Magoosh Sat Essay Question

SAT Writing: Aside from the essay…

There are three scored writing sections on the SAT, one of which is the essay. Of course, the essay question (link to “The SAT Essay Prompt”) is something worth picking apart on it’s own, so we won’t worry about it here.

Instead, let’s look at the types of questions that make up the other two writing sections on the SAT.


Type 1: Improving sentences

These are, by far, the most common format of SAT writing question. There are a total of 35 of them on the test, with eleven in the 25 minute writing multiple choice section and fourteen in the final, 10 minute section (which is only improving sentence questions).

They look like this:

Joan has always wanted to be a ventriloquist; she especially wants to use a hobo sloth dummy that her grandfather made, and lessons haven’t been taken by her yet.

  1. made, and lessons haven’t been taken by her yet.
  2. made while her lessons haven’t been taken yet.
  3. made, she didn’t take any lessons, however.
  4. made, but lessons haven’t been taken by her yet.
  5. made although she hasn’t taken lessons yet.

In order to answer the question, you have to find the problem in the underlined section, if there is one, and then choose the best answer to fix whatever the problem is.

And even though these questions have supposedly already located the error for you, they often underline a pretty big chunk of the sentence to work with. Beyond that, they also give you answer choice (A), which has no change, so you need to be able to tell that there’s an error at all.


Type 2: Identifying sentence errors

These look different from any other question on the SAT because they don’t list answer choices under the question. Instead, it’s all put together into one chunk of text.

In the long writing section, there’ll be 18 of these questions. Identifying sentence error questions aren’t all that different from the improving sentences questions above. In a way, they’re easier—you don’t have to know how to solve the problem, only that it exists.


Type 3: Improving paragraphs

You’ll see one set of questions that refers to a mini-reading passage (strewn with errors, of course). There are six questions about the passage in each SAT, and they all test pretty much the same things that improving sentences questions do. There’s one major difference: they often ask you to improve the text by adding or combining sentences, and that means you have to understand the purpose of the text on some level.

Make sure you don’t treat the passage like SAT reading, though. Improving paragraphs questions should be approached a little differently. You can get some practice with the format here on the Magoosh SAT blog, if you’d like.


About Lucas Fink

Lucas is the teacher behind Magoosh TOEFL. He’s been teaching TOEFL preparation and more general English since 2009, and the SAT since 2008. Between his time at Bard College and teaching abroad, he has studied Japanese, Czech, and Korean. None of them come in handy, nowadays.

Magoosh blog comment policy: To create the best experience for our readers, we will approve and respond to comments that are relevant to the article, general enough to be helpful to other students, concise, and well-written! :) If your comment was not approved, it likely did not adhere to these guidelines. If you are a Premium Magoosh student and would like more personalized service, you can use the Help tab on the Magoosh dashboard. Thanks!

If you want to practice the new SAT essay, good news! We have a passage and a prompt for you.

On the New SAT, the essay requires you to read a persuasive passage and then respond to it. The reading portion of the New SAT essay will always be adapted from a noteworthy original source—a famous author or prominent media outlet.

In your response, you need to analyze the argument made by the author. In this post, we’ll look at a written opinion piece that is adapted from Dean Ornish’s public speech from the TED Talks symposium. (Ornish is a prominent physician and nutritionist.) Sample answers with commentary will be given in a later post.

Adapted from Dean Ornish, “The Killer American Diet That’s Sweeping the Planet.” © 2006, TED Conferences, LLC. Originally published February 2006.

With all the legitimate concerns about AIDS, avian flu, and other debilitating diseases, I would like to bring your attention to another important and devastating global pandemic. This worldwide plague to human health takes the form of an international rise cardiovascular disease, diabetes, hypertension, and other disorders related to unhealthy eating.

Greater awareness of this growing problem is of crucial importance, because all three of these diseases are completely preventable for at least 95 percent of people who suffer them; the preventative cure is simply a matter of changing diet. This globalization of diet-related illness is occurring due to the influence the United States exerts on the world at large. One every continent, people are starting to eat like Americans, live like Americans, and die like Americans.

