How to Write a SAT Essay: Tips, Scores & Step-by-Step Guide
SAT exam is definitely a headache for most of the students. It is complex and demands to master a variety of skills. It consists of several sections, and today we will discuss SAT essay: what elements it should include, what grades it is based on and other important details.
You will have 50 minutes to go through a given passage, to analyze arguments of the author and to write your own essay. In case you copy someone else’s ideas and words or won’t even bother to write a few lines, you will get zero points.
Scoring of the essay is made up of two graders, each of which evaluates you from 1 to 4 in the following categories:
This means that you will get a total of 8 points. Do you want to know how the SAT essay rubric is formed? Then go on reading! The best writers of WriteAnyPapers, including our dissertation writing experts have worked hard to make your SAT essay experience easy!
SAT is a standardized test used by college boards across the United States. It was first introduced in 1926, and since then the title and scoring system has changed a few times. It consists of reading, writing and language, math, and essay.
SAT essay is definitely one of the most challenging parts of the test because it demands proficient knowledge of the language, of the discussed topic and possessing outstanding writing skills.
Compared to the past, not many schools or colleges require the essay section. For example, if you are willing to enter the Ivy League School, you can breathe out: they don’t need a SAT essay. The same applies to Duke, MIT, Caltech, Georgetown, Chicago, and NYU. Most of these colleges and universities even recommend students not to choose the essay section, which is a great breakthrough for the past years.
Majority of liberal arts school also don’t require SAT essay. The only exception is Soka University, Amherst and Occidental colleges. In addition, state schools also don’t recommend taking the SAT essay, although there are some variations within states.
However, not depending on the school you are going to enter, it is better to get familiar with a list of colleges that require sat essay and those, which don’t.
|School||State/Country||Require or Recommend|
|Abilene Christian University||TX||Recommend|
|Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences||NY||Recommend|
|Art Institute of Houston||TX||Recommend|
|California State University, Northridge||CA||Recommend|
|Central Connecticut State University||CT||Recommend|
|Central Michigan University||MI||Recommend|
|Cheyney University of Pennsylvania||PA||Recommend|
|City University London||UK||Require|
|Coastal Carolina University||SC||Recommend|
|College of Wooster||OH||Recommend|
|Colorado School of Mines||CO||Recommend|
|Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art||NY||Recommend|
|Dallas Christian College||TX||Recommend|
|Delaware State University||DE||Require|
|Dominican University of California||CA||Require|
|Eastern Illinois University||IL||Recommend|
|Eastern Nazarene College||MA||Recommend|
|Five Towns College||NY||Recommend|
|George Washington University||DC||Recommend|
|Georgia Highlands College||GA||Recommend|
|High Point University||NC||Require|
|Holy Family University||PA||Recommend|
|Indiana University Southeast||IN||Recommend|
|Indiana Wesleyan University||IN||Recommend|
|Inter American University of Puerto Rico: Barranquitas Campus||Puerto Rico||Recommend|
|John Wesley University||NC||Require|
|Kentucky State University||KY||Require|
|Martin Luther College||MN||Require|
|Marymount California University||CA||Recommend|
|Massachusetts Maritime Academy||MA||Recommend|
|Montana Tech of the University of Montana||MT||Recommend|
|Mount Saint Mary College||NY||Recommend|
|Mount St. Joseph University||OH||Recommend|
|New Jersey City University||NJ||Recommend|
|North Park University||IL||Recommend|
|Oregon State University||OR||Recommend|
|Purdue University Northwest||IN||Recommend|
|Reading Area Community College||PA||Recommend|
|Rutgers University—Camden Campus||NJ||Recommend|
|Saint Michael’s College||VT||Recommend|
|Seton Hill University||PA||Recommend|
|Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania||PA||Recommend|
|Silver Lake College of the Holy Family||WI||Recommend|
|Soka University of America||CA||Require|
|Southern California Institute of Architecture||CA||Require|
|Southern Illinois University Carbondale||IL||Recommend|
|Southern Oregon University||OR||Recommend|
|Spring Hill College||AL||Recommend|
|Sul Ross State University||TX||Recommend|
|SUNY Farmingdale State College||NY||Recommend|
|SUNY University at Stony Brook||NY||Recommend|
|Texas A&M International University||TX||Recommend|
|Texas A&M University||TX||Recommend|
|Texas A&M University—Galveston||TX||Require|
|Texas State University||TX||Recommend|
|The King’s College||NY||Recommend|
|United States Military Academy (West Point)||NY||Require|
|University of California, Berkeley (UC Berkeley)||CA||Require|
|University of California, Davis (UC Davis)||CA||Require|
|University of California, Irvine (UC Irvine)||CA||Require|
|University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA)||CA||Require|
|University of California, Merced||CA||Require|
|University of California, Riverside||CA||Require|
|University of California, San Diego (UCSD)||CA||Require|
|University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB)||CA||Require|
|University of California, Santa Cruz||CA||Require|
|University of Evansville||IN||Recommend|
|University of La Verne||CA||Recommend|
|University of Mary Hardin—Baylor||TX||Recommend|
|University of Massachusetts Amherst||MA||Recommend|
|University of Minnesota, Twin Cities||MN||Recommend|
|University of New England||ME||Recommend|
|University of North Texas||TX||Require|
|University of the Virgin Islands||Virgin Islands||Recommend|
|University of Toledo||OH||Recommend|
|University of Washington Bothell||WA||Recommend|
|VanderCook College of Music||IL||Recommend|
|Virginia Union University||VA||Recommend|
|Webber International University||FL||Recommend|
|West Virginia University||WV||Require|
|West Virginia University Institute of Technology||WV||Require|
|Western Carolina University||NC||Require|
|William Jessup University||CA||Recommend|
|William Jewell College||MO||Recommend|
Scoring your SAT essay is thoroughly designed and the main points are following:
- Two graders will read and score it.
