Mystified by the SAT Essay? Unsure of where to start? Well, you’ve come to the right place! This article will illuminate the all aspects of the SAT Essay, including its instructions, whether or not to take it, and preparation strategies. After reading it, you should be able to advise your child on the best course of action given his or her situation.
What Is the SAT Essay?
The SAT Essay is a section of the SAT. While the Reading and Writing & Language Sections are multiple-choice, the essay section asks students to write their own responses. The SAT Essay is designed to resemble a college assignment, and the College Board suggests that students should take it to show colleges that they’re “ready to come to campus and write.” The SAT Essay changed significantly after the College Board redesigned the test in 2016, so let’s review the instructions for this section.
The SAT Essay is always the first section of the test. Students have 50 minutes to answer a prompt that they’re given at the beginning of the allotted time. The style of prompt constitutes the major difference from previous versions of the SAT. Where the older prompts were more open-ended, students are now given a short passage written that they have to analyze. The College Board notes that while all prompts are different, all make an argument, support it with evidence and reasoning, and are written for a broad audience. A few recent examples include excerpts from Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech and a State of the Union address by John F. Kennedy.
After your student reads the given passage, they must write an essay that considers how the author builds an argument to persuade his/her audience. This is a super-important part of the instructions, because it means that your child should not write about their opinions on the passage itself. Rather, their response should analyze how the makes their argument. Check out the section below for more tips on how to write the SAT Essay.
- The Essay is one of three sections on the SAT
- It’s optional
- In 50 minutes, students must analyze a passage and consider how an author builds an argument
Should My Child Do the SAT Essay?
Recently, several students have asked me if they should write the SAT Essay. Although the essay section is optional on the new SAT, I told them that it makes sense to do it for three main reasons. First, it’ll give college admissions officers a more complete portrait of your student’s academic abilities. Elite colleges generally require the SAT Essay, and so skipping it could prevent your student from applying to more competitive institutions. Second, the SAT Essay is straightforward once your student understands the prompt. As discussed above, the task is to analyze an argument, rather than discuss personal opinions. Third, the SAT Essay is literal entertainment for the exam. If your student chooses not to write it, he or she will have to sit for 50 minutes waiting for others to finish the section. While the College Board does not require students to do the SAT Essay, there’s no reason not to!
How Should My Child Prepare for the SAT Essay?
Like other sections, students who prepare often score better on the SAT Essay. As I noted above, the first step for success is to understand what the prompt asks for in their response. When your student receives the SAT Essay, they should take a few minutes to fully read the short passage that they’re given. Taking about five minutes to underline major arguments, find the author’s evidence, and identify the audience makes for a more structured and focused response.
Next, students should sketch a brief outline. College Board scorers like essays that adhere to the five-paragraph structure often used in high school. In their introduction, students should identify the passage’s central argument and list three types of evidence, reasoning, or other persuasive techniques used by the author. Your student will explore each identified rhetorical element in the three body paragraphs of their essay. For example, the powerful imagery used in “I Have a Dream” could be the topic of one of the body paragraphs. In all cases, your student can benefit from keeping the author’s audience in mind. If their essay can make connections to how each identified literary item connects to the audience, the can achieve high scores on reading and analysis. The conclusion should be brief, mainly summarizing the three body paragraphs without extrapolating too much. No student wants to mess up a great essay at the end! For a detailed guide on prepping for the SAT Essay, check out Testive’s video:
How Is the Essay Scored?
The SAT Essay is scored on three metrics: Reading, Analysis, and Writing. Students can earn 2 to 8 Points on each metric, for a maximum score of 24. Two scorers read each essay, and they assign a score of 1 to 4 for each metric. These independent scores are then added together to calculate the composite score for the SAT Essay. For more information on scoring, check out the College Board website.
The SAT Essay can seem daunting to students, and there has been confusion about the prompt due to the recently redesigned exam. I hope that this article clarified what your student should expect for the SAT Essay. Although its optional, I recommend that students write the essay because many colleges require it for admission. Importantly, the prompt asks students to dissect an argument in a passage, rather than create their own. Testive has a useful video on preparation, and our coaches are usually happy to look over practice essays written by your student. Ultimately, the SAT Essay is not too difficult to prepare for and can highlight your student’s writing skills during the college admissions process.
