Write a Great SAT Essay by Wrapping a Strategy Around the Rubric

Sharpen your pencil and writing skills and do your best on the SAT Writing Section. If you want your full 12 points, think about these qualitative criteria the essay graders use, and wrap your mind around the rubric. To receive full points you’ll need to read the directions and in 25 minutes create a first-draft quality essay, which accomplishes the following:

  • Shows insight and a point of view on the issue posed in the written instruction
  • Demonstrates a high order of critical thinking with reasons, examples and other evidence that supports your position
  • Shows an organized, focused and coherent progression of ideas
  • Demonstrates language skills by use of a variety of vocabulary
  • Shows a variety of sentence structure
  • Is mostly free of grammatical usage and mechanical errors

shutterstock_200337275While the foregoing poses daunting writing challenges, consider them the “silver frame” around a five-step plan you’ll need to map out a successful SAT essay. You will be writing under pressure, so have a plan ready and you’ll avoid both writer’s block and the time-wasting false starts that accompany neglecting proper preparation:

1. Outline (or at least brainstorm those bullet points). Ideas percolate and can float away if they are not pinned down through the process of outlining or brainstorming.  An outline will help you track the progression and development of your response and arguments. Consider the brainstorm as outlying ideