The SAT Essay

  • Posted By: Celena Alduenda
  • February 13, 2020

The SAT Essay section is optional, but some schools require it—be sure to check your prospective schools’ application instructions. The team here at Test Innovators wants to ensure you are fully prepared for all parts of the test, including the Essay section.

The SAT Essay section includes one passage and a standard writing prompt. The first part of the prompt is as follows:

“As you read the passage below, consider how [the author] uses

  • evidence, such as facts or examples, to support claims.
  • reasoning to develop ideas and to connect claims and evidence.
  • stylistic or persuasive elements, such as word choice or appeals to emotion, to add power to the ideas expressed."

Following the first part of the prompt is a passage. After the passage comes the second part of the prompt, which is as follows:

"Write an essay in which you explain how [the author] builds an argument to persuade [his/her] audience that [author’s claim]. In your essay, analyze how [the author] uses one or more of the features listed above (or features of your own choice) to strengthen the logic and persuasiveness of [his/her] argument. Be sure that your analysis focuses on the most relevant features of the passage. Your essay should not explain whether you agree with [the author’s] claims, but rather explain how the author builds an argument to persuade [his/her] audience.”

The prompt will be almost identical to the one above, but the reading passage will be different for every test.

For the Essay section, you will receive three scores in the following areas. Scores for each area range from 2-8. There is not an overall or composite score.

Reading: how well you understood the passage and incorporated textual evidence into your essay
Analysis: how well you understood the author’s position by explaining how they used evidence, reasoning, or other persuasive techniques
Writing: how well your essay is organized, your use of tone and style, and how well you followed the conventions of standard English

It’s important to take a few minutes to plan your essay before writing. Take the first 3-5 minutes to read and reread the prompt and to jot down some ideas. A good essay is an organized essay. The next step is to write! Make sure you leave 3-5 minutes at the end to read over your essay and make any necessary revisions.

Here’s a general guideline:
3-5 minutes: read the prompt and make a plan
40-44 minutes: write
3-5 minutes: reread your essay and make revisions

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