possible.



Quick Tip: Bubbling Answers

Here's a bubbling tip that will save you three minutes per section.

When I first started test taking in high school, I did what many students do: after I finished one question, I went to the bubble sheet and filled it in. Then I solved the next question. Finish question 1, bubble in answer 1. Finish question 2, bubble in answer 2. And so forth.

This actually wastes a lot of time. You're distracting yourself between two distinct tasks—solving questions, and bubbling in answers. This costs you time in both mental switching costs and in physically moving your hand and eyes to different areas of the test.

Here's a better method: solve all your questions first in the book, then bubble all of them in at once.

This has several huge advantages: you focus on each task one at a time, rather than switching between two different tasks. You also eliminate careless entry errors, like if you skip question 7 and bubble in question 8's answer into question 7's slot.

By saving just five seconds per question, you get back 100 seconds on a section that has 20 questions. This is huge.

Note: If you use this strategy, you should already be finishing the section with ample extra time to spare. Otherwise, you might run out of time before you have the chance to bubble in the answer choices all at once.


In Overview

Those are the main strategies I have for you to improve your SAT Writing score to a perfect 40, and to a total 800. If you're scoring above a 30 right now, with hard work and smart studying, you can raise it to a perfect Writing score.

Even though we covered a lot of strategies, the main point is still this: you need to understand where you're falling short and drill those weaknesses continuously. You need to be thoughtful about your mistakes and leave no mistake ignored.

One last tip: try to keep a steady head while you're taking the test. It's really easy to start doubting yourself because you know you need a near-perfect raw score. Even if you're unsure about two questions in a row, try to treat every question as its own independent test. If you start doubting yourself, you'll perform worse, and the worse you perform, the more you doubt yourself.

Avoid this negative spiral of doubt and concentrate on being confident. You'll have studied a lot, and you'll do great on this test.


Here's a recap of all the strategies, in case you want to go back and review any:


Keep reading for more resources on how to boost your SAT score.


What's Next?

We have a lot more useful guides to raise your SAT score.

Read our complete guide to a perfect 1600, written by me, a perfect scorer.

Read our accompanying guides on how to get an 800 on SAT Math and how to get an 800 on SAT Reading.

Learn how to write a perfect-scoring 8|8|8 SAT essay, step by step.

Make sure you study SAT vocab using the most effective way possible.


Want to improve your SAT score by 240 points? We have the industry's leading SAT prep program. Built by Harvard grads and SAT full scorers, the program learns your strengths and weaknesses through advanced statistics, then customizes your prep program to you so you get the most effective prep possible.

I built the PrepScholar program based on the principles in this article—the principles that worked for me and thousands of our students. 

Check out our 5-day free trial today:


Imagine waking up at midnight to the blaring sound of your fire alarm beeping loudly. The siren is blasting through the house warning you to leave. You leap from your bed and start towards the door, but before you get there your foot slips on a stack of books sitting across from the bed, and you fall. It takes you a few seconds to regain your footing and get out of the room.

Lucky for you, in this hypothetical scenario, there was no fire. It was just a false alarm. If this happened, though, you would work towards a better knowledge of the layout of your room, in case there was actually a fire next time.

This hypothetical situation is a lot like studying for the SAT Writing and Language test. The better you know the layout, the better you will do on the test. If you have a good grasp of the rules of grammar, punctuation, and rhetoric, you will be more successful than if you don’t understand the rules that govern written English.

This guide exists to prepare you for the treacherous terrain of the SAT Writing and Language test and help answer the question of “How to get a perfect score on SAT Writing and Language”? Keep reading to get an in-depth overview of the test and key components that you will need to master to score a perfect 800.

What do they Test?

The SAT Language section is designed to test two areas of English Language skills. The first area is Usage and Mechanics, which tests grammar, syntax, punctuation, and proper use. The second area focuses on Writing Strategy, which tests expression, command of evidence, and editing.

If you can’t already tell – one section of the test is going to be easier to study for than the other. Usage and Mechanics is a set of rules that you can learn. Those rules are laid out in a later section, but they will take some amount of memorization and practice to familiarize yourself with how they work.

