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How to Take the SAT Test: Sample Questions and Answers

How to Take the SAT Test: Sample Questions and Answers

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The SAT Reasoning Test is divided into three main portions: the writing portion, the critical reading portion, and the mathematics portion. Each portion contains different types of question designed to cover the basic subject knowledge requirements for college admission. Here are some samples of the types of question you will find in each portion of the SAT, with answers and brief explanations.

The writing portion

SAT test sample questionsThis portion of the SAT contains a short essay and three types of multiple-choice question: sentence improvement, identifying sentence errors, and paragraph improvement. Below are sample questions and answers in each of these categories.

The short essay

Your assigned essay topic will be an issue presented in a literary excerpt. You will read the excerpt, then be asked to take a stance on the issue presented, using examples from the excerpt, or your own knowledge and experience.

Sample essay question:

Many persons believe that to move up the ladder of success and achievement, they must forget the past, repress it, and relinquish it. But others have just the opposite view. They see old memories as a chance to reckon with the past and integrate past and present.
-- Adapted from Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot, I've Known Rivers: Lives of Loss and Liberation

Assignment: Do memories hinder or help people in their effort to learn from the past and succeed in the present? Plan and write an essay in which you develop your point of view on this issue. Support your position with reasoning and examples taken from your reading, studies, experience, or observations.

Sample answer (6 out of 6):

Without our past, our future would be a tortuous path leading to nowhere. In order to move up the ladder of success and achievement we must come to terms with our past and integrate it into our future. Even if in the past we made mistakes, this will only make wiser people out of us and guide us to where we are supposed to be.

This past year, I was auditioning for the fall play, "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof." To my detriment I thought it would be a good idea to watch the movie in order to prepare. For two hours I studied Elizabeth Taylor's mannerisms, attitude, and diction, hoping I could mimic her performance. I auditioned for the part of "Maggie" feeling perfectly confident in my portrayal of Elizabeth Taylor, however, I was unaware that my director saw exactly what I had been thinking. Unfortunately, I didn't get the part, and my director told me that he needed to see "Maggie" from my perspective, not Elizabeth Taylor's.

I learned from this experience, and promised myself I would not try to imitate another actress, in order to create my character. Perservering, I was anxious to audition for the winter play just two months later. The play was Neil Simon's "Rumors," and would get the opportunity to play "Chris," a sarcastic yet witty role, which would be my final performance in high school. In order to develop my character, I planned out her life just as I thought it should be, gave her the voice I thought was right, and the rest of her character unfolded beautifully from there. My director told me after the first show that "Rumors" was the best work he'd ever seen from me, and that he was amazed at how I'd developed such a believable character. Thinking back to my first audition I was grateful for that chance I had to learn and to grow, because without that mistake I might have tried to base "Chris" off of someone I'd known or something I'd seen instead of becoming my own character. I utilized the memory of the Elizabeth Taylor debacle to improve my approach to acting and gave the best performance of my life so far.

Reviewer remarks:

This essay effectively and insightfully develops its point of view ("In order to move up the ladder of success and achievement we must come to terms with our past and integrate it into our future") through a clearly appropriate extended example drawing on the writer's experience as an actor. The essay exhibits outstanding critical thinking by presenting a well-organized and clearly focused narrative that aptly illustrates the value of memory. The essay also uses language skillfully, demonstrating meaningful variety in sentence structure ("To my detriment I thought it would be a good idea to watch the movie in order to prepare. For two hours I studied Elizabeth Taylor's mannerisms, attitude, and diction, hoping I could mimic her performance. I auditioned for the part of "Maggie" feeling perfectly confident in my portrayal of Elizabeth Taylor, however, I was unaware that my director saw exactly what I had been thinking"). Despite minor errors, the essay demonstrates clear and consistent mastery and is scored a 6.

Improving sentences

In this section of the SAT, you are given a sentence and presented with different ways to improve the sentence's wording.

