The SAT essay is scored on a scale of 2 to 8, with 2 being the lowest score and 8 being the highest score. The essay is scored based on three key areas: reading, analysis, and writing. The scores for each area are then added together to get a total score out of 24.
Feeling a little nervous before taking your SAT essay is normal. When you're dealing with something important for your future, it's ok to feel some pressure. That's why the goal of this guide is to help you get ready for this assignment and finally, get the highest SAT essay scoring. Let's take a look at SAT essay examples and the best practices to write it so that you can pass this test successfully.
What Is the SAT Essay?
SAT essay is a short, timed writing assignment that you'll get as part of the SAT. There are two great things about it. First, now the majority of educational institutions don't require an SAT writing essay. It is an optional task, which nevertheless, you are recommended to do.
Secondly, new SAT essay rules don't require you to reinvent the wheel and deal with something you've never encountered before. At the same time, you shouldn't expect a typical essay-style question; there are no prompts like "Tell us about your favorite book." Instead, you will have to read a specific prompt, for example, a short article or speech, and analyze, interpret, and evaluate a given text.
Purpose of the SAT Essay
The main goal of the SAT essay is to evaluate three academic skills you should have and demonstrate. They are:
A perfect SAT essay wins 5-5-5 in reading, analysis, and writing. That's why you will have to read an assigned prompt first, then analyze the ways authors build their arguments, and describe their approach in writing. SAT essay is meant to be an opportunity for students to show off their writing skills, but it's also meant to test a student's ability to think critically about a topic, and most importantly, the ways an author explains it.
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How to Write an SAT Essay
Keep in mind that SAT essay writing task is timed and requires you to analyze a passage and then support your analysis with evidence from a text. While SAT with essay usually lasts up to 5 hours, you will have up to one hour (usually 50 minutes) to complete a paper after you are done with the test itself.
So, break down your assignment into four stages and keep track of the timeyou should devote to each of the states.
- Read and analyze — 10 minutes. For the first time, read the passage quickly to get an overall sense of its main idea. Then, re-read it more slowly. Highlight any arguments or opinions that stand out to you. This is critical because if you don't have an idea of what exactly an author is trying to say and what persuasion approaches they use, then it will be hard for you to write an effective analysis based on their argumentation.
- Outline — 10 minutes. Follow a standard essay structure of introduction-body-conclusion. Pay the most attention to the body. Draft three-four paragraphs, following one paragraph — one statement rule. Here, SAT essay practice doesn’t differ from writing any other type of paper.
- Write — 20 minutes. Next, proceed with writing being guided by your outline. We recommend getting started right with a body paragraph. Pick up the writing or reasoning technique an author uses in the passage and explain it, using examples from the test. Do it three-four times discussing different approaches of a writer and highlighting their weak and strong points. Sum up everything in your conclusion. Here you can also briefly state your opinion. Then, get back to the intro. You will feel how easy it is to write it after you have fully understood the passage and analyzed it in your body.
- Proofread and edit — 10 minutes. Don't skip this step! It's very important for your essay to be flawless in terms of spelling and grammatical correctness. So, make sure to provide enough time for essay revision and check everything twice before submission. Although the SAT have an essay as an optional assignment, do your best to show your paper writing skills.
>> View more: How to Write a Good Essay
SAT Essay Outline
Creating a new SAT essay outline before you start writing is a great way to ensure that you cover all necessary ideas. It is also an opportunity to prepare yourself mentally for such a task at hand. When you know what you're going to write and what SAT essay format to follow, you can get in the right mindset for writing effectively. The template you'll find below will help you as well.
>> Read more: How to Write an Outline for an Essay
SAT Essay Template
- Briefly introduce a topic
- Mention a passage you're going to analyze and its author
- State your thesis statement
- Body Part
- Body Paragraph 1
- State your first supporting point – how an author uses a specific persuasion technique
- Provide evidence for supporting your point – cite an example for a passage directly
- Explain how the evidence supports your point
- Transition to the next paragraph
- Body Paragraph 2
- Follow the same structure as shown above
- Elaborate on different points until you reach the necessary essay length
- Body Paragraph 3
- Body Paragraph 1
- Restate your thesis
- Summarize your supporting points
- End with a strong concluding statement
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SAT Essay Prompts
SAT sample essay prompts are written in a way that asks you to analyze and evaluate other writers or speakers. SAT practice essay requires analytical writing on your part. That's why topics and questions for this assignment are diverse. Below you will find some prompts and corresponding samples to get an idea of what to expect from this task and how to deal with it.
SAT essay is required to make sure you can think critically, and you can't just write about what you've already read. You should form your own opinions and explain them when writing the SAT essay.
Sample SAT Essay Prompt 1 & Answer
So, let’s proceed with real-life examples and discover what to write in an SAT essay.
For instance, the task may sound as follows:
Write an essay in which you explain how Bill Gates builds his argument to persuade the audience of the need to address global climate change in his "Innovating to Zero" speech at the TED conference in 2010.
Here is what you can write about.
SAT Essay Sample 1
Bill Gates was at the forefront of the innovation development that is now changing the world. However, these changes are not always positive. In his "Innovating to Zero" speech at TED2010, he set an ambitious goal of achieving zero emissions by 2050. Bill Gates used a combination of emotional, logical, and ethical appeals to persuade the audience of the urgency and importance of tackling climate change.