Writing Strategy will be a more difficult section to practice. It requires you to understand more abstract ideas like how the topic of a passage is best expressed through organization or structure. Understanding the distinctive features that make the organization effective, or the reasoning behind those features, is much more complicated than just memorizing a set of rules.

Even though Writing Strategy might push you further, there are still strategies that you can practice to ensure you maximize your point totals. Sometimes it doesn’t matter so much that you know the right answer on the test, as long as you can determine the wrong answers. We will keep that in mind as we talk about the structure of the test.

Test Structure

Knowing what is on the test is important, but you must also keep in mind the overall structure of the test. It, like the rest of the SAT, is set with a specific time limit. That limit will determine how you answer questions and will color your approach to the questions.

The test has 44 multiple choice questions to be answered over the course of 35 minutes. There will be four passages with 11 questions each. The math works out to mean that you have about 47 seconds for each question, and that isn’t even budgeting for reading the passages! If you want a perfect score on the new SAT Verbal, you will need to get the most out of your time.

There are four passages with 11 sections each. The passages come from four different topics:

  • Careers passages: The passage will present information and a debate within a career field like business, education, or medicine.
  • Social Science passages: These passages will focus on a topic or phenomena from a field within social sciences like sociology, history, or psychology.
  • Science passages: These passages will focus on topics and research within scientific fields like biology, chemistry, or physics.
  • Humanities passages: These passages will explore the works or a particular era, author/artist, or genre of work. It could cover prose, poetry, dance, music, or art.

The writing and language section will break down to be roughly 24 questions on the writing strategies, with the other 20 focused on the grammar and usage. The breakdown between the two means that the test is almost evenly distributed between the two.

You might find, during your studying, that you are struggling to understand how to answer a particular type of question. Understanding the differences between the writing strategy and usage and mechanics sections is key to identifying weaknesses for correction.

The test is relatively straightforward in its structure. If you get all of the points, your raw score will then be scaled down to a 10-40 scale. Let’s talk about why getting an 800 on the new verbal section is important.

The Value of 800

Earning an 800 may seem impossible, but don’t be fooled. You can earn an 800. Thousands of students have done it before, and thousands of students will score 800 on their verbal sections in the future. The goal is to help you become one of those students.

For many students getting an 800 seems “extra”, and you might be thinking, “I don’t know if I will need an 800”. Most students don’t have what it takes to get an 800 on the verbal section, and an 800 isn’t necessary to achieve their goals. The average SAT score is 500, and most schools do not look for students who score 800 because those students don’t apply. As a result, many students don’t worry about scoring 800.

You are different. You aren’t looking to get into any school. You are here, reading this article, which means that you are seeking to become excellent. The reality is that an 800 isn’t just useful, but necessary.

Depending on your goals, there is a very real possibility that an 800 on the verbal portion of the SAT is what you need to gain admission to the college of your choice.

For many of the top universities, a perfect SAT score is competitive. Yale University, one of the top three in the world, is an excellent example of the competition that the SAT creates.

At Yale the average SAT Verbal score of admitted students is 760, the 25th percentile is 710, and the 75th percentile is 800.

What does this mean?

Most students at Yale score around 760 on the SAT, but you don’t want to be an average applicant. An 800 will set you apart. It will place you in the top 25 percent of students that are applying to the school.

Scoring an 800 is not only possible, but for many students intending to attend a top ten school, it is necessary. The breakdown of scores at Yale is similar to other top ten schools. When you apply to these schools, an 800 on the SAT can show that you are a cut above, and help make up for weaknesses in your application.

The Challenge of Perfection

To earn an 800, you must score a 44 raw score on the Writing and Language section. A 44 raw score means that you must get every single question right. Take a look at the chart for how the raw scores on the test translate to scaled scores:

Raw Score (# of correct answers)Reading Test ScoreWriting and Language Test Score

Notice that if you miss a single question, you will drop to a 39 scaled score. The scoring system leaves no room for error.

Note: Let’s talk briefly about how the scaled to final score conversion works. You’ll notice that we included the reading raw -> scale conversion on the chart. That is because the SAT Verbal score is made up of a combination of the Reading and Writing and Language sections. This is new to the SAT system and just came into effect in March of 2016.

