Thinking about tackling the SAT Essay? Here's what you need to know: you'll be asked to read a text (typically a speech or editorial of some sort) and discuss how the author effectively builds an argument. This might be a familiar task if you’ve done it in school, but if not, don’t worry. The format is straightforward, and with some practice, you can learn how to write a great SAT essay.
What is the SAT essay?
The SAT essay is optional and costs an additional fee of $17.00. Currently, only 25 colleges and universities require the SAT essay. You can find a searchable list of school requirements for the essay here .
If there is any chance that you might apply to one of those schools, you should sign up for the essay. If you are not sure where you will apply, you should strongly consider signing up for the essay.
Your essay score will appear on every score report you send to colleges, regardless of whether or not the school requires an essay.
Here are 5 tips for writing a killer SAT essay, should you decide to add on that section:
1. Stay Objective
The thing to remember here is that ETS (the company that writes the test) is not asking you for your opinion on a topic or a text. So be sure to maintain formal style and an objective tone. Tip: Avoid “I” and “you.
2. Keep It Tidy
Handwriting is becoming a lost art. Unfortunately, this is one occasion where your skill with a pencil matters. Graders read tons of essays each day. If they cannot decipher your script, they will lower your score. Do yourself a favor and write legibly.
3. (Indented) Paragraphs Are Your Friend
Remember the basic essay structure you learned in school: introductory paragraph, body paragraphs and a conclusion? The SAT essay graders love it! Your introduction should describe the text and paraphrase the argument being made, as well as introduce the specific elements of the passage and argument that you will discuss in the essay. Your conclusion should restate the goal of the passage/argument and sum up the points you made.
Read More: SAT Tips and Strategies
4. For Example…
Use your body paragraphs to back up your thesis statement by citing specific examples. Use short, relevant quotes from the text to support your points.
5. Don't Worry About the Exact Terms for Things
Blanking on terminology? When describing how the author builds his or her argument, “appeal to the emotions” is fine instead of specifically referencing “pathos.” And “comparison of two things” can be used instead of referring to a metaphor. If you do know the official terms, though, feel free to use them!
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Get That High SAT Essay Score With These Tips
You’ve decided to take the optional SAT Essay. You’re familiar with the essay’s format and instructions.
Now what does it take to get that high SAT Essay score?
The SAT Essay presents test-takers with a challenging task. Students must analyze an author’s argument and write a response that discusses the components of that argument.
AP English and SAT test prep students are at an advantage here. But keep in mind that the SAT Essay comes last, when students’ brains are already pretty tired!
The good news? It is possible to achieve that amazing SAT essay score.
In this post, we’ll teach you how to use those 50 minutes to get closer to that perfect score.
Here’s what we cover:
The Anatomy of a Perfect SAT Essay
As a reminder, the SAT Essay requires students to read an argumentative essay and then analyze how the author uses various techniques to build his/her argument.
It includes three parts: In our post The SAT Essay: What to Expect, we emphasize what SAT essay readers look for when grading student essays. You can find a detailed SAT essay rubric here.
How to Get a Perfect 8|8|8 SAT Essay Score
The SAT Essay is scored separately from the rest of the SAT now, thanks to the changes that went into effect in March 2016.
While the essay is now optional (you don't automatically have to take it every time you take the SAT), some colleges still require students to submit SAT essay scores with their applications. Learning how to consistently write a perfect SAT essay will be a huge boost to your application to these schools.
In this article, we'll discuss what it takes to get a perfect 8/8/8 on the SAT essay and what you need to do to train yourself to get this top score.
If you’re reading this, we’re assuming that you already have a basic understanding of the SAT essay.
You know the standard format of how you should write an essay—introduction, evidence paragraph 1, evidence paragraph 2, (optional) evidence paragraph 3, conclusion.
You know that you should state your thesis in the introduction. All of this will get you a 5/8 as long as you develop your points enough.
If you aren’t fully aware of the SAT essay building blocks, take a spin through our 15 SAT Essay tips to raise your essay score.
But how do you push your essay to the next level, from “adequate” to “outstanding?” That’s what this article is about.
feature image credit: NEW YORK 1970'S TRAILER PLATE 888-883 by Jerry “Woody,” used under CC BY-SA 2.0/Cropped from original.
The Big Secret
The SAT Essay 2019-2020: What to Expect
Good news for those afraid of SAT essays:
This section is optional now. It means they won’t require you to write an SAT essay this year.
Many colleges still recommend it to see your writing and critical thinking skills.
What are those colleges that require SAT essays? How long is the SAT with essays? How to write it? And what is the SAT essay, after all?
Keep on reading to find out all the details, and get ready to earn the highest score for your essay this year.
