How to Write

SAT Essay: Tips and Strategies

SAT Essay
Prof. Philip A.
Last updated:
Jun 6, 2024
Nov 3, 2023

Since the College Board announced the elimination of the SAT essay portion starting in June 2021, deciding whether to write the SAT essay is no longer a major concern for high school students. However, it is still a decision that merits careful consideration. Here are three key points about the 50-minute SAT essay to help you decide:

  • Excelling on the SAT essay requires strong reading skills.
  • The essay demands a solid understanding of rhetoric and persuasive writing.
  • Many colleges are no longer requiring standardized test scores.

Despite the changes, some states, including Colorado, Delaware, Illinois, Michigan, New Hampshire, and Oklahoma, will still use the SAT with Essay in 2024. Given the ever-changing rules, students should stay informed about any new regulations or updates. If you're planning to take the SAT, this guide from our expert online paper writer to the SAT essay format is essential reading.

What Is the SAT Essay?

Even though the essay is optional, it can be a valuable opportunity to strengthen your application, especially if you are applying to schools that place a strong emphasis on writing and critical thinking skills.

The SAT Essay requires you to read and analyze a written argument. Given 50 minutes, students must read the passage, plan their essay, and write a response. Most successful essays follow a standard five-paragraph format.

It's important to understand that the SAT Essay score is separate from the overall composite SAT score. While the composite score ranges from 400-1600, the SAT Essay score is reported independently and does not affect the composite score.

The Essay is evaluated on a scale of 2-8 in three areas: Reading, Analysis, and Writing. Each essay is reviewed by two scorers, who award scores from 1-4 in each category. These scores are then combined, so you receive three scores ranging from 2-8 points each. A perfect score on the essay would be 8/8/8. The average scores are typically 5 for Reading and Writing, and 3 for Analysis. Achieving scores above 5/3/5 means you have scored above average on the essay.

Tips for SAT Essay Writing

To excel in your SAT essay score, developing specific writing skills is essential. Here are some strategies recommended by our scholarship paper writers to improve your essay performance:

  • Make a habit of reading high-quality editorial and opinion pieces from reputable sources.
  • Learn to identify and analyze common persuasive techniques, such as appeals to emotion, logic, and credibility.
  • Before you start writing, take a few minutes to outline your essay, with each paragraph having a clear main idea supported by evidence.
  • Focus on writing clear and concise sentences. Avoid using unnecessary jargon or overly complex language that may confuse your readers.
  • Support your analysis with specific examples from the passage. Include direct quotes and provide detailed explanations, and don’t forget the importance of citing sources.
  • Take the time to expand and refine your vocabulary, as it can significantly impact your SAT essay scores.
  • Familiarize yourself with various argumentation techniques that can help you respond effectively to the passage prompt.
  • Simulate test conditions by practicing writing essays within the 50-minute time limit to manage your time effectively during the actual exam.

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4 Stages of Writing a SAT Essay

  1. Reading (5-10 mins): Understand the author's argument and key points. Annotate the text for important information and persuasive techniques.
  2. Analyzing and Planning (7-12 mins): Analyze the passage and plan your essay. Identify persuasive strategies and outline your response.
  3. Writing (up to 35 mins): Follow your outline, ensuring clear main ideas supported by passage evidence. Maintain a formal style and focus on analysis.
  4. Revising (2-3 mins): Review for errors, clarity, and coherence. Make necessary revisions to polish your essay.

SAT Essay-Step by Step Guide

sat essay guide

Read Thoroughly

Begin by skimming the passage to get a general sense of its content and tone. Then, read it more carefully, paying close attention to the author's main argument and the techniques used to support it.

As you read, mark important points and persuasive techniques by underlining or highlighting them. Look for rhetorical devices like ethos, pathos, and logos, and see how they help the author's argument. These details will be handy later when you're explaining how the author builds their case.

Create a Structure

After thoroughly reading and marking the passage, the next step is to create an outline for your essay.

Start by outlining your introduction. Give a brief summary of the passage and state your thesis clearly. For the body paragraphs, decide on the key points you want to cover, usually focusing on three main persuasive techniques or strategies used by the author. Finally, outline your conclusion. Summarize the main points and restate your thesis in a new way.

If you're short on time, jot down which sections you'll focus on. This will save you more time than you realize.