The two tests now combine to form an overall verbal score which is half of the overall 1600 you can earn on the SAT. The two raw scores will convert to a 10-40 and then the scaled numbers are added for a possible 20-80 total. The 20-80 is then multiplied by 10 to give you the 200-800 you can receive on the Verbal Section.

Getting a perfect score on the writing and language section becomes more important now because unlike the old SAT a lower score on Writing and Language can hurt your entire SAT Verbal score.

The test is unforgiving. There is no place for a mistake. So, how can people get an 800 when there is no forgiveness on the test? An 800 is possible because each question has only one right answer.

The Right Answer

Every question has only one correct answer. Every question has three incorrect answers.

Any question that seems like it has two possible answers doesn’t, so don’t be tricked. Realizing that there is only one right answer to every question allows you to overcome that trap.

We’ve been taught, in our English classes, that most questions have many valid answers. The texts that we read in English classes are often complicated, dealing with topics like inequality or coming of age. When writing an essay or participating in discussions in English, class teachers don’t dismiss ideas as wrong.

In those classes, we often look for the question that is the most right, because no single answer can apply in all situations. That is not how the SAT works.

The design of the SAT acts as an equalizer so that any student can do well. Therefore, the answers are not subjective, and the questions all have a single correct response.

The key to scoring an 800 on the SAT Writing and Language section is to find the right answer for every question. Let’s go over a few strategies that can help when finding the right answer.

“How to Get a Perfect Score on SAT Writing and Language” in Five Strategies

Strategy 1: Memorize the Usage and Mechanics Rules

The rules for usage and mechanics make up half of the SAT Writing and Language section. The best way to study for Usage and Mechanics is to examine all parts of grammar.

Grasping the concepts contained within the subject of usage and mechanics can be difficult for many students. It’s hard for the same reason that students struggle with math. Despite being a part of English, grammar rules, and functions actually, share many similar concepts to math.

The rules are often complex. Depending on the particular mechanic or usage, there could be anywhere from 3 to 10+ rules associated with the specific part of grammar.

Consider commas. Commas are probably the most used punctuation after periods. However, if you asked around, you would find that most people are hazy on the rules of commas. Commas come with a myriad of uses and standards – below is a short list of the possible uses and standards associated with commas:

  1. Use commas between independent clauses when used with coordinating conjunctions.
  2. Use commas after introductory phrases or words.
  3. Use two commas in the middle of a sentence to indicate that there is extra information inside.
  4. Commas shouldn’t surround essential information.
  5. Use commas between words in a list or series.
  6. Use commas between two or more adjectives assigned to a noun
  7. Use commas to separate a phrase at the end of the sentence that references other information in the sentence.
  8. Use commas between places, dates, addresses, and titles.
  9. Use a comma in a dialogue between the prose and the speech.
  10. Use commas to prevent confusion.

That is ten rules. Ten. That is crazy. There are so many grammar rules that exist, most likely you don’t know them all, but you need to know them for the SAT Writing and Language. That means you will need to memorize the rules for each part of usage and mechanics. Before we get into ways you can remember the rules, let’s review the concepts covered for usage and mechanics on the SAT Writing and Language.

The parts of usage and mechanics break down like this:

  • Punctuation:
    • Commas
    • Periods
    • Colons
    • Semicolons
    • Dashes
    • Apostrophes
  • Agreement:
    • Pronoun Number Agreement
    • Subject/Verb Agreement
  • Idioms and Homophone Usage:
    • (Examples: affect/effect, either… or, to/two/too)
  • Parallel Construction
  • Comparison/Description
  • Precision
  • Sentence Fragments and Run-on Sentences
  • Pronouns:
    • Pronoun Choice
    • Pronoun Case
  • Verb Form:
  • Modifiers

It seems like a lot, but don’t let it overwhelm you. You already know some of the rules and concepts, and you have time to learn the others. Even if you only have two weeks before your test, you can drill and practice to memorize in many ways that will help you max out your scores.

The first step, before you begin memorizing, is to ascertain your weakness in usage and mechanics. You can find a test to identify your weaknesses here.

