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Writing: The Essay

  • The prompt is broken into two parts: a passage of text and the actual assignment. While the passage might be interesting and help you brainstorm, the only thing that actually matters is the assignment.
  • For your essay to get a score, two scorers will rate it on a scale of 1 to 6, which will combine to give a 2-12 score. A 6 essay is for a stellar piece of writing, while a 1 is generally for something truly bad.
  • Make sure your writing is legible. It's obvious, but if your writing can't be read, you'll get a 0!
  • Write on-topic and clearly choose one side of the argument. It's your job to answer the assignment, even if you aren't interested or don't like either side. Choose a side, write a clear, obvious thesis, and start arguing.
  • You only have 25 minutes to write, so time is precious. Pay attention to your watch, and divvy up your time as follows:
    •  ∼ 3 minutes to brainstorm/outline,
    •  ∼ 20 minutes to write,
    •  ∼ 2 minutes to edit.
  • Structure your essay the way you've been learning for years. It's not necessarily the best or most creative way to write, but it's perfect for the SAT. Start with an introductory paragraph, then a number of supporting body paragraphs, and wrap it up in your concluding paragraph.
  • Make sure you finish your essay! You lose a lot of points if you fail to finish it, so make sure you'll have time to complete the whole thing.
  • Try to write as much as you can. It's sad (at least I think so), but multiple studies have shown that longer essays get better scores. While it has to make grammatical sense and be connected to your thesis, try to crank out as much text as you can.
  • If you have difficulty writing a lot in a short period of time, practice writing. Churning out loads of text is a skill, and like any skill, you have to work on it to improve. Set aside some time every day to just write as much as you can. It doesn't matter what you write about, you just want to practice putting words on paper.
  • Open your essay with a "hook sentence": an interesting first sentence that captures the audience's attention and makes them want to keep reading.
  • When you change from one idea to the next, use a transition. Since each paragraph should explore a new idea, you'll need a transition at the start of every paragraph.
  • Support your thesis with examples. Each body paragraph should center around one example and showing how that example connects to your thesis.
  • In general, the best kinds of examples come from "high culture": literature, history, famous quotes, etc. Personal anecdotes are also good, but not regarded quite as positively.
  • Do NOT use the passage from the prompt as an example. You want your examples to show your creativity, and if you use the passage as an example, you aren't showing anything new.
  • A great example to use is a counter-argument. If you can anticipate what the opposing side would argue, lay out their argument in one of your paragraphs, then show why it is wrong.
  • Technically, you can use false examples in your essay and the scorer is not supposed to take off any points. This means you can make up "facts" that suit your thesis. However, I would recommend against doing this. Generally, it's actually easier to come up with true examples and make an honest argument. Plus you won't have to worry about a spiteful scorer knocking off points for lying.

Writing: The Essay

Lecture Slides are screen-captured images of important points in the lecture. Students can download and print out these lecture slide images to do practice problems as well as take notes while watching the lecture.

  1. Intro
    • Legal Disclaimer
      • Introduction
        • The Essentials
        • The Official Scoring Rubric
        • The Reality of Scoring
        • Write Legibly
        • Clearly Choose One Side
        • Time Management
        • Structuring Your Essay
        • Finish Your Essay
        • Longer = Better
        • Practice Writing
        • Hook Sentence
        • Transitions
        • Use Big Word
        • Examples: Evidence to Support Thesis
        • Examples: What Kind?
        • Examples: Don't Use the Passage
        • Examples: Counter-Arguments
        • Examples: False Examples
        • Example: What Do You Know?
        • Overview: The Formula
        • Intro 0:00
        • Legal Disclaimer 0:06
        • Introduction 0:15
        • The Essentials 0:51
          • Passage
          • Assignment
          • 25 Minutes to Write Your essay
        • The Official Scoring Rubric 2:05
          • Score of 6
          • Score of 1
          • Look in the Essay Section of SAT Book for More Specific Scoring Rubric
        • The Reality of Scoring 4:40
          • You Can Write a Simplistic, Formulaic Essay That Will Still get a Pair of 6s
          • Why? Because the Readers Spend Two or Three Minutes Per Essay
          • This Mean You Want Your Essay To Follow the Formula for Writing Essays
          • Quantity Over Quality
          • 'History is a Set of Lies Agreed Upon'
        • Write Legibly 12:43
          • Try and Write Bigger
          • Do Not Write About Something Other Than The Assignment
        • Clearly Choose One Side 15:59
          • Make Your Thesis Obvious
          • Never Try to Argue Both Side
          • Do It Even If You Disagree With the Prompt
        • Time Management 18:21
          • Divide Up Your Time As Follows
        • Structuring Your Essay 20:18
          • Use the Same Formula As In Middle School
        • Finish Your Essay 22:21
          • Good Idea to Leave Time for Editing at the End
          • Watch the Clock!
        • Longer = Better 23:55
          • Longer Essays Tend to Score Higher
          • Crank Out Massive Amounts of Writing
        • Practice Writing 25:26
          • Like Any Skill, Practice!
          • Sit Down Every Day and Give Yourself Ten Minutes to Write as Much As You Can
        • Hook Sentence 27:01
          • A First Sentence That Captures the Attention and Interest of the Reader
          • Hook Sentence is Different From a Thesis
          • A Good Hook is Anything Interesting That Connects to Your Essay
          • Surprise, Humor, Style
        • Transitions 30:27
          • Use When You Change From One Idea to the Next
          • Especially Important When You Change Paragraphs
          • Also Want Transition Between Hook Sentence and Thesis
          • Transition Can Be Complex, Funny, or Interesting
          • Basic Examples
        • Use Big Word 35:11
          • Use Two or Three Complex Words to Make You Look Smart
          • Examples of Complex Synonyms for Basic Words
        • Examples: Evidence to Support Thesis 38:38
          • Use Examples That Show How Your Thesis Is Correct
          • Each Body Paragraphs Should contain One Major Example That Connects to Your Thesis
        • Examples: What Kind? 39:40
          • Bet Kind of Evidence for the SAT
        • Examples: Don't Use the Passage 42:58
          • Why? The point of The Examples is To Show Your Creativity and Ability to Connect Ideas
        • Examples: Counter-Arguments 45:06
          • This is The One Time It's Ok to Use the Prompt's Text Passage
        • Examples: False Examples 47:08
          • To Lie or Not to Lie, That Is The Question
          • In Theory You Could Write
          • In Reality You Could Write
          • You Can Make Extremely Strong Arguments If You Make Up All Your Evidence
          • To Quote Mark Twain
          • If You Find Yourself in a Bing and You Really Need One More Example
        • Example: What Do You Know? 52:09
          • Notice That A Lot of Examples Can Be Used in a Variety of Situations
          • Exercise
        • Overview: The Formula 1:02:44
          • Brainstorm - 3 Mins
          • Write - 20 Mins
          • Edit 2 Mins