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SAT Essay Tips

Instructor: Clio Stearns

Clio has taught education courses at the college level and has a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction.

As you prepare to take your SATs, it is natural to worry about the essay portion. Writing is a complicated and often subjective process! This lesson will assuage your anxieties with basic tips for how to make your SAT essays great.

The SAT Essay

Writing an essay on your SAT is optional; only some colleges will ask to see your score from this section. Still, most experts recommend that you take the essay test. If you follow some basic guidelines and principles of good writing, you will do a good job on this portion and it will augment your score. Also, colleges will be impressed by your motivation to complete an optional task. Writing skills are an important part of any college experience, and admissions officers will appreciate the efforts you make.

In many ways, writing your SAT essay is not dramatically different from other writing tasks you have accomplished. You will read a primary source text, such as a newspaper article or transcript of a speech. Then, you will be asked to write an essay describing the way the author or speaker has structured his or her argument. It is important to remember that you are not being asked to articulate your own point of view on the argument; rather, you are describing another author's methods and style. This is something you can actually practice every time you read an editorial or listen to a speech, and you will develop strong habits of mind that will contribute to your success! The remainder of this lesson is dedicated to offering you some tips to make your writing as strong as possible.

SAT Essay Tips

Say what you mean, mean what you say.

Before you begin writing your essay, make sure you read the related text carefully. Then, take a minute to decide what you actually want to say about it. Ask yourself, 'How does this text work?' If you can construct one or two mental sentences that actually describe your analysis of the textual structures, you are better positioned to write an authentic and organized essay in which you are actually saying something. If you find yourself unable to do this, you may want to go back and reread the text before trying to write.

Take the time to plan.

It is well worth your time to plan your essay out before you start writing it. Your best bet is to plan using a basic five-paragraph essay structure. Your essay will have the following elements:

  • An introductory paragraph, in which you grab your reader's attention and state your thesis, or the major idea you hope to communicate in your essay.
  • Three supporting paragraphs, in which you make three separate but related points focusing on proving your thesis statement.
  • A concluding paragraph, in which you restate your thesis and articulate what you have proven.

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