That’s what you’ll learn in this guide:
Table of Contents:
- What is the SAT?
- SAT dates in 2019-2020
- Top changes to SAT essays in 2019
- How to write SAT essay?
- SAT essay tips
- Colleges that require SAT essay
What is the SAT?
The SAT (Standard Aptitude Test) is an entrance exam in most US colleges and universities.
It’s a multiple-choice test allowing admission officers to make a decision if you’re the right applicant to become their student.
Invented by Carl Brigham in 1923, the SAT is owned and developed by College Board.
It’s a not-for-profit organization in the USA, with over 6,000 schools, colleges, and universities being its members.
The purpose of the SAT is to measure your readiness for college. It’s focused on the knowledge and skills you’ve got in high school, and it provides colleges with one common score to compare all applicants.
College admission officers review the SAT score alongside with your other achievements such as:
- Your high school GPA.
- Your admission interview.
- Your personal essay.
- Letters of recommendation from your teachers.
- The classes you took in school.
- Your extracurricular activities.
The higher your final score, the more options you’ll have for admission.
The SAT includes three mandatory parts: Reading, Writing, and Math. As per 2016, an SAT essay is optional for applicants to take, though many colleges still require it.
You’ll have three hours to complete your SAT (without the essay). If you write the SAT essay, you’ll have 3 hours 50 minutes to finish the whole test.
|Component||Time (min.)||Number of Tasks/Questions|
|Essay (if taken)||50||1|
|Total||180 (230 with essay)||154 (155 with essay)|
To succeed with the test, you should complete its all sections. If you leave some questions unanswered, your scores will be canceled.
- The total you can get for your SAT is on a scale of 400–1600, with 200–800 for each of two sections: Reading and Writing + Math.
- Sounds difficult?
- Okay, here’s a kinda SAT score calculator for you:
|SAT score||Details||Score range|
|Essay scores (if taken):||2-8|
|Total||For 2 main sections||400-1600|
If you write an SAT essay, you can get an extra 2–8 points for each of three criteria. What are these criteria, and what is a good SAT essay score?
Two graders from College Board score each SAT essay on a scale of 1-4 across three criteria:
- Reading: it should be clear from your essay that you’ve understood the material. So, cover its main points and show how they interrelate.
- Analysis: an essay should include persuasive claims about the text’s main points. So, evaluate them and provide supporting evidence for its claims.
- Writing: an essay should be structured well. So, present your arguments logically, vary sentence structure, state a thesis, and avoid grammar/spelling mistakes.
Summed together from two graders, your SAT essay score can range between 2 and 8 for each criterion.
|3 SAT essay criteria:||Reading||Analysis||Writing|
|Grader 1||1-4 points||1-4 points||1-4 points|
|Grader 2||1-4 points||1-4 points||1-4 points|
|Total:||2-8 points||2-8 points||2-8 points|
The directions below are representative of what students will encounter on test day.
The essay gives you an opportunity to show how effectively you can read and comprehend a passage and write an essay analyzing the passage. In your essay, you should demonstrate that you have read the passage carefully, present a clear and logical analysis, and use language precisely.
Your essay must be written on the lines provided in your answer booklet; except for the planning page of the answer booklet, you will receive no other paper on which to write.
You will have enough space if you write on every line, avoid wide margins, and keep your handwriting to a reasonable size. Remember that people who are not familiar with your handwriting will read what you write.
Try to write or print so that what you are writing is legible to those readers.
You have 50 minutes to read the passage and write an essay in response to the prompt provided inside this booklet.
- Do not write your essay in this booklet. Only what you write on the lined pages of your answer booklet will be evaluated.
- An off-topic essay will not be evaluated.
The student responses provided in the following set illustrate common score combinations earned on the redesigned SAT. Each response has received a separate score for each of the three domains assessed: Reading, Analysis, and Writing. The scores are presented in order by domain directly preceding each sample essay.
Scores for the samples provided below were assigned on a 1-4 scale according to the redesigned SAT Essay Scoring Rubric.
It is important to note that although these are representative samples of student ability at each score point, the set itself does not exhaustively illustrate the range of skills in Reading, Analysis, and Writing associated with each score point.
Although all of the sample essays were handwritten by students, they are shown typed here for ease of reading. The essays have been typed exactly as each student wrote his or her essay, without corrections to spelling, punctuation, or paragraph breaks.
- Practice using sample essay 1.
- Practice using sample essay 2.
- Learn more about how the essay is scored.
Test Prep 101: SAT vs. ACT Essays | IvyWise
By IvyWise Master Tutor
When preparing for the SAT or ACT it’s important to understand all the nuances of each exam, including the sections, content, question types, and more. Even though the essay is optional on both exams, many colleges still require an SAT or ACT essay or writing score in order to be considered for admission. Before preparing for the SAT or ACT essay, make sure you know what to expect on each.
