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.
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