Tuesday, June 14, 2016

The Top 5 Ways to Create a Strong SAT Essay

No part of the new SAT has been more deeply affected by the test's redesign than the Essay. Nearly everything about the Essay has changed, from the format and length of the essay, to the scoring system and the fact that the test has been labeled "optional".

The truth is, the vast majority of colleges and universities still require the Essay to be completed to even be considered at their institutions. Therefore, it is crucial to grasp the foundational concepts behind the reconstructed Essay in order to present a your best work to the admissions board of your choosing.

1. Understand the scoring system in order to achieve a high score. 
When you take the Essay portion of the SAT, you will receive three scores:
  • Reading: How well you demonstrated your understanding of the passage
  • Analysis: How well you analyzed the passage and carried out the task of explaining how the author builds their argument to persuade an audience 
  • Writing: How skillfully you crafted your response 
Therefore, it is important to ensure that you read the passage thoroughly and for comprehensive understanding of the text, can confidently analyze the passage provided, and have the writing skills to produce an essay that flows well, with precise vocabulary and correct grammar.

2. Reading 

The new SAT Essay asks students to respond to a passage. Close reading is required in order to sift through the text for fact, statistics, quotations, research, and examples. However, students must be able to identify these elements and weigh their importance according to the structure of the passage, as well as reflect on how and why the author has utilized them. Has the author made any appeals to the audience's fears or sense of honor? Be on the look out for ways that the author has tried to influence the readers' opinions.

3. Your main focus is to analyze an argument.   
The new SAT Essay asks you to analyze the provided passage in order to explain how the author builds their argument to persuade an audience. This is a very different task than the one asked for in the previous Essay. The piece presented  on the test will be in the form of a lengthy argumentative passage, however, you will not be asked to take a stance on the issue presented in the passage. In fact, if all you do is express your own opinions on the issue presented in the passage, you will not receive a strong score on the test's Analysis dimension. Again, the support you provide for your analysis should come from using extensive textual evidence to create your response to the question of how the author builds their argument in the passage to persuade their audience.

4. Writing (style, fluency, grammar, strong vocabulary, etc.)

One part of the SAT Essay that hasn't changed is the fact that your writing will be scrutinized for the basics. Learn your own writing weaknesses and how to curb them. Practice formal tone and structure, and brush up on sophisticated punctuation. One good rule is to always use one semi-colon and one short, dramatic sentence in your introduction.

5. Take the test more than once.

Take the test, get your scores, and reflect on how you can improve. After your test has been evaluated, you will get a detailed breakdown of your scores. Summarize your strengths and weaknesses. Keep practicing the timed essay portion, and get feedback from teachers, friends, and mentors. You should practice this type of self-analysis in all areas of the test!

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