Although it might not seem important at first, a good essay score on your SAT is important. You don’t have to score a perfect 8-8-8 on the SAT essay, but, a below average score is just not acceptable. Especially if you’re planning to apply to a top tier college.
A good undergraduate profile isn’t complete without a good SAT score. And a good SAT score isn’t complete without a good essay score. I say this because most colleges will prefer a rounded profile. This is why your applications essays and other aspects of the application are paid so much attention to.
If you score a composite score of 1480 and an essay score of 2-3-2, your application will be passed over for someone with a composite score of 1460 and an essay score of 5-5-5.
To avoid such a situation, you must be a prepared to take the SAT essay if you choose to do so.
WHAT HAS BEEN CHANGED ABOUT THE SAT ESSAY?
The changes that were made to the SAT in 2016 affected the SAT essay section the most. But first let’s look at what the essay questions asks of the writer.
The essay question on the SAT will be in two parts, the prompt and the passage. All you have to do is follow the prompt exactly. The prompt also remains the same for each question, it’s the passage that changes every time.
The prompt will ask you to elaborate on how the author builds their argument. You don’t have to add any opinions that you may have.
The Essay section was changed from a 25-minute section to a 50-minute section, which might seem like a lot but will fleet before your eyes if you don’t have a good plan of action.
Most importantly, the essay was also made optional in 2016. This means, you might not even have to take the essay section of the SAT, or read this blog.
Before you ask how to score well on the SAT essay, ask should you take the optional SAT essay ?
HOW IS IT SCORED?
The scoring of the SAT is quite simple and quite complicated at the same time. Your essays on the test are graded by two examiners. Both of these examiners then give you scores from 1-4. The scores from both the examiners are then added to get a final score out of 8.
But then what is the x-x-x score pattern?
The x-x-x score pattern is the three separate scores that both the examiners that check your SAT essays allot you. This represents three score based on reading, writing, and analysis. Each examiner allots the test-taker score from 0-4 on the three criteria. So, the x-x-x roughly translates to Reading Score-Writing Score-Analysis Score.
But what are these criteria exactly?
This score measures the test-taker’s ability to understand the question and use the text correctly to form the arguments in their essay. It measures how closely you stuck to the prompt.
This is the more technical aspect. It measures a test-taker’s grammatical correctness, sentence structure, style, vocabulary, and other criteria of similar classification. It is solely based on the technical correctness and precision of your essay.
This score is more concerned with the soul of your essay. It measures your factual correctness in relation to the passage and your analytical skills in regard to the author’s arguments. This criterion is concerned with your skill to examine the arguments and supporting facts in the passage provided to you.
HOW TO WRITE A GOOD ESSAY?
The SAT essay is no high school essay. This is a precise and formal tool for the admission committees to understand if you’re ready for undergraduate level writing assignments.
Thus, the criteria of what a good essay on the SAT is also very different from most things you would have written by the time you give your SAT.
Before we get into the detail of how to write a good essay, let’s look at a College Board video explaining what exactly an SAT Essay requires of you.
Length of the essay
Some students believe that writing a 700-word essay is enough to get a good score on the SAT. this couldn’t be more wrong. nobody cares how many words you write if it makes no sense. Adding gibberish or space fillers in your essay will only bring you closer to a lower grade.
Admission committees don’t want to read essays that drone on about the same thing in 5 different ways.
But this also doesn’t mean that you can complete an essay in 200 words and expect a better score because you stayed to the point. An essay consisting only a couple of paragraphs means there isn’t enough material to grade you on.
4 paragraphs would be the average amount of paragraphs for a good essay however, a 5-paragraph essay is what you should aim for.
Let’s see how you can compile the information, to make sure your essay isn’t too short and still precise.
Support and variety of arguments
Two of the paragraphs that you write in your SAT essay have to be an introduction and a conclusion. The other 2-3 paragraphs will be your analysis of the author’s persuasion.
These paragraphs should contain various supporting facts and arguments that you read in the passage. Pick out at least 2-3 instances to show how the author persuades the reader of his point of view on the argument.
