Acing Your SAT Essay This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

January 23, 2010
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When students first hear the words “SAT essay” some go into fits; stomach cramps, headaches, awful memories, and nausea may occur. Many fear this crucial part of the Standard Achievement Test, and rightly so. Though this test is supposed to accurately analyze your knowledge and writing competency, it takes place in the most unrealistic setting possible: you must complete an essay on an unknown question or topic, full of extensive vocabulary, perfect grammar, and varying sentence structure, while at the same time clearly expressing your opinion and viewpoint. Oh yes, and you have to accomplish all of this in legible handwriting, and in just 25 minutes. You can now see why most students cringe at just the thought.

But fear not! Success can be yours if you follow some basic rules that will definitely help you achieve your best possible score. Just remember that practice makes perfect, and if you don't practice these techniques, you won't do as well as you could.

First, to ace the essay you need to know the rules. Each essay is graded on a scale of 0 to 6, with 0 the worst (and 6 the best). Two teachers somewhere in the country will grade your essay, and their scores will be combined for the essay total. If you receive a 10, that means each judge gave you a 5. If you score a 9, for example, that means one judge gave you a 5, and the other a 4. If the two readers' scores differ by more than one point, a third reader grades the essay as well.

An example of a 6 essay, as stated by College Board, is a piece of writing that has “an insightful point of view,” “outstanding critical thinking skills,” “supportive and relevant reasoning,” “examples or evidence,” “superb, sharp and smoothing organization and focus,” “skillful and dynamic ­language and ­vocabulary,” “meaningful variety in ­sentence structure,” and is “free of errors in grammar, usage and ­mechanics.”

Time to start! You have 25 minutes to create a compelling essay that demonstrates your skills in mechanics and vocabulary, and your ability to pull examples from your reading, ­research, studies, and real-life experiences. The goal of most essays is to find your opinion or point of view on the topic presented. So make sure that you are firm and clear on presenting what you want. Never, ever be wishy-washy on an issue. When you begin, decide immediately if you are for or against the topic, and follow through for the entire essay.

Divide your 25 minutes into three parts. Take the first two to three minutes to write out a quick outline (the “stem and branch” format is usually best), take around 20 minutes to write, and finally, use the last two to three minutes to read through the entire piece to check for errors – you will be surprised by the simple mistakes you've missed!

Now that you know how to use your time wisely, let's get down to the nitty gritty. You need to know different types of sentence openers so that your paper doesn't become monotonous. There are six types that you can easily use:

Start with the subject: George Washington was a famous general and our nation's first president.

Start with a preposition: On the brink of greatness, George Washington fearlessly led our troops into battle.

Start with a “ly” adverb: Swiftly sailing across the Delaware, George Washington and his troops sneaked up on the unsuspecting British.

Start with an action “-ing” opener: Sailing across the Delaware, George Washington and his troops sneaked up on the unsuspecting British.

Start with a clausal opener: While George Washington and his troops sailed across the Delaware, the unsuspecting British troops were camped out on the shore.

Start with a short, declarative opinion: Washington was a fearless general.

Make sure that you vary these throughout your essay, and attempt to use each type at least once.

Next, choose ten difficult vocabulary words, and spend time memorizing them. If you know how to effectively weave them into your paper, you will score big with the essay graders. But be careful! Do not attempt to use words that you aren't sure you understand; this will only annoy the graders and result in a lower score.

Also, learn five quotations from different historical figures – presidents and their wives, political leaders, activists, and others – on a variety of topics. The use of quotations will impress the grader and keenly display your knowledge of famous individuals from history.

Be sure to have a vast supply of information from one book you are not required to read for school. This shows graders that you read more than what is assigned by your teachers. Be sure not to use analogies or examples from popular young-adult books that everyone has read – these are not great examples of literature.

Last, but certainly not least: when it comes to finishing your essay, don't write a generalized conclusion that fades out when you run out of ideas. Have a grand, over-the-top conclusion that will leave the grader thinking, and get them ­excited about your writing.

Practice these steps with sample SAT essays leading up to your test date, and you'll be sure to excel at your essay when the time comes. So good luck, happy practicing, and ­remember – you can ace your SAT essay!

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

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This article has 7 comments. Post your own now!

Midnight5765 This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Jul. 12, 2014 at 3:24 pm
Great advice. I was hoping to take the SAT because it focuses more on writing and no science is involved. I'm just not sure I should take both. (I plan on going to an out-of-state private school)
WRIT3R4LIF3 said...
Apr. 13, 2010 at 10:11 pm

Thats great advice! I'll have 2 keep this in mine for when I have to take my SAT.

5 Stars!

Dayani replied...
Apr. 17, 2010 at 1:13 am

Can you give example of conclusion


Maura Y. replied...
Apr. 20, 2010 at 1:50 pm
sorry, i cant. last time i wrote a paper, my conclusion was. . . awkward, according my teacher :(.
SaraB. This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Apr. 11, 2010 at 12:30 pm
Thanks for the advise, I'm taking the PSAT in the fall. :)
Kaitlynn said...
Mar. 30, 2010 at 4:13 pm
Awesome as always Korina! I'll have to come back and read this again when I have to take the SAT this year. O_O *shudders* Lol XD
ClaraZornado This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Feb. 17, 2010 at 11:36 am
Lovely essay! I will come back to read this when my SAT comes around..
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