SAT essayMost colleges and universities do not require the SAT essay; however, there are many top schools that do including  Harvard, Dartmouth, Princeton, Stanford, and Yale as well some some less competive schools like Florida Atlantic, Howard, and Kentucky State. Here is the most recent list. (The list is always changing,so always check the school’s website.)

The following is a recommended approach to writing the essay:

The assignment is to read and analyze a 700 word fact-based passage and develop an essay describing how the writer builds the presented argument.

The essay prompt will always ask how the author uses:

  • evidence, such as facts or examples, to support claims.
  • reasoning to develop ideas and to connect claims and evidence.
  • stylistic or persuasive elements, such as word choice or appeals to emotion, to add power to the ideas expressed.

Craft an essay explaining how the author creates an argument to convince or persuade the reader. In doing so, analyze how the author uses one of more of the above to build the argument. Do not try to explain why you agree or disagree with the author’s premise. Your job is to:

  • Read – demonstrate an understanding of the ideas presented
  • Analyze – evaluate the presentation of the argument
  • Write – express your ideas effectively

Here are some recommended steps to follow. (The reading and analysis should take about 25-30 minutes and the balance of the time to write your essay.)

  1. Preview the passage to get a sense of the author’s point. Paraphrase each first sentence and jot it down. What is the author trying to persuade the reader?
  2. Skim between 300-500 wpm to confirm what your learned from your preview
  3. Reread much slower to analyze. You might want to underline or take notes:
  • How is the author making his case – examples, anecdotes, reasons, data
  • Is he merely appealing to the readers’ emotions?
  • Is he coming from a place of authority?
  1. Write down your thesis based on your analysis. It will define your opening paragraph. State it in such a way that the reader clearly knows the point you will be making: Here’s is an example

Representative Jones makes the case that in order to save our democracy, it’s mandatory that the public realize the vital importance of the democratic process. When the public finally wakes up to the reality that voting is a right to be exercised, that results actually impact their everyday life, and that though they may have one singular voice, collectively, that voice carries more power than any one super PAC, then and only then will our democracy be preserved.”

There are three parts to the above thesis: voting is a right, the impact on everyday life, and the collective power of many.

  1. Go back and reread to find the information that supports the 3 claims made in the thesis. Make notes so the evidence is easy to find to be able to paraphrase and restate into your essay.
  2. Five paragraphs is usually the best way to go:

Paragraph #1 should summarize the main point of the passage and state your thesis (as above) containing the three points.

        Paragraphs #2, #3, and #4 should each represent the one of the three points of the thesis.

Paragraph #5 should reinforce and/or restate the thesis summarizing the supporting evidence.

What to be mindful of when writing the essay:

  1. The essay should be about 500 words long.
  2. Present the thesis in the opening paragraph and restate in the closing paragraph.
  3. Quotes or evidence excerpted from the essay should be incorporated to support claims.
  4. The structure flows from the thesis.
  5. Keep it direct and simple – better shorter, clear and grammatically correct sentence structure than long, rambling sentences.
  6. Expression of ideas reflect accepted grammatical constructions and mechanics.
  7. Use qualifying adverbs: essentially, basically, typically, usually, mostly, fundamentally, primarily, predominately, relatively, virtually, roughly, mostly, intrinsically, inherently, substantially, particularly, clearly, certainly.
  8. Try to incorporate more sophisticated language and or expressions – CORRECTLY!
  9. Avoid colloquial language – not a ‘cool’ idea – as this is a formal essay.
  10. Allow at least 5 minutes to proof the essay to make sure it addresses the above   Primarily:





How the essay is scored:

  • Two different people will read and score your essay.
  • Each scorer awards 1–4 points for each of the three criteria: reading, analysis, and writing.
  • The scores from each reader for each criteria are added.
  • The final score for each criteria ranges from 2–8 points for a total score range of 6-24 points.
  • The essay score is a separate score which is not factored into the reading/writing/language score.

NOTE: Generally speaking, if your teen scores a least a 6 on all 3 criteria, that’s typically good enough.

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