- Every person will give each aspect of the essay (reading, analyzing and writing) from 1 to 4 points.
- These three scores are not added. There are also no SAT essay percentiles.
Every grader follows clear requirements and guidelines in order to evaluate each essay objectively. Below are the elements of SAT essay scoring:
|4||– Shows great understanding of the given passage.|
– Demonstrates comprehension of main ideas of the text, as well as of its details and arguments.
– Contains no mistakes of factual and interpretation nature.
– Shows an ability to use evidence from the text (quotes or paraphrases).
|3||– Shows a good understanding of the passage.|
– Demonstrates comprehension of central ideas and details.
– Free from major mistakes.
– Shows proper use of the elements from the source passage.
|2||– Shows partial understanding of the passage.|
– Demonstrates comprehension of key ideas but not of central details.
– Can contain mistakes in facts or interpretations.
– Shows limited ability to use evidence.
|1||– Shows no understanding of the source passage.|
– Cannot demonstrate an understanding of key ideas of the text.
– Contains a variety of mistakes.
– Cannot use quotations or paraphrases from the text.
You can also read our article on SAT scores range and percentiles to have a better understanding of how the exam works in general.
By now, you know how a sat essay score is composed, so it is the right time to discuss every stage of the writing process. Remember, SAT essay time is 50 minutes, so it is crucial to use it wisely and to be prepared well in advance.
At the beginning of the writing section, you will need to read a particular passage. There are several reading strategies depending on your strengths and on the type of the given passage. However, you should always remember about the time. It is recommended to spend no more than 10 minutes on reading the text.
If you can have a general look on the text without going too deep into details, just do it! Such a strategy is perfect for students who read fast and have no troubles with tight time limits. However, if you are reading slowly, always get nervous or feel that the topic difficult, it is better to try skimming.
Not depending on the SAT essay practice you choose, you will probably need to read the text a few times before completely understand it. However, giving the text a quick look before reading it carefully will help you to orient in the text.
The stage of analyzing and planning should last from 7 to 12 minutes. However, most of the students think that they already have too little time to waste it on planning. Based on our experience, this stage is crucial and will eventually pay off.
A SAT essay should follow a clear structure (introduction, main ideas, and conclusion) in order to impress graders. Without an outline, it is almost impossible to keep up with a clear structure.
You are allowed to do any types of marks on the paper: circle and underline main points, make notes on free spaces and so on. In addition, you can assign certain numbers to evidence or arguments and then link those numbers with details in your outline.
When you read the passage, it is advised to make notes, organizing them in an outline. Below are the elements of a winning outline that you can use in your own essay:
- Facts and evidence
You can delete some of the elements or add your own depending on the topic and structure of the passage. Remember, your average sat essay score will be greatly influenced by the outline you create.
If you have taken the above sat essay tips seriously, by this stage, you already have an outline and a clear plan. That is why the stage of writing won’t take you long, and you’ll manage to get to the point at once. Usually, the writing stage will take you half an hour.
Most of the students find it much simpler to write the main paragraphs before the introduction. If you are one of them, it is better to start with the body at once and simply leave a few lines on top of the page to write the introduction at the end.
To give you a better idea of how the body paragraphs should be structured and how to write a sat essay, let us use an example. It is a SAT essay, where a counterargument is used in order to add value to the author’s claims. Remember, it was written within a 50-minute limit.
- Begin with transitions:
Smith not only provides arguments to support the advantages of his theory but also discusses a few counterarguments of the critics.
