2Facts about the SAT Essay It will be the first section on your test.You will receive a score from 0 to 12.Two scorers each assign your essay a score from 1 to 6, with 6 being the highest possible score, and these scores are then combined.You must write on the assigned topic. If you write on another topic, you will receive a score of zero. DO NOT WRITE ON ANOTHER TOPIC.The essay will count for 30% of your total SAT Writing score. (The other 70% are M.C. questions on grammar, improving sentences, etc.).
3FAQ’s 1. Is it better to print or write in cursive? Whatever is more legible; although CollegeBoard says it really doesn’t matter, neatness counts. Write as neatly and clearly as you can.2. Should I skip lines, or should I write on every line?Single space. You only have two pages on which to write your essay, so don’t risk running out of room.3. Will the length of my essay affect my score?According to a 2005 analysis of a graded sample of SAT essays conducted by an MIT professor, the longer the essay, the higher the score. Granted, this is just a correlation; you must have strong, specific content, but write as much high quality content as you can.
4FAQ continued 4. Should I write in pen or pencil? Pencil. You get no credit if you write in pen. Also, it must be a #2 “old school” pencil (no mechanical pencils).5. Will the readers give me any credit for the outline and notes I write on page 2?No. The readers will read only what you’ve written within the lined pages of your student response sheet.6. Should I prepare a standard essay in advance and tweak it to fit the topic?No. You must write on the assigned topic. If you write off-topic, you will receive a score of zero.7. Is it better to use personal examples, or examples from literature, history, etc.?It doesn’t matter. The key is that your examples must support the position you take; if an example doesn’t further your argument, it is worthless.
5Essay ScoringWhat does the prompt look like? The writing prompt presents one or two quotes about an issue and then provides you with a writing assignment. How will my essay be scored? Two readers will each give your essay a score from 1 to 6, so your total sub-score can range from 2 to 12. If you don’t write on the assigned topic, no matter how brilliant your ideas are, you’ll receive a zero from both scorers.
6Essay ScoringHow much time do I have? The essay comes at the beginning of the Writing section, and you’ll have 25 minutes to do the following: • read the prompt • brainstorm your ideas • plan your essay • write your essay • proofread This may sound like a lot to accomplish in the allotted time, but the readers know the time limitation, so they’re not expecting a perfect essay. Instead, they’re expecting a quality first draft.
7Essay ScoringWhat is the key to doing well on the essay? There are two keys to doing well on the SAT Essay: the right attitude and the right method. Attitude: If you think of the essay as an ordeal, as yet another hoop that you have to jump through, it will be hard to do your best, no matter how well you write. Instead, think of it as an opportunity to be expressive as opposed to the rest of the test, where you are answering multiple choice questions. Method: Accomplished writers often talk about the importance of method. Stream-of-consciousness may be an interesting literary technique, but it’s not such a great way to write an essay. It’s best to use some organization techniques. Those will follow.
8Essay Scoring Development and Support Development and Support refers to the writer’s ability to respond to the question in the prompt and follow through with her ideas. This is the most crucial part—an essay that doesn’t develop and support ideas will not score well. Development and Support include: • how fully the essay responds to the prompt. • the essay’s sense of completeness. • the essay’s focus on the issue and avoidance of “filler”—extra words or sentences that do not contribute to the essay. • the quality and sufficiency of examples supporting the writer’s position. • the depth of critical thinking and reasoning.
9Essay Scoring Organization Organization relates to the writer’s ability to organize her ideas effectively. Organization includes: • the order of sentences and paragraphs. • the use of effective transitions. • the flow of ideas from the essay’s introduction to its body through to its conclusion.
10Essay Scoring Language Language relates to the writer’s ability to correctly use a variety of words. Language includes: • how accurately words and phrases communicate the author’s ideas. • how well the author varies word choice. • the level of vocabulary the author displays.
11Essay Scoring Sentence Structure Sentence Structure relates to the writer’s ability to correctly and appropriately use a variety of sentence structures. Sentence Structure includes: • how well the author uses a variety of sentence types that are correctly punctuated. • how well and often the author varies sentence structure in meaningful and purposeful ways.