Once you know your weaknesses there are a few ways you can study for the usage and mechanics questions:

  1. Write Down the Grammar Rules on Flashcards: You can find the grammar rules here. On one side of a flashcard you will write down the particular usage or mechanic (like a comma) and a sentence that shows the rule used. On the other side of the flashcard, you write the rule. You will need to go through the flashcards by looking at the examples and reciting the rule to yourself.
  2. Work on Correction Worksheets: Download some copies of correction worksheets here or drill on Khan academy. Memorizing the rules is useful, but learning through correcting errors will also provide the opportunity to grow. Correcting improper usage and mechanics may be difficult, but it will give you practice that mirrors the test.
  3. Identify the Grammar Rules You See in Life: One simple solution to learning the rules of grammar is to look for them in the texts you are already reading. This type of practice is the most accessible. Despite the ease of access, it can be difficult to train yourself to notice grammar in the things you read every day. It will require careful observation and consistent reminders to yourself.

Those three strategies should help you keep on top of the grammar section of the SAT Writing and Language test.

For more on “how to get a perfect score on SAT Writing and Language” check out our next strategy that focuses on writing strategies.

Strategy 2: Begin to Notice Writing Strategies

Writing Strategies are the second set of skills tested on the SAT Writing and Language section. The key to maxing out your score on the strategy section is to notice it in your everyday life. First, you need to understand the exam:

Writing Strategies tests a broad range of reading and writing skills. The section is officials testing the “expression of ideas” which covers the style, organization, and the effective use of language within texts.

When broken down into discreet skills, the Strategy section on the exam covers six broad categories:

  • Tone: The attitude of the author on the subject of the piece.
  • Cohesion: The coherence of paragraphs, sentences, and phrases
  • Purpose: Understand why a text exists
  • Formality: Determine the style of the text
  • Congruence: Determine if a sentence fits
  • Support: Examining evidence for inferences and claims.

Writing Strategy is going to be harder to beat than grammar. Grammar has a set of clear rules to memorize. Strategy, while it does have some objective and distinctive traits, usually relies more on inferences and experience to understand.

Some parts, like tone, are typically easy for students to identify. If you know words to describe the attitude, you match a word to the feeling portrayed by the author.

Others, like cohesion or congruence, require that you understand more of the nuance of writing. That only comes with focused reading and practice. To prepare for the SAT Writing and Language, you will need to read texts (assigned or for pleasure) and focus on identifying where each of the tested parts of Strategy come into play.

Some readings that will show the distinct parts of Strategy are speeches and essays. If you have the chance, read some of those texts, and identify how the author uses each of the different parts of rhetoric.

You can work on some of the SAT Writing and Language practice questions we have on the website.

The key to strategy two is consistently analyzing texts to find those strategies that authors use.

Strategy 3: Practice for Perfection

Part of any winning strategy is practice. We practice for almost every activity. We spend endless hours shooting free throws or playing a particular measure from a piano concerto attempting to make it perfect. The old saying is “practice makes perfect” for a reason. It’s true.

If you want to know “how to get a perfect score on SAT Writing and Language”, the first part is to realize that it means you will need to practice until you are perfect. It means long hours of commitment to studying and reading to improve your skills.

As a culture, we don’t believe practice can help you with a test. We like to treat tests like an either, or situation: either you know the material, or you don’t. That isn’t true. You can practice for a test. You can improve your skills and knowledge through repetition and practice.

When you practice for the SAT Writing and Language section, you should use the materials and tools provided in strategies 1 and 2. Using those strategies by themselves will not be enough. You must commit your time and energy to the practice.


When you commit your time, it means you are setting aside those precious hours every week. You are attempting to earn a perfect score on the SAT Writing and Language section. You will need to study approximately 40 hours in total to raise your scores from a 650 to 800. To find more information about the time, it will take to raise your scores you can read our article here.

40 hours divided over five weeks works out to 8 hours a week. That is a massive commitment, but this test is a huge part of your college admissions package. You have to devote the time necessary to get a perfect score.