As part of the writing section of the SAT, the essay is the first question a candidate has to appear for. It is a 25-minutes exercise that needs to be attempted only in pencil. Essays written out in ink will not receive any grading; therefore candidates should keep their No. 2 pencils at hand. The candidate will be given a prompt/assignment to read carefully, understand and then write the essay based on the prompt/assignment given. Essay prompts of SAT are usually quotations or statements that are chosen to make the candidates think and respond to the prompt in different ways. These promptsare also a means of testing the candidate’s English language skills and the ability to develop complex ideas and sustain a point of view in an essay with the support of his own ideas and inferences. The point of view developed by the candidates as a response to the essay prompts can be based on their own observations, experiences and reading.
The SAT essay is scored by two readers on a scale of 1-6, which leads up to a score of 2-12, with 2 being a score of a flawed essay and 6 being the score of an exceptionally well-written and balanced essay. To understand what goes into the scoring of a SAT essay, the College Board website has, from among the many prompts, provided one example and its six responses which candidates can read at http://professionals.collegeboard.com/testing/sat-reasoning/about/sections/essay . Following are seven essay prompts carefully selected to allow you to read and think about a variety of topics and help you prepare better for the SAT essay.
Assignment: Do we expect too much from our public figures? Plan your response, and then write an essay...
The trick with short quotations is that they pack a punch and often leave the reader with a single point of view because of the forcefulness of the quote. Candidates must avoid this trap and read a quote such as the one above in a larger, worldlier perspective, but within the framework of the life of a public figure. The operative word here is responsibility, so the candidate can pick on this word to flesh out whether public response towards public figures has become very pressurising or not. The candidate should also sustain his point of view with observations made on public figures and the responsibilities they shoulder, from his own readings or experiences.
Assignment: Do we learn more from finding out that we have made mistakes or from our successful actions? Plan your response, and then write an essay...
It takes a greater person to accept his mistake in the face of embarrassment and ridicule; a quality time and age teaches us fairly well. The candidate should base his response to this prompt on his own learning either from mistakes or successes, and corroborate his opinion with instances and examples that have been drawn from his own life. As the assignment is a straightforward one, asking a Y/N response, it will be advisable for the candidate to take a side and sustain his argument through and through in support of his point of view.
Assignment: What is your view on the idea that each new success leads to new and more difficult problems? Plan and write an essay in which you develop your point of view on this issue.
The assignment is a direct question to the candidate and his opinion. The candidate should attempt this by stating his opinion firstly, and then through the length of the essay providing ample proof to sustain this opinion. It could be for or against the view. Irrespective of that, the candidate should have a healthy balance of both views, with a heavier inclination towards his personal view, which should be supported by his inferences from everyday life and his own experiences.
In other words, our personal level of satisfaction is entirely within our control. Otherwise, why would the same experience disappoint one person but delight another? Happiness is not an accident but a choice.
Assignment: Is happiness something over which people have no control, or can people choose to be happy? Plan and write an essay in which you develop your point of view on this issue.
Having two views so clearly stated within the assignment is a boon for the candidate, as now it makes the ideas simpler to work with. Happiness is an emotion every human being has experienced to a certain degree in his life. Therefore, it should not be difficult to state whether or not it is a choice or an accident. The candidate should clearly answer the question ‘is happiness a choice?’, and base his answer in response to this displaying his grasp over the said thought and what it implies to him.
Assignment: Are people overly influenced by unrealistic claims and misleading images? Plan and write an essay in which you develop your point of view on this issue.
The interesting aspect about this prompt is that it is a long one and puts forth many ideas for the candidate to work with. There is a mention of advertising, books and politicians; all, extremely potent topics wherefrom the candidate can choose to base his opinion on illusions and unrealistic claims. A wise move would be to divide the essay on each of these topics and the unrealistic claims attached to them and substantiate the opinions put forth with logical thought and practicality. The candidate should at all times remember to answer the question asked in the assignment and then proceed with the support for that answer.
Assignment: Do people focus so much on doing things right that they fail to learn from their mistakes? Plan and write an essay in which you develop your point of view on this issue.
This prompt is more often than not a burning dilemma in most of our lives. Failure, success, mistakes and perfection are elements we always battle with and the candidate can take this as an opportunity to show the examiner how he may have learnt from his mistakes, even though his desire was to ace something and do well. A personal account peppered with a coherent argument in response to this issue would be a great way of attempting this assignment.
Assignment: Can knowledge be a burden rather than a benefit? Plan and write an essay in which you develop your point of view on this issue.
Although the assignment asks the candidate to state the nature of knowledge in terms of a burden or benefit, it will be wise if the candidate explains both sides of the issue and then moves on to express which side he supports more. This support should be well substantiated with his own learning and inferences. Citing books or movies he has seen, a candidate can very well strengthen his argument in support of his point of view. Keeping in mind agriculture, medicine and industry, the candidate should base his response within the framework of the prompt and justify whichever side he takes.