The SAT Prep Black Book

SAT Writing Multiple Choice

Recommended Step-By-Step Approach To Improving Paragraphs On The SAT

This is the recommended process for SAT Improving Paragraphs questions. Note that it incorporates the processes for the other SAT writing multiple-choice questions, and has some similarity to the Passage-Based Reading process.

1. Identify the type of question you’re dealing with.

Remember that the Improving Paragraphs questions are sort of a combination of Improving Sentences questions and Passage-Based Reading questions. Many of the questions are almost exactly like Improving Sentences questions, and those can be answered using almost exactly the same approach as the normal Improving Sentences questions.

2. Consider the Improving Sentences approach, but be careful of small changes.

Use the Improving Sentences approach on the appropriate questions, but be careful—there are certain things you have to look out for. For example, there may not be an underlined portion of the sentence to fix; instead, any portion of the sentence might be changed, or the entire sentence could be replaced with a similar sentence that has the same effect. Still, the goal with these questions will be to find the optimal “SAT-ideal” sentence: the one that avoids the most “bad” patterns and uses the most “good” patterns. So you’re looking for things like correct grammar, fewer short words, and so on.

There’s another very important difference you need to be aware of! For Improving Paragraphs questions, the best way to deal with a sentence may be to delete the sentence entirely. If the question asks you to add or delete a sentence from a paragraph, remember that the “SAT-ideal” paragraph repeats each concept at least once. This means you should choose to delete (or not to add) sentences that discuss concept that aren’t anywhere else in the paragraph, while sentences that stick to the same concepts as the rest of the paragraph should be added or kept.

3. Consider using the Passage-Based Reading Approach to answer the question.

Questions that ask about an author’s goal or strategy, or questions that ask about the relationships between one part of a composition and another, can be handled in the same way that we attacked the Passage-Based Reading questions. (As a quick refresher, remember that we NEVER succumb to subjectivity in answering these types of questions, no matter how the prompt for the question is written!)

4. Use the appropriate basic concept to answer the question.

Based on your assessment of the question, answer it by using the appropriate approach from the Improving Sentences of Passage-Based Reading processes.


You’ve probably noticed that the recommended process for answering these questions types is fairly short. That’s because these questions are often extremely similar to the Improving Sentences and Passage-Based Reading questions, so we were able to incorporate the process for those questions in Steps 2 and 3.

At any rate, let’s take a look at these processes in action against real SAT questions published by the College Board!