Heart, blood vessel, and weight-related diseases still kill more people than all other health maladies combined, not only in the United States, but also worldwide. Take the case of the Asian continent. In one generation, Asia has gone from having one of the lowest rates of heart disease and obesity and diabetes to one of the highest rates for these types of afflictions. Africa has seen similar growth in in diet-related health problems, with death from cardiovascular disease equal the HIV and AIDS fatalities over the last decade. At the core of this international pandemic is an epidemic of obesity. In America itself, obesity is seen in two-thirds of adults and 15% of children. This is a recent and significant shift in health within this country, with the United States Center for Disease Control reporting marked increase in obesity from 1985 onward.

Perhaps of greatest concern, this rapid increase in obesity rates has led to a worldwide growth in diabetes. Again we can look to the United States as a case study for the consequences of the modern American-style diet. In America diabetes has increased 70 percent just from 1995 to 2006. Because diabetes and other life-threatening illnesses have multiplied so exponentially in the USA, this may be the first generation in which American children live a shorter life span than their parents. This trend, which is happening not just in the United States but in many developed and developing nations that have recently adopted the American diet, is both pitiful and preventable.

It is of utmost importance to look at ways to reverse this new direction world health is moving in. We must act to prevent these life-style related maladies from becoming an intractable international problem. A good first step is to find out what kinds of eating habits could combat the effects of America’s killer diet. This step has been achieved. In research I have conducted with my colleagues, we have found that the traditional Asian diet is optimal for reversing obesity, heart disease, and even diabetes that is caught in its early stages.

Unfortunately, as I mentioned, Asian people are starting to eat like Americans do, and are starting to get sick in the same way as Americans. To combat this effect, I have been working with a lot of the larger United States food companies. Through advertising, marketing, and food engineering, these companies can make it appealing and convenient to eat healthier foods. In fact, positive change on this front is already beginning to happen in the multinational food industry.

As part of my work as a nutritionist, I chair the advisory boards to McDonald’s, PepsiCo, ConAgra, Safeway, and Del Monte. With guidance from the medical and scientific community, these and other corporations are and they’re finding that it is good business to promote the health and wellbeing of their customers. The salads that you see at McDonald’s come from this collaborative work between food and health agencies. It is especially worth noting that McDonalds now offers an Asian-style salad. To give an additional hopeful example, The Pepsi Corporation has seen two-thirds of their revenue growth came from their healthier offerings.

The American approach to food focuses on convenience and flavor, often at the expense of wellness and nutrition. The world’s healthcare professionals, food manufacturers, and consumers must make an effort to turn this trend around, both in the United States and worldwide. If we can succeed in this health-driven goal, we will not just become more effective at preventing and curing things like obesity, heart disease, hypertension, and diabetes. We will also be better equipped to take on all illnesses. The simple preventative practice of improved diet will reduce the need for expensive treatment of the sicknesses that come with unhealthy eating. This in turn we can free up resources for buying the drugs and intensive medical solutions that really are needed for treating AIDS, HIV, malaria, avian flu, and so on.

Write an essay in which you explain how Dean Ornish builds an argument to persuade his audience that the world should turn to better eating habits. In your essay, analyze how Ornish uses one or more of the features listed in the box above (or features of your own choice) to strengthen the logic and persuasiveness of his argument. Be sure that your analysis focuses on the most relevant features of the passage. Your essay should not explain whether you agree with Ornish’s claims, but rather explain how Ornish builds an argument to persuade his audience.


About David Recine

David is a test prep expert at Magoosh. He has a Bachelor of Social Work from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire and a Masters in Teaching English to Speakers of other Languages from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls. He has been teaching K-12, University, and adult education classes since 2007 and has worked with students from every continent. Currently, David lives in a small town in the American Upper Midwest. When he’s not teaching or writing, David studies Korean, plays with his son, and takes road trips to Minneapolis to get a taste of city life. Follow David on Google+ and Twitter!

Magoosh blog comment policy: To create the best experience for our readers, we will approve and respond to comments that are relevant to the article, general enough to be helpful to other students, concise, and well-written! :) If your comment was not approved, it likely did not adhere to these guidelines. If you are a Premium Magoosh student and would like more personalized service, you can use the Help tab on the Magoosh dashboard. Thanks!

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