The SAT Writing and Language section tests you on where to place sentences within a paragraph and where to place paragraphs within a passage. You may not know exactly how to approach these questions if you've never encountered these types of questions on other tests. Fortunately, organization questions aren't overly difficult if you know how to recognize and approach them.
In this article, I'll do the following:
- Explain the different types of organization questions on SAT Writing
- Provide a step-by-step approach to answering each type of organization questions
- Offer tips to help you answer organization questions on the SAT.
Organization Questions on SAT WritingOrganization questions ask where a sentence or paragraph should be placed within a passage. To correctly answer organization questions, you must understand the passage to ensure that each sentence and paragraph is logically connected. Generally, there are about 2-3 organization questions on SAT Writing.
How to Identify an Organization Question
Being able to identify an organization question will help you figure it out efficiently. Luckily, organization questions are easy to spot.
Bracketed numbers in front of the sentences in a paragraph signal an impending sentence order question:
Similarly, numbers at the top of each paragraph signal a paragraph order question:
If you see numbered sentences or paragraphs in a passage, you know that an organization question is coming.
Cupcakes and organization questions come in different types. (Hungry Dudes/Flickr)
The 2 Types of Organization QuestionsHere’s how most organization questions will be phrased.
Type 1: Sentence Order Questions
Most sentence order questions will look like this:
Or you might see a question that looks like this:
For both types of questions, you have to determine where the sentence should be placed within the passage.
Type 2: Paragraph Order Questions
This what paragraph order questions look like:
Like sentence order questions, paragraph order questions are pretty straightforward. You just have to select where a paragraph should be placed to make the passage most logical.
Step-By-Step Approach to Answering Sentence Order Questions
I’ll go through the step-by-step process for how to answer a sentence order question. Take a look at this question from a passage about video game designers:
#1: Determine What the Question is AskingRead these questions carefully so you know what to look for and how to go about answering the question. In this question, we have to determine where sentence 5 logically fits in the paragraph.
#2: Go Through the Answer Choices
Go through the answer choices to determine the best placement for the sentence. Let’s look at our options:
A. Courses in psychology and human behavior help you develop emphatic collaboration skills, while courses in the humanities, such as in literature and film, should give you the background necessary to develop effective narrative structures. A designer also needs careful educational preparation.
B. A designer also needs careful educational preparation. A basic understanding of computer programming is essential.
C. Consider taking some general computer science courses as well as courses in artificial intelligence and graphics in order to increase your understanding of the technical challenges involved in developing a video game. A designer also needs careful educational preparation.
D. DELETED from the paragraph
If you need more information to determine if a sentence logically fits in the paragraph, you can skim the paragraph plugging in each answer choice.
#3: Eliminate Wrong Choices
The right choice should logically follow the sentence before and connect to the following sentence. Answer choice A doesn’t work. The sentence before discusses specific educational preparation a designer needs. Then, the following sentence says that a designer also needs educational preparation. That doesn’t make much logical sense.
Similarly, in answer choice C, the first sentence mentions specific courses a designer should take, and the following sentence states that a designer also needs careful educational preparation. Therefore, we can eliminate choices A and C.
#4: Review the Paragraph With Your Remaining Choices to Determine What’s Most Logical
In answer choice B, the paragraph starts with the sentence that a designer also needs careful educational preparation. The rest of the paragraph is about the education that a designer needs to be successful. That sentence is a good introduction for the paragraph, and the rest of the paragraph makes logical sense.
In answer choice D, the paragraph starts by claiming that a basic understanding of computer science is essential, but the paragraph is about all the different types of courses that a designer needs. Answer choice B would give the paragraph the best introduction and make it most logical. The correct answer is B.
Step-By-Step Approach to Answering Paragraph Order Questions
Sentence order questions are much more common, but you may encounter a paragraph order question on the SAT. You’ll go through a similar process to determine where a paragraph best fits in the passage.
Take a look at this paragraph order question:
#1: Determine What the Question Is AskingThe question is straightforward. Where should paragraph 2 be placed to make the passage most logical? Also pay attention to the wording in the answer choices. We want to select which paragraph to place paragraph 2 AFTER.
#2: Determine the Main Idea of the Paragraph
Knowing the main idea of the paragraph will help you decide where the paragraph should fit in the passage. Let’s take a look at the paragraph in this question:
Often, the main idea of the paragraph can be found in the first or second sentences. This paragraph is discussing the details of an extravagantly decorated living room from the era of French king Louis XV. In a passage, each paragraph should connect to the next; therefore, the main idea of one paragraph should logically connect to the main idea of the paragraph that follows.
