When you take the Writing and Language Test, you’ll do three things that people do all the time when they write and edit:
- Find mistakes and weaknesses.
- Fix them.
The good news: You do these things every time you proofread your own schoolwork or workshop essays with a friend.
It’s the practical skills you use to spot and correct problems—the stuff you’ve been learning in high school and the stuff you’ll need to succeed in college—that the test measures.
- All questions are multiple choice and based on passages.
- Some passages are accompanied by informational graphics, such as tables, graphs, and charts—but no math is required.
- Prior topic knowledge is never tested.
- The Writing and Language Test is part of the Evidence-Based Reading and Writing section.
What the Writing and Language Test Is Like
To answer some questions, you’ll need to look closely at a single sentence. Others require reading the entire piece and interpreting a graphic. For instance, you might be asked to choose a sentence that corrects a misinterpretation of a scientific chart or that better explains the importance of the data.
The passages you improve will range from arguments to nonfiction narratives and will be about careers, history, social studies, the humanities, and science.
What the Writing and Language Test Measures
Questions on the Writing and Language Test measure a range of skills.
Command of Evidence
Questions that test command of evidence ask you to improve the way passages develop information and ideas. For instance, you might choose an answer that sharpens an argumentative claim or adds a relevant supporting detail.
Words in Context
Some questions ask you to improve word choice. You’ll need to choose the best words to use based on the text surrounding them. Your goal will be to make a passage more precise or concise, or to improve syntax, style, or tone.
Analysis in History/Social Studies and in Science
You’ll be asked to read passages about topics in history, social studies, and science with a critical eye and make editorial decisions that improve them.
Expression of Ideas
Some questions ask about a passage’s organization and its impact. For instance, you will be asked which words or structural changes improve how well it makes its point and how well its sentences and paragraphs work together.
Standard English Conventions
This is about the building blocks of writing: sentence structure, usage, and punctuation. You’ll be asked to change words, clauses, sentences, and punctuation. Some topics covered include verb tense, parallel construction, subject-verb agreement, and comma use.
Writing and Language Test Strategies
A CLOSER LOOK AT THE WRITING AND LANGUAGE TEST
The Writing and Language Test gives you opportunities to demonstrate your college and career
readiness by revising and editing four passages. Each passage is 400–450 words long. There are 11
multiple-choice questions about each one—a total of 44 questions in all. You have 35 minutes to
complete this section; that is about 48 seconds per question. If that doesn’t sound like enough time
to you, be assured that you will be able to answer many of the questions in fewer than 48 seconds.
You can save up your extra seconds for the harder questions you’ll encounter.
One passage of the four will be career-related; for example, this chapter includes a passage on
technical writing careers. Another passage will be humanities-related; it might be about visual
art, music, theater arts, or literature. For example, this chapter includes a short critical essay on a
nineteenth-century novel by British author Jane Austen. The other two passages will be about history/
social studies and science. Some of the passages will be accompanied by graphic organizers such
as tables, charts, or graphs
The passages’ writing modes will include argument, informative/explanatory text, and nonfictio
narrative. For example, this chapter’s sample passage on technical writing is an informative/
explanatory text. The essay on Jane Austen that appears later in this chapter includes both argument
and nonfiction narrative.
Answering the multiple-choice questions on each passage will place you in an editor’s role. You
will be revising and editing the work of an unspecified writer. You will be asked to improve each
passage’s development, organization, and use of language. Your tasks will include making sure
that each passage conforms to standard rules of English grammar, usage, and punctuation.
When a passage is accompanied by one or more graphic organizers, you may need to correct the passage’s inaccurate interpretation of data .These editing and revising goals may sound overwhelming, but don’t worry. Every answer is right there on your test page. All you have to do is to select one out of four possible solutions [(A). (B),(C), or (D)] to choose the best use of language.
THE THREE MOST COMMON MULTIPLE-CHOICE EDITING QUESTIONS
The Writing and Language Test contains three primary categories of multiple-choice questions:
Expression of Ideas Questions
More than half of the questions fall into this category. This group includes questions about the following:
- Words in context
- Adding, deleting, or changing text
- Transitional language that smoothly and clearly takes the reader from one idea to another
- Relevant (or irrelevant) details
- Combining sentences to make text more concise and less “choppy-sounding”
- Eliminating awkward language and wordiness
- Reordering sentences so that paragraphs make better sense
- Consistency of style and tone
- Cohesion and precision of language
You will learn how to approach Expression of Ideas questions later in this chapter
Standard English Conventions Questions
About 45 percent of the questions fall into this category of grammar, usage, and punctuation rules.
It includes questions that require you to demonstrate your knowledge of the following:
- Consistent (or inconsistent) verb tenses
- Sentence structure
- Correct (or incorrect) word usage
The Exercise section of this chapter provides practice with answering some questions from this
category. In Chapter 5, you will learn more about grammar, usage, and punctuation questions.
Graphic Organizer Questions
This is the smallest percentage of the three primary categories. There may be only a few questions
that deal with graphic organizers on the Writing and Language Test. This type of question asks you
to make revising and editing decisions about passages in light of information and ideas conveyed
through graphic organizers such as tables, charts, and graphs. However, you will not need to do any
mathematical computation in order to answer the questions in this category .
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