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Solving Expression of Ideas questions

Strategies for the SAT Writing and Language Test – Expression of Ideas questions 

Expression of Ideas: The Writing and Language Test

Questions that fall within the “Expression of Ideas” category focus on three broad elements:
  • Development questions ask you to refine the content of a passage to achieve the writer’s purpose
  • Organization questions require you to improve the structure of a passage to enhance logic and cohesion
  • Effective Language Use questions ask you to revise text to improve written expression and to achieve the writer’s purpose
In this three-part series of articles, we will look at these elements in greater detail, and share some strategies about how to approach them!


Development questions on the Writing and Language Test get to the heart of what the writer is trying to express. When you answer a Development question, you’ll be looking for ways to enhance the writer’s message by clarifying the main points, adding or changing supporting details, sharpening the focus, and — in some passages — using data from informational graphics such as tables, graphs, and charts to make the passage more accurate, more precise, and generally more effective.
There are four different kinds of Development questions:
  • Proposition: Add, revise, or leave unchanged thesis statements, topic sentences, or claims – in other words, the “main ideas” of a passage or paragraph.
    Example: "Which choice best introduces the main topic of the paragraph?"
  • Support: Add, revise, or leave unchanged evidence that supports a passage’s points or claims
    Example: "Which choice most effectively sets up the information that follows?"
  • Focus: Add, revise, leave unchanged, or delete material on the basis of relevance to the purpose (e.g., deleting an irrelevant sentence) These questions ask you to consider a new sentence that the writer wants to add or delete at a particular point in the passage.
    Example 1: “The writer is considering adding the following sentence . . . should the writer make this addition here?”
    Example 2: “The writer is considering deleting the following sentence . . . should the writer make this deletion here?”
  • Quantitative information: Use data from informational graphics (e.g.: tables, graphs, charts) to enhance the accuracy, precision, and overall effectiveness of a passage.
    Example: “Which choice most effectively represents the information provided in the table?”


Some Expression of Ideas questions require you to improve the structure of a passage to enhance logic and cohesion – in other words, organize it.
Here are some examples:
  • Logical sequence: Make sure that material is presented in the most logical sequence.
In these questions, sentences in a paragraph will be numbered. You will be asked to change the placement of an existing sentence or add a new sentence in the order that makes the most sense given the context of the passage.
Check out this Tips & Strategies article for more on how to approach these questions.
  • Introductions, conclusions, and transitions: Improve the openings and closings of paragraphs and passages and the connections between and among information and ideas in a passage.
    Example 1: Which choice best concludes the passage?
    Example 2: Which choice provides the best transition to the topic of paragraph 3?
    Example 3: Which choice best introduces the topic of paragraph 2?

Effective Language Use:

These questions ask you to revise text to improve written expression and to achieve the writer’s purpose.
  • Precision: Making word choice more exact or appropriate for the context
    Example: ...As Kingman developed as a painter, his works were often compared to paintings by Chinese landscape artists dating back to CE 960, a time when a strong tradition of landscape painting emerged in Chinese art. Kingman, however, vacated from that tradition in a number of ways, most notably in that he chose to focus not on natural landscapes, such as mountains and rivers, but on cities. . . .
    B) evacuated
    C) departed
    D) retired
  • Concision: Make word choice more economical by eliminating wordiness and redundancy.
    Example: Sometimes language can be repetitive, duplicative, and say the same thing more than once.
    A) repetitive
    B) wordy and verbose
    C) redundant and repetitive
    D) overly wordy and full of repeated repetitions of the same words used over and over again.
  • Style and tone: Make word choice consistent with the overall style and tone of a passage.
    Example: “Which of the following best maintains the style and tone of the passage?”
  • Syntax: combining sentences to improve the flow of language or to accomplish some particular rhetorical goal.
    Example: . . . During his career, Kingman exhibited his work internationally. He garnered much acclaim. . .
    Which choice most effectively combines the sentences at the underlined portion?
    A) internationally, and Kingman also garnered
    B) internationally; from exhibiting, he garnered
    C) internationally but garnered
    D) internationally, garnering
Adapted from Chapter 14 of the College Board’s Official SAT Study Guide

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