Writing Multiple-Choice Questions
Bombing Runs
Here’s the order in which you should tackle the Writing section:
  1. Do all Sentence Error IDs.
  2. Do all Sentence Improvements.
  3. If you have time, do all Paragraph Improvements.
This way, you’ll start with the lowest-investment items and end (if time permits) with the highest-investment items. Since all items are worth one point, it’s a good investment strategy.
Some item sets, such as Sentence Completions, are organized by order of difficulty from easiest to hardest. An item’s “difficulty” is a statistical quality based on the test-takers who encountered that item in an experimental section. Writing section item sets are not organized by order of difficulty.
However, you should not attempt each item as presented, starting with the first and ending with the last. Within the three item-type sets, you should skip around. The key is to distribute your knowledge and skills as efficiently as possible to get the most points in the least amount of time. In order to maximize your points on the multiple-choice portion of the Writing section, follow what we call “Bombing Runs.”
To illustrate this method, assume your set has ten items. Begin by reading the first stem. If it seems easy, complete the item and move on to the next stem. If you encounter a challenging stem, skip that item. (Make sure to circle the entire item in your test booklet if you skip it. Also, enter answers in five-item blocks, omitting whichever you’ve skipped. You don’t want to misgrid your answers.) After completing all the items that are easy for you, return to those items that you could probably figure out, given a little more time. Make another Bombing Run, skipping all of the really tough ones. Repeat your Bombing Runs until time expires.
(For those who read the Paragraph Improvement sections, you’ve already seen bombing runs in action within those “testlets.” Apply the same idea to each item set.)
If you approach Writing sets this way, you won’t waste several minutes worrying over any particular item when you could be using that time to answer four other items. That’s the principal error in standardized test-taking: wasting time on items you have little chance of getting right. You need to develop a fine-tuned sense of when to pass on any given item. In order to develop this sense, you need to practice. Through practice, you’ll not only learn more about the test and become an expert at applying the methods you’ve learned, but you’ll also learn more about your own strengths and weaknesses. Whether it is the items testing clause structure that are toughest for you or dangling modifiers, the more you practice, the more you’ll learn and the more confident you’ll be about the test and yourself.
Help | Feedback | Make a request | Report an error