The SAT and ACT Essays each present new and unique challenges, each the product of a recent redesign that has vastly changed both the look of each writing test as well as the rubric with which a student’s essay is graded. We’ll first look at the basics of the ACT essay, how it is graded, and how best to strategize before moving our discussion to the SAT essay.
The ACT Essay The ACT writing test is a 40-minute essay that not only measures writing skills, but also reading and pre-writing skills, which include brainstorming ideas and outlining an essay structure. The essay prompt describes an issue and provides three different perspectives on the issue.
Students are tasked with three distinct objectives for the essay: to ‘evaluate and analyze the three given perspectives’; to ‘state and develop’ their own perspective; and to ‘explain the relationship’ between their perspectives and those given.
Their score will not be affected by what perspective they take on the issue.
Consider the following prompt featured on the ACT website:
There is a fair amount of reading to be done here even before the student can begin to write.
The prompt makes clear that it is not interested in the student’s personal opinion, but rather in the student’s ability to generate an argument that accurately targets the crux of the main conflict or problem posed in the prompt, establishes the student’s own perspective, and puts this perspective in conversation with the given three perspectives.
Again, whether or not a student ‘agrees’ with one, two, or all three of the perspectives will not affect student score. The grading rubric is designed to award the highest points to an essay that demonstrates an accurate grasp of the prompt, each of the three perspectives, and presents a lucid and reasonable response with concrete support examples.
It’s crucial that students be familiar with the exact grading rubric of the ACT essay, as this will allow them to make the best use of their 40 minutes on the essay section.
The basic mental checklist for every student should include the following five questions:
- 1. Did I analyze and incorporate each perspective into either the introduction or body paragraphs?
- 2. Did I state and develop my own perspective on the issue?
- 3. Did I explain and support my perspective with logical reasoning and detailed examples?
- 4. Is my essay clearly and logically organized?
- 5. Does my writing contain errors in grammar or usage?
Answering these five questions with a satisfactory yes will yield the best score results.
What is the Highest SAT Score Possible?
What’s the highest SAT score my student can earn? As you probably know, the SAT is a crucial part of your student’s college application. In order for your student to prep well, it’s important that they (and you) understand how the SAT is scored. Knowing this information will help your student set a target score and track their improvement.
This post covers recent changes to the SAT, the highest SAT score possible, and how your student can tackle the new test!
How is the New SAT Scored?
Before 2005, the SAT included Math and Critical Reading Sections that were both scored from 200 to 800. This meant that the highest SAT score possible was 1600.
However, the College Board radically changed the SAT for the 2005-06 academic year. A Writing Section (scored from 200 to 800) with grammar questions and an essay was added to the revamped SAT. From 2005-16, the highest SAT score attainable was 2400. Most Testive Coaches took this version of the SAT, which also featured updated content and new types of questions.
In 2016, the College Board launched the newest version of the SAT. The current test features new content and a revised format. There are currently four sections: The Reading Test, the Writing & Language Test, the Math Test, and an (optional) Essay.
For scoring purposes, the first two sections are combined into Evidence-Based Reading and Writing. Math and Evidence-Based Reading and Writing are scored on a scale of 200 to 800.
The Essay is scored separately from the two main sections, so 1600 is the highest SAT score possible.
What’s the Highest SAT Score Possible?
As mentioned, the SAT now has two main sections that each has a maximum score of 800. This means that the highest SAT score attainable is 1600.
What SAT scores are considered competitive? Check out our recent blog posts to find out!
What About the Essay?
The SAT Essay is scored separately from the two main sections. While it’s technically optional, most college-bound students should write it. Essays are graded on three areas: Reading, Analysis, and Writing. Each area is scored from 1 to 4 by two readers, who then combine their scores. This means that highest SAT Essay score is 24. Check out our guide to the SAT Essay!
How Can My Student Tackle the SAT?
Although the SAT is scored similarly to the pre-2005 version, its content and questions are very different. Here are two major changes:
- Math is More Important. From 2005-2016, the SAT Math Section constituted one-third of a student’s composite score. Excluding the optional Essay, math now accounts for half of one’s total SAT score. If your student isn’t confident with math, make sure that he dedicates lots of prep time to strengthening his skills!
- Guessing is Okay! On older versions of the SAT, there was a penalty to discourage guessing on questions. On the new SAT, there’s no penalty for guessing. While your student should prep as much as possible, he shouldn’t leave any questions blank when he takes the SAT.
Testive can help your student prep and achieve her best results! Click here to learn more about our program and the monthly prep packages we offer.
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