Don’t cringe at the thought of that essay. Grammarian Jane Straus explains why the SAT’s new writing section is actually a great opportunity to boost your score.
Writing counts. The ability to compose a clear, concise, proper sentence signals your intelligence, gives you an edge in business, and, frankly, makes English teachers everywhere beam with joy. And if you’re a high school student, you also should know that it now plays an even bigger role in shaping your academic future. The new SAT has a writing section that counts for a big part of the test’s overall score – and that, says grammar guru Jane Straus, represents a huge opportunity.
“High school students who aren’t math geniuses just got handed a wonderful gift,” says Straus, author of The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation and founder of grammarbook.com. “Why? Because for most of us, composing a proper sentence is far easier than calculating the area of a quadrilateral. Just take the time to memorize some simple rules and you can ace a significant section of the SAT.”
Here’s the story. In March 2005, the powers that be added a new section to the SAT that includes an essay question and a multiple-choice grammar and usage section. All told, the writing section is worth up to 800 points, a full third of the new “perfect score” of 2400. (The highest possible scores on the verbal section – now renamed “critical reading” – and the math section will remain 800 each.)
As Straus points out, math skills tend to build on each other. If you’re lost throughout Algebra I, you’re definitely not going to excel in Algebra II. Writing isn’t like that. You can sit down with a book of grammar rules, read it a few times, study several examples of the rules in action, and … presto! You “get it.” Even if you don’t instantly grasp every rule, you’ll probably see quick improvement. This is especially true if you read a lot, because frequently seeing the rules in their “natural habitat” reinforces what you’ve learned.
Straus’s own Blue Book is often purchased by SAT tutors and college-bound high schoolers who want a crash course in grammar and punctuation before the big test. It’s a user-friendly and often humorous reference that explains the rules and tests the reader on what he or she has learned. Fans say it is one of the most well arranged, easily navigated grammar books on the market.
Interestingly, many of the 70,000 copies Straus has sold have been purchased by business professionals wanting to hone their writing skills. She says this proves her point that good writing can be learned at any stage of life – and underscores the reasons why every high school student should seize the opportunity to boost his or her SAT score by learning the rules of English grammar once and for all.
“If you’re a high school student, don’t assume you already know the rules,” she says. “And if you’re a parent, don’t assume your kids learned the intricacies of grammar and punctuation in school. Difficult as it is to believe, many very bright young people have never been exposed to these rules in a formal classroom setting – but with a little initiative, they can learn them on their own.”
“My advice to college-bound kids is this: take the time to read either my book or a similar resource before the SAT,” adds Straus. “Study it thoroughly and complete the quizzes. When you’re sitting there with your sharpened #2 pencil and a serious case of butterflies, you’ll be glad you did. It’s an easy way to improve your odds of excelling on a test that can have a big impact on your future – and you’ll gain a valuable skill that will serve you well for the rest of your life.”
Seminar leader, personal coach, and television talk show guest, Jane Straus has a gift for combining inspiration, entertainment, and education. This knack has created a demand for her seminars all over the country. Jane helps businesses and individuals communicate dynamically, persuasively, and compassionately. For more information, you can visit Jane at grammarbook.com.