#3: Go Through the Answer ChoicesUse the main ideas of the other paragraphs and the general structure of the passage to determine if it would be logical to place paragraph 2 after a certain paragraph. Here are the main ideas of the paragraphs in the answer choices:
A. Paragraph 1 is about the narrator’s favorite exhibit at the Art Institute of Chicago, which was one of its tiniest: the Thorne Miniature Rooms.
B.Paragraph 3 provides a description of the exhibit, which features miniature rooms 1/12 their actual sizes. The rooms are from different regions and eras, from the 13th to the 20th centuries.
C. Paragraph 4 opens by stating that the plainer rooms are not as well-furnished, and then describes one of these rooms.
D. Paragraph 5 describes a couple of examples of the level of the detail of the furniture in these miniature rooms. It closes with a concluding statement that the narrator isn’t surprised by the level of detail given the exquisite craftsmanship he’s seen in this exhibit.
#4: Eliminate Wrong Choices
Remember that each paragraph should logically transition to the next paragraph. The original placement of paragraph 2 doesn’t make the most sense logically because it transitions from talking about ornately decorated rooms to a general overview of the exhibit in paragraph 3 to discussing the plainer rooms in paragraph 4.
It makes more sense to have the paragraph about the ornate rooms right before the paragraph about the plainer rooms. Those two paragraphs are more logically connected. Therefore, we can get rid of answer choice A. Also, it wouldn’t make much sense to have paragraph 2 after paragraph 4, especially because there is no logical transition between paragraphs 3 and 4.
Furthermore, paragraph 5 is the only paragraph that works as a conclusion and sums up the narrator’s fascination with the exhibit. It wouldn’t make sense to have a paragraph after that focusing on the details of a salon from the era of King Louis XV. We can get rid of choices A, C, and D.
#5: Skim the Passage With the Answer Choice You Selected
The right choice should logically follow the paragraph before and connect to the paragraph after. We’re left with answer choice B: paragraph 2 should be placed after paragraph 3. Paragraph 3 ends by stating that there are rooms from various eras; that logically transitions to the description of the ornate room from the era of King Louis XV. Also, paragraph 4 describes the plainer rooms; that paragraph logically follows the description of ornate rooms. The correct answer is B.
5 General Tips for Organization Questions
Here are some important tips to follow for all organization questions.
Read the Question and Answer Choices CarefullyMake sure you know what the question is asking. Determine if it’s a sentence order or paragraph order question. Figure out what you should be looking for before you attempt to answer the question.
Review All of the Answer Choices
For organization questions, you need to look at the various options you’re given for where to place a sentence or paragraph. Try the various options to determine if all of the sentences or paragraphs would be logically connected. For paragraph order questions, identify the main ideas of the paragraphs.
Eliminate Wrong ChoicesIf an answer choice results in sentences or paragraphs that aren’t logically connected, eliminate that answer choice as an option. Wrong answer choices in sentence order questions will result in a paragraph that is confusing or doesn’t make logical sense. Wrong answer choices in paragraph order questions result in a passage in which the main idea of a paragraph doesn’t logically connect to surrounding paragraphs. Getting rid of obviously wrong answers will make your task of selecting the right answer easier.
Make Sure That the Answer Choice You Pick Logically Follows What Comes Before and Connects to What Follows
For all sentence and paragraph order questions, the correct answer has to make the most logical sense. Check the surrounding sentences or paragraphs to determine that everything is logical and coherent.
Use Chronological Order for Help
Sometimes, relying on chronological order can help you with organization questions. The first paragraph may describe an event from the beginning, and each following paragraph will describe the next thing that occurred. By paying attention to the sequence of events, you can organize the paragraphs correctly.
Similarly, within a paragraph, identifying the order of events can help you organize the sentences. For example, you can't dry off before you get wet. If a sentence about drying off comes before a sentence about getting wet, you'll likely have to change the order of the sentences.
Organization questions are new to the SAT Writing section. Find out how else SAT Writing has changed.
Transition questions are the most common on SAT Writing. Learn how to tackle these questions and improve your score.
Finally, make sure you know the most important grammar rules for SAT Writing.
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Justin has extensive experience teaching SAT prep and guiding high school students through the college admissions and selection process. He is firmly committed to improving equity in education and helping students to reach their educational goals. Justin received an athletic scholarship for gymnastics at Stanford University and graduated with a BA in American Studies.