Writing and Language Tips

Improve PSAT 8/9 Writing and Language Score


1. Know the PSAT 8/9 Writing and Language test structure

The Writing and Language Test comes after the Reading test. You have 30 minutes to complete 40 multiple-choice questions. The questions are spread among four essays that include 10 questions each. You do not want to skip over any of the sentences, even if they do not contain underlined words or phrases since many of the organization and writing strategy questions require you to understand the essay as a whole.

2. Use an active reading technique

Read the entire passage; do not skip around to just the sentences that have underlines. Read until you have enough info to identify the issue. Eliminate answer choices that do NOT address the issue. Plug in the remaining answer choices and choose the answer that is the most correct, concise, and relevant.

3. Know your Commas!

One way to instantly increase your PSAT Writing and Language test score is to watch out for incorrect comma usage. In order for a comma to be correct, it MUST have a specific job. Separate an independent clause and a dependent clause (keep in mind a comma always comes before the word “which”): “I like biking, which is a highly recommended form of exercise.” In front of a FANBOYS: “The passage can seem intimidating, but knowing how to use commas can relieve quite a bit of stress.” Set off non-essential information: “My sister, who is twenty-six, attended Bowling Green State University and then New York University.” Items in a series: “My foster dogs enjoy running, jumping, and playing when I take them to the dog park.”

Rote memorization of language rules is not tested, nor are any questions based on short snippets of text taken out of context.

4. Learn the idiosyncrasies of the test

The PSAT loves to create answer choices that are redundant. These choices will always be wrong, so you should learn to recognize and eliminate these choices.

5. Look out for keywords like NOT, LEAST, OMIT

Circle the words: “NOT” / “LEAST acceptable” in question stems. Your thought process will be different for these! “OMIT the underlined portion” is correct the majority of the time. You do not want to “OMIT the underlined portion” when the information presented in the underlined portion is not available anywhere else in the passage and it is relevant to the passage.

6. Informational graphs

As in the Reading Test, some passages are accompanied by informational graphics such as tables, graphs, and charts; some questions require you to revise or edit a passage in light of the information and ideas conveyed graphically. (Again, mathematical computation is not required to answer these questions.)

7. Keep track of timing

You should complete each passage in 7 - 8 minutes. This means that for most questions you cannot spend more than 45 seconds.

8. Practice three or four Writing and Language tests

Full-length practice tests are not easy to find. Using Analyze Ed you will have the opportunity to work with a pre-test, a post-test, and multiple reading passages as part of your content practice plan.