For a lot of people, the essay portion of the SAT exam can feel intimidating. Maybe you don’t think that writing is your strong suit. Maybe you’re worried about reading, comprehending, and creating an argument about a passage in the 50 minutes that are given. The good news is that you do not need to be an excellent writer to score perfectly on the SAT essay, and that regardless of the prompt you are given, graders are always looking for the same things. Understanding what the graders are looking for and practicing with real SAT essay prompts will put you on the path to a perfect SAT essay score.
Two people will read and grade your SAT essay. Each will give you three scores out of four points on the categories entitled “reading,” “analysis,” and “writing.” The scores from each of the graders will be totaled up to compose your overall essay score. Below, I have briefly explained what will get you a perfect score for each section. This information is based both off of the rubric that the SAT readers use.
What the essay graders are looking for in each section:
· A complete understanding of the source text and of the author’s main ideas.
· No interpretation errors regarding the text’s meaning.
· Utilizes specific references to the text through quotes or paraphrases.
Basically, for the reading score, the readers are looking to see that you understood the text that you just read. To do so, make sure that you incorporate textual evidence throughout your essay (the easiest way to do this is by picking out relevant quotes that both aid your argument and demonstrate the author’s points). It is important that you show an understanding of each key point made by the author as well as an understanding of how all of the author’s points come together to formulate the author’s main argument.
· Shows a thorough understanding of the task at hand and provides a well thought out analysis of the source text.
· Contains relevant support for each claim that is made (try to use direct quotes or paraphrases of the text for each claim).
· Focuses closely on the most relevant aspects of the source text.
For the analysis section, your goal is to show the reader that you not only have the capacity to understand what is written in the source text, but also to analyze how the author’s writing strategies make their argument persuasive. In your analysis, you should thoroughly discuss each piece of text you utilize and link it back to your thesis statement/main argument.
· Uses one central claim and support this claim throughout the essay.
· Includes both a well-written introduction and a well-written conclusion.
· Uses impressive word choice and varied sentence structure.
· Makes close to no grammatical errors.
In the writing section, you will be scored on how your essay is structured and written. To get a perfect score, make sure that you incorporate an introduction, a thesis, at least two body paragraphs, and a conclusion. Additionally, try to avoid awkward wording and grammatical errors throughout the essay. Practice with writing will help increase your score here.
General Essay Writing Tips:
Stick to a formulaic structure: Always structure your essay in the same way for a perfect score. Your structure should look something like this:
Introduction Paragraph: 2-3 sentences briefly explaining what the author is arguing. This paragraph should end with your thesis statement.
Thesis: Create a strong thesis statement that explains your main argument and simultaneously lays out what points you will discuss in each body paragraph of your essay. This is extremely important.
Body Paragraphs: Each of your body paragraphs should explain one of the central claims in your thesis. Begin each body paragraph with a topic sentence that shows the reader what that paragraph’s main point is. Incorporate textual evidence (paraphrasing or quotes) to make and support your claims. Each body paragraph should end with a concluding sentence.
Conclusion Paragraph: Clearly and concisely summarize what you have discussed in your essay.
Make an outline before you begin writing: Taking the time to create an outline before you start writing your essay will ensure that you have a clear and strategic structure and will help to speed up the actual writing process. Take the time to fully think through your argument and what you want to convey in each paragraph before you begin writing.
Figure out what timing works for you: Before you sit to take your SAT exam, make sure you have practiced writing the SAT essay enough times to where you know how much time to spend on each aspect of it. Get a feel for how long it takes you to read and comprehend a passage and how long it takes you to outline and write your essay. This way, when it comes to the real test, you won’t feel like you don’t have time to get it all done.
PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE: The absolute best way to improve your SAT essay score is to take the time to practice. The more times you write an SAT essay, the more comfortable you will get with the essay format, the timing, and your own writing voice.
Good luck!! You can do it!