Are you registered for the next SAT? If so, it is important to be prepared for the writing test section. The SAT essay is not just a writing test, but it is also a thinking test designed to evaluate how quickly you can organize your thoughts and get a first draft down on paper. Yes, you need to follow the rules of written English, but the real challenge comes in using your time wisely and expressing your thoughts clearly.
According to the College Board, which administers the SAT, this 25-minute test measures a student’s ability to develop a point of view on an issue from an excerpt; to support this point of view using reasoning and examples from reading studies, experience, or observations; and to follow the conventions of standard written English.
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The assignment will ask you to share your opinion. You will have space to write notes and organize your thoughts, and regardless of your personal experience, you will be able to respond to the prompt.
These 8 tips will help you master the SAT essay:
- Know your audience: You do not need to restate the prompt. Your audience has the prompt in front of them. Write! Be clear, concise, and direct. Write legibly. You will not be given any additional paper.
- Introduction: Use a nice opening (e.g., a quote, anecdote, or statement). Remember you need a thesis—it should be the last sentence of your introduction. Be straightforward. This is not the time or place to be clever.
- Body: Use specific examples, and introduce one example at a time. Start a new paragraph for each new example. Remember to include a counter-argument.
- Focus: Decide which point you will argue. Your points should be distinct. There should be a reason for every word on the page. Don’t repeat yourself.
- State your views: There is no need to say, “I think,” “I believe,” “In my opinion,” etc. Just make your point. Your reader knows that your essay is written from your point of view. This is not to say you can’t include personal anecdotes. First person is acceptable; just don’t waste time or space with unnecessary statements. Make every word count.
- Keep it simple: This is not the place for grammatical experimentation. If you know how to use a semicolon, then go for it. If you’re not sure, don’t try it here.
- Conclusion: Restate your thesis. Summarize your main points. You can wrap up with something clever or insightful, but don’t add new evidence.
- Plan: Remember to plan your essay and leave time to proofread. When you’re done, your essay should be a coherent, concise, clear first draft, but a first draft all the same.
Kim Lifton, a former journalist and communications consultant, is president of Wow Writing Workshop, a Michigan-based company that teaches college application essay and scholarship essay writing, as well as ACT and SAT Writing Test prep. You can sign up for Lifton’s weekly blog about the college application essay and the journey to college admission. Follow Wow on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.
How many times do you think a student should take the SATs?