- Then you need to introduce the topic in a few words:
With the help of proving the importance of highlighting foreign affairs through social media and reports of regular citizens, Smith manages to keep his critics silent.
- Explain the context and how it is related to the thesis statement:
Smith could simply ignore all the power and potential of local reporting, but it could be taken for a one-sided opinion, and his own ideas would be not so convincing. Instead, Smith shows that he sees the problem and understands how much use social media and freelance journalists bring to highlight the news and spread it over the world. Unfortunately, professional journalists and reporters not always have enough freedom to remain objective.
- Support your claim in a single sentence:
Readers will take Smith’s concerns on social media limits seriously after seeing that he admits the strength and power of the internet over the news.
When you collect all the above pieces, you will have a great body paragraph and can surely expect a good SAT essay score.
Remember, all paragraphs of your essay can be written in the above structure, so you don’t need to think about which strategy to apply in every particular case. Try to find at least one strong argument that the author has to support your own ideas. However, if you can find more, it will be a big plus.
Once you finish working on the main paragraphs of your SAT essay, you should also write the first and the last sections. Both of them should be brief and clear and mention the arguments of the author. Don’t forget to write a few lines about the arguments that you have chosen to support your ideas.
The rest is up to you. You can either give a general overview of the subject or stick to a few main details, restating them in your own way.
So even if you lack inspiration or have no time left, it is better to write a few sentences than to write nothing at all. In the most desperate cases, you can summarize the arguments from the body paragraphs and enumerate them in your introduction or conclusion.
As well as planning and outlining, most of the students don’t take revising very seriously. However, it will definitely influence your score and will only take you a few minutes to complete.
Here is why revising is so important:
- It helps to eliminate grammar, spelling, and punctuation mistakes. You can also change words or even sentences to make the text more appealing and readable.
- When you decide to revise the essay, you will write faster and will know that you don’t need to make it flawless at once.
Luckily, the SAT essay allows you to fix mistakes and crosswords without any influence on the score. You won’t have to spend time on erasing words or even rewriting the whole essay over again.
We recommend you prepare yourself to this stage by reading our essay revising guide.
Do you have any questions left on how to write SAT essay? We have collected the most valuable tips that you can use:
- Always remain objective. The first and probably the most important thing you must remember is that ETS, company that forms the tests is not interested in your personal opinion on the subject. That is why you need to stick to the formal style, remain objective, and minimize using ‘I’ or ‘you.’
- Your essay should be tidy. Handwritten papers are not so popular nowadays, but the SAT remains an exception and takes your handwriting seriously. Every day graders read lots of different essays, and they lower the score if it is impossible to decipher what you wanted to say.
- Indent paragraphs and follow the structure. Graders love when students stick to the common structure (introduction, main paragraphs, and conclusion). That is why you need to put everything on place: the introduction should explain the text and contain paraphrased arguments from the body; main paragraphs need to discuss the text and consist of examples; the conclusion is for restating the goal of the given passage and for summing up your main points.
- Use examples. To make your argumentation stronger, you will need to back the thesis with concrete examples from the text. Don’t hesitate to use quotes to back your ideas and arguments.
- Don’t get stuck on the vocabulary. Luckily, SAT essay doesn’t require mastering the vocabulary, so if you don’t remember a specific term, you shouldn’t worry. Just use your own words and continue writing instead of wasting precious time on remembering the terminology. However, if you know a specific term, always use it, and it will be a big plus.
Students are not only interested in the assignment itself but also want to know how sat essay score percentiles are formed. Let us have a detailed look at every score and the skills you need to possess to gain one of them.
Score 1. Inadequate
- The student shows little or no skills in using and controlling language.
- The essay doesn’t contain a clear idea or main claim.
- There is no introduction and conclusion. Progression of main ideas is absent.
- There is no sentence structure variety. They repeat, and the word choice is very limited. The tone of the work is not formal.
- The essay contains multiple mistakes and shows poor English proficiency.
Score 2. Partial
- The text shows weak skills in controlling and using language.
- A clear central idea is absent or changes throughout the text.
- The essay has a poor introduction and conclusion. Progression of claims is present but weak.
- Repetitive sentence structures.
- Poor word choice, lots of repetitions.
- The essay contains mistakes and shows that the student is not aware of standards of formal written English.
Score 3. Proficient
- The text is comprehensive and shows good language control.
- The text contains the main idea and claim.
- There are a good introduction and conclusion.
- Multiple sentence structures are used.
- Standards of written English are accurately followed.
Score 4. Advanced
- The text demonstrated outstanding use of language.
- There is a clear central idea.
- The essay has a powerful introduction and conclusion.
- A wide range of sentence structures is applied.
- Written English and vocabulary are flawless.