Write Down Details

After outlining your essay structure, the next step is to jot down specific details that will support your analysis.

Some people prefer to note key points while reading, while others gather important information afterward. Both methods are effective; you can choose whichever suits your preferences. Taking notes while reading is particularly helpful for writing. If you have highlights from the passage, you'll have a clear idea of what to include in the introduction, body, and conclusion.

Include an Introduction

Now, it's time to start writing. Begin with a brief summary of the passage to provide context for your readers. Mention the author's main argument and the purpose of the text. This helps establish the framework for your analysis.

Next, present a clear thesis statement outlining the main points of your analysis. Your thesis should mention the key persuasive techniques you'll discuss in your essay. A well-crafted thesis statement provides a roadmap for your essay and helps readers understand the focus of your analysis. Aim to keep your introduction concise yet informative, laying a solid foundation for the detailed analysis ahead.

Provide Detailed Content in the Body

In the body of your essay, you'll provide an in-depth analysis. Each paragraph should focus on a specific persuasive technique or element from the passage. Start with a topic sentence that introduces the main idea. Then, support your analysis with specific examples from the text, such as quotes or descriptions of rhetorical strategies.

After presenting the evidence, explain how it reinforces the author's argument. Discuss the effectiveness of the persuasive techniques used and their impact on the reader. Always connect your points back to your thesis statement to maintain focus and coherence. Detailed and well-explained content in the body paragraphs showcases your ability to critically analyze the passage.

Add a Conclusion

Your SAT Essay conclusion should summarize your main points and restate your thesis in a fresh way. Avoid changing the tone of your writing while making an argument or analyzing the author's viewpoint.

In your conclusion, briefly mention the author's argument along with examples used in the body paragraphs. Keep it concise; even two or three sentences are sufficient.

Review and Edit

After finishing your essay, take time to review and edit your work. Read through your essay to ensure it flows logically and coherently. Look out for grammatical errors, awkward sentences, or unclear points. Editing for clarity and precision is vital for making your analysis easy to understand.

Then, review your evidence and explanations to ensure they effectively support your thesis. Check that each paragraph transitions smoothly and that your conclusion effectively summarizes your analysis. If possible, seek feedback from a peer or teacher.

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SAT Essay Writing Score

The SAT Essay is scored separately from the rest of the SAT. Your essay is evaluated by two scorers, each awarding scores in three categories: Reading, Analysis, and Writing. Each scorer gives a score from 1 to 4 in each category, leading to scores that range from 2 to 8 for each dimension.

Here’s a breakdown of how the scoring works:

Category Scorer 1 Scorer 2 Total Score
Reading 1 to 4 1 to 4 2 to 8
Analysis 1 to 4 1 to 4 2 to 8
Writing 1 to 4 1 to 4 2 to 8

Here’s an example of how scores from two scorers might be combined:

Category Scorer 1 Scorer 2 Total Score
Reading 3 4 7
Analysis 2 3 5
Writing 4 3 7

In this example, the student received the following scores:

  • Reading: 7
  • Analysis: 5
  • Writing: 7

These scores are reported separately and do not combine to form a single composite score.

Score Interpretation

  • Reading (2-8 points): A score of 6-8 indicates that you have a strong understanding of the passage. A score of 4-5 shows an adequate understanding, while a score of 2-3 suggests a limited comprehension.
  • Analysis (2-8 points): A score of 6-8 reflects a well-developed analysis that effectively evaluates the author's use of evidence and persuasive techniques. A score of 4-5 shows a basic but competent analysis, while a score of 2-3 indicates a superficial or incomplete analysis.
  • Writing (2-8 points): A score of 6-8 signifies clear, coherent writing with a strong command of grammar and style. A score of 4-5 indicates competent writing with minor errors. A score of 2-3 suggests frequent errors and lack of clarity.

Final Thoughts

The SAT Essay is an important but optional part of the exam. Deciding whether to take it should be based on your college application goals, your writing skills, and the requirements of the schools you are applying to. Whether you write the essay or not, remember that it is just one part of the admissions process. A thoughtful and well-prepared approach to the entire SAT is what truly matters in your journey to higher education. If you ever find yourself overwhelmed with academic work, consider reaching out to our essay homework helper to manage your workload right away!

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