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For more information, please see full course syllabus of SAT Writing
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Lecture Comments (1)

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Post by nehemiah washington on March 27, 2014

Hi Professor Hendershot,
My copy of The Crazy Years arrived today, and already I have a question. One page 1 "Introduction" the author has a 2 sentence paragraph. When are those okay to use? By those, I mean a paragraph that consist of only 2 sentences.

Thank you,
N

Essay Basics

  • What is an Essay?
    • The word “essay” comes from the French word essayer, meaning “to try” or “to attempt.”
    • The term was coined by the French writer Michel de Montaigne to describe his “attempts” to put his thoughts into writing.
    • An essay, therefore, is an attempt to explain a thought in writing–any thought. Like a short story, it is tightly focused and can be read at a single sitting.
  • Why Does the SAT Ask for an Essay?
    • The SAT is designed to test your readiness for college. Writing is an important college skill.
    • The essay also tests your ability to think on your feet and express your thoughts clearly, even under stress.
    • The essay also gives you a chance to demonstrate your academic ability outside of the multiple-choice format.
  • What They’re Looking For
    • First and foremost, SAT essay readers are looking for good writing:
      • Varied and appropriate vocabulary
      • Good spelling, grammar, and syntax
      • Strong organization
      • Varied sentence structure
      • Clear focus on the topic at hand
      • Smooth progression of ideas
    • Secondly (and still quite importantly), SAT readers are looking for good content:
    • A clear point of view on the issue
    • Strong critical thinking
    • Appropriate examples, reasons, and evidence
  • The Prompt
    • The SAT essay prompt always takes the same form: an excerpt followed by a question asking your opinion on the main idea of the excerpt.
  • Essay Scoring
    • Your essay will be read by a trained SAT reader (usually a high-school or college instructor) who will not see your name or any other identifying information.
    • Two readers read each essay and score it on a scale from 1 to 6. Their combined scores make up your essay score for a maximum of 12.
    • Essay readers are encouraged to be forgiving and to reward students for writing well rather than punish them for writing poorly. They know these essays are first drafts, written by high-school students under a time limit.
    • Essay readers are trained to ignore handwriting and avoid judging an essay by its length, although neat writing and a not-too-short essay always make a better impression than a short, messy submission.
  • Essay Score: 6
    • An essay in this category demonstrates clear and consistent mastery, although it may have a few minor errors. A typical essay:
    • effectively and insightfully develops a point of view on the issue and demonstrates outstanding critical thinking, using clearly appropriate examples, reasons, and other evidence to support its position
    • is well organized and clearly focused, demonstrating clear coherence and smooth progression of ideas
    • exhibits skillful use of language, using a varied, accurate, and apt vocabulary
    • demonstrates meaningful variety in sentence structure is free of most errors in grammar, usage, and mechanics
  • Essay Score: 5
    • An essay in this category demonstrates reasonably consistent mastery, although it will have occasional errors or lapses in quality. A typical essay:
      • effectively develops a point of view on the issue and demonstrates strong critical thinking, generally using appropriate examples, reasons, and other evidence to support its position
      • is well-organized and focused, demonstrating coherence and progression of ideas
      • exhibits facility in the use of language, using appropriate vocabulary
      • demonstrates variety in sentence structure
      • is generally free of most errors in grammar, usage, and mechanics
  • Essay Score: 4
    • An essay in this category demonstrates adequate mastery, although it will have lapses in quality. A typical essay:
      • develops a point of view on the issue and demonstrates competent critical thinking, using adequate examples, reasons, and other evidence to support its position
      • is generally organized and focused, demonstrating some coherence and progression of ideas
      • exhibits adequate but inconsistent facility in the use of language, using generally appropriate vocabulary
      • demonstrates some variety in sentence structure
      • has some errors in grammar, usage, and mechanics
  • Essay Score: 3
    • An essay in this category demonstrates developing mastery and is marked by one or more weaknesses:
    • develops a point of view on the issue, demonstrating some critical thinking, but may do so inconsistently or use inadequate examples, reasons, or other evidence to support its position
    • is limited in its organization or focus, or may demonstrate some lapses in coherence or progression of ideas
    • displays developing facility in the use of language, but sometimes uses weak vocabulary or inappropriate word choice
    • lacks variety or demonstrates problems in sentence structure
    • contains an accumulation of errors in grammar, usage, and mechanics
  • Essay Score: 2
    • An essay in this category demonstrates little mastery and is and is flawed by one or more of the following weaknesses:
      • develops a point of view that is vague or seriously limited; demonstrates weak critical thinking, providing inappropriate or insufficient examples, reasons, or other evidence to support its position
      • is poorly organized/focused, or demonstrates serious problems with coherence or progression of ideas
      • displays very little facility in use of language, using very limited vocabulary or incorrect word choice
      • demonstrates frequent problems in sentence structure
      • contains errors in grammar, usage, and mechanics so serious that meaning is somewhat obscured
  • Essay Score: 1
    • An essay in this category demonstrates very little or no mastery and is severely flawed by ONE OR MORE of the following weaknesses:
      • develops no viable point of view on the issue, or provides little or no evidence to support its position
      • is disorganized or unfocused, resulting in a disjointed or incoherent essay
      • displays fundamental errors in vocabulary
      • demonstrates severe flaws in sentence structure
      • contains pervasive errors in grammar, usage, or mechanics that persistently interfere with meaning
  • Essay Score: 0
    • Essays not written on the essay assignment will receive a score of zero.
  • Tips for a Better Essay
    • Read the prompt carefully, and make sure you write about the topic given.
    • Outline before you write.
    • Use a variety of examples from different fields–literature, history, personal experience, etc. If one example falls flat, another can rescue your essay.
    • Vary your sentence structure.
    • Use clear, precise, and appropriate vocabulary.
    • Use action verbs.
    • Use both abstract and concrete nouns.
    • Review your writing after you’re done, and don’t be afraid to make small changes.
  • Recommended supplementary material to view SAT questions featured in lesson answer guides: The Official SAT Study Guide by the College Board.

Essay Basics

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.

  • Introduction 0:00
  • Lesson Overview 0:07
  • What Is An Essay? 0:28
    • Essayer = To Try, To Attempt
    • An Essay is An Attempt to Explain a Thought in Writing
  • Why Does the SAT Ask for an Essay? 1:11
    • Designed to Test Your Readiness for College
    • Also Tests Your Ability to Think on Your Feet and Express Your Thoughts Clearly
  • What They're Looking For 2:05
    • Good Writing
    • Good Content
  • The Prompt 3:35
    • Always the Same Form: An Excerpt Following By a Question
    • Sample Prompt
  • Essay Scoring 5:22
    • Two Readers Read Each Essay and Score It on A Scale from 1-6
    • Essay Readers Are Encouraged to be Forgiving and to Reward Students for Writing Well
    • Essay Readers Are Trained to Ignore Handwriting
  • Essay Scoring: 6 6:46
  • Essay Scoring: 5 7:42
  • Essay Scoring: 4 8:20
  • Essay Scoring: 3 9:03
  • Essay Scoring: 2 10:18
  • Essay Scoring: 1 11:19
  • Essay Scoring: 0 12:15
  • Tips for a Better Essay 12:25
    • Outline Before You Write
    • Use a Variety of Examples
    • Use Abstract and Concrete Nouns