SAT Sample Reading-Test Questions: Writing and Language

By Geraldine Woods, Ron Woldoff

The new SAT reading section that covers writing and language most closely resembles the passage-improvement questions on the old exam. Instead of six multiple-choice, passage-improvement questions, though, the new SAT hits you with 44 questions that you must answer in 35 minutes.

Following is an excerpt from a sample test.

Sample Questions

Questions 1–5 refer to the following passage.

Sample Passage

Dr. Vint Virga stares at Molly, a 1 Barbary sheep, Molly has been behaving strangely since her tail was amputated after an accident. Molly spends almost all of her time nervously checking for flies that she used to bat away easily with her tail. Dr. Virga decides that Molly has a phobia, an irrational fear. He prescribes medication and works to ease her fears by distracting her with food and 2 subtracting her anxiety level so that she can stand quietly when insects do approach. Virga travels from zoo to zoo, where he solves the problems of animals like Molly. 3

Animal behaviorists may be veterinarians, as Dr. Virga is, or animal trainers, zoologists, college professors, zookeepers, and many other types of workers who specialize in animals. Animal behaviorists interpret how individuals or whole populations of animals eat, move, rest, play, and 4 relating to their environment. Identifying problems, 5 the animals may be treated by the behaviorist with medicine or behavior modification techniques.

In the following multiple-choice questions, choose the best answer based on what you read in the passage. Superscript numbers in the passage text match the question numbers.

  1. (A) NO CHANGE

    (B) Barbary sheep, and Molly has been behaving

    (C) Barbary sheep that has been behaving

    (D) Barbary sheep. Molly behaved

  2. (A) NO CHANGE

    (B) lowering

    (C) increasing

    (D) subordinating

  3. Which of the following is the best improvement for the first paragraph?

    (A) Add this sentence to the end of the paragraph: “He is an animal behaviorist.”

    (B) Delete this sentence: “Dr. Virga decides that Molly has a phobia, an irrational fear.”

    (C) Add this sentence to the beginning of the paragraph: “Barbary sheep are also known as aoudads.”

    (D) Delete “since her tail was amputated after an accident.”

  4. (A) NO CHANGE

    (B) environmental relation of animals

    (C) the way in which they relate to their environment

    (D) relate to their environment

  5. (A) NO CHANGE

    (B) the animals, treat by the behaviorist,

    (C) the behaviorist treats the animals

    (D) the behaviorists, they treat the animals

Answers and Explanations

  1. C.

    The original is a run-on sentence — that is, two complete sentences attached to each other by a comma — a huge no-no in the grammar world. Choices (B) and (D) correct the original problem, but Choice (B) adds and, resulting in a less mature expression. Choice (D) introduces a new mistake, changing the present-tense verb to past and breaking the pattern established in the paragraph, which is all in present tense. Choice (C) includes the necessary information in a grammatically correct way.

  2. B.

    The sentence tells you that Molly’s anxiety level should go down because she is “nervously checking” and then, the vet hopes, she “can stand quietly.” Okay, when you subtract, you do end up with a smaller number. However, anxiety isn’t a number; it’s a feeling. You can lower the intensity of a feeling, but you can’t subtract it. Choice (B) is the word you seek here. Choice (C), by the way, is the opposite of what you want. Choice (D) establishes a level of importance — not what you need in this sentence.

  3. A.

    The first paragraph focuses on one patient, Molly, and Dr. Virga’s treatment of her. The second paragraph explains what an animal behaviorist does. By adding “He is an animal behaviorist,” you establish a strong transition from paragraph 1 to paragraph 2.

  4. D.

    The original sentence has a list of activities that behaviorists study. Whenever you see a list, check that it’s parallel. That’s an English-teacher term for this rule: Everything doing the same job in the sentence must be in the same form. You have eat, move, rest, play, and, in the original, relating. Nope. Change relating to relate and read the list. Can you hear how everything matches? Now it’s parallel and correct.

  5. C.

    The sentence begins with a verb form, Identifying. By the rules of grammar, the subject of the sentence must be doing the action expressed by an introductory verb form. The subject of the original sentence is animals, who are definitely not identifying problems. Switch the sentence around so that the behaviorist does the identifying. Both Choices (C) and (D) solve the problem. Choice (C) is better than Choice (D), though, because Choice (D) drags in an extra word, they.