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SAT Essay

The SAT is a standard test used in the United States for admission to colleges. Introduced in 1926, the objective of the SAT is to assess the students’ readiness for the college education. According to its current format, the SAT takes three hours to finish with an additional 50 minutes for the SAT essay. Although the SAT essay is optional, depending on whether your target colleges require you to attempt them, but still completing the SAT essay section allows you to showcase your writing and analytical skills.

Today, on this page, we’re throwing light on the SAT essays and everything you need to know about them. You can learn important information about the SAT essay including how to write the SAT essay, how to maximize your score, and the do’s and don’ts of the SAT essay.

So read on!

What is the SAT Essay Section?

The SAT Essay consists of one paragraph of 650 to 750 words that you need to read and then respond to. The duration to complete the SAT essay is 50 minutes. The SAT essay assesses your ability to evaluate an author’s argument. In order to write a strong essay, you have to focus on how the author uses evidence, reasoning, and other rhetorical techniques to build an argument and make it convincing.

Now, we come to the golden question. Should you attempt the SAT essay even though it’s optional? The answer is yes.

Why should you attempt the SAT Essay?

We sincerely recommend that you take up the SAT essay as it provides a golden opportunity for you to showcase your reading, analytical, and writing abilities. These skills are critical to your success in college, career, and life. Your SAT essay scores will help you assess your own strengths and weaknesses in these areas.

Scoring in the SAT Essay

Your SAT essay responses are examined by two assessors, each grader gives a score of 1 to 4 on each of the three parameters namely, reading, analysis, and writing. These scores are then added together to give you a 2 to 8 score on each of the three parameters.

Important Note: These scores are not combined with each other or with your other scores on the SAT.

Let’s take a detailed look at each of the scoring parameters and understand how the SAT Essay scoring is done.

The SAT Essay Reading Score: This score demonstrates how well you have grasped the source text and if you have used textual evidence (such as paraphrasing, direct quotation or both) effectively to showcase your understanding.

The SAT Essay Analysis Score: This score is a reflection of how well you analyzed the passage and accomplished the task of explaining the author’s build up of the argument to persuade the reader using evidence, reasoning, and other persuasive tools. It takes into account whether or not your essay uses relevant and well-chosen details and features from the passage to support your own claims.

The SAT Essay Writing Score: The writing score is given after considering how effectively you use language, the skillfulness of your response, the clarity of your essay’s structure, thesis or claim. It also takes into account factors such as the uniqueness of the sentences, the precise choice of words, a logical progression of ideas in the essay, and the structure and the flow of the paragraphs in the essay. The writing score is supposed to focus on your writing skill, and not on your ideas themselves.

Tips and Tricks for the Perfect SAT Score

Now, let’s get to the part where we tell you the tips and tricks to optimize your SAT score.

The general format of writing a SAT essay is the introduction, evidence paragraph 1, evidence paragraph 2, (optional) evidence paragraph 3, and conclusion. You need to state your thesis in the introduction section of the SAT essay.

Given below are some of the tips that will definitely help you move from a score of 5 to the perfect score of 8 in the SAT essay.

  • As is the case with mastering any art, the key to going to the next level of scoring at SAT essay is practice. You must diligently practice with a lot of sample topics, get familiar with the SAT essay format, and practice to complete an essay with sample topics within the stipulated time of 50 minutes.
  • While reading the passage, carefully read the manner in which the author builds his argument. Identify the most important components of the argument and find evidence to support your interpretation. This way you can plan the structure of your essay even before you start writing.
  • Use the exact words and precise language to show your mastery of English writing. Remember, the SAT essays with perfect scores are almost always at least two pages long. Hence, be judicious with your time.
  • To get a perfect score on the parameter of ‘reading’, your SAT essay should demonstrate not only your understanding of the text’s central ideas but also the details and illustrations in the text are and how they relate to the core idea.
  • To optimize your score on the parameter of ‘analysis’ your SAT essay should deep-dive into the structure of the author’s argument. You should not only state the techniques used in the text, but also explain in detail their impact on the reader. These explanations should be backed up with evidence from the passage that adds value to the writer’s discussion of the structure of the passage.
  • Finally, to get a perfect score in ‘writing’, your SAT essay should be extremely well-written with no errors/repetition and should be easy to read. The essay should be organized in a way that positively influences the impact of the writer’s argument.

Step-by-Step Guide to writing a SAT Essay

For your benefit, we’ve put together a step-by-step guide for writing an effective SAT essay.

We can break down the duration of the essay i.e. 50 minutes and devote it to different activities so that the essay writing is more effective.

The four steps involved in writing a SAT essay consist of:

Step 1) Reading- 5-10 minutes

Step 2) Analyzing & Planning- 7.12 minutes

Step 3) Writing- 25-35 minutes

Step 4) Revising- 2-3 minutes

Now, let’s look at each of these steps in detail to get the perfect score in the SAT essay.

Step 1) Reading: We suggest you read straight through the passage without wasting too much time on details. This strategy works well for students who are naturally fast readers and don’t have trouble getting distracted under time pressure. Skimming through the passage before going for any detailed analysis can help identify which parts you want to re-visit and which parts aren’t as critical. Just make sure that you keep an eye on the time so that you don’t run out of time for analyzing and writing.

Step 2) Analyzing & Planning: It’s a proven fact that the SAT essay examiners look for a clear structure, which includes an introduction, conclusion, and specific evidence in between. Hence, don’t make the mistake that many students are found guilty of i.e. failing to plan the SAT essay because of the dearth of time. Remember that “failing to plan is planning to fail” is true in the case of SAT essays too. You can circle, underline, or number the key points or evidence from the text.

Step 3) Writing: After your analysis and planning are done, it’s time to start writing. Keep on writing until there are only 2-3 minutes left from the allotted 50 minutes. You may choose to write the body paragraph first and just leave 10-12 lines at the top where you can add the introduction later. Make sure there is a definite structure to your essay by making a transition from the introduction then giving enough background to clarify why the example is relevant, and then re-connect it to the thesis. Your SAT essay should end with a conclusion which should mention the author’s argument and the examples used by you to back up your thesis.

Step 4) Revising: Leaving 2-3 minutes towards the end helps you fix and eliminate errors. You can cross out the words that you wish to omit from the SAT essay.

We hope this useful information and the tips and tricks help you in getting the perfect score at your SAT essays.

Learn more about the SAT Scores and the International Mathematical Olympiad Result.

Toppr wishes you all the best!




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