Improving Paragraphs Questions

This section of the SAT asks six questions about how to revise a draft of a short essay. A question or two may ask about deleting or changing the location of a sentence. Another may ask which revision of a poorly written sentence is best. Still others may ask how to best combine a pair of sentences or to re-write a sentence in order to clarify the essay’s main idea.

The wording of paragraph-improvement questions illustrates several of the matters you must deal with:

1.   In context, which of the following revisions is necessary in sentence 3?

2.   In context, which of the following phrases most logically replaces “them” in sentence 9?

3.   The primary effect of sentence 11 is to …

4.   Which of the following is best to add after sentence 13 as a concluding sentence?

5.   Which of the following, if inserted before sentence 1, would make a good introduction to the essay?

6.   In context, which is the best way to revise and combine sentences 4 and 5?

7.   Which of the following sentences, if inserted before sentence 10, would best improve the fourth paragraph?

8.   The best way to describe the relationship of sentence 4 to sentence 5 is that….

9.   All of the following strategies are used by the writer of the essay EXCEPT….

10. In the second paragraph (sentences 5–9), the author tries to….

Improving Paragraphs questions occasionally concern grammar and usage, but most of them apply to broader issues of writing, such as the purpose of the essay, organization, unity, development of ideas, the relationship between sentences, and the writer’s intentions. You may also be questioned on the structure and function of certain paragraphs as well as the role of individual sentences within paragraphs.

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Reading the Essay

How well you answer the questions may depend in part on how you go about reading the essay. Try each of the following methods to find the one that produces the best results:

Method 1: Read the essay carefully from beginning to end. By having a firm grasp of the essay’s meaning, you’ll save time while answering the questions. Because you won’t have to re-read the entire essay, you can focus only on those portions singled out by the questions.

Method 2: Read the essay quickly—faster than you normally would. A thorough reading at this point wastes time and may distract you from your goal—to answer six questions correctly. Ignoring its flaws, therefore, read the essay just carefully enough to catch its drift. Then turn to the questions.

Method 3: Skim the essay for its general meaning; then read it again, but more slowly. After two readings, one quick and one slow, you’ll know the essay intimately. Then you can concentrate on the questions instead of worrying about what the essay says.

Which of the three methods works best for you can be determined only by experience. As you read on and take the practice tests in Part VI, try each method. Stick to the one that works best for you and practice it over and over.

None of these concerns are unique to this section of the exam. In fact, they should sound familiar because they are related to matters of essay writing discussed earlier in this ebook. That’s why you’ll be referred repeatedly to previous pages to review and master selected skills of writing.