Understanding the Writing Section of PSAT

PSAT Writing Section- A Brief Overview

The PSAT/NMSQT is a qualifying test for attaining scholarships for your college education. Moreover, it is a measurement of your preparedness for the SAT test. This test includes three sections, namely the Critical Reasoning section, the Mathematics section, and the Writing Skills section. This article aims to provide you with information about the Writing Skills section.

Writing Section: Section-Wise Breakup

There is only one section here, unlike the Critical Reading and Math sections, which have two sections each. The time allotted for answering questions of this section is 30 minutes. There are 39 questions in total. The breakup is as follows:

  • Improving sentences- 20 questions
  • Identifying sentence errors- 14 questions
  • Improving paragraphs-5 questions

Writing Section: Question Types

This section comprises multiple-choice questions. These questions assess your ability to express ideas effectively in standard-written English. Your ability to recognize faults in language usage and structure are also tested here and you are required to use language with sensitivity to meaning.

The following types of questions are included here:

    • Identifying Sentence Errors questions: These questions test your knowledge of grammar and usage, word choice, and idioms. You need to locate errors in sentences or indicate that there is no error in the sentence. No sentence contains more than one error. If there is an error, it is underlined and lettered. Elements of the sentence that are not underlined remain as is. You need to select the most correct answer to replace the error in the sentence.
    • Improving Sentences questions: These questions test your ability to structure sentences correctly. In this type of question, a part of the sentence or all of the sentence is underlined to be replaced with the best fit option. The options are provided below the question and you are required to select the answer that improves the tone and meaning of the sentence without any ambiguity. However, remember that the meaning of the sentence should remain as the original intended meaning. Usually, option (a) is the same as the underlined part in the sentence and you can select this option if you think that the sentence does not require any modification.
  • Improving Paragraphs questions: This type of question is a blend of both types of questions mentioned above. You need to select the correct choice that will improve the logic, coherence, or organization in a passage. The passage is mostly an early draft of an essay, of which some parts need to be rewritten. The passage typically consists of 225 words. You need to read the passage carefully and then select the best answer for the questions that follow the passage.

Writing Section: Skills Tested

The following skills are tested in this section.

    • Managing word choice and grammatical relationships between words: You need to understand the relationship between words, including subject–verb agreement, pronouns, verb form, and tense.
    • Manage grammatical structures used to modify or compare: You need to identify the correct use of adjectives or adverbs, and phrases used to modify or compare.
    • Manage phrases and clauses in a sentence: You need to structure sentences correctly to indicate relationships between the elements of a sentence.
    • Recognize correctly formed sentences: You need to recognize the correct sentence structure.
  • Manage Order and Relationships of Sentences and Paragraphs: You need to know how to order the elements of a sentence or paragraph to improve the clarity, meaning, and the progression of ideas in the sentence.

Writing Section: Tips

The following are some tips that prove to be useful for answering questions in this section:

  1. Read the choices to see the kind of changes suggested.
  2. Do not waste time searching for errors. The underlined sections provide a quick idea. Focus on the underlined area.
  3. Read the entire sentence carefully but quickly.
  4. Try to solve the Identifying Sentence Errors section first because the other sections do take time.
  5. For passage-based questions, read the entire passage quickly.
  6. Mark the tough questions that seem hard for you and return to them later.