When you set time aside to study, you must study fruitfully. Study time is easily wasted. When you study and practice, make sure you unplug: turn off your cell phone, don’t listen to distracting music, shut down the T.V., and log out of your social media. If you spend just one hour a day fully focused on beating the SAT Writing and Language, you will be one step closer to scoring 800.


Along with your time, you will need to commit energy to practice. That means full focus every time you sit down to work. Many students fail to practice because they don’t focus their energy on the test. It is easy to be distracted or to fail to try your hardest when you know that the exam won’t count. That isn’t useful. You can’t go into your practice situations half-heartedly.

When you take your practice tests, treat them as if they are the actual SAT. Give yourself the right amount of time for the test, and put in the energy necessary to finish in that time-frame. If you don’t put the energy of a real testing situation into your practice, you will never reach your full potential.

Finding Real Study Materials

Practice is only useful if it mirrors the test. You will want your practice materials to be as close to the test as possible. SAT just redesigned the Writing and Language Section, so they are difficult to find. So difficult that there are no released tests to use. So the next best thing can be found here:

Those tests will be your best shot at finding out accurate scores on the SAT. They should be used as benchmarks to gauge your progress. You should examine the amount of time you have left until the test, and space the tests out evenly.

The SAT official practice questions should be something you complete to gauge your skills. Then you can drill the CrackSAT tests as benchmarks to chart your progress.

Those practice tests are not going to make up the bulk of your study materials. You will need to use other training materials to improve your skills in between the tests. Some excellent materials for the test are on the website. You should also check out practice books or articles online for free.

Regardless of the materials you use to drill the skills you will want to pick materials that are similar to the test. Read reviews before you purchase any books, and find websites that are highly rated by online communities.

Just Keep Practicing

Above all, keep practicing. Whatever schedule you set for yourself, keep to it. Whatever way you decide to practice, use it. There is little gained by sitting idle and waiting for the test to arrive. If you want to score 800, you will need to practice the test to perfection.

Strategy 4: Plug the Leaks

A practice schedule is important, but all the practice in the world won’t make any difference without focus. It is important that you learn where you have weaknesses, and compensate.

If you imagine your testing ability as a boat, every weakness you possess has the potential to spring a leak. Too many leaks and your boat will capsize. That is why you need to work on filling the holes. You must practice to correct and compensate for your weaknesses to have any chance at scoring 800.

Diagnosing your weaknesses isn’t easy. It will require you to begin to think seriously about the way you process information. If you find that there is a particular skill you lack or fundamental knowledge you haven’t learned, you can push to change before the test.

Ask the Right Questions

As you go through the officially released tests, you should keep track of the items that you didn’t know for certain. Marking all of the items that were not a 100% certainty will allow you to go back and ascertain the reason why you were confused even if you get the question right by chance.

Knowing that you couldn’t narrow down the correct answer is important because it should lead to some deep thinking. You should ask questions like:

  • Why was this choice right?
  • Why were the other choices incorrect?
  • What about the choices I couldn’t rule out confused me?
  • Why did I think those wrong answers could be correct?
  • What rule or reasoning exists to prove the right answer?

Asking these deeper thinking questions will help you to go further in figuring out your weaknesses and making changes before you take your next test. As you test, always go deeper with the questions you ask, stopping at “what is the right answer” will never be fruitful.

Determine the Explanation Yourself

Beyond the questioning strategy, you will want to stop reading the answer explanations for the questions you drill. Instead, seek to figure out and explain the choices yourself. Nearly every test and program provide detailed explanations for why certain a choice is correct and why other choices are not, don’t read those until after you have already explained it yourself.

Part of the growth process is struggling with difficult concepts to come out stronger. Reading the explanations doesn’t challenge you to learn, and it means less focus on understanding the reasoning behind the choices. If you take the time to explain why one choice is correct and the others are not, you will learn much more about the test’s construction, and the specific skills tested.

So, don’t read the explanations until after you have already explained the choices yourself. Then read the explanations provided to ensure that they give similar responses to the ones you created. The logic should be similar in each, and as your explanations get closer to the ones provided, you can keep track to see if your scores improve.

Common Weaknesses

Some weaknesses are common among students. Here are the top three to avoid.