12Essay Scoring Conventions Conventions relate to the author’s ability to write error-free sentences. Conventions include: • how correctly the author uses punctuation (commas, apostrophes, periods, colons, etc.). • the author’s correctness in grammar and mechanics (subject-verb agreement, verb tense, subject-pronoun agreement, etc.).
13Essay Scoring Overall Score The essays are scored holistically—which means that the final score is based on an overall impression. Essay readers won’t keep track of your errors or assign a subscore for each writing element to determine your final score. The best plan is to make your essay as good as possible according to all five scoring elements. However, holistic scoring means that an outstanding job in one of the elements, such as language, may make the scorer somewhat more lenient if you make several mistakes with another element, such as conventions. To get the best score possible, you want not only to improve in your weak suits as a writer, but also to take advantage of your strong suits.
14SAT Essay: The Prompt You will be given a quote. You’ll then be asked to answer a question about the quote.To answer this question, you must state your position and then support this position with varied and specific examples.Examples can come from your personal experience, literature, history, current events, and/or popular culture.
15A Sample PromptDirections: Consider carefully the following excerpt and the assignment below it. The plan and write an essay that explains your ideas as persuasively as possible. Keep in mind that the support you provide—both reasons and examples—will help make your view convincing to the reader. A popular song says, “You don’t know what you got ‘til it’s gone.” And Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel, accepting the Nobel Prize, said “No one is as capable of gratitude as one who has emerged from the kingdom of night.” Assignment: What is your view of the claim that we often appreciate the things that we have no when we gain them but when we lose them? In an essay, support your position by discussing an example (or examples) from literature, the arts, science and technology, current events, or your own experience or observation.
16How It’s GradedTwo people score it, each out of 6, based on “overall impression.”Your scores are added together to give you a number out of 12.Grammar/Spelling, Organization/Structure, and Style count (so does handwriting…)Keep in mind: They’re reading THOUSANDS of essays… make it easy to give you a 12!.
17The 3 Things You NeedLengthStructureAppropriate Examples
18Writing the Way They Want Length is important. Use most of the booklet!Depth is better than breadth. Make sure to develop your ideas at length. Don’t just list a whole bunch without support.Consider your audience. Catch their attention right off the back.Don’t worry about accuracy; they don’t have time to fact-check!
19Use the Prompt Make sure you stay on topic You need to agree or disagree, and it’s okay to do either as long as you are EMPHATIC!!!Address the prompt directly so that the reader knows you’re answering it.
20A Sample PromptDirections: Consider carefully the following excerpt and the assignment below it. The plan and write an essay that explains your ideas as persuasively as possible. Keep in mind that the support you provide—both reasons and examples—will help make your view convincing to the reader. A popular song says, “You don’t know what you got ‘til it’s gone.” And Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel, accepting the Nobel Prize, said “No one is as capable of gratitude as one who has emerged from the kingdom of night.” Assignment: What is your view of the claim that we often appreciate the things that we have not when we gain them but when we lose them? In an essay, support your position by discussing an example (or examples) from literature, the arts, science and technology, current events, or your own experience or observation.
21Structure If you love the Five Paragraph Essay you’re in luck… Intro Topic Sentence/Example 1Topic Sentence/Example 2Topic Sentence/Example 3ConclusionEverything has to tie back to the intro.
22Your Intro Paragraph You need to do four things: State your position Interpret the promptList the examples that you’re going to useThis one is just as important as the other 3: Establish the level of proficiency of your writing
23‘Good’ IntroI agree that sometimes we learn the most from failure. In fact, sometimes failure makes us realize things that enable us to act differently the next time. This important lesson can be seen in World War II, The Crucible, and the failure of the American peace mission in Somalia.
24Not As Good…It is totally true that sometimes failure teaches us. Life is full of situations where if we would just learn from our mistakes, we would do better.
