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So, the optional essay is an important component of the SAT, and many students elect to take this section of the test. Most colleges don’t require the essay, but they will look at your score if you write it. Although the essay is considered less important than other sections of the test, a good score will help set your application apart from similar candidates. Here are a few tips to help you maximize your score on the SAT essay test.
1. Understand the task
The SAT essay test asks you to analyze an author’s argument. Do NOT write a persuasive essay! Rather, tell the audience whether or not the author wrote a persuasive passage. Examine the author’s argument and any persuasive elements he or she uses. Your job is to tell the audience if these features were convincing and why.
2. Know how the essay is graded
Now, let’s take a look at the rubric for the essay and see what the graders are looking for. First, the graders will evaluate your understanding of the passage. You must demonstrate that you have read the text and have a thorough grasp of the author’s intended meaning. Next, graders will look at your analysis of the text. To score well here, you need to comment on several persuasive features of the passage. Finally, the graders will score your writing. Organize and support your central claim, and be sure to correct any errors before submitting your essay.
3. Annotate the passage
As you approach the essay test, it helps to annotate the passage; that is, highlight, underline, or summarize important information as you read it. This will help you focus your analysis and provide quick references to the author’s key points.
4. Outline your essay
Before you begin writing the essay, create an outline. Think about the author’s central claim and the evidence he or she uses to support that claim. Ask yourself what stylistic techniques does the author use to support his or her argument. Organize evidence and stylistic techniques into key points you plan to develop into your body paragraphs.
5. Use direct quotations
Throughout your essay, you should make frequent references to the passage. In theory, paraphrasing and quoting should both be effective methods to support your essay. In reality, however, graders have very little time to spend on each individual essay. Thus, they are likely to overlook references which don’t contain direct quotes.
I have one final suggestion to help you improve your score on the SAT essay: practice. Write a few essays and ask a friend or teacher to grade you using the official rubric. This will give you an idea of how to adjust your style for the real test.
Thanks for reading, and we’ll see you next time!