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.
Why the Prompt is Horrible
You have no opportunity to prepare before the test. You dont know what the essay prompt will ask.
You are given the prompt under timed conditions, in a stressful testing environment.
The prompt will ask you a fairly philosophical question that you may not have thought about before.
The SAT essay is a first draft. And we all remember what Ernest Hemingway said about first drafts.
Why the Prompt is Awesome
The prompt explains the excerpt for you. There is no danger that you will misunderstand the excerpt (and therefore write an off-topic essay) if you pay attention to the question that follows it.
The prompt asks the same question in two ways, which is good for different learning styles.
The essay question is the first section of the SAT, which means you will be answering it when you are still fresh and well-rested (and when all your pencils are still sharp).
Readers know this is your first draft. Theyre not expecting you to win a prize for philosophy. Theyre looking for good writing.
There is no wrong answer and no penalty for guessing.
Three Ways to Answer the Prompt
The prompt will give you an excerpt and ask you for your opinion on it. Do you agree with what the excerpt says?
If you agree, your answer is Yes.
If you disagree, your answer is No.
If youre somewhere in the middle, your answer is Scarecrow (not really, but well get to this).
If you agree with the statement in the prompt, organize your essay around that agreement.
Choose relevant, concrete examples to support your point.
Acknowledge opposing viewpoints, if theyre relevant, and point out flaws in their reasoning if you get the opportunity.
If you disagree with the statement in the prompt, state it clearly in your first paragraph.
Explain why you disagree, using concrete examples.
If there is any part of the prompt with which you agree, concede it, but be clear about how far your agreement goes.
Of course, some people do go both ways!
This answer is also called a qualified response. In it, you examine both sides of the issue and come to a compromise. You will need at least two examples.
This approach is rhetorically ambitious, but more difficult to pull off. Be sure you have clear examples and a good compromise point.
Tips for Acing the Prompt
Read the prompt carefully. Make sure the question youre answering is the question you were asked.
Pay close attention to the language used in the excerpt. You may want to quote it or make reference to it, whether your answer is yes, no, or scarecrow.
Circle or underline parts of the prompt that strike you as especially important.
Organize your essay around your examples.
Call back to the prompt in your introduction and conclusion.
Recommended supplementary material to view SAT questions featured in lesson answer guides: The Official SAT Study Guide by the College Board.
The Essay Prompt
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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