Five Tips for Writing a Great SAT Essay

Don’t sweat the essay component of the SAT. Not only can you prepare, it’s probably one of the easiest areas to do well! A strong SAT essay is surprisingly formulaic.

ETS (the company that writes the test) says the essay is graded holistically, meaning your writing is judged by the overall impression it makes. The graders won’t be spending hours tearing apart your piece. They’ll spend a few minutes at most. Follow the basic formula for an SAT essay and you’re golden.

Here are five SAT essay secrets (ok, they’re not that secret) to help you earn a great score:

Keep It Tidy

Handwriting is becoming a lost art. Unfortunately, this is one occasion where your skill with a pencil matters.

Graders read tons of essays each day. If they cannot decipher your script, they will lower your score. Do yourself a favor and write legibly.

Size Does Matter

You know the maxim “quality not quantity?” Well, ETS hasn’t heard that one. Their graders like long essays. There are 45 lines to fill–get as close to that as possible.

But ramblers beware: your essay should end when the page does. You won’t get an extra sheet of paper!

(Indented) Paragraphs Are Your Friend

Remember the basic essay structure you learned in school: introductory paragraph, body paragraphs and a conclusion? The graders love it!

Make sure your introduction includes a thesis that clearly states the main argument of your essay. Next, include two to three paragraphs that support your thesis. Finally, write a conclusion that briefly summarizes your points. Indent your paragraphs!

Follow this format and graders will see your essay as logical and complete.

For Example…

Use your body paragraphs to back up your thesis statement by citing specific examples. You can draw on your literature and history classes for inspiration. You can even use examples from your own life. Don’t waste time worrying whether you’ve found the perfect examples. Just make sure they support your thesis.

Use Big Words (Yes, We’re Serious)

A few well–placed big words can have a strong impact on the graders of your SAT essay. We suggest a light peppering in the introduction or conclusion; they might be lost in the body. Don’t go overboard, and don’t misuse a word!

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