Use the middle 2-3 paragraphs to detail how a particular argument helps the author convince the reader of his opinion.
Use formal language
Remember you’re not writing an article for Vogue. Consider this more of an Economic Times article. This means that any anecdotes, informal language, and references to current culture is prohibited.
Well, not exactly prohibited, but it sure will lower your score.
When I say Economics Times article, I want to take you to a writing style that is filled with challenging vocabulary and advanced sentence structures. You don’t have to create as nuanced an essay as an Economics Times writer but, reading the publication will give you an idea of how to switch from challenging vocabulary to easier language. You will also learn to do this without losing the rhythm in your writing and creating variety so as to not use the same words more than twice.
Keep facts relevant
Another important part of writing an essay on the test is to know which information to use.
All the facts, and arguments you pick to mention in your essay should be a part of the passage that you were given. Forget about what you might have learnt or seen in the world outside of the passage.
The prompt clearly states that your opinions, or anyone else’s for that matter, have no importance in the essay. The examiners don’t want to know whether the author of the passage was right or wrong about a certain fact. All they want to know is whether you analyzed, how the author persuaded the reader, correctly.
Organization of facts
This, in a way, is the cumulation of all of the points above.
Without organizing the author’s arguments to line up with why the author used it to support his belief, you are basically asking for a low score. Creating a rhythm is much more necessary than is said to be.
Would you like reading an article about your favourite band’s next performance, and have three paragraphs worth of information about how that band isn’t as great as people think written in it?
Of course not. It would completely break the flow of the article and digress into a related but unnecessary topic. You would probably click on some other article to get more precise information.
While examiners don’t have the option to click off your essay, they do have the option to score you low.
HOW TO PRACTICE SAT ESSAY?
This shouldn’t come as a surprise, but still hold your breath. You can’t get a high SAT essay score without practicing the same.
No section of your SAT will show a high score if you just work on it in the last week and give the test. so why should the essay? But like all the other sections, the SAT essay also has it’s own strategies for practicing even if fewer.
To write a good essay in your SAT, you need to create a blue-print that works for you.
If you don’t know where to start, just follow the guidelines in the previous sections to know what to write in each of the paragraphs.
I also suggest writing the introductory and the concluding paragraphs first to have a structure in case you run out of time. Having one less, than you originally planned, paragraph of evidence won’t make your essay look as unfinished as the lack of a concluding paragraph would look.
You are obviously welcome to change the order in which you write the paragraphs as per your convenience.
One of the best places to practice full-blown essays will be your mock tests. We anyway advice taking practice tests as true to the actual SAT test environment as possible, and this would just facilitate it further.
Practicing full essays during mocks, and not just blue-prints, will also help you be prepared for the fatigue you might feel towards the end of the SAT exam as if you were giving the real deal.
Analyzing the quality of your SAT essays on a practice test will also clear any possible discrepancies that you might have while writing an essay under pressure of the test or otherwise.
Find a grader
This might be harder to do, but if you can find an essay grader, it will be well worth it.
If you’re taking SAT coaching, your coach is the one you should go without a doubt. However, if you’re in the fraction that opts to study by themselves, look for a teacher who could help you, or just an adult with a very good grasp on the language.
Ask them for honest feedback on your essays. If they say they didn’t understand a certain point, don’t try to tell them what you meant. If someone who has known you for a long time can’t understand what you’re trying to say chances are neither of the examiners will be able to too.
In conclusion, an essay-score of 8-8-8 isn’t our priority as it won’t increase your chances of an admission. But, having a decent score on the SAT essay is of utmost priority. After all, you wouldn’t want to lose your spot at a good college just because someone else paid attention to the SAT essay while you only worked on your composite score.
Needless to say, having a poor SAT essay score is much worse than having no SAT essay score. So, if you have decided to choose the option of writing the SAT essay, you better show complete dedication to the cause and practice it enough to write a good one.
Additional hours at this point in your preparation will help determine your future in regards to the kinds of schools you will receive acceptance letters from. Being prepared is the key to smashing your SATs no matter which section of the test you’re attempting.
So, when you take your SATs, don’t be a Targaryen, be a Stark, because winter is coming!