Transition Questions on SAT Reading and Writing: Tips and Examples


In writing, transitions are important because they help establish logical connections between ideas. On the SAT Reading and Writing section, questions about transitions are an important component of the test. In this article, I explain the types of transition questions on the SAT and provide detailed advice on how to correctly answer these questions.


What Are SAT Transition Questions?

There are two major types of transition questions. The first type will ask you to select the transition word that best completes a sentence. Examples of transition words include “moreover,” “therefore,” and “nevertheless.”

The other type of transition question, sometimes called an inference question, will ask you to select the phrase or sentence that most logically connects to or follows another part of the passage.


Type #1: Transitional Words

Selecting the right transitional word or phrase to complete a sentence requires you to understand how different transitional words are used. For the most part, transitional word questions on the SAT cover three basic transitional relationships: addition, contrast, and causation.

  • Addition: words like “furthermore” or “moreover” that continue or elaborate on a thought.
  • Contrast: words like “despite” or “although” that introduce conflicting ideas.
  • Causation: words like “since” or “because” that indicate a causal relationship.
Here are some example sentences. Pay attention to how the transition words make sense in context.

Addition: Making a Murderer is a riveting documentary. Also, it sheds light on the criminal justice system.

Contrast: Chris is an extremely popular singer. However, his voice isn’t very good.

Causation: Because the weather is warm, I’m wearing shorts today.




Not every transition word falls into one of these categories, but thinking of transitions in these terms can help you correctly answer transition questions.

Most of the transition word questions will ask you to connect two sentences using a transition word. Here’s a basic example of this type of question.

 Jeremy never studies. Also, he gets perfect grades on his exams.

B. Likewise,
C. However,
D. Therefore, 


Because you wouldn’t expect somebody who never studies to get perfect grades, we need to use a contrast word. Answer choice C is the only one that makes sense in context.


Key Transition Words

These are the most common transition words divided by type. Familiarize yourself with the words on this list and their corresponding transition types.

Addition Contrast Causation
Also However Thus
Moreover On the other hand As such
In fact Nonetheless Therefore
Furthermore Nevertheless Consequently
In addition Still As a result
Similarly Instead  
Indeed Despite this  
In conclusion Meanwhile  
In other words    
For example    




How to Approach Transition Word Questions

Here's a step-by-step guide to help you correctly answer transition word questions.


#1: Read Until the End of the Passage

To ensure that you properly understand the context and are able to correctly determine the right transition word to use, you need to read the entire passage to effectively determine the relationship between the sentences.


#2: Determine Which Word You Would Use in the Blank

Decide which transition word you would use to connect the sentences. You may find that exact word or a synonym in the answer choices.


#3: Identify the Type of Relationship

Determine whether the sentences have an addition, contrast, or causation relationship. In rare cases, they may have a different relationship. If you’re not sure, think about whether you would connect the sentences with and (addition), but (contrast), or so/because (causation).


#4: Narrow Down Your Choices

Once you know what you’re looking for, eliminate the choices that don’t make sense or aren’t grammatical.


#5: Plug In Your Answer

When you think you have selected the right answer, plug it into the original sentence to make sure the transition is logical.



Follow the steps to SAT success!


SAT Examples

Use the steps to answer the following SAT transition word questions.



The blank is at the beginning of the second sentence. The first sentence explains that scientists have had impressive results with grime-eating bacteria. The second sentence builds on the first by going into further detail on what the bacteria can do. Therefore, we can determine that we should use an addition transition word/phrase. The transition "in many cases" fits the context perfectly, so the correct answer is B.

However, let’s look at the other choices to make sure. Answer choice A could only be correct if the second sentence provided an explanation of the first. Answer choice C could only be correct if the two sentences had a causation relationship. The second sentence would have to be a result of the first sentence. Answer choice D is wrong because the transition "However" could only be used if the second sentence contrasted with the first sentence.

Let's try another SAT example of a transition word question:



In this passage, there are two sentences that give a general overview of p'Bitek's poem Song of Lawino. The blank is at the beginning of the third sentence. The third sentence continues the topic by giving more information about those who adopted the same style. It's an example of an addition transition.

Lets go through the options. Answer choices A, C, and D are each examples of contrast transitions, which don't fit here. In answer choice B, “Fittingly” is an addition transition. It's appropriate that writers who adopted their style from Okot p’Bitek would be known as the Okot School poets. "Fittingly" is the only option that makes sense, therefore B is the correct answer.