1 – Misreading the Question

One of the easiest mistakes to correct is misinterpreting the question. Testing situations often put students under pressure, leading to simple mistakes.

When you read the question, pay attention to the vital details mentioned. Questions on the SAT give away major clues to finding the correct response in the wording of the question.

You must read the questions thoroughly so that you don’t miss any valuable information. Pay attention to those very specific words like not. Students overlook test items that use the word not, which can lead to mistakenly answering with the wrong choice. If it asks you to pick the option written incorrectly, you might accidentally select one of the three that is correct by mistake.

Always read the question closely to glean information.

2 – Over or Under Choice of “No Change.”

One of the choices on many of the grammar questions is “no change” which means that the chosen sentence has no grammatical issues. Students have trouble figuring out when that is the correct choice.

Some students choose to air on the side of caution, rarely choosing the “no change” option. While it is a good idea to look for grammatical errors on the test continually, it is not a good idea to see them where they don’t exist. “No change” will be the correct answer about 25% of the time, so that means you shouldn’t avoid it.

The flip side of this problem is students find no errors too often. If you are reading quickly and not thinking clearly – you might fall susceptible to this mistake. It is easy to skim a sentence and not see the error, so always make sure you re-read before picking “no change”.

3 – Too Many Commas

A comma splice is when you put a comma where it doesn’t belong. The comma splice is a common error on the SAT Writing and Language because students read the sentences out loud to determine the errors. When they read, the students pause more often than is dictated by the grammar. This reading habit leads to placing commas where they don’t belong.

Take this sentence for example:

Lily walked up to the house and took a long, hard look into the darkness of the surrounding forest.

This sentence has far too many commas. If we remove the commas, the sentence still works:

Lily walked up to the house and took a long hard look in the darkness of the surrounding forest.

The best remedy is to learn the comma rules. Once you know them, you will be less tempted to insert unneeded commas.

On the test, if all else fails, you can use the next strategy to narrow down to the right answer.

Strategy 5: One Answer to Rule Them All

The key to strategy five is remembering that there is only one correct answer to each question. No matter the appeal of the other choices, there is an obvious or apparent error in those choices. If you can rule out the three wrong options, it will give you the ability to choose the right answer every time.

Here is a sample question from Let’s find the issues present in three of the four choices:

The question is asking the reader to find the most “economical” way to restate the point from the passage. This will require the reader to understand the passage and find the best way to express the ideas in the sentence. Let’s examine the answer choices and determine which is correct.

Answer A – Correct Answer

Answer A is correct. The choice provides the shortest and most straightforward way to rephrase the sentence. The shortness of the answer choice is what accounts for the “economical” in the question.

Answer B – Convoluted Phrasing

Choice B is incorrect. The phrasing of this answer choice is confusing – which is the opposite of economical. Therefore it would not fit the criteria put forth by the question.

Answer C – Additional Rhetoric

Choice C is incorrect. Although it also retranslates the original phrase correctly, it adds in unnecessary elements. The use of parallel structure at the beginning of the sentence makes the phrase much more complicated than it needs to be, and the length of the sentence rules it out from being “economical” as the question requires.

Answer D – Repetition and Confusing Phrasing

Choice D is incorrect. It is also the easiest choice to rule out. It repeats its words multiple times, and it is so confusing that it doesn’t say much at all.

Narrow it down

When you work through every question, you need to work on narrowing down the possible choices. Every question has one correct answer. You are looking for what is wrong with the other three choices as much as you are looking for what is right about the correct choice.

Bonus Strategy: Bubbling for Time

One last strategy for the test revolves around filling in the answer bubbles. The traditional way to bubble a test is very time-consuming. Students will move back and forth between the test booklet and answer sheet after every item.

The physical act of moving, first your eyes and then your hand, from the test booklet to the answer sheet takes a lot of available time. If it takes you 3 seconds to move from the test booklet to the answer sheet and bubble in the answer, and you do that for 44 questions, it will take you a total of two minutes and twelve seconds just for bubbling.

