SAT Essay Tips

Are you thinking of taking the SAT Essay test? Before you do, know that this is not always required. Some courses, especially those that do not include a lot of writing, may not require it, and so if you are applying for these fields, you may opt out of the SAT essay. If, however, your course or school requires this, then let us make the best out of it. The SAT Essay can certainly help improve your SAT score, if done right.

There is not much variety in SAT essays. It has two main components: the passage and the prompt. You get 50 minutes to read a 650–750-word passage and write an essay addressing the prompt. SAT Essay prompts usually center on analysis of the devices used by the author to structure their argument. So, essentially, your SAT Essay is a kind of analytical essay, but shorter and written under time pressure. But, no worries, we have gathered insights from experts and produced a comprehensive list of the tips you need to ace your SAT Essay.

SAT Essay tips

Top tips for SAT Essay writing

1. Read the prompt first

The SAT is a timed test, so efficiency is paramount if you want to write an impressive essay. A time-tested system is to read the prompt before reading the passage, and actually understanding what it is asking for. Doing so gives you a head start in terms of understanding the passage and planning your essay. How?

First, the prompt will give you an idea about what the passage is about, so you do not need to figure that out as you read it. That way, you can focus on the relevant aspects of the passage. Secondly, the prompt tells you what you need to look for and remember while reading the passage, so you do not need to go back and forth while writing your essay. 

These are only two advantages, but they serve as the foundation for your SAT essay writing process.

2. Understand the prompt

This goes without saying, but should be emphasized nevertheless. Students sometimes think that reading the prompt once is enough for them to be able to thoroughly answer the SAT essay prompt. While SAT essay prompts are generally straight to the point, they still include details and supporting questions. Going through the prompt two to three times lets you absorb the prompt very well. 

It is interesting to note that some students tend to write essays on the correct topic but still fail to address the SAT essay prompt. SAT prompts tend to be elusive, so be attentive.

3. Be objective while reading the passage

It is a must to stay detached or objective while reading the passage for the SAT essay. Emotions can heavily muddle your perception of the passage. It can also affect your arguments and the clarity of your essay. Remember that the SAT Essay asks you to evaluate the quality of the arguments, not its validity and especially not your opinion about it. Stay focused on what is relevant for your SAT essay.

4. Plan your essay

The one reason you need to understand the prompt is so you can answer it clearly and with conviction. The College Board expects SAT essays to address the prompt. You can utilize the prompt in two ways: to formulate your thesis and to plan your essay.

Thesis. You do not need to look at the ceiling for a thesis statement. Simply answer the questions in the prompt, then turn it into a coherent idea. This is a foolproof way to ensure that you hit all the marks in the prompt.

Plan. Your SAT essay does not need to have an intricate plan or outline,  but you can treat the SAT essay prompt as a kind of outline that will keep your ideas anchored. There is a high tendency for students to deviate from the topic while writing their SAT essays—you do not have to be one of them.

Proofread. Do not use up all of your time writing the essay. Set aside a few minutes for you to go over the entire essay for any spelling and grammatical errors. You could also edit unclear sentences, but that may be more difficult, logistically speaking. 

5. Craft a clear thesis

The thesis of your SAT essay is the one thing that you need to plan prior to writing. This needs to be clear to you. You need to be confident in your thesis so you do not change your mind half-way through the SAT essay.

As mentioned earlier, you can use the SAT essay prompt to construct your thesis. Remember the characteristics of a strong thesis statement? It should be specific and original. It should declare your main argument as well as lay out the direction your SAT essay will take.

Bonus SAT tip: you can use the keywords used in the prompt in your essay.

6. Follow the 3-part essay structure

Just because the SAT essay is a short and timed essay does not mean that it should not adhere to the standard for academic essays. Although more concise, your SAT essay should have an introduction, body, and conclusion. All essays must have at least three paragraphs. Each of these sections has a function that contributes to your SAT essay’s coherence and organization.

Follow this structure so you do not write too little or too much in your SAT essay.

If you are still unsure what each part of your essay should contain, here is a brief overview:

  • The Introduction is where you give a brief background on the topic and state your thesis.
  • The Body is where you expound on your thesis. Ideally, each paragraph in your body focuses on explaining a different part of your argument. Cite evidence from the prompt as well, then spell out the connection of the piece of evidence to your argument. Depending on the complexity of your thesis statement, your main body can have two to three or more paragraphs. As you plan your essay, make sure that it is doable within 50 minutes.

The Conclusion is where you wrap up your essay by doing these three things: (1) restate your thesis, (2) summarize the points you raised in your SAT essay, and (3) give your final thoughts.

7. Use accurate information from the passage as evidence for your points

As we always say, arguments must have supporting evidence. Otherwise, they are mere opinions. However, there is more to it than that when it comes to SATs. In your SAT essay, you are expected to demonstrate your ability to comprehend and analyze texts, as well as argue and support your own position. These are basic requirements for most colleges.

Make your supporting evidence count: make sure that the information you mention is correct. If there are details that you are not sure, do not hesitate to refer to the passage. This process should not take up too much of your time (as opposed to re-reading the entire passage) as you only need to read a part of the passage. 

8. Go beyond 1 page

Part of essay writing is deliberating how long your essay should be. The SAT does not specify a word count or limit for the essays, which means that the length depends entirely on you, as long as you write it within 50 minutes. While they do not usually prescribe a length, it is still best to write a substantial essay. At least two pages of essay is the unspoken standard (probably more if your handwriting is larger). The two pages provide ample space to expand on your arguments and present your evidence.

9. Learn the persuasion techniques

First of all, persuasion techniques are going to be at the core of your analysis and essay. Second, the articles that are used as SAT passages are usually articles that have been published for a wide audience. These are written by veteran writers who employ persuasion techniques so well that it eludes many people. Knowing these persuasion techniques would help you easily identify them in any written text. Subsequently, you will be able to explain its effectiveness intelligently. Plus, being able to name them would be a plus point on your credibility.

Learn about the 3 modes of persuasion here.

10. Use formal language

The SAT essay is an opportunity for you to show your writing ability, so it is best to show that you know the rules of academic writing. One of the main rules of academic writing is to use formal language. Contractions, slang, first and second persons are just some things you need to avoid when writing an academic essay. Naturally, your grammar should be as flawless as it can get. And, as much as possible, opt for more formal vocabulary. Here are some tips on how to make your essay more formal.

Academic help service for students

Do not be too worried about the SAT essay. It is similar to most academic essays you have written. It follows the same rules and has the same expectations. As long as you prepare and practice writing essays, you are sure to ace the SAT Essay. CustomEssayMeister can help you write better essays in preparation for the SATs. Well-written custom essays, custom term papers, and custom research papers can serve as your sample for improving writing skills. While CustomEssayMeister essay writing services will be limited in helping you write a great SAT Essay, we have a lot of essay help and academic help to offer.