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Transition Questions on SAT Writing: Tips and Examples

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

Importance of Transition Questions


Based on our analysis, transition questions are the most common type of questions on the
SAT Writing section. You can expect about 5-7 transition questions on the SAT. Therefore, in
order to reach your target score, its essential to understand how to correctly answer SAT
transition 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 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 isnt very good.

Causation: Because the weather is warm, Im 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. Heres a basic example of this type of question.

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

A. NO CHANGE
B. Likewise,
C. However,
D. Therefore,

Because you wouldnt 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
Finally
Next
Likewise
Then
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 Sentence

This advice goes for all SAT Writing questions. 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 sentence to effectively determine the relationship between the sentences.

#2: Cross Out the Underlined Word

Next, cross out the underlined word. Otherwise, if you dont immediately recognize an obvious
error, you may be biased in favor of the original phrasing.

#3: Determine Which Word You Would Use

Decide which transition word you would use to connect the sentences. You may find that exact
word or a synonym in the answer choices.
#4: 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 youre not sure, think about whether you
would connect the sentences with and (addition), but (contrast), or so/because (causation).

#5 Narrow Down Your Choices

Once you know what youre looking for, eliminate the choices that dont make sense or arent
grammatical.

#6: 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.

SAT Examples

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

First, we need to get rid of also and determine the relationship between the two sentences. The
first sentence is talking about one benefit of greek yogurt compared to conventional yogurt. The
next sentence lists another benefit of Greek yogurt; therefore, we can determine that we should
use an addition transition word. Also is a perfect transition between these two sentences. The
correct answer is A.

However, lets look at the other choices to make sure. Answer choice B 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 that transition could only be used if the
second sentence provided an example of the first sentence.

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

Again, lets remove the transition For instance and determine the relationship between the two
sentences. The first sentence states that advocates of organic food believe that organic is
healthier, but thats not supported by scientific evidence. The second sentence cites a review that
analyzed 50 years of studies in which researchers found no evidence that organic crops were
more nutritious than conventionally grown crops. The second sentence provides an example that
supports the claim made in the first sentence. Therefore, we need a transition that introduces an
example.

Answer choice B indicates a contrast relationship and answer choices C and D indicate addition.
The only answer choice that effectively introduces an example is answer choice A.
Type #2: 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 questions will normally be phrased
like this:

Which choice most effectively sets up the information that follows?

Which choice most effectively sets up the information given at the end of the sentence?

Which choice provides the most logical introduction to the sentence?

Which choice most logically follows from the previous sentence?

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 Transitional Phrases 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 youre 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 dont make a mistake
because you misunderstood what the question was asking.

#2: Read Whats 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: Keep in Mind Types of Transitional Relationships

Even though most of these questions dont involve transitional words, it can be helpful to
determine if theres a clear contrasting, addition, or causal relationship.

#4: 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.

#5: Narrow Down the Choices

Eliminate answer choices that dont logically set up the information or follow the previous
sentence. The correct answer choice should make the sentences in question logically connect.

$6: Plug in the Choice You Think Works Best

After youve eliminated the choices you think are wrong, plug in the answer youve 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 is asking for the sentence that sets up the information revealed in the final two
sentences of the paragraph, starting with a 1994 survey. After reading the final two sentences,
we can determine that the information demonstrates that colleges havent supported the study of
philosophy or shown that they care about philosophy. We need to find a sentence that logically
connects to this information.

Answer choice A has nothing to do with the information. There is no mention of jobs or job
offers for philosophy students in those sentences. Answer choice B contradicts the information
because philosophy departments were eliminated. Answer choice C has nothing to do with the
information that follows. The information has nothing to do with students resisting majoring in
philosophy. Answer choice D seems to be correct because it sets up the facts that a low
percentage of colleges required philosophy and that 400 philosophy departments were
eliminated.

After plugging in answer choice D into the paragraph, everything makes sense in context. The
previous sentence mentions the usefulness of philosophy, which sets up the contrast indicated by
However in answer choice D. The rest of the sentence starting with colleges sets up the facts
that are revealed in the following two sentences. The correct answer is D.
Try one more example.

The question is asking us to select the most logical introductory clause to the sentence. The
correct answer should logically follow the previous sentence and connect to the rest of the
sentence. The first sentence states that the food on rail lines was terrible. Because the sentence in
the question is a sentence fragment (corrected in #14), you should read the following
sentence,too. We need a clause that connects that bad quality of rail food with Harveys decision
to open a restaurant to serve rail customers.

The clause in the original sentence has nothing to do with the food quality or Harveys decision
to open a restaurant. Similarly, answer choice B introduces unrelated information. Answer
choice C seems to work perfectly when we plug it into the sentence. If we select answer choice
D, there would be no introduction to the sentence and it would be less strongly connected to the
previous sentence. The correct answer is C.

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 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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