25Body ParagraphsBegin each paragraph with a topic sentence that also works as a transition sentence.Make sure it connects back to your position (thesis) in your intro.Use only one example per paragraph
26Depth is the key!!!You must make sure that you develop your ideas if you want to score well.Spend two or three sentences explaining the example.Use three or four sentences to connect the example to your position.Then move on to the next paragraph!
27TransitionsThese tell your reader that you are moving from one idea or from one section of the text to another.It’s like holding their hand…“Another example of (blank) is…”“This effort was very successful. Not everyone, however, was so lucky.”“While beneficial to some, the new program will harm others.”
28Transition Words However While Although Furthermore Despite In additionThereforeThoughMoreoverSimilarlyAnother (example, reason, point, etc.)
29Conclusion Make sure you have one! Again, you’re not going to gain too many points here, but you can lose them.It should be around three sentences.Wrap up your idea and leave the reader thinking about the brilliant lesson on life that you have just pointed out.
30Essay ScoringWhat does the prompt look like? The writing prompt presents one or two quotes about an issue and then provides you with a writing assignment. How will my essay be scored? Two readers will each give your essay a score from 1 to 6, so your total sub-score can range from 2 to 12. If you don’t write on the assigned topic, no matter how brilliant your ideas are, you’ll receive a zero from both scorers.
31How ‘Cheesy’ Can I Be?“Perhaps we can all learn from the loss of others and start to truly appreciate the wondrous gifts that life has bestowed upon us now, before it is too late.”“Life is too short to live with the regret caused by the failure to do something that is within the grasp of each of us.”“Although it seems that appreciating what we have only once we’ve lost it is a prime example of ‘20/20 hindsight,’ perhaps the pain of our past losses can sharpen our focus so that we can truly cherish what we have today.
32Odds and EndsDon’t use big words just to sound ‘smart;’ you won’t help yourself. Just use the best word that you can think of.Make sure to vary your sentence structure, but don’t worry about making every sentence long and complicated… remember, they have to read THOUSANDS of essays!Make it look ‘pretty’… indented paragraphs, even margins, neat handwriting, etc.
33Examples Are CrucialThese are the bread and butter of your essay. You MUST have them!Make them accessible and understandable for the reader.Tie them to your position and the prompt.You can pick them out beforehand… Seriously.Try to use three examples from three different ‘categories.’
34Examples: HistoryThey should be events that are taught in almost every high school in the US.Think of events with universal themes… things you can say a lot about.Examples: The Holocaust, The Civil Rights Movement, WWII, The Revolutionary War, The Civil War, etc.
35Examples: Current Events Anything that has been in the news lately will qualify here:Syria, Obamacare, The Economy etc.Examples: the US Election, the Winter Olympics in Sochi
36Examples: LiteratureStick to the ‘Classics.’ If you’ve read it in your high school English class, it’s fine.Try to avoid TV Reality Shows. As Shakespearean as some of them may seem, they aren’t literature.However, don’t be afraid to use Duck Dynasty to extoll the virtues of life on the Bayou.(Just Kidding)Don’t spend too much time explaining the plot; focus on the themes.Examples: To Kill A Mockingbird, Lord of the Flies, Things Fall Apart, Of Mice and Men
37Examples: Personal Experience You can make these up!How are they ever going to know if you’re telling a true story or not?Try not to go too far overboard though…Just make sure to relate your ‘experience’ to the prompt.
38How It’s GradedTwo people score it, each out of 6, based on “overall impression.”Your scores are added together to give you a number out of 12.Grammar/Spelling, Organization/Structure, and Style count (so does handwriting…)Keep in mind: They’re reading THOUSANDS of essays… make it easy to give you a 12!.
