SAT Essay Additional Help (page 2)
Every Essay is a Persuasive Essay
"I've heard that SAT essay questions are pretty similar. Can you explain?"
While subjects may vary, every assignment asks you to take a stand or develop your point of view on an issue. That means you need to write a persuasive essay, one whose goal is to persuade the reader to accept your opinion. Persuasive essays use logic and reasoning to make their case; even when emotions are meant to be included, the writer has a specific reason for doing so. He or she expects those emotions to get the reader to accept the essay's viewpoint.
If you were writing a persuasive essay for a class, you would have time to do some research. Simply stating your case isn't enough. You need to support it with evidence, examples, facts, statistics, and even quotes from experts. But during the SAT, you won't have access to the Internet or any other research tool. That's one of the reasons it's so important to develop content ahead of time. In Chapter 3, you'll learn how to generate topics that will strengthen and support your point of view—no matter what the writing assignment.
What Doesn't Work:
Persuasive essays reveal firm opinions and are developed to persuade the reader of the validity of those opinions. Waffling (admitting you might be wrong or that the other side of the argument is just as valid) will weaken your argument. a confident tone and a viewpoint that's backed up with meaningful examples creates a high-scoring essay.
Budgeting Your Time
"I have a hard time answering all the multiple-choice questions in 25 minutes. How can I write an essay in such a short time?"
Twenty-five minutes can go by quickly without a plan. But knowing exactly how you'll spend this time—and practicing—before the test will help you make sure you use each minute to your advantage.
Spend the first four to six minutes planning your essay. Skipping this step can result in an essay that wanders, rather than one that logically develops a point of view. It can also lead you off topic (remember that the only way to get a 0 is to write an essay that fails to address the assignment). You'll want to write a thesis statement in which you take a stand on the assignment's question, and then come up with three ideas that help you develop your point of view.
The next 14–17 minutes will be spent drafting your essay. Finally, use any remaining minutes to check your essay for missing words or grammar and mechanics errors.
The Fiction Factor
"I understand that a few factual errors won't count against me. But what if I deliberately make something up?"
Here's another important point to remember about your readers: They don't know you. Not only are they instructed not to deduct points for an incorrect date or a misspelled name, but they have no idea who your friends and family are. If you can't come up with a third example, you can simply make one up. Using the sample prompt and assignment on page 6, imagine that two of your predetermined topics worked well, but then you got stuck. You can do one of two things: Wrap up the (short) essay in four paragraphs, or come up with one more example. That example might be the fictitious situation of a friend or relative or something like this: "A recent story in The New York Times described a tragic situation in Iraq. A commanding officer was unsure of whether to advance his troops. While he tried to decide, his unit was ambushed." Is this true? No. Does it matter, or will it be counted against you? Again, no.
It's easier for most students to come up with a situation involving a friend or an older relative. Need an example of a bad decision? The friend who blew off studying for a big test to go to a party. Or the elderly uncle who quit his job to sell a "surefire" product door-to-door—right before the company that made the product went bankrupt.
Your score on the SAT essay is based on how well you develop and support your point of view—not on the accuracy or truth of the information you use.
There's An "I" in SAT Essay
"I've always been told to keep 'I' statements out of my essays. My teachers only want me to back up what I say with facts and expert opinion."
Here's another important difference between your classroom writing and the SAT: The College Board encourages you to use personal examples and evidence in your essay. The directions always state that your experiences and observations are fair game, and scorers are instructed not to deduct points for personal rather than academic content.
What The Essay Measures
"I know I can write a better essay when I'm not rushed or nervous. What can colleges learn about my writing ability from my SAT Essay score?"
Much of the controversy surrounding the SAT essay (and the Writing section in general) has to do with whether it's a true measure of your writing ability. The Writing section was developed in response to an outcry from colleges who were tired of admitting students who couldn't write well. They sought some way to determine writing ability within the admissions process. But is the College Board's answer really what they were looking for?
For most of your classes in college, you'll be given essay assignments and have a period of time in which to draft, edit, and rewrite your work. Occasionally, you'll also get essay exams. The SAT essay is obviously more like an exam than a take-home assignment. But the SAT also differs significantly from college essay exams. Your professor will be asking you to demonstrate how well you have learned the material that has been covered in his or her course. So even though you might not know the exact subject, your writing will be based on specific readings and lectures. The SAT essay assignments are completely unknown (although, as you'll see in Chapter 3, they're general enough that you can prepare content in advance that can address them).
So is your ability to write on an unknown topic in 25 minutes a true measure of your writing ability? The answer to that question is still up for debate.
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