The language and writing section in the new SAT has caught many students, even those who have mastered SAT grammar book. Their scores on reading and writing typically fall behind expectation by 20-50 points. By looking into the details, we are likely to see that one of the subareas hits their scores hardest—the expression of ideas. The score can be anywhere between 9 and 12 out of a total of 15. Really! What is it?
The quality of language can be understood in three levels. Base level quality is everything within a sentence where grammar rules govern. There is also a super level, or inter-paragraph quality on which passage structure is all about (refer to idea progression model). In the middle of these levels is the medium level quality. That is within a paragraph, or inter-sentences. This is where expression of idea mostly concerns.
Expression of idea means how well you can express one single idea. That is how you’d play with the information within a paragraph. It includes a key idea of the paragraph, evidence and reasoning to the idea, and often interconnections with other paragraphs.
Like logical reasoning, expression of idea within a paragraph falls in an overall structure either inductive or deductive. Inductive structure tells the key idea after its evidence and reasoning details. Deductive structure is just the opposite. There are more deductive paragraphs than inductive in general. This is quite simple.
However, much of the variety in expression lies in how the evidence and reasoning details are laid out. The order of details depends on the intrinsic relation among them.
To determine the order the details, you have to read the paragraph carefully. Where numbers in brackets are marked in the sentence, typically  to  (or 6), you shall read the paragraph and determine the structure and order. To many students, I found that the most confusing type of order is logical reasoning order. Here is an example that the order of the sentences are messed up. You can determine the structure and relation to find out the real order of them.
First, determine the key idea of the paragraph. 1, 4 and 5 are clearly details, not key idea. The key idea is certainly about Box’s research because most of the sentences are about it. So 6 is ruled out. Because 2 further explains 3, 3 will be a better candidate to represent the key idea.
Next, determine the structure of the paragraph. Paragraphs in scientific writing are generally deductive. You can always try to put the key idea sentence in the beginning. In this case, 3 sounds perfect in the beginning. If you are not sure, try to place 3 in the end. It sounds very awkward. So this paragraph cannot be inductive. It must be a deductive one and 3 should be placed in beginning.
Last, let’s determine what relation are the details. 1, 4 and 5 seems to have a logic order, 5>4>1. Box need to do something next step, and he is currently organizing it, then others can also track and help. There is no better way than this. Between 2 and 6, 2 connects with 5>4>1 better than 6. So, the entire paragraph must be 3>6>2>5>4>1.
One question you may come at here is whether 6 can be deleted from the paragraph, since 6 is the only sentence that says nothing about Box’s research and its further step. But, let’s see if 6 reveals any relevant information to the paragraph as a whole. 3>2 tells that the 2012 fire Box researched may happen again and harm the ecosystem. Then 5>4>1 tells what Box will do next relating to melting of ice. By now, it may sounds ok that the harm is ice-melting by possible fire-again. However, 6 means rising temperature makes Arctic greener, then more fire-prone. So it becomes a self-reinforcing effect of the 2012 fire. The harm is not just fire-again, but fire-again by self-reinforcing effect of the fire. 6 contains concept progressive to that conveyed by 3>2, and makes Box’s further research on fire more important than without 6. Therefore, 6 is better kept in.
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This example is an excerpt from SAT Official Guide 2016. But the exercise we did above is beyond the level of the questions in the Guide. Generally, expression of idea questions in the new SAT requires you to determine the following three things. Be sure what SAT asks before you make your choices.
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