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Important Things You Need to Know about the SAT Essay

July 7, 2020

As you probably know, the SAT essay has become optional since 2016. It is now a separate part, so it is scored independently of the rest of the SAT. Nevertheless, some colleges still request SAT essay scores. 

SAT Essay - Helpful Tips To Make It Perfect

Find out if you are required to take the test. Check if any of the institutions to which you plan on applying requires students to write the SAT essay. Even if they don’t, consider this section anyways. It may be a great chance to demonstrate your reading and writing skills, as well as your analytical mind. These skills are crucial to your future academic success. In any case, we recommend you learn how to write a SAT essay, which can be a big plus to your application. Besides, this task might even be engaging and interesting, and your scores will allow you to assess your weaknesses and strengths.

In this article, we will explain what you should focus on if you aim for a top score. Together we will go through all important steps that can prepare you for a superb SAT essay.

What Is the SAT Essay and How to Write It

The SAT essay is very similar to the usual writing assignment that includes a text analysis. If you want to succeed with your SAT essay, you should work on specific skills. It may be daunting that you are given only 50 minutes. Within this short time, you are required to read a passage consisting of around 750 words, then do an analysis, and come up with an informative essay.

It sounds pretty difficult, but do not worry; getting a good SAT essay score is possible. All you need to do is prepare beforehand and follow our advice.

The SAT essay helps to evaluate a student’s ability to provide a constructive analysis of someone’s argument. If you want your essay to come out strong, it is important to pay attention to various rhetorical techniques used by the author for creating a convincing argument. 

The standard SAT essay should include some basic elements, such as introduction, evidence paragraphs, and a concluding part. Your thesis should be stated in the introduction. 

What to Expect of the Passage

The passages you will have to analyze are written for a wide audience. Each of the passages will contain a claim, and the author will try to persuade the reader that it is valid. For instance, “Artificial intelligence can transform the industry and the whole world” or “Global warming is harmful to the environment and human health”. 

You don’t have to be an expert in the field or have any knowledge about the given topic. The assignment is not about sharing what you know. 

In your response, you should assess how the author presents the argument instead of examining the informational content. There is no need to restate the argument. Discussing how the argument is assembled is what you are expected to do. Remember, do not just state the main topic of the passage (“it is about global warming”) and do not express personal opinions (“I agree that global warming is dangerous”). 

Your task is to explain how the author persuades readers by building the proper argument. Identify the major point (e.g., “Global warming is dangerous, so we have to stop by turning to renewable energy”) and examine how the author is making that point.

How Is the SAT Essay Scored

Your essay will be scored by two graders. Reading, analysis, writing are the three dimensions that will be evaluated. Each scorer will give you 1-4 points for each category. Then, the points you receive are added together, and you get a 2-8 score for each part.

Here is some information considering what the scorers expect to find and what you should focus on in every category: 

  • Reading. Your essay is supposed to provide strong textual evidence, which proves that you fully understand the passage. Use paraphrasing or quotations, or maybe both to prove that you comprehend the source material. Make sure that this evidence is accurate. If you want your essay to get a high score, you should synthesize the main points of the passage and explain their interrelation.  
  • Analysis. Apart from fully comprehending the passage and using it as evidence, you should go one step further and present convincing claims concerning the major points. Provide a comprehensive text evaluation assessing its elements, as well as evidence to support the claims. Try using persuasive elements, such as reasoning, and focus on relevant details.   
  • Writing. This part is about the way of presenting your argument and the effective use of language. Structure your essay properly and skillfully. Include an appropriate thesis, introduction, and a concluding part. To demonstrate your language mastery, try using the varied structure of the sentences, but make them clear. Make sure that there are no grammatical, punctuation, or spelling mistakes, and pay attention to your word choice. Check if there is a logical progression in your essay. Is the text “flowing”?

Ideal SAT Essay Structure to Get the Highest Score

There is good news: the structure of the SAT essay is much like any analytical essay. Let’s talk about its basic parts.

  • Introduction. This section should be brief. Mind that it does not bring you many points. Around 2 or 3 sentences will be enough. 
  • Thesis statement. This part is the most important. It implies the major argument. During your essay, you will come back to it a few times. Invest time and diligence in this section and build a solid thesis statement.
  • Supporting paragraphs. It is recommended to include two supporting paragraphs if you want a high score. Three would be brilliant, but it is optional. One paragraph is necessary. All your supporting paragraphs should contain a topic sentence and evidence, as well as a conclusion. The paragraph should be tied back to the thesis statement.
  • Conclusion. Make it concise. Don’t bring new arguments in the concluding part. Simply sum up the argument briefly.

Allocating Your Time Properly to Get the Highest Score

As we have already mentioned before, you only get 50 minutes to read the source text and prompts, then plan and write a response. It is not easy to do all of this properly in less than one hour. We recommend you allocate that time in the following way:

  1. First, read the prompts. It should take around 1 minute. Do not waste time here.
  2. Then, read the passage and make annotations in the process. Spend no more than 15 minutes.
  3. Devote 5 minutes to outlining.
  4. Writing is the most important and time-consuming part. It will take about 29 minutes of your total time. 

If you read the prompts first, it will enable you to focus on the important information in the passage. While reading the text, try to identify the answers to those prompts. Also, look for supporting evidence.

Well, these are not rigid rules or the only right time allocation. These are just our recommendations. If you practice, the right system which works for you will emerge. Just be sure to keep it within 50 minutes!

Additional Tips for Your Success

  • Practice as much as you can. The SAT essay is like a written puzzle. We assure you that everyone can master it with some exercise. The best results can be achieved if you practice using sample topics and SAT essay prompts. Work on the essay format, trying to complete it in 50 minutes, and see how your results improve with each time. If you are struggling, there is an option to make the task easier and start practicing with an extended time frame, 70-80 minutes, for instance. If you feel that the whole process became easier, start narrowing the writing time to 50 minutes, like on the actual test.
  • Try grading your essay yourself. Well, it is not easy to be objective about your writing, but some weak spots can be identified. You may also ask for help: turn to your English teacher or someone who is good at writing.
  • Consider creating and memorizing a list of various persuasive techniques that can be helpful in the process of writing the SAT essay.
  • Prepare an outline. Scorers can easily identify if you have not planned your essay. It is worth it to devote a couple of minutes to creating a proper thesis and sketching an outline. It will help you to organize your essay.
  • Leave some time for revision. Time crunch may lead to simple mistakes or even typos that lower your score. Make sure that there will be enough time to read and edit your text if needed.

Now you have plenty of information about SAT essay. What to do next? We recommend you to start practicing! If you devote time to preparation, you will come up with a plan that can help you achieve the highest scores.

If you have any questions or need help, contact our experts who are available online 24/7. Our job is to make your life easier.