The most prominent persuasion technique that he uses throughout the speech is an emotional appeal. He uses an approach that's on the verge of rhetoric and psychology, making his audience feel compassion and pointing out that 2 million purest people on the globe will be unable to survive climate change. The goal of this technique is to help people realize the true cost of the upcoming disaster, and then — get a solution everyone can contribute to.
Next, Bill Gates uses a logical appeal. He says: "We have to go from rapidly rising to fall [carbon emissions], and falling all the way to zero." To add credibility to his persuasion, he cites examples of new technologies that already make a difference. The speaker also supports his statements with statistics and calculations, moving to the concluding part — the call to action.
Finally, Gates uses a call to action to encourage the audience to take care and rethink their attitudes toward climate change now. At this moment, he is leveraging the power of his reputation and global recognition of his contribution to technology development. Through this example, we can see how the personality of the speaker significantly amplifies all the persuasion techniques he used during the speech.
Sample SAT Essay Prompt 2 & Answer
Let’s consider one more example and deal with the following task:
Write an essay in which you explain how Sojourner Truth builds her argument to persuade the audience on men's and women's rights equity in her "Ain’t I a Woman" speech at a women's rights convention in 1851 in Ohio, USA.
SAT Essay Sample
The problem of equal gender rights, especially for people of color, has been relevant for over three centuries. History knows many outstanding speakers and activists of both genders, and Sojourner Truth is one of them. Her speech "Ain't I a Woman?" is a worthy example of consistent logic and strong persuasion.
The speaker builds her argument using the rhetorical approach of opposition and contrast. She argued that if women were capable of doing hard work and bearing children, then they should be treated as equals to men. Next, she cites examples from her life to show that women are capable of doing even more.
In the next sections of her speech, Sojourner Truth asks rhetorical questions and repeats them for better persuasion. "Where did your Christ come from? Where did your Christ come from? From God and a woman! A man had nothing to do with Him." The goal of this tactic is to appeal to religion which was very important for people of that time and help women realize that they are more powerful than they used to think.
"If the first woman God ever made was strong enough to turn the world upside down all alone, these women together ought to be able to turn back and get side up again". This statement is the continuation of the previous one. At the same time, it is a passionate, courageous, and driving call to action Sojourner Truth concludes her speech with.
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How Is the SAT Essay Scored?
SAT essay scores simply. Two independent reviewers from an admission committee rate your paper based on 3 criteria:
They can score you from 1 to 4 points for each criterion. The points each of the reviewers gave are added together and students get a total SAT writing score with 24 points being the maximum.
Tips for Writing the SAT Essay
So, now you have an idea of what to write in your paper, what kinds of topics to expect, and how your essay will be scored. Find out more SAT essay writing tips to skyrocket your chances of getting the highest grade possible.
- Review successful SAT examples. The best way to get started is by reviewing past essays that got a good SAT essay score. Pay attention to topics and ways other students express themselves in response.
- Practice at home before taking a test. Pick up prompts you like and try writing a piece at home. Exercise with different topics several times. Next, find a passage you've never read before. Set a cutdown timer and try to write an SAT essay under time pressure.
- Read the passage twice. The first time through, focus on understanding what an author is saying and how they're saying it. The second time around, pay more attention to their logic and argumentation.
- Highlight important points during the second reading round. Mark these points with a pencil. So, you can easily find them later when you're writing your essay.
- Focus on analysis. Instead of simply stating your opinion or offering an example, explain why your opinion or example is valid based on what an author has written. You should be able to support your position with evidence from a passage. If there isn't enough evidence in the passage itself, draw from outside sources that support your argument (such as real-world experience).
- Use specific evidence from the passage. Instead of making up your own ideas about what an author was trying to say, use specific examples from a text to support your point of view.
- Use strong vocabulary. SAT essay is a very formal, academic writing prompt, so you need to write with that in mind. Choose words that are more advanced than those you'd use in conversation.
- Proofread and edit twice. Once you've finished your draft, go back and read through it again. Making sure there are no typos or grammatical errors. Be very attentive since during your SAT test, you will not be able to use online tools for grammar and readability checks.
Bottom Line on SAT Essay Writing
SAT practice essays are challenging, but they are also an opportunity to show colleges you're ready to take on the next step in your education. Fortunately, SAT writing essays aren't as hard as they look. All you need to remember is that, at its core, an essay is just an argument — and every good argument has three parts: a claim, evidence for supporting that claim, and a conclusion. Invest your time and effort into getting ready for this assignment. Take a look at new SAT essay samples and try writing some pieces following the structure and tips we've shared in this article.
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FAQ About SAT Essays
1. How long is the SAT with an essay and without an essay?
The SAT without essay usually takes up to four hours. If you have to complete a writing assignment, you will be given extra 50 minutes for it. As for SAT essay length, it is 550-750 words.
2. What is a good SAT essay score?
The highest SAT essay scoring you can earn is five points for reading, analysis, and writing respectively. 3-4 scores on each task are average. 1-2 scores are a low result.
3. What colleges require the SAT essay?
The most famous institutions requiring the SAT essay include but aren't limited to:
- Harvard University
- The University of California schools
- City University London
- Delaware State University
- Howard University.
4. Should I take the SAT essay?
Despite being an optional task, it is still better to take the SAT essay. If you have a chance to improve your score and you know how to handle this task, take the fullest advantage of this opportunity.