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Writing and Language Test

The Writing and Language Test asks you to be an editor and improve passages that were written especially for the test — and that include deliberate errors.


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It’s About the Everyday

When you take the Writing and Language Test, you’ll do three things that people do all the time when they write and edit:

  1. Read.
  2. Find mistakes and weaknesses.
  3. Fix them.

The good news: You do these things every time you proofread your own schoolwork or workshop essays with a friend.

It’s the practical skills you use to spot and correct problems — the stuff you’ve been learning in high school and the stuff you’ll need to succeed in college — that the test measures.

Quick Facts

  • All questions are multiple choice and based on passages.
  • Some passages are accompanied by informational graphics, such as tables, graphs, and charts — but no math is required.
  • Prior topic knowledge is never tested.
  • The Writing and Language Test is part of the Evidence-Based Reading and Writing section.

What the Writing and Language Test Is Like

To answer some questions, you’ll need to look closely at a single sentence. Others require reading the entire piece and interpreting a graphic. For instance, you might be asked to choose a sentence that corrects a misinterpretation of a scientific chart or that better explains the importance of the data.

The passages you improve will range from arguments to nonfiction narratives and will be about careers, history, social studies, the humanities, and science.

What the Writing and Language Test Measures

Questions on the Writing and Language Test measure a range of skills.

Command of Evidence

Questions that test command of evidence ask you to improve the way passages develop information and ideas. For instance, you might choose an answer that sharpens an argumentative claim or adds a relevant supporting detail.

Words in Context

Some questions ask you to improve word choice. You’ll need to choose the best words to use based on the text surrounding them. Your goal will be to make a passage more precise or concise, or to improve syntax, style, or tone.

Analysis in History/Social Studies and in Science

You’ll be asked to read passages about topics in history, social studies, and science with a critical eye and make editorial decisions that improve them.

Expression of Ideas

Some questions ask about a passage’s organization and its impact. For instance, you will be asked which words or structural changes improve how well it makes its point and how well its sentences and paragraphs work together. 

Standard English Conventions

This is about the building blocks of writing: sentence structure, usage, and punctuation. You’ll be asked to change words, clauses, sentences, and punctuation. Some topics covered include verb tense, parallel construction, subject-verb agreement, and comma use.  

Sample Questions

Learn about the Writing and Language Test firsthand by viewing sample questions for the PSAT/NMSQT and PSAT 10.