Every year, many students who are planning to apply to college register for the SAT. The SAT has a math component, a verbal component and an optional writing component. Because the writing component is not multiple choice, students often get nervous and panic, thinking it will be too difficult. However, with some planning and preparation, it's easy to know exactly what to expect.

What Is the SAT?

Most students who are of high school age have heard of the SAT but may not know exactly what it is. The SAT is a general knowledge test that is designed to assess a student's mastery of the material that every student should have learned in high school. This test is a tool used by school administrators to assess whether or not a student's academic aptitude is sufficient to allow access to an institution of higher learning. Students' scores on the test represent how much proficiency they have in the subject areas and thus can be used to deduce how a student would fare in a particular academic environment.

The SAT has three components. There is a verbal section, a math section and an essay section. The verbal section is concerned with vocabulary, grammar, spelling, reading and writing comprehension and other matters related to the acquisition of language skills. The mathematics section is concerned with everything from basic arithmetic up to and including geometry and some other higher math. There are topics on the SAT that not every student will have covered in high school courses, but the student's performance will go a long way toward crafting the perfect SAT essay.

What Is the SAT Essay Test?

The third portion of the SAT is the essay test. The SAT essay test is a written component that is designed to assess a student's ability to read something, analyze it and then write a response. In this way, the writing test assesses more than simple reading comprehension and language use. It shows the evaluators that a student has the ability to read, analyze and formulate original thoughts in response to a question and respond to that question using language skills accrued in high school.

The SAT essay test offers students a paragraph to read and then prompts them to think about and respond to a question or prompt related to what they have just read. The test does not expect or require students to have familiarity with the subject covered in the sample paragraph. The test is not concerned with students' knowledge of the topic being discussed, nor does it expect any sort of exhaustive discussion about it. The prompt is simply a device designed to stimulate thinking and create a jumping off point for the student to begin the discussion.

The prompt is also intended to encourage students to build a logical essay. Not only do they need to express their feelings and views, but they also need to be able to do so in an organized, well-planned and cohesive manner. The style of the essay prompt and the paragraph are designed to generate the student's response in the form of a four- or five-paragraph essay.

What Is the SAT Essay Template?

A good way to prepare yourself for taking the SAT essay test is to get familiar with the essay template. Fortunately, the internet offers a wealth of SAT essay examples that you can study. The essay template is not complex, but the better you know it before you take the test, the better the chances will be of you passing with flying colors. The SAT essay test has a simple structure that you can learn before taking it, which will allow you to practice with sample tests before you officially take the SAT.

The essay portion of the SAT begins with a series of instructions, advising the student to read the paragraph and then be prepared to take certain things into consideration. The instructions tell the students the elements of the paragraph to which they should pay attention. This is so that the student can be sure to know on what to focus and not waste time. Finally, the test asks the students to consider what they have just read and then respond to it with an essay written in a cohesive, well-organized series of paragraphs.

The students' essay is meant to demonstrate an understanding of the intentions of the writer of the paragraph they have just read. They will be provided with a small notebook of blank, lined pages that they will use to complete the essay. They are allowed to make notes and outlines, and it is indeed suggested that students spend some time planning their essay before beginning to write it.

How Should Students Structure Their SAT Essay?

The structure of an SAT essay should be in the four- or five-paragraph format. Students should begin their introductory paragraph by stating their thesis or their main point. This part is critical because it sets the tone for the essay and also immediately communicates to the evaluators that you understand what it is you are being asked to do in this essay.

One of the problems that students sometimes have with the SAT essay is that they think they need to respond to the paragraph in an essay that states their own opinions and expresses their view of the passage they just read. This is not the purpose of the essay. Just as the evaluators are not concerned with the student's prior knowledge of the subject being discussed in the paragraph, they are not interested in the student's perspective on the issue.

This test is meant to see whether students understand how the argument that they just read was built and whether they have the skills necessary to articulate exactly why they think the argument they read was effective or not. This is what the opening sentence of the student's essay needs to be able to convey. The introduction needs to explain the student's condensed answer to the question of the prompt in one or two sentences. In the body paragraphs, she will have to support her statement.

How Should the SAT Essay Body Be Structured?

Students should take the first several minutes of the time allotted to write a brief outline of their essay and make sure that they've planned out exactly what they want to say in the correct order. After the introduction, students should use the next two to three paragraphs to support their initial statement by pulling evidence from the passage that they read and applying it to the essay prompt's question.

The second and third paragraphs can point to evidence that supports the statement that you made in the introduction, but it must use clear evidence to do so. Nothing in the essay can rest on your opinion or any evidence you've learned elsewhere. All the pieces of your argument that support your thesis statement must be drawn from the provided text.

That being said, it is of critical importance that you develop your own thoughts as they pertain to the question at hand. Don't simply regurgitate what has been said in the provided paragraph by repeating or paraphrasing it. Let the evaluators know why you think what you think. This is the best way to communicate that you have skills not only in the areas of reading comprehension but also in thoughtful analysis and the ability to craft an organized piece of writing that flows together.

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About the Author

Ashley Friedman is a freelance writer with experience writing about education for a variety of organizations and educational institutions as well as online media sites. She has written for Pearson Education, The University of Miami, The New York City Teaching Fellows, New Visions for Public Schools, and a number of independent secondary schools. She lives in Los Angeles.