Sample sentence improvement question:

The following sentences test correctness and effectiveness of expression. Part of each sentence or the entire sentence is bolded; beneath each sentence are five ways of phrasing the bolded material. Choice A repeats the original phrasing; the other four choices are different. If you think the original phrasing produces a better sentence than any of the alternatives, select choice A; if not, select one of the other choices.

In making your selection, follow the requirements of standard written English; that is, pay attention to grammar, choice of words, sentence construction, and punctuation. Your selection should result in the most effective sentence -- clear and precise, without awkwardness or ambiguity.

Laura Ingalls Wilder published her first book and she was sixty-five years old then.

(A) and she was sixty-five years old then
(B) when she was sixty-five
(C) at age sixty-five years old
(D) upon the reaching of sixty-five years
(E) at the time when she was sixty-five

Sample answer:

The correct answer is B. Replacing the word "and" with "when" clearly expresses the information that the sentence is intended to convey by relating Laura Ingalls Wilder's age to her achievement.

Identifying sentence errors

In this section of the SAT Test, you are given a sentence which may or may not contain a grammatical error. You are then given multiple-choice options on the best revision of the sentence.

Sample sentence error question:

The following sentences test your ability to recognize grammar and usage errors. Each sentence contains either a single error or no error at all. The error, if there is one, is bolded and lettered. If the sentence contains an error, select the one bolded part that must be changed to make the sentence correct. If the sentence is correct, select choice E. In choosing answers, follow the requirements of standard written English.

The other delegates (A) and him (B) immediately (C) accepted the resolution drafted (D) by the neutral states. No error (E)

Sample answer:

The pronoun "him" is in the wrong case. (One would not say "him immediately accepted.") Mark (B) on your answer sheet because the underlined word "him" must be changed to "he" to make the sentence correct.

Improving paragraphs

In this section of the SAT, you will be given a paragraph containing grammatical errors. You will then be asked a series of questions focusing on specific parts of the paragraph, where you will have multiple-choice options on the best revision for each part.

Sample paragraph improvement question:

The following passage is an early draft of an essay. Some parts of the passage need to be rewritten.
Read the passage and select the best answers for the questions that follow. Some questions are about particular sentences or parts of sentences and ask you to improve sentence structure or word choice. Other questions ask you to consider organization and development. In choosing answers, follow the requirements of standard written English.

(1) Many times art history courses focus on the great "masters," ignoring those women who should have achieved fame. (2) Often women artists like Mary Cassatt have worked in the shadows of their male contemporaries. (3) They have rarely received much attention during their lifetimes.
(4) My art teacher has tried to make up for it by teaching us about women artists and their work. (5) Recently she came to class very excited; she had just read about a little-known artist named Annie Johnson, a high school teacher who had lived all of her life in New Haven, Connecticut. (6) Johnson never sold a painting, and her obituary in 1937 did not even mention her many paintings. (7) Thanks to Bruce Blanchard, a Connecticut businessman who bought some of her watercolors at an estate sale. (8) Johnson is finally starting to get the attention that she deserved more than one hundred years ago. (9) Blanchard now owns a private collection of hundreds of Johnson's works -- watercolors, charcoal sketches, and pen-and-ink drawings.
(10) There are portraits and there are landscapes. (11) The thing that makes her work stand out are the portraits. (12) My teacher described them as "unsentimental." (13) They do not idealize characters. (14) Characters are presented almost photographically. (15) Many of the people in the pictures had an isolated, haunted look. (16) My teacher said that isolation symbolizes Johnson's life as an artist.

In context, which is the best revision to the bolded portion of sentence 3 (reproduced below)?
They have rarely received much attention during their lifetimes.

(A) In fact, they had
(B) Too bad these artists have
(C) As a result, these women have
(D) In spite of this, women artists
(E) Often it is the case that the former have

Sample answer:

(C) is correct. The transitional phrase "as a result" clearly indicates a cause-and-effect relationship, and "these women" properly resolves the ambiguity of the pronoun "They."

