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For more information, please see full course syllabus of SAT Writing
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Lecture Comments (5)

0 answers

Post by Vaishnavi Senthil kumar on November 23, 2017

I s this the old SAT? Because the new SAT essay does not ask for your opinion.It gives you a passage and just asks you to analyze it? But this seems different

0 answers

Post by William Jiang on March 8, 2016

You know your SAT essay lecture and in fact your entire SAT lectures are about the SAT test in history, not the current one. I signed up for the current one.  When are you going to update this!?

0 answers

Post by RHS STUDENT on November 29, 2014

How to state my position clearly if I stay scarecrow? Can you please give me an example.

1 answer

Last reply by: Professor Hendershot
Wed Oct 2, 2013 1:13 AM

Post by lemar stanekzai on October 1, 2013

Thank you for your wonderful teaching!

The Essay Prompt

  • 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.
  • Why the Prompt is Horrible
    • You have no opportunity to prepare before the test. You don’t 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. They’re not expecting you to win a prize for philosophy. They’re 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 you’re somewhere in the middle, your answer is “Scarecrow” (not really, but we’ll get to this).
  • Yes
    • If you agree with the statement in the prompt, organize your essay around that agreement.
    • Choose relevant, concreteexamples to support your point.
    • Acknowledge opposing viewpoints, if they’re relevant, and point out flaws in their reasoning if you get the opportunity.
  • No
    • If you disagree with the statement in the prompt, state it clearly in your first paragraph.
    • Explain whyyou 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.
  • Scarecrow
    • “Of course, some people do go both ways!”
    • This answer is also called a qualifiedresponse. 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 you’re 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.

  • Intro 0:00
  • Lesson Overview 0:07
  • The Prompt 0:28
    • Always the Same Form: An Excerpt Following By a Question
    • Sample Prompt
  • Why the Prompt is Horrible 1:30
    • No Opportunity to Prepare Before the Test
    • Timed Conditions
    • Your SAT Essay is a First Draft
  • Why the Prompt is Awesome 2:23
    • The Prompt Explains the Excerpt For You
    • Prompt Asks the Same Question in Two Ways
    • It's the First Section of the SAT
    • Readers Know This is Your First Draft
    • There is No Wrong Answer and No Penalty for Guessing
  • Three Ways to Answer the Prompt 3:55
    • Agree
    • Disagree
    • In the Middle - Scarecrow
  • Yes 4:18
  • No 4:47
  • Scarecrow 5:22
  • Tips for Acing the Prompt 6:31
    • Make Sure You Answer the Question You Were Asked
    • Pay Attention to the Language Used in the Excerpt