When you are preparing to take the SAT, you will very likely have a number of things that you need to study. The SAT has math, a verbal and an essay section. While the essay section is not mandatory for every college, many schools will require that you submit essay scores in order to apply. Before you take the test, it is a good idea to get familiar with an essay outline template.

What Is the SAT Essay Section?

As of 2016, the SAT has an essay section that is not mandatory but is strongly encouraged, particularly for students who are planning to apply to highly competitive colleges. These essays are meant to help assess student's facility with the English language, grammar and syntax, as well as their skills in developing thesis statements and proving these thesis statements with supporting evidence.

If you are preparing to take the SAT, it is likely that you are at a point in your education where you have already learned how to structure a five paragraph essay. The five-paragraph essay structure is the one that you will most likely employ when you take the SAT. That structure is recognizable as the standard essay structure to test evaluators and also allows for you to set up your argument in an organized way.

The SAT Essay section will prompt you to read a supplied passage. You will then need to read the question prompt and respond with your essay. The prompt question will ask you to create an argument based on the passage that you just read and support the argument with points that are derived from your reading. You will be asked to analyze the passage presented to you, and use the text as evidence to support your position.

What Is the Format for a Five-Paragraph Essay?

If you are in high school, chances are that you have most likely written a number of essays in your academic career. You should, then, be familiar with the structure of a five-paragraph essay. The structure begins with an introduction which leads into your thesis statement and is followed by two to three evidence paragraphs and a conclusion.

The introduction is an area that many students overlook because they believe that it is unimportant. On the contrary, the introduction is where the reader will first get an idea of your writing skills and ability. As such, it is advisable to make sure that you begin strong. Don't immediately jump to your thesis statement or main argument.

The essay is a chance to not only show that you understand how to write an essay but that you have the skills necessary to develop arguments and support them successfully using evidence that proves your point. It's important that you understand that you need the body paragraphs to support your thesis using evidence that you've culled from the reading that was presented to you.

Essay Outline Template

Now that you know the structure of the SAT essay, you should begin to formulate a plan for how to approach the essay on test day. One of the best and most effective ways to do that is by designing an essay outline template. This can be as specific or as general as you want it to be, but it should be specific enough so that you know exactly how you are going to frame your essay and how you will begin it and end it.

Writing an essay outline template is as general as writing the following bullets:

  • Intro/thesis statement 
  • Supporting paragraph 1
  • Supporting paragraph 2
  • Supporting paragraph 3 
  • Conclusion 

Now in some cases, supporting paragraph three may be an explanation of why you chose the evidence you did in supporting paragraphs one and two. While those two paragraphs may contain the examples from the reading that you feel back up your thesis statements, paragraph three can be the place where you explain why you feel this evidence supports your thesis statement so well.

How to Write a Strong SAT Essay

Writing a strong SAT Essay that scores high and puts you at an advantage when applying to your first choice schools is about more than following the essay outline template that you have developed. In fact, that is only the first step. In order to write an essay that is going to impress the evaluators, you need to practice your essay again and again and again. The format is simple, but making sure that you know how to develop your points and clearly explain them in the limited time you have to write is going to make the difference between an okay score and a high score.

Your task in the essay section is to read the passage provided and try to quickly pinpoint the argument that the author is trying to make and identify the way that he or she builds the argument in the first place. Once you have found what you believe to be strong evidence of the argument the author is making, you need to note the pieces of evidence in the writing that support that. The farther you go toward explaining exactly why you feel this evidence supports your thesis, the more likely you are to get a high score.

Your use of language in this essay is important. Evaluators know that you have less than an hour to read the material and come up with the argument you want to make plus find the supporting evidence. However, if you can use language skillfully in the essay, it will be to your advantage. The best way to do this is to practice. Use many different sample prompts and try to get your outline-making down to a science. Different passages will take you longer to read and decipher than others, but with consistent practice, you'll be able to identify key points quickly and move on to writing.

How Are SAT Essays Scored?

While you don't get any points for displaying your essay outline template, writing it down in the book you use to write your essay can't hurt. Essays are scored using a variety of different criteria, and evaluators are always happy to see that students have made an effort toward each one of them. The difference between a decent score and a high score is only a matter of a point or two, but if you go the extra mile, your hard work will pay off.

An essay that is considered proficient demonstrates that the test-taker clearly understood the passage that they read and were able to identify the author's argument. The essay will demonstrate a clear understanding of the main ideas present in the passage, and the evidence that supports it. It uses textual evidence correctly and appropriately and does not misunderstand any central ideas. This proficient essay also takes into account the details and examples given in the passage and considers how they are related to the central idea.

An excellent essay, one that is likely to garner a top score, is one that demonstrates a strong grasp of the essays main ideas, and it shows an exceptional understanding of the main ideas of the piece. It also shows a deliberate and logical development of ideas in the test-taker's argument. Precise word choice, clear evidence that demonstrates an understanding of the author's motivations and underlying argument are also highly prized qualities.

Related Articles

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.