Two Techniques For Acing Transition Word Questions

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So welcome back to my thorough explanation of how to deal with transition words on the ACT English section and SAT Writing section. As I explained in my complete transition word guide, questions specifically testing this content area show up consistently on both the SAT and the ACT—which is exactly why it’s important for you to know what words are transition words and how they work. This week, I’m giving you two of my tried-and-true techniques for approaching the questions that test your understanding of transition words, which should make sure that you nail that question type and pick up those transition-word points!

Both the ACT and SAT test your understanding of transition words specifically.

Transition word questions look like a passage or sentence with a word underlined, and the answer choices (the ones that aren’t “no change”!) will all be transition words. If you can recognize the question and study the words, you’ll be all set…especially if you’ve prepared yourself with these two transition tricks!

So, the answer choices will look something like this:


B) Therefore,

C) In addition,

D) Despite

Not hard to recognize that you’re in transition-word territory here! So once you’ve identified that fact, what do you do about it?


Transitions Trick #1: Pick your category (Continue, Contrast, Cause-and-Effect) BEFORE you read the answer choices!

 Here’s what I mean:

  • First, cross out the transition word that’s underlined in the question.

  • Next, read the two sentences that are connected by the transition word

(Hint: If it’s a hard transition word, you’d read the sentence that contains the transition word and the sentence before it. If it’s a soft transition word, you’d read both clauses within the same sentence. Need a reminder about which transition words are in which category? Check out the complete guide to transition words I gave you in my last post.) 

  • Then, DECIDE if the two thoughts continuecontrast, or signify a direct cause-and-effect relationship!

  • Finally, select your answer!


And this next one is my FAVORITE…



Transitions Trick #2: If two answer choices are in the same sub-category (“gives example” or “indicated the effect” or “shows how two things are different,” etc.), then they’re BOTH WRONG!

 Sometimes you have two answer choices that mean the same thing and are in the same category. Therefore and thus are good examples—you can’t choose between them, which tells you that they’re both INCORRECT. It’s like choosing between “red” and “orange” when the answer you’re looking for isn’t supposed to be a color at all.

After all, if one of those answer choices were correct, that would mean its equivalent would also be correct…and last time I checked, you can’t have two correct answers for a question on the SAT or ACT! So you can cross them BOTH out. Now you’re only choosing between two answers!

So, that, my friends, is how I understand Transition Words and Transition Word Questions. This is just the meat of the topic. If you need a more thorough understanding or help going over this—and most every other—topic, you know where to find me!