The SAT Essay is a very important part of the college admissions process. Here are 5 steps to writing the perfect essay.
1. Know the format
This is the easy part. You have 25 minutes to answer a prompt, like “Are happier people more likely to succeed?” CollegeBoard prompts usually share a theme of success, and people's motivations for it. Prompts in past years have included "Do people truly benefit from hardship?”, "Is there too much emphasis on winning?", and "Do we benefit from learning about flaws of people we admire and respect?". While these questions may seem abstract, the highest-scoring responses all follow a similar format: One introductory paragraph with a clearly-written one-sentence response to the question, two body paragraphs with one example each, and a final conclusion paragraph.
2. Come Prepared
On test day, the Essay section is the first section you are asked to complete. Although the order of sections may change throughout the next four hours of testing, the Essay remains a constant. It's important to set yourself off to a good start. Your mind will be ready, your hand won't feel like its been trampled on (yet). A lot of students make the mistake of believing that because the test prompts and questions change from month to month, there is no way to prepare for the Essay section. It's important to realize that the people who design the Essay prompts purposefully write an open-ended and debatable question. If you choose your examples carefully, they can apply to most CollegeBoard prompts.
3. Give Unique Examples
Test graders are required to read through hundreds of essays and assign a grade on a scale from 1-6 to each. Common sense tells us that the Essay that is both interesting and well-written will receive the highest score. While writing ability is essential to getting a high score on the SAT Essay, with less than a month to go until the next SAT test, an easier fix is finding that perfect, interest topic.
Instead of writing on the life of a well-known historical figure, why not choose a more obscure, but still interesting success story? Try researching the first woman to have run the Boston Marathon, or a Beats Generation poet. You may be surprised to find that names you have never heard of, like Bobbi Gibbs and Tenley Albright, still faced great odds before achieving controversial success, and inspiring stories from people who were first in their field, but whose stories are not told in the pages of history textbooks.
4. Fill-in the Space You're Provided With
One mistake test-takers often make is focusing solely on quality over quantity. While it is, of course, important to give a thoughtful response, a short or incomplete response cannot receive a full score. If you think about the process of SAT Essay grading, the first criteria that an essay will pass is the grader's first impression. That initial cursory glance will answer some important questions for the grader: Is your essay an adequate length? Do you give two well-explained example paragraphs?
These can all be assessed based on the length and layout of your essay. Some students try to cheat this system by leaving large spaces between paragraphs—but any trained grader can easily see through these methods. Instead, include indents for each of your paragraphs, and leave enough time to write a short conclusion paragraph—this will signal to your grader that you had enough time and planning to think ahead.
5. Write Legibly
This final piece of advice is as obvious as it is over-looked. Essay graders have more patience for clearly legible essays rather than deciphering the quick-draw scribbles you save for note taking: Is that Sanskrit? Elvish? Do yourself a favor and be as mindful writing this essay as you would while penning Grandma a thank-you card.