One of the biggest sources of anxiety for hard-working, detail-oriented, ambitious students is the SAT essay. Unlike most essay assignments which give you days, weeks, or even months to demonstrate your written prowess, the SAT essay must be done and done well in a mere 25 minutes! Fortunately, the SAT is rolling out some BIG changes in 2016. But until then, here are some actionable changes you can make to your SAT writing approach.
1) Think before you speak!
In one of my all time favorite movies “Get Smart”, Agent 99 asks the bumbling Agent Larabee if he ever thinks before he speaks, to which he quickly responds, “No, I just whip it out there. It’s what’s best.” Too often, I find that students respond to the stresses of a timed essay test by putting pencil to paper before even thinking about what they’d like to say! Take 4 to 6 minutes to create a “plan of attack” before you write a single sentence. Sure, you’re left with about 20 minutes to write. But isn’t that so much better than 25 minutes of scratching your head?
2) Take a stand!
Unlike the ACT grading rubric, which tends to appreciate a middle ground, SAT graders look for strong positions and even stronger evidence. Think about how you really feel about the question you’ve been posed with. Chances are, you have been around on this planet long enough to have developed an opinion… and I’m betting your parents would agree!
3) Oh yeah? Prove it!
Once you take a position, it’s time to back it up. Successful SAT essay writers know that a core competency of any 10 or higher scoring essay is an arsenal of convincing pieces of evidence. Brainstorm at least two books, movies, current events, or personal experiences that speak to the message you wish to convey. The more detailed and credible your evidence, the more compelling and convincing your essay will appear!
4) Tilt your hat to the nay-sayers
If you’ve taken a high school or college-level English class, chances are you’ve heard the words “critical thinking”. But how often does a teacher stop to explain what he or she really means by this term? In essence, critical thinking means recognizing that yours isn’t the only perspective in the world. And while the more passionate you are about something, the trickier that can become, a 10, 11, or 12 scoring essay necessitates some recognition and subsequent disarmament of the counterargument.
5) Dust, don’t polish
Perhaps the hardest part of the SAT essay is putting the pencil down. Leave yourself 2 to 3 minutes at the very end of your timed essay test to clean up any glaring errors that may have arisen along the way. This DOES NOT mean writing and rewriting the same sentence again and again. Rather, briefly survey your written work as a whole to ensure your message is clear and no grammatical errors hinder or impede meaning.
Jodie Westerman is a certified writing coach for Timely Docs live online writing help. Contact Jodie or another writing specialist to learn how Timely Docs can help you prepare for your next essay challenge!