The SAT essay comes in the last leg of your test after you have steered through your English and Math sections. The new SAT makes essay completely optional but it’s strongly recommended to take it as it requires a part of the analytical and reading skills you acquired for the English section. Few colleges may not look into your SAT scores but others can use it as a window to gaze at your personality, thought process and critical thinking. If you have an essay score, you are armed with all the material needed to strengthen your candidature and are prepared for the changing tides of college admissions. A quick look at the standard SAT prompt helps you understand what this whole thing is all about.
Opting for SAT essay adds an additional 50 minutes to the test. So you have to prepare for a 3 hour English and Math followed by an essay, and that amounts to nearly 4 hours of test including essay. The SAT essay is not like a traditional essay and more like a critique. In 50 minutes of time, you need to read and comprehend a 650 to 750 words passage and write a critical analysis of the author’s use of evidence, reasoning, and rhetorical techniques.
Here are 10 Tips for getting a High Score in SAT essays
1) Analyze the SAT essay scoring pattern
The SAT essay is assigned three scores by two graders. The score ranges from 1 to 4 for the sections including Reading, Analysis and Writing. The final score is the cumulative score given by the two graders. Let’s suppose grader 1 gives 3 Reading / 2 Analysis / 3 Writing and grader 2 gives 2 Reading / 3 Analysis / 2 Writing. The total score is 5 Reading / 5 Analysis / 5 Writing.
Reading score – This shows how well you comprehend the passage.
Analysis score – This reflects your analysis of how the author wrote a convincing article.
Writing score – This reflects the cohesiveness, grammar & vocabulary range, and writing style.
2) Review example SAT essay prompts
Go through the sample SAT essay prompts to understand the style and language in which the articles are written. While you read through the passages, focus on the author’s use of evidence, reasoning, and stylistic elements. Read different example essay prompts on the College Board website.
3) Build your Analytical reading skills
Start early and read editorial and op-ed pieces from international publications to build your comprehension and analytical skills. Set a daily routine and read newspapers and blogs that help you gain knowledge on world affairs and diverse areas. This also hones your reading and gives you an analytical bent of mind to think deep into the articles. Ask questions on the validity of the argument, try to strengthen your case and match it with the author’s version. These are the same skills required to write the SAT essay.
4) Practice a lot of SAT essays
Practice makes a man perfect. Practice more SAT prompts. Write essays and get them evaluated by experts. This helps you know where you stand in your preparation.
5) Read and memorize the prompt before the test
On the test day, there is a tendency that your anxiety may hit the roof. Keep your cool and don’t rush through your essay and skim through the important areas in your first read. Highlight those areas that may need a second look while writing the essay. This practice helps you avoid multiple back and forth process of reading the prompt as you progress with the essay. Once you read and comprehend all the relevant parts then only you can draft a great essay.
6) Make a thought-flow chart and paragraph-by-paragraph plan
A good approach towards SAT essay is to spread your content across 5 to 6 paragraphs. Make a thought flow chart to give your thoughts a shape. Let’s suppose you have to write a 5 paragraph essay on a topic. You start with an introduction – definitions in the first paragraph and slide into history, advantages, disadvantages, relevant examples & applications, and conclusion in the subsequent paragraphs.
For the SAT essay, break the whole passage into evidence, reasoning, and rhetorical techniques used by the author and list them down on the scratch paper. When you fill the relevant content under these heads it will be easier for you to draft the whole essay and you have a clear direction with the right transitions.
7) Build a strong introduction, body, and conclusion
Your SAT essay has three components – Introduction, body, and conclusion. In the introduction, give your approach to the essay and the course of action. Link it to the prompt and ensure that your body paragraphs support your introductory statements. Don’t just summarize your essay in the conclusion. Offer more insights on your analysis.
8) Make sure to fill up 3 to 4 pages of the exam book
This comes naturally while you draft your essay. Ensure proper spacing between your words and paragraphs. Wherever you feel there is a need for elaboration go for it. Don’t concise the essay into smaller paragraphs with very few words. You may lose out on clarity. So be generous with your words and write something that adds more value to the essay.
9) Use apt vocabulary and transitions
Don’t restrict yourself to using the same words again and again. Use a range of words to convey your thoughts. This brings freshness to your essay. SAT graders also track for the right transitions. Make a note of the transition words and use them accordingly. When you are extending a similar thought go for words like similarly, likely, consequently, subsequently, etc. When you are introducing a contrasting thought go for on the contrary, on the flip side, on the other side, etc. Examples will take, for example, for instance, to illustrate, etc.
10) Make time for edits and avoid multiple rewrites
Spare the last 5 minutes for reviewing your essay. Plan the whole thing accordingly. Run a quick spell check and look for other errors you can remove in the last read. Also, be critical on your work and find ways to improve the aesthetics of your essay.