How to Get an 800 on SAT Writing

If you are looking to raise your score on SAT Writing, you will need extensive practice and drilling to master your writing skills, grammar, spelling, and comprehension.

For those who have high scores of 600 or above, you can tweak your study habits a bit to get a perfect score of 800 on the test.

Since the SAT combines Reading and Writing into one section, you will need to earn 40 points on this segment to get an 800. Your Reading and Writing scores add and get multiplied by ten to provide your final score between 200 and 800.

Here are some tips to get an 800 on SAT Writing.

Finding Your Weaknesses

Before you can master your shortcomings, you need to identify them. Start by taking two SAT Writing exams: one untimed with a dictionary and the other timed without resources.

Untimed Dictionary Score vs. Timed Score

Your untimed dictionary score (UDS) will show how well you know the content being tested. It reflects your knowledge of grammar and syntax, your answer elimination strategies, and your understanding of what the test wants.

Taking a timed practice test and comparing the results of the two shows if time management is your weakness. Perhaps you struggle with vocabulary, understanding the question, or take too much time checking your work.

No matter your score on either section, you can always improve and get them to match. The closer your UDS and timed scores are, the better you will perform on test day.

Grammar and Punctuation Rules

The SAT tests most of the same grammar rules each year. These include:

  • Sentence structure
  • Punctuation
  • Word usage

Sentence Structure

You will need to comprehend the fundamentals of sentence structure to answer the questions on SAT Writing.

An independent clause has a complete thought, subject, and verb. For instance, the independent clause “He tripped on the sidewalk because his laces were untied” has a subject (He), verb (tripped), and complete thought (his laces were untied).

If you miss one of these components, you have a sentence fragment.

You can combine two independent clauses in one sentence with a comma or semicolon. When using a comma, you need to include a coordinating conjunction to avoid a comma splice. For example, “My boyfriend has a job, so he bought us concert tickets” has two sets of subjects, verbs, and complete thoughts.

The sentence works with a semicolon as well: “My boyfriend has a job; he bought us concert tickets.” Semicolons prevent run-on sentences by inserting a pause between the two independent clauses.

Subordinating conjunctions connect independent and dependent clauses, which are sentence fragments. For instance, “Before you go to work, you need to change your bike tires.” The subordinating conjunction “before” introduces a dependent clause without a complete thought. The comma joins it to an independent clause.

Another rule is parallel structure. When writing a list, you need to use the same verb form and tenses. You would say, “I hate cooking, cleaning, and bathing” instead of “I hate to cook, cleaning, and bathing.”

Also, ensure you avoid dangling or misplaced modifiers. Modifiers emphasize words in sentences and should proceed or follow the word they modify to clarify the sentence. For example, “The book that I read last week was called Broken” should be “I read a book called Broken last week” because the title modifies the noun.

By introducing a clear subject and verb, you can avoid dangling modifiers.

Try to keep nouns and verbs in agreement. They should be either singular or plural. Usually, that means you need to check your usage of “is” and “are” with the number of nouns.


A fundamental punctuation rule is ending a sentence. You can choose between a period, exclamation point, or question mark.

Periods close factual statements or commands, while exclamation points express excitement. You use these sparingly after interjections or shouted sentences. Question marks conclude questions.

Most sentences will end with a period, but you can choose the best ending by reading the statement with a declarative, excited, or questioning voice.

You can use colons to connect two independent clauses. If the second one clarifies the first, you can use a colon (“I am stuffed: I ate too many cookies.”). It also applies if the second clause has a list, like “My mom only cooks three things: spaghetti, steak, and chicken pot pies.”

A rule of thumb is to use a comma whenever you need a pause. You can use it to separate independent clauses, list items, or adjectives. Furthermore, commas work after introductory phrases, before and after inessential phrases, in dates and cities, around quotation marks, and when using someone’s name.

Semicolons can separate lists if any item contains a comma.

Word Usage

You will want to follow conventions of word usage on SAT Writing.

Pronouns, such as he, she, I, you, and me, need clear antecedents. If the pronoun does not obviously relate to a subject, you should write the subject’s name in its place to avoid confusion.

Research the definitions and uses of homophones to understand their differences. Common ones include there, their, and they’re; your and you’re; then and than; its and it’s; effect and affect; proceed and precede; cite, site, and sight; conscience and conscious; except and accept; and compliment and complement.

Make sure you avoid illogical comparisons. The two subjects being compared must have similarities without being too broad. For instance, you would say “My parents watch horror movies more than any other genre” instead of “more than any movie” because horror movies are movies.

Syntax and Rhetoric

Syntax and rhetoric questions focus on how you convey your ideas. You have to identify the best way to phrase a sentence to clarify your intent. These types of questions include:

  • Contextualizing graphs
  • Ordering sentences
  • Maintaining a passage’s tone
  • Shortening sentences
  • Adding clauses
  • Replacing words
  • Picking transition words

You can adjust to these questions by reading various passage styles, like scientific journals, children’s books, classic novels, or magazine articles. Exposing yourself to more sentences can help you recognize the right word choice.

Drill Those Skills

Once you have mastered the fundamentals of grammar and syntax, you need to drill your skills.

Start by making flashcards featuring grammar rules. On one side, write an incorrect sentence and correct it on the other. Also, write the mistake made on the second side. When going through your set, identify the error and say the right sentence.

You can also use grammar worksheets to practice correcting sentences.

Make sure you take full practice exams regularly. You can work through four official SAT practice tests untimed. Check your answers and see what rules or question types cause you trouble.

Figure out why the answer was correct, why the others were wrong, where you were tricked, and the rules that prove the answer true. Complete some worksheets focused on these areas before taking your next practice exam.

After finishing four SAT Writing sections untimed, start timing yourself. Continue this way until your UDS matches your timed score.

Final Tips

Once you have improved your knowledge and taken multiple practice exams, try to keep these tips in mind:

  • Read the question thoroughly
  • Do not discount the “No Change” answer – you should choose it 25% of the time
  • Use commas only when necessary
  • Big words are not always needed
  • Read it to yourself to see if it sounds right

Following these tips should get you on your way to an 800 on SAT Writing.

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Michelle Tsou

Contributor at ExamCave. Michelle graduated with a BA in English from Portland State University. She hopes to one day run her own test-prep organization.