Preparing for the SAT Essay
While most students aren't thrilled at the prospect of completing 170 multiple-choice questions (the total on the SAT) in about three hours, they get even more nervous about writing in a timed test setting. Because you won't know what you'll be asked to write about until you get your test booklet, you might think there's very little you can do to prepare. The good news is that's wrong! In fact, there are four distinct steps you can take to help you conquer the SAT essay, and this book is divided into chapters that guide you through each one.
First, as with every other part of the SAT, you need to understand what you're required to do. What will you be asked to write about? What are scorers looking for? How do they determine your score? How much should you write?
Second, you should formulate a plan. Many students are surprised to learn that they can prepare most of their essay content well before the test—without knowing exactly what they'll be asked to write about. Decide on four topics and do some research. Be prepared to discuss each topic in terms of at least four themes.
The next step is to refine your essay writing skills. Scorers are taking note of your vocabulary and word choice, and although they won't take off points for a stray comma or random grammatical error, they are looking for evidence of mastery of the language. Because you already know the topics you'll be writing about, you can choose a few "wow" words that will impress your readers. You'll also want to review the most common grammar and mechanics errors so you can avoid them—these are the types of errors you'll also find in the SAT Writing multiple-choice sections, so learning them now will help you gain points there too.
Finally, you need to practice. We're not talking about writing essay after essay—since there's no one to score them for you, writing a bunch of complete essays isn't a valuable use of your time. But five-minute practice sessions are critical. Three or four times a week until your test date, choose a prompt, set the timer, and plan an essay based on your chosen topics. When your planning skills are honed, writing the complete essay is the easy part.
Your Goal: A Polished Rough Draft
Here's the best news about the SAT essay: The College Board knows almost no student can create a great essay in 25 minutes. And they don't expect you to. Instead, they look for a polished rough draft. A couple of minor errors in grammar, usage, and mechanics will not be weighed against you. Neither will a few factual glitches (can't remember who bombed Pearl Harbor? Your history teacher isn't checking, and your readers won't hold it against you).
Learn the essay directions—NOW!
SAT experts have calculated that it takes the average student about 12 minutes to read every set of directions on the sat. that's 12 minutes you don't have to write your essay or answer multiple-choice questions. Weeks before the test, go to www.collegeboard.com and locate the directions for the essay and every type of question. read the directions carefully and most importantly, make sure you understand them. you'll save valuable time that you can use to gain points.
Scorers read the essay to get an overall impression of your writing ability. They look for evidence of critical thinking, looking to see how well you do the following:
- develop a point of view using appropriate examples and evidence to support your position
- write with a clear focus, transitioning smoothly from one point to the next
- avoid errors in grammar, mechanics, and usage
- vary sentence structure
- show evidence of a varied and intelligent vocabulary
To get a high score, you'll need to hit each of the marks they're looking for. But perfection isn't the key to a high score.
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