The critical reading portion

This portion of the SAT features two types of multiple choice question: sentence completions and passage-based reading. Below are sample questions and answers in each of these categories.

Sentence completions

In this section, you are given a sentence with missing words, and are asked to choose the multiple-choice option that best fills in the blanks.

Sample sentence completion:

Hoping to ------- the dispute, negotiators proposed a compromise that they felt would be ------- to both labor and management.

(A) enforce . . useful
(B) end . . divisive
(C) overcome . . unattractive
(D) extend . . satisfactory
(E) resolve . . acceptable

Sample answer:

It makes sense to say "Hoping to resolve the dispute, the negotiators proposed a compromise that they felt would be acceptable to both labor and management." Correct answer: (E)

Passage-based reading

In this section, you will be given a passage to read, and will be asked questions related to the vocabulary, literal meanings, and implied meanings found in the passage.

Sample passage-based reading question:

The passages below are followed by questions based on their content; questions following a pair of related passages may also be based on the relationship between the paired passages. Answer the questions on the basis of what is stated or implied in the passages and in any introductory material that may be provided.
The questions below are based on the following passage.

"The rock was still wet. The animal was glistening, like it was still swimming," recalls Hou Xianguang. Hou discovered the unusual fossil while surveying rocks as a paleontology graduate student in 1984, near the Chinese town of Chengjiang. "My teachers always talked about the Burgess Shale animals. It looked like one of them. My hands began to shake." Hou had indeed found a Naraoia like those from Canada. However, Hou's animal was 15 million years older than its Canadian relatives.

In sentence 3, "surveying" most nearly means

(A) calculating the value of
(B) examining comprehensively
(C) determining the boundaries of
(D) polling randomly
(E) conducting a statistical study of

Sample answer:

In the context of this passage, only (B) makes sense. A student in the field of "paleontology" is one who studies prehistoric life as recorded in fossil remains. One of the activities of such a student would be to examine rocks carefully and "comprehensively" while looking for fossils.

The mathematics portion

This portion of the SAT Test contains multiple-choice and student-produced response (grid-in) questions pertaining to various mathematical concepts.

Sample multiple-choice question:

A special lottery is to be held to select the student who will live in the only deluxe room in a dormitory. There are 100 seniors, 150 juniors, and 200 sophomores who applied. Each senior's name is placed in the lottery 3 times; each junior's name, 2 times; and each sophomore's name, 1 time. What is the probability that a senior's name will be chosen?

(A) 1/8
(B) 2/9
(C) 2/7
(D) 3/8
(E) 1/2

Sample answer:

To determine the probability that a senior's name will be chosen, you must determine the total number of seniors' names that are in the lottery and divide this number by the total number of names in the lottery. Since each senior's name is placed in the lottery 3 times, there are 3 x 100 = 300 seniors' names. Likewise, there are 2 x 150 = 300 juniors' names and 1 x 200 = 200 sophomores' names in the lottery. The probability that a senior's name will be chosen is 300/300+300+200 = 300/800 = 3/8

Correct answer: D

Student-produced response

These questions test your skill at various mathematical concepts, but rather than choosing from answer options, you must solve the problem and provide the answer yourself, using a special gridding system (explained on the CollegeBoard Web site and in the test booklet).

Sample student-produced response question:

|4x - 7| = 5
|3 - 8x| = 1

What value of x satisfies both of the equations above?

Sample answer:

Since |4x - 7| = 5, the value of 4x - 7 is either 5 or -5.
The two values of x that satisfy the first equation are 3 and 1/2.

Since |3 - 8x| = 1, the value of 3 - 8x is either 1 or -1.
The two values of x that satisfy the second equation are 1/4 and 1/2.

You are asked to find the value of x that satisfies both equations. That value is 1/2.
The answer can be entered in the grid as 1/2 or .5.

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References

CollegeBoard: About the SAT

Test Prep Review: SAT Test online course

Study Guide Zone: SAT Test

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