I’ve been getting a lot of questions about the essay recently. It seems like many people are concerned about this portion of the test.
The most important thing to know is not to sweat it. The essay only accounts for 30% of your score on the Writing section of the SAT, which is only 1 of 3 sections on the test. When you think of it this way, the essay only accounts for about 10% of your total SAT score.
In a way, that’s unfortunate. I wish they emphasized it more because it’s really worth learning how to do well. If you can write an excellent SAT essay, you can write an excellent paper of any length when you get to college. Unfortunately, nobody asked my opinion when they made this version of the test.
Fortunately, though, the basics of writing a good essay are not that hard to master. That’s another reason not to sweat it. Once you learn a few techniques and practice writing a few essays, you’ll see that it’s not really too hard to get a decent score.
Here’s how it works.
The essay is always the first section of the SAT. They give you a prompt of some kind, usually a quote from a semi-famous person. They ask you a question. You write an essay.
They’re not looking for a masterpiece. You only get 25 minutes to write. They just want to see if you can organize your thoughts and write a decent first draft.
When you write your SAT essay, you have to spend some time planning what you want to say before you start writing. That’s the key to doing a good job.
You’ll write better when you know what you’re writing about before you start. Everybody does. That’s why you have to spend a few minutes brainstorming what to write about and making a quick outline before you begin to write.
Let’s walk through an example of how to figure out what to write about.
Keep in mind that they always ask you a question that’s somewhat philosophical, moral, or ethical in nature. The examples we’ll come up with tend to work for many different essay prompts.
We’ll use the essay question in the first test of the “Official SAT Study Guide, Second Edition.” It’s on page 389.
It’s important that you always read the prompt, not just the question.
The prompt is:
“Sometimes it is necessary to challenge what people in authority claim to be true. Although some respect for authority is, no doubt, necessary in order for any group or organization to function, questioning the people in charge- even if they are experts or leaders in their fields- makes us better thinkers. It forces all concerned to defend old ideas and decisions and to consider new ones. Sometimes it can even correct old errors in thought and put an end to wrong actions.”
Here’s the question:
“Is it important to question the ideas and decisions of people in authority?”
These are the steps we’ll follow
- Decide whether you agree or disagree.
- Brainstorm examples that can help you prove your point.
- Pick the best 2 examples to use in your essay, unless you know enough about 1 example to write the whole essay on it. If youʼre writing about yourself, thatʼs often the only example youʼll need.
- If you can’t come up with 2 good examples, take the opposite position and repeat steps 2 and 3.
- Write out your thesis statement in the form, “I believe X because of “Y”.
- Write a very short outline of your paper.
Try it yourself. Give yourself an unlimited amount of time to brainstorm.
Come back in a couple of days for Mastering the SAT Essay Part 2 and compare it to what I come up with.