The SAT is one of the most important and heavily weighted standardized tests of a student's academic career. While multiple choice questions comprise the bulk of the test, the essay section counts for a significant portion of a student's grade. Strategically prepping for the essay portion of the SAT is an excellent way to ensure that you perform well on this critical component of the test.

What is the SAT Essay?

The SAT essay is a component of the standardized test for undergraduate college admissions. The task that the essay requires you to complete will utilize your skills in reading comprehension, critical analysis and writing. The SAT essay will present you with a passage that you'll be instructed to read and respond to. The passages change from test to test, but regardless of the presented reading material, you'll be required to analyze the argument made by the author of the passage. Your essay will need to explain how the author arrived at his or her argument and what evidence they present to support their case and influence their audience. You'll have approximately 50 minutes to complete the essay. You'll be scored on how well you read and comprehended the passage, your skills in analyzing the passage and your writing skills.

SAT Essay Tips

  • Be sure that your essay doesn't focus on whether or not you agree with the author. Your opinion on the issue is not a topic for discussion. What you have to focus on is your analysis of the argument the author makes and why it's effective. 
  • Be sure that your central claim, or thesis, is clear and understandable in the first paragraph.
  • Rely solely on information from the passage. You won't be given credit for bringing any prior knowledge to this essay. You need to show that you understand the argument the author has made using the language and information that the author used.
  • Be sure to structure your essay with an introductory paragraph and a conclusion.
  • Don't be too wordy. Make sure your essay is focused. Pick the most important points that you want to discuss and leave out any extraneous detail.
  • Outlining your essay before you begin may help you structure it.
  • It's a good idea to read the essay prompt before you read the passage itself. This will give you an idea of what to look for while you read. It may help to underline key points or pieces of evidence as you read. 

SAT Essay Template

The template for the essay is fairly simple, and you can structure it the way you likely learned to structure a standard five-paragraph essay.

Begin with your introductory paragraph in which you'll lay out your essay's thesis and central claim. This is where you'll explain why you think the author was effective in structuring his or her argument.

In the next paragraph – the first "body" paragraph – you can introduce the first piece of text-based evidence that supports your claim. In a traditional five-paragraph essay you'd have three of these paragraphs, but in the case of your SAT essay, you may have more than three body paragraphs. However many you have, be sure that each paragraph contains a new piece of information that supports your thesis.

Finally, in your conclusion paragraph, you'll reiterate your central claim, acknowledging the way it was proven by the supporting evidence you presented.

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