Writing an SAT Essay Worthy of a 12

by
Co-founder, Testive

Writing a "good" essay on the SAT is different from writing a good essay in your English class. Even if you get a 100% on the multiple choice part of the Writing section, a mediocre essay can bring your score down about 50–70 points. Lucky for you, here is a guide to reach your optimum essay score.

First, know that you only have 25 minutes to write a "12" essay, and it can only be written on the lined paper given. Since it is mandated to use a #2 pencil on the test, be careful not to smudge your writing; if the grader has trouble reading your essay, he or she will not even bother grading it. Remember, these graders want to see you succeed, so help them help you.

Make an essay template that works for you and stick with it

Once you create a template that will always work for the essay, you won't have to waste time during the actual test to think about how to write your essay. Some people include two supporting paragraphs and some people include three, so it is really up to you. However, make sure those paragraphs are strong enough to support your argument. If you write three mediocre supporting paragraphs, the person who wrote two strong supporting paragraphs will still score higher than you. Remember, the more comfortable you are in writing the essay, the better you will most likely do.

Have a set list of examples you can choose from

Because essay prompts are similar, you can basically plan your essay before even seeing the prompt. Prompts tend to ask for your argument on individuality, success, heroes, and progress. The books you read in English class are almost always good choices for examples. List a few books you enjoyed reading and list all the themes found in a book. When you practice writing your essay using that specific example, notice if it is difficult to write about for that specific prompt. If it is, do not use the example when you come across a similar prompt.

Details are important

Finding an example that works is the easy part. Now you must extract important details from the example toward your argument. Try not to stray from what the prompt is asking you. Focus on how your example works to support your argument rather than why you chose this specific example. Three to five detailed sentences are ideal in supporting an example.

Cut what is unnecessary—you only have 25 minutes!

You do not need four sentences explaining the plot of the book you’re using as an example. Combine it all into one clean-cut sentence. Characters can be introduced in the topic sentence. Do not embellish your essay with superfluous SAT vocabulary words; they will seem out of place. I suggest taking 22 minutes to write your essay, and use the extra three minutes to proofread and make sure you have at least five SAT words in your essay.

Best of luck! For more on-on-one help acing the writing section, check out Testive’s SAT prep resources.

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