When an essay is part of a high-stakes test, it’s especially important that high school students approach the essay with confidence so that they can put in their best possible effort. On the SAT exam, essays that reflect a thorough understanding of the subject and a thoroughly developed idea score better than those that lack depth, insight, and detail. Wondering how to get started? Check out these crucial SAT essay tips: the ABCs (and DEFs) of acing the SAT essay.
What You Do:
Choose one SAT essay prompt to practice. Go over the ABCs and DEFs of analyzing and responding to the prompt:
- A stands for all. Be sure to read all of the given prompt before beginning to write. In addition to the prompt itself, there may be an introductory paragraph containing background information about the prompt or its author. Read all of this information, as it may prove helpful in writing your response.
- B stands for before. Before you write, make a plan for your writing. What exactly is the question asking you to do? Underline key words in the prompt. Decide what your main position on the issue will be. Choose one or two strong examples that you will use to defend your perspective on the issue. Don’t forget that you may use your test booklet as scratch paper to make notes, but your essay must be written on the test paper. B also stands for breathe. Now that you have a plan in place before you write, you’re well on your way. Relax.
- C is for coherent. As you begin writing, be sure to make sure that your essay flows in a coherent way. This means that you’re staying on the topic, and the writing sticks together in an organized way. Coherent and well-organized writing begins with an introduction, has a body of support in the middle, and ends with a conclusion.
- D is for develop. SAT Essay scorers report that many low-scoring essays have great ideas, but the ideas lacked development. After you’ve stated your position in the essay, spend lots of time developing it by providing clear examples.
- E is for explain. It’s better to choose only a few examples and explain them thoroughly than to choose many examples and leave them oversimplified in your essay. Don’t move on to a second example if you haven’t thoroughly explained the first. Always tie your examples back to the original essay prompt to keep them relevant.
- F is first person – point of view, that is. You may refer to yourself as “I” in your essay, since you are presenting your own personal opinions and experiences in the essay.
As your teen practices responding to SAT essay prompts, discuss the ABCs and the DEFs with him. Did he keep it coherent? Write it in the first person? Read all of the prompt before getting started? Set up a system for scoring his sample essays, and keep an eye on his improvement. He'll be ready for the test in no time!
Liana Mahoney is a National Board Certified elementary teacher, currently teaching a first and second grade loop. She is also a certified Reading Specialist, with teaching experience as a former high school English teacher, and early grades Remedial Reading.