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Write a great SAT Essay

Many students worry about the writing portion of the ACT or SAT. The reality is students can prepare themselves by focusing on a few basic strategies for essay writing. Students should follow this list of tips to make their test essay shine!  

Write a longer essay—It has been shown that longer essays tend to get higher scores. 

Know the topics you will write about—You won’t have a lot of time on test day to choose a focus for your essay. Therefore, you should go into the test with some “go-to” topics already in mind. For example, To Kill a Mockingbird is a great book to write about because the themes of the book are relevant to almost any essay. Other books that fit many different essay topics are: Lord of the Flies, The Great Gatsby, and The Catcher in the Rye. Try to have one topic from history that is a “go-to” topic. For example, I know a lot about World War II, so I will often write a paragraph about how World War II relates to the topic. sat act essay

To save time, write a short introduction and a short conclusion—You only have 25 minutes to write the essay. Spend the majority of the time writing the body paragraphs. This is where you will support the main point of your essay with specific examples. 

Use a range of sentence structures when you write—You don’t want your essay to sound like this:

The simple fact is that you must try to be productive each day. The reality is that you can’t take life for granted. The key is to realize that each day is a gift. 

The repetitive structure of “The ____ is ____” makes this passage awkward to read. Varying sentence structures can make your text much more readable:

The simple fact is that you must try to be productive each day. You can’t take life for granted. Instead, you must realize that each day is a gift.

Stick to the topic—This sounds obvious, but many students forget it. The essay topics are going to be broad so that you don’t need any specialized knowledge on a particular topic to score high on the essay. Also, you do not have to write in any particular style. As long as you stick to the topic, you can choose the tone that suits you best (persuasive, argumentative, humorous, etc.)

Use a few interesting words—Your essay doesn’t need to be chock-full of long, complicated words, but it should have at least a few. Use obstinate instead of stubborn, ambivalent instead of unsure, or disingenuous instead of dishonest.

Watch out for spelling, punctuation, and grammar mistakes—If you have one or two of these mistakes, it is no big deal. But if you have more than a few, your score may suffer.

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Posted in SAT Essay.

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One Response

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  1. Christian says

    Hi there, I’m an SAT tutor and 2400-scorer, and I wanted to say that I like your blog! Short, to-the-point articles with solid SAT prep advice! It’s very much in line with the methods I use myself for perfect scores and teach to my SAT prep students.

    This article caught my attention as the SAT essay is a personal interest of mine – the idea of a “standardized” essay is fairly ridiculous, as is the 25-minute time limit.

    Just like this article says, following a FORMULA is the key to consistent, low-stress high scores on the SAT essay. You need evidence prepared ahead of time, and follow a simple, standard 4-5 paragraph essay to avoid wasting time thinking about your structure. Stay ON topic, and pick ONE SIDE for your thesis – no gray area, you don’t have the time to make a subtle, complex argument.

    I wrote a sweet special report on 30 SAT essay examples you can use as evidence; check it out here:

    Spelling and grammar is at the bottom of my essay priority list, but handwriting is higher up there.

    Length may be the NUMBER 1 recommendation – longer essays score higher, hands down. I’m not saying it’s an automatic perfect 12 essay, but it’s hard for me to imagine a reasonably decent 2 page essay scoring less than an 8, and that’s more than an enough for a very good writing score.

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