You will need all the time you can get on the exam. To save time on bubbling the best advice is to change your strategy. Instead of moving back and forth between the booklet and the test, only mark the correct answers on the test booklet. After about ten answers you should bubble in on the answer sheet. If you memorize a series of solutions like ABDCBBADCA you can save yourself time in the way that you bubble and cut down on making mistakes.

Find out what type of bubbling strategy works best for you and go with it. The time you save in bubbling the best way will be invaluable towards getting a perfect score on the SAT Writing and Language.

Go and Get a Perfect Score

There are the five strategies to help you get a perfect score on the SAT Writing and Language. If you work hard on each of these strategies, implementing them in your daily study and practice, you will have an excellent shot at getting the 800.

Review the tools often, come back to this guide any time you need a refresher. Make the adjustments necessary, and keep focused on your goals.

Remember to check out the website for more blog posts and study help. As promised, there is a short guide to scoring an eight on the SAT Essay below.

SAT Essay

The SAT Essay section is an optional section of the test. The top colleges, the same ones that care about your 800 in Writing and Language, will look for a score on the SAT Essay. Opting for the writing exam adds 50 minutes onto your testing time, so be prepared for a longer test.

Two readers give a raw score of 1-4 for three separate categories. The two raw scores add together for each category to give you a scaled score. If one reader scores the essay at 3 and another at 4, you end up with a 7 for the section. You have 50 minutes to plan, write, and revise your essay. If you do it right, you can score an 8 for each section and make yourself that much more marketable to a top tier university.

Each section is graded on its rubric. The three sections that will be assessed are Reading, Writing, and Analysis.


The essay must show that you understood the passage provided in the prompt. That means you understood the important details, main idea, and argument presented. The essay must also show you read the text and can use it as evidence.

Here is the holistic rubric for reading from the SAT website:


The essay needs to show that you understand how arguments are constructed by:

  • Examining the use of evidence, reasoning, and persuasion
  • Creating a claim and supporting it with evidence of the text

The rubric from the SAT Website:


The essay needs to be well written. The essay must be focused, organized, and utilize the writing strategies that are common to standard written English.

The rubric for the writing portion of the essay from the SAT website:

The essay presents a prompt and some relevant background information. The SAT will require you to read an excerpt from a larger work. The excerpt will display an opinion, and the prompt will ask you to analyze the opinion finding the structure of the argument and explaining the most relevant or important parts.

An example of an SAT Essay prompt shows the required parts:


As you read the passage below, consider how Paul Bogard uses

  • evidence, such as facts or examples, to support claims.
  • reasoning to develop ideas and to connect claims and evidence.
  • stylistic or persuasive elements, such as word choice or appeals to emotion, to add power to the ideas expressed.


Write an essay in which you explain how Paul Bogard builds an argument to persuade his audience that natural darkness should be preserved. In your essay, analyze how Bogard uses one or more of the features in the directions that precede the passage (or features of your own choice) to strengthen the logic and persuasiveness of his argument. Be sure that your analysis focuses on the most relevant features of the passage.

Your essay should not explain whether you agree with Bogard’s claims, but rather explain how Bogard builds an argument to persuade his audience.

As you can see, the prompt is complicated. The essay asks you not to create your argument, but instead to analyze the argument put forth by the author. This and other essay prompts, as well as sample essays, can be found here.

This essay will be time-consuming, and it will be useful to practice your writing skills. Let’s talk about a few strategies that can help you get the best score possible on the test.

Strategy 1: Make a Plan

You won’t be able to anticipate the subject of the essay on the SAT Essay section, but you can still work on the plan ahead for the exam. Along with the official practice prompts found on the SAT website, the internet is full of prompts to analyze the argument of an article. The best way to prepare for the exam is to use those prompts to plan out essays.

You don’t have to write the essays. Instead, work on your planning abilities. Many students fail to do their best on the exam because they are not ready for the rigors of writing a long and complicated essay. The best tool you have, regardless of the topic or requirement, is the ability to outline a high-quality essay quickly.

The time spent drafting shouldn’t be more than 2 minutes, but the power of having a well thought out essay cannot be overstated. You should practice outlining on at least one essay a day for the three weeks leading up to your test. The act of planning will become second nature with practice, and that can make up for ignorance of the passage or subject matter.