39How It’s Graded What Is Not Done There is no real “markup” of your work. The reader gains an overall impression from reading your essay and scores it based on that impression.There are no numbers of spelling, grammar or punctuation errors that translate into a specific score.No single aspect of the essay can be the determining factor in the overall score.IN SHORT IT’S APRETTY SUBJECTIVE PROCESS
40The 3 Things You NeedLengthStructureAppropriate Examples
41How to Write an Essay in 25 Minutes The following slides will take you through what you should be doing during each minute of the 25 you’re allotted to write the SAT Essay.HERE’S A SAMPLE PROMPT
42SAT Essay: Sample Prompt “If we rest, we rust.” This statement is certainly true; inactivity and lack of exertion over time can cause our skills to deteriorate through disuse. In fact, people who have ceased practicing an activity for a long period and who attempt to take it up again frequently are thwarted in doing so because of the decline of their skills.Do you think that rest has a detrimental effect on us and that we must keep active to avoid losing our edge? Plan and write an essay in which you explain your position on this issue. You may use examples from history, literature, popular culture, current events, or personal experience to support your position.
43Minute One: Analyze the Prompt “If we rest, we rust.” This statement is certainly true; inactivity and lack of exertion over time can cause our skills to deteriorate through disuse. In fact, people who have ceased practicing an activity for a long period and who attempt to take it up again frequently are thwarted in doing so because of the decline of their skills.Do you think that rest has a detrimental effect on us and that we must keep active to avoid losing our edge? Plan and write an essay in which you explain your position on this issue. You may use examples from history, literature, popular culture, current events, or personal experience to support your position.Ask yourself: what exactly is this prompt asking me to do? Underline the question(s) and given task(s): Do you think that rest has a detrimental effect on us and that we must keep active to avoid losing our edge? Plan and write an essay in which you explain your position on this issue.
44Minute Two: Brainstorm Brainstorm potential examples you could use that are connected to the prompt: Do you think that rest has a detrimental effect on us and that we must keep active to avoid losing our edge?Personal experience: example #1: rest is necessary to avoid injury: stay active with running, swimming, etc. but rest is necessary to improve and to avoid injury (overtrained for half marathon: injured) [opposes prompt]; example #2: rest is necessary to avoid mental “burnout” as well: took graduate classes for 6 years in a row, and although I did well, the classes became more about the credits and less about actual learning. Similarly, consider “senioritis” with students, and how ready they are for a break from schooling. [opposes prompt]
45Brainstorming continued Current events:Literature:History:Sports and activities: even professional athletes—the most well-conditioned human beings in the world—require rest to avoid injury, and they still get hurt. Consider the short professional life of an NFL runningback for example, and how few games are played in an NFL season (in fact, current event: players opposing the proposal of adding games to the season). [opposes prompt]The arts:Science and technology: consider current society and its rapid technological growth; the concept of the “singularity” where technological growth has become exponential, increasing at an increasing rate. Ray Kurzweil’s theory that we’ll reach a point in only a few decades where technological advancement is so significant that it changes the way our society functions. [favors prompt]
46Minute Three: Take a Stand (Write your Thesis) Look at your evidence and decide what position you are going to take in response to the prompt; will you support it or oppose it? Keep in mind that what you personally believe is much less important than what your strongest and most specific evidence supports. Choose the position that will allow you to write the best essay.Write your thesis: respond to the prompt’s question by stating your position clearly and succinctly; the entirety of your essay should then support this statement.Avoid “I believe that” phrasing…if this is the way you think of your thesis, simply take that beginning phrase out before you write the final version.
47Minute Three: Take a Stand (Write your Thesis) [supports prompt] “If we rest, we rust”: inactivity and lack of exertion lead to loss of vitality and to decay.[opposes prompt] If we rest, we do not rust: our times of rest enable us to restore our mental and physical energy and to gain perspective on our lives.[opposes prompt] Staying mentally and physically active is crucial to our health, but rest does not cause us to “rust”; in fact, calculated rest can allow us to achieve at our greatest potential, avoid injury and “burnout,” and thus give us an edge over those who would avoid rest.
48Minute Four: OutlineYour goal is to produce a four or five paragraph essay that includes a brief introduction with a clear thesis, two or three body paragraphs that support the thesis with specific examples, and a conclusion that restates your thesis.Your most important job in this essay is to prove your writing competence, not to demonstrate your original literary style; show the readers that you know how to write an introduction with a clear thesis, at least two body paragraphs with supporting examples, and a conclusion.
