In this lesson, our professor Vincent Selhorst-Jones gives an introduction on writing: the essay. He discusses the essentials, the official scoring rubric, writing legibly, choosing one side, time management, structuring your essay and finishing it, how it's better when it's longer, a hook sentence, transitions and using big words.
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.
Educator.com recommends The Official SAT Study Guide published by The College Board, the administrators of the actual SAT test. In it, you will find additional practice questions and a review of all subjects, along with 10 official SAT practice tests. Our instructors work through several of the practice tests in real time, going through their thought processes and test-taking tips.
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