How to Prepare for Reading and Writing on the SAT®

Homeschoolers are in a precarious position when it comes to standardized testing. We typically don’t find it to be an adequate measure of a child’s abilities, yet we know it is a significant component of our child’s college applications.

Therefore, we want to help our child prepare for reading and writing on the SAT® without becoming a grammatical drill sergeant. Fortunately, homeschoolers tend to be a pragmatic bunch, so we’re adept at getting things done without all the extra busy work and are expert researchers.

SAT prep for homeschoolersSo let’s dig in and see what the SAT® contains, as well as ways to prepare.

Do Your SAT Research

What does the reading and writing on the SAT® include? How long do they have to complete the sections? What else should I know?

All these questions are swirling through your head but take a deep breath. You can do this!

SAT Reading

The reading section of the SAT® is a 65-minute test section, including 52 multiple choice questions based upon passages the student reads. These passages may also include infographics such as graphs, tables, and charts; however, math is not needed. Also, topic-specific knowledge is not required nor tested. Information needed to answer the questions will be available in the passages.

Interestingly, specific minimum passages will be included, such as:

  • One reading in world or US literature
  • One passage of a US founding document or a text they inspired
  • A reading from the social science field such as psychology, sociology, or economics
  • Two science passages from biology, chemistry, physics, or earth science

However, the reading section is not merely about comprehension. It measures a wide range of skills, such as finding evidence in a passage, analyzing the evidence and conclusions, and using context to determine the meaning of unfamiliar words.

SAT Writing and Language

The writing and language section of the SAT® is a 35-minute test section, including 44 multiple-choice questions. In this section, students are the editor and find the errors in short passages. What are the steps? Read the passage, find the mistakes, and fix them, much like the process of proofreading your own written work.

As in the reading section, this section also focuses on interpreting evidence and using it to make better arguments, as well as choosing the best word considering the context of the passage.

However, this section also includes the use of language to express ideas and application of standard English conventions, such as punctuation, verb tense, subject/verb agreement, and proper comma use.

SAT Optional Essay

Currently, the SAT® essay is optional but required by some schools. If you know which schools your child will apply, contact them, and see if they require the essay.

If you decided to do the essay portion, it is a 50-minute section in which your student reads a passage, composes an essay that explains how the author structured their argument and supports that explanation with evidence from the reading.

The essay is scored from 1 to 4 (four being the highest) by two people who rate how well it demonstrates the student’s understanding of the information, their ability to build a cohesive argument, and their proper use of stand English writing conventions.

Learn and Practice the SAT English and Writing Skills

Before you go down the rabbit trail of tips and tricks for scoring well on the SAT®, you first should make sure your child has the necessary skills needed to do well on the test. No amount of prepping will do any good if they don’t have mastery of English fundamentals.

Learn English Grammar and Practice Proofreading

Unfortunately, many grammar skills demand direct instruction and practice. Many are picked up naturally through our spoken language, however, students need to learn how to translate that into the written form with the correct punctuation and properly formed sentences and paragraphs.

Sometimes even as parents, we’re not sure about proper usage and mechanics, which can be frustrating. Luckily, provides interactive software specifically designed to teach and learn English grammar.

Focusing on grammar, usage, punctuation, and writing mechanics, will allow your child to learn all the English skills necessary to score well on the SAT. Once they have these skills, it’s essential to put them into practice by proofreading and editing their written work.

Read Demanding Text and Discuss

It will also benefit your child to practice thoughtful reading of demanding texts. Much of the SAT reading is about the ability for your child to draw conclusions from the passages they read.

As much as we love classic novels, the reading on the SAT® is more focused on academic texts that provide data and require students to understand information. Reading journal articles and scientific studies are more likely to help a child score well on the SAT®, especially if they struggle with comprehension. They must practice identifying hypotheses, finding the supporting data, and drawing conclusions.

Focus on the Needed Skills to Master the SAT®

It’s appealing to think there is some SAT® master that holds the keys to a perfect score if we’re only willing to write the check, but that isn’t true. Test prep tricks and tips are available for free, and I suggest researching those.

But the bulk of a child’s test preparation should come from just learning and practicing the needed skills. If they can find the errors and make corrections at home, they can do it for the test as well.

So calm your inner drill sergeant and develop these skills over time in your homeschool. Your child will be free from the test-prep machine, and so will your bank account.

sat test prep for homeschoolers


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