The SAT Prep Black Book

SAT Writing Multiple Choice

The Recommended Step-By-Step Approach To Improving SAT Paragraphs In Action

In this section, we’ll apply what we’ve learned to some real SAT questions from the College Board’s Blue Book, The Official SAT Study Guide. I strongly advise you to follow along with these explanations in your copy of the Blue Book to help you learn how to apply these concepts.

Page 411, Question 30

For this question, we need to think about the College Board’s idea of the ideal paragraph. (C) will be correct because the paragraph mentions palaces and explains what castles are, but doesn’t explain what palaces are. Adding information about what a palace is doesn’t introduce a new topic to the paragraph, so the College Board will prefer this answer.

(A) is wrong because medieval history isn’t already mentioned in the paragraph.

(B) is wrong because word origins are irrelevant to the passage.

(C) is correct.

(D) doesn’t work because sentence 7 isn’t talking about the same things as sentence 1.

(E) doesn’t work because sentence 3 is relevant to sentence 2, so the College Board won’t want us to delete it.

Page 411, Question 31

For this question we need an answer that includes elements of sentences 3 and 4. We can think of this question as something similar to a Passage-Based Reading question, where our job is to find the answer choice that restates elements of the text.

(A) doesn’t work because labor isn’t mentioned in either sentence.

(B) doesn’t work because drawbridges are only mentioned in sentence 3.

(C) works because “obstacles” restates the idea of “stone walls, moats, iron gates, and drawbridges” in sentence 3, while archers shooting out the windows in sentence 4 correspond to the word “peril” in this answer choice.

(D) doesn’t work because neither kings nor property nor feudalism appears in sentences 3 and 4.

(E) doesn’t work because the word “still” would indicate a contrast to the idea of “marauding plunderers” and “hostile armies,” but sentence 4 goes right back to the idea of shooting at “intruders.” So neither sentence 3 nor sentence 4 mentions the idea of people coming without “hostile intentions.”

Page 411, Question 32

Students often struggle with this question. The correct answer to this question will be the one that produces a sentence in accordance with the College Board’s reading comprehension ideas and its grammar and style rules for Writing multiple-choice questions, which we discussed earlier in this section.

(A) doesn’t work because the word “because” makes it seem as though the reason that castles had dark dungeons was that palaces had more comforts.

(B) doesn’t work because of the phrase “compared to,” which makes it seem as though the comforts are being compared to the palaces.

(C) doesn’t work because it’s technically comparing two things of different types, which the College Board doesn’t like. At first, it seems to be comparing castles and palaces, which are both large medieval structures, and which should be fine for the SAT. But if we read carefully, we see that it’s technically comparing “medieval castles” to “many comforts,” since those two phrases are the beginnings of their parts of the sentence.

In other words, it might have been okay to say this:

While medieval castles offered only dungeons, royal palaces offered many comforts.

But it’s not okay to say this on the SAT:

*While medieval castles offered only dungeons, many comforts were in palaces.

In the first version, “medieval castles” are compared to “royal palaces,” but the structure of the second version makes us compare “medieval castles” to “comforts.”

This is one more example of the supreme importance of reading everything on the SAT very carefully and keeping the rules of the test in mind.

(D) doesn’t work because the original text says that castles had dungeons and drafty living quarters “instead of” comforts. But this choice would be saying that castles didn’t offer comforts outside of dungeons and drafty quarters. In other words, this choice is saying that there are some comforts to be found in dungeons and drafty quarters, instead of saying that those things exist instead of comforts.

(E) is correct because it says that castles offered few comforts, and that castles had dungeons and drafty quarters, and that some comforts could be found in royal palaces.

Again, this is a very good example of the way we sometimes need to read very carefully to be able to separate a wrong answer from a correct answer.

Page 411, Question 33

For this question, we need a word that demonstrates the relationship among the ideas in sentence 9.  Since sentence 9 talks about keeping people away and about attracting visitors, we want a word like “ironically,” so (C) is correct. (Remember that the College Board uses the word “ironic” to describe a situation in which two ideas contradict one another—in this case, the idea of keeping people away contradicts the idea of attracting people.) (D) doesn’t work because it would establish a contrast between sentence 8 and sentence 9, not a contrast between the ideas in sentence 9 itself.

Page 412, Question 34

For this question, we need to insert an idea that restates concepts from the paragraph. (D) is correct because it restates ideas from sentence 12, since “crumbling away” goes with “decaying,” and “relative obscurity” goes with “ordinary street.” No other answer choice restates ideas from the paragraph. (A) comes close when it mentions the idea of being “obsolete,” but (A) says that there are some castles that aren’t obsolete, while sentence 8 says that “castles were made obsolete.” In other words, (A) contradicts the text.

Page 412, Question 35

Again, we want a sentence that restates a concept from sentence 12, almost as though this were a Passage-Based Reading question. Choice (B) is correct because the word “there” in the answer choice goes with “in one village,” “medieval austerity” in the answer choice goes with “castle,” and “modern comfort” in the answer choice goes with “cozy . . . houses.”


This was pretty small set of questions, but that’s because there are only 6 of these questions on each test anyway. We’ll move on to some of the harder ones from the Blue Book in the next section. And remember that you can see a free selection of video solutions to SAT questions