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College Resources

The SAT Essay

For some students, the most nerve-wracking aspect of the SATs is the essay portion. Indeed, many people get anxious about writing in a high stakes situation where they’re under the gun. However, we’ll let you in on a little secret: graders aren’t looking for compositions that are New Yorker worthy. You don’t need to write award-winning level prose in order to earn a “6.” In fact, graders are instructed to spend no more than three minutes assessing each essay. Consequently, they are simply looking to see if you’ve grasped the key fundamentals of good writing and grammar.  

Therefore, when it comes to composing your essay, it’s critical to remember the basic structure you were taught in school. Graders will look for an introduction (replete with thesis statement), supporting paragraphs to boost the efficacy of said thesis and a concluding paragraph in which you wrap up/summarize your argument(s). By following this format, your writing will appear logical and cohesive. Indeed, your thoughts will seem clear and organized, lending an air of credence to your work. And this will likely be reflected in the grade you receive.

Additionally, as you craft the body of your essay, please remember to cite examples with which to support your argument. You can call upon your own personal experiences, anecdotes from friends/family or facts you’ve learned in the classroom. The actual examples don’t matter so much; there’s no need to waste time wracking your brain to come up with the best possible illustrations. What’s important is that you demonstrate an ability to cogently defend your argument.

As you go about writing your essay, you’ll also want to consider sprinkling a few vocabulary words throughout. Of course, this doesn’t mean your essay should read as if you consulted a dictionary for every other word. Nor should you try and shoehorn in some impressive words in the hopes of appearing erudite. And you certainly don’t want to include a word if you’re not confident you’re using it correctly. Nevertheless, when appropriate, try and incorporate a few "big" words. Your grader will definitely notice.

It should also be noted that, beyond the actual content, good handwriting will also be important. Don’t worry; you’re not being graded on penmanship. However, your writing certainly needs to be legible. After all, if the grader assigned to your essay can’t read your scribbles, she won’t be able to properly assess your work. And she’ll likely downgrade your efforts as a result.

Finally, length is a factor that should be considered. While you won’t be expected to write a novella, it’s important to understand that a simple paragraph will not suffice. Indeed, you should endeavor to use as much of the allotted space as possible. 

Remember, there’s no need to panic at the thought of the SAT essay section. Even if you dislike writing or aren’t particularly confident in your skills, you can still earn a strong score. Simply follows these recommendations and you’ll likely do well!



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Don Munce