 Steven Depolo/Flickr



Type #2: Inferences: Transitional Phrases and Sentences

The other type of transition question asks you to select the phrase or sentence that will most logically connect to the information in the passage. These are often called "inference" questions, and they'll  normally be phrased like this:

Which choice most logically completes the text?

Basically, these questions are going to be asking you to select the choice that sets up information or logically follows previous sentences.


Step-By-Step Approach to Inference Questions

These are general steps because the specific steps you take will be dependent on the exact question that is being asked.


#1: Pay Attention to What the Question is Asking

Make sure you’re answering the right question. Some questions may ask which choice sets up the information in the rest of the passage. Meanwhile, some questions may ask which choice sets up the information in the next sentence. You want to ensure that you don’t make a mistake because you misunderstood what the question was asking.


#2: Read What’s Necessary to Answer the Question

If the question asks you which choice logically follows from the previous sentence, you need to read the sentence in question and the previous sentence.

If the question asks which choice sets up the information in the rest of the passage, you need to at least skim the rest of the passage before answering the question. Furthermore, it may be helpful to skip the question and come back to it after you've answered the questions on the rest of the passage.


#3: Summarize the Information That Is Being Referenced in the Question

Read and summarize the sentence or paragraph the question is asking about. For example, if the question asks which choice sets up the information that follows in the next paragraph, read the next paragraph and briefly summarize the information. Taking this step will allow you to more easily determine which answer choice sets up the information.


#4: Narrow Down the Choices

Eliminate answer choices that don’t logically set up the information or follow the previous sentence. The correct answer choice should make the sentences in question logically connect.


#5: Plug in the Choice You Think Works Best

After you’ve eliminated the choices you think are wrong, plug in the answer you’ve selected to make sure that it makes sense in context.




Real SAT Examples

Follow the steps I gave you to answer these SAT questions.



The question wants to know which choice would most logically follow the passage which ends with the phrase "This finding suggests that _____." First, let's figure out what points the passage is actually making. Reading closely, the key points are: 

1. Online shopping doesn't allow a person to touch a product before buying it.
2.  People who touched items were willing to pay more for them than people who didn't touch those items.

So the correct answer choice will need to support those points and strengthen the argument.

Going through the answer choices, A is incorrect because it doesn't support the second key points that people will pay more for items they can touch. Answer choice B is incorrect because it isn't supported by the text. In fact, it contradicts the second key point that people will pay more for items they can touch. Answer choice C is incorrect because the text doesn't discuss how much people spend each month, so there's no basis to this claim. Additionally, since people are willing to pay more for items they can touch, we might predict people who shop in-person spend more money than people who shop online. Answer choice D suggests that being able to see/touch a product in person makes it more valuable to the shopper. This is supported by the second key point of the passage. Therefore, D is the correct answer.

Try one more example.



This question again wants to know the most logical way to complete the text. The passage describes playwright Fornés' experience working at off-off Broadway theaters. Again, let's summarize the key points of the passage:

1. Off-off Broadway theaters allowed artists to create more experimental shows than traditional Broadway theaters.
2. Off-off Broadway theaters allowed Fornés to direct her plays the way she wanted, even if audiences thought they were strange/unusual.

What does this suggest? That Fornés is a great example the artistic freedom off-off Broadway shows can provide.

Now, let's go through the answer choices to see what matches that conclusion. Answer choice A is incorrect because fame is never mentioned at all, so it brings up an irrelevant point. Answer choice B is also irrelevant because the complexity of the plays is never discussed. Answer choice C is incorrect because costs of production is never mentioned in the text, so this answer isn't supported. Answer choice D is the best choice because artistic opportunity is mentioned, and this statement is supported by the text. Therefore, D is the correct answer.


Review: Key Strategies for Transition Questions

Here are the important strategies to use when you encounter a transition question on the SAT.


#1: Consider the Type of Transitional Relationship

For all transition questions, think about how the sentences are related. Knowing the relationship between the sentences in question are key to determining how to transition between them.


#2: Read the Question Carefully

For questions that are written out, make sure you understand what the question is asking. Also, read enough of the passage to understand the context and answer the question.


#3: Use Multiple Choice to Your Advantage

For transition word questions, if two answers are synonyms, neither is correct. Eliminate obvious wrong answers.


#4: Plug in the Answer You Think Is Best

Check your answer by plugging in the choice you think is best. The transition should make sense in context.


What's Next?

Now that you've mastered a critical component of SAT Reading and Writing, make sure you know the most important grammar rules on the SAT.

If you want to learn about a potentially challenging type of SAT Writing question, you should check out my article on SAT idioms.

Finally, learn the secret to getting a perfect SAT score.



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About the Author
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Justin Berkman

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.

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