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ACT and SAT Transitional Words and Phrases

In this lesson, we’re going to look at the types of transitions that appear on the ACT English and SAT Writing and Language sections. Transitions are words and phrases that help you carry an idea from one sentence or paragraph to another. They link sentences and paragraphs together smoothly, preventing abrupt jumps in flow and clarifying the relationships between ideas.


Just as with “real world” writing, which transition you should choose on an ACT English or SAT Writing “transitions” question depends on how the ideas being transitioned between relate to one another. Unlike in the real world, however, the nature of the relationships between ideas related to transitions questions must always be clear and unambiguous. A student must be able to figure out the relationship by looking at what has come before and will come after the transition.


Below are some common transitional words and phrase that appear on both the ACT and SAT, grouped together by the relationships they express. Keep in mind that the tests treat multiple transitions from the same category as if they are identical. For instance, if choices “A” and “C” for a given question are both contrast transitions, neither choice can be correct.


Transitions that Add to and Build Upon

Choose the words and phrases and, again, also, finally, further, furthermore, nor, too, next, lastly, what’s more, moreover, and in addition when the passage is adding to or building upon a previously-established idea.


Unlike the old SAT, the new test format has only four answer choices per question. Furthermore, students are no longer penalized for incorrect answers.


Comparison and Contrast

When the ACT or SAT presents two ideas that are in opposition, choose transitions such as although, but, conversely, despite this, however, in contrast, instead, meanwhile, nevertheless, nonetheless, on the contrary, on the other hand, still, whereas, and yet.


The 2016-2017 edition of The Official ACT Prep Guide contains the most current information on the test. However, it also contains fewer practice tests than previous editions.


Showing Time

Questions involving the relative passage of time should be answered with transitions such as immediately, thereafter, soon, after a few hours, finally, then, later, previously, formerly, first (second, etc.), next, and then.


Shamin moved to Georgia when she was a junior. Shortly thereafter, she began taking SAT prep classes at the Learning Island in Atlanta.


Emphasizing a Point

Definitely, extremely, obviously, in fact, indeed, in any case, absolutely, positively, certainly, and undeniably are among the valid answer choices when a passage is emphasizing a point that has already made.


Marie found the SAT to be incredibly boring and repetitive. Indeed, she had difficulty not zoning out during the exam because she saw the same types of questions over and over.


Showing a Sequence of Events

Words and phrases such as first, second, third, and so forth. A, B, C, and so forth. next, then, following this, at this time, now, at this point, after, afterward, subsequently, finally, consequently, previously, before this, simultaneously, concurrently, thus, therefore, hence, next, and then, and soon indicate order of events on the ACT and SAT.


First, Caroline completed an ACT prep course. Then, she took the test itself.


Providing an Example

For example, for instance, in this case, to demonstrate, and to illustrate indicate that the passage is following an abstract concept with a concrete example.


There is no single approach to the Reading section that will work best for every student. For example, some students do better when they read the questions first while others do better when they read the passages first.


Summarizing or Concluding a Thought

When the passage is almost finished and is wrapping a key idea or ideas, choose transitions like in brief, on the whole, summing up, to conclude, in conclusion, finally, hence, therefore, accordingly, thus, as a result, and consequently.


In conclusion, just as with other types of ACT and SAT questions, transitions questions follow a predictable set of rules.


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