A good outline should look like this:

  • Introductory paragraph
    • Thesis Statement: How is the author building their argument? Are they using facts, persuasion, or narrative techniques?
  • Argument Technique 1
    • Evidence from the text of this technique
  • Argument Technique 2
    • Evidence from the text of this technique
  • Argument Technique 3
    • Evidence from the text of this technique
  • Concluding paragraph
    • Wrapping up the argumentative strength of the essay

You’ll notice that the outline follows the standard five paragraph format. If you find that you have extra time, you can expand each of the reasons into a series of paragraphs using multiple pieces of evidence, but the time pressure may make that too difficult to complete.

You should find two analytical prompts per day, and work out an outline for each prompt. The prompt will not be complete without a short sentence that explains the focus of each paragraph. Instead of only writing “introductory paragraph” you would write a short sentence that explains what that section would cover.

Let’s look at an example outline for the prompt above:

  • Introduction: In this essay, the author argues that artificial light is not a benefit to society.
    • Thesis: He uses anecdotal evidence, rhetorical questions, and evidence of wasted money to make his argument.
  • Paragraph 1: The author uses anecdotes to make the audience imagine their experiences with darkness. He pushes people to remember the power and mystery that darkness can instill in a person and the beneficial qualities of the beauty of darkness.
    • Evidence: The author explains how the beauty of darkness allowed him to experience the joys of the natural world at night, and how that provided a formative experience in his younger years.
  • Paragraph 2: The author asks rhetorical questions to get the audience to think about what is lost when darkness is drowned out by light.
    • Evidence: You could point out some rhetorical questions he uses, but in particular he talks about the painting of starry night and asks if it would be possible that it could be painted without darkness. Which shows the value of darkness to beauty and humanity.
  • Paragraph 3: The author makes the factual claim that there is money wasted on the unused light every year. This claim is supported by evidence of increased light usage across the United States.
    • Evidence: There is evidence in the text given by the author about the wasted use of electricity. This should be used in the essay to the point that out.
  • Conclusion: Reassert the main point of the essay and describe what the author is doing to craft their argument.

That is a very detailed outline for the essay. Your outline shouldn’t be as detailed as this one, but it should still include all of the parts. You should have a short sentence in each part so that you know what you’re planning to write when you sit down to do the essay.

Work to make your essay as detailed as possible, and practice your planning. That way you can be clear in your writing, and won’t get stuck trying to figure out what should be in the next paragraph.

Strategy 2: Be Nice to Your Reader

This strategy is essential to doing well. You must make your writing easy to read. There are three essential things that you can do to make it easy for your readers to understand your writing, and therefore grade your essay faster.

Think about it; your readers will have about three minutes to read your writing, and they are reading about 500 essays in the entire session. The easier you make it on them, the more they are going to like you. As objective as we want to believe the test is, essay grading is still subjective. If they like you because you make their job easy, they might be more likely to give you a four over a three if your essay falls somewhere in between.


You need to make your writing legible. The better your hand writing, the less you cross out, and the better your grammar and spelling, the easier it will be to understand what you are saying. If your writing is messy, and the reader has been reading essays all day, you might end up getting a much lower score than you deserve.

It is very easy to write off an essay that is difficult to read than to give it more time and effort. You need to put in the effort to make it easy to read. So work on your legibility.

Five Paragraphs

You should follow the five-paragraph format for an argumentative essay. One of the reasons for following the format is that it is standard. Being standard means that it will make reading faster, and it can help a reader understand your points much more succinctly. Utilize the format and help your reader process.

Clear Thesis and Reasons

The last point is that you need to have a clearly established main point, all of your evidence should support that main point. If your main point and evidence work together, it will make your essay much easier to read. Work on establishing a clear connection between your thesis, reasoning, and evidence to gain some extra favor in the eyes of your reader.

Work Hard and Score High

So that is the guide for how to get a perfect score on SAT Essay and How to get an eight on the SAT Essay. Use these strategies to ensure that you do well on the test and get the perfect score that you deserve.

If you have any questions or any other study strategies, let us know in a comment below.

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