49Minute Four: Outline cont’d I. INTRODUCTION: State your overall thesisIf we rest, we rust: inactivity and lack of exertion get in the way of progress and lead to the loss of vitality and to decay.II. BODY PARAGRAPH #1Topic Sentence: State the supporting point of your first body paragraph: We have to keep moving to keep up with others and to avoid falling behind. This is as true for industries as for individuals.Examples: Provide specific examples that support your argument. Be as detailed and specific as possible; give names, places, events.A. U.S. auto industry’s decline: GM vs. Honda; B. Outmoded technology: pay phones, cassettesIII. BODY #2 (rinse and repeat)IV. BODY #3: Write a third Body ONLY if you have time to write your Conclusion.IV. CONCLUSIONRecap: Summarize your argument, restating your main points (1 sentence).Expand your position: apply your argument on a broader, universal level. “So what?” How does this apply to everyone?
50Minutes Five to 17: Write!Remember: write neatly but efficiently since your time is limited. If you need to delete something, you can cross it out rather than taking the time to erase it, without penalty.
51Minute 18: Reality CheckYou should have been writing for 12 minutes straight, and you only have seven left. If you’re barely through your first body paragraph, then you should abandon the idea of writing three body paragraphs. Instead, go for your intro, two body, and a conclusion.
52Minute 19 to 22: Wrap It UpFinish whichever body paragraph you’ve been working on (should be second or third body), and bring your essay to a close.
53Minute 23: Read and ReactAlthough you can’t read your essay out loud, read it to yourself (this is one of those times when it’s okay to listen to that voice in your head).Do the ideas and the sentences flow into the next? If they don’t, add transition words (therefore, however, nevertheless, similarly).Is a key example missing? Add it.Does any sentence or word seem out of place? Delete it.Do recognize, however, that if your outline was good, your content should be good. Don’t try to do too much here.
54Minute 24: ProofreadThink of yourself as an editor. Look over your essay for any run-ons, other grammatical issues, or spelling errors. Correct them. Remember that you can cross things out that you want deleted, rather than erasing them.
55Minute 25: Reword, Reread, Relax. Look over your word choices: are there any verbs that could be made stronger or more active? Any adjectives that could be made stronger or more precise? Any vague words for which you can come up with more precise synonyms? For example:Instead of “keep our skills from going bad” we could say “keep our skills from deteriorating”Instead of “not important” we could say “insignificant”Again, don’t do too much; simply replace a few words with stronger, more precise, or higher level vocabulary. And DO NOT attempt to use a word whose meaning you do not know.Relax and breathe for the 10 to 15 seconds that you have left.
56The SAT Scoring Guide See handout Pay attention to key descriptors from the rubric. For example:
57A Score of 6A 6 is “outstanding” and demonstrates “clear and consistent mastery.” A typical 6:“effectively and insightfully develops a point of view…[and uses] clearly appropriate examples…and other evidence to support its position” [responds to prompt persuasively and provides specific supporting examples]“is well organized and clearly focused, demonstrating…smooth progression of ideas” [organized and uses transitions between sentences, paragraphs, and ideas]“[uses] a varied, accurate, and apt vocabulary”“meaningful variety in sentence structure”“free of most errors in grammar, usage, and mechanics
58A Score of 4A 4 is “competent” and demonstrates “adequate mastery.” A typical 4:“develops a point of view on the issue” and uses “adequate examples, reasons, and other evidence to support its position”“is generally organized and focused” and demonstrates “some…progression of ideas”“exhibits adequate but inconsistent…use of language” and uses “generally appropriate vocabulary”“some variety of sentence structure”“some errors in grammar, usage, and mechanics”
59A Score of 2A 2 is “seriously limited” and demonstrates “little mastery”. Additionally, it’s flawed by ONE OR MORE of the following weaknesses:“develops a point of view that is vague or seriously limited” and provides “inappropriate or insufficient examples…to support its position”“is poorly organized…or demonstrates serious problems with coherence or progression of ideas”Uses “very limited vocabulary or incorrect word choice”“frequent problems in sentence structure”“contains errors in grammar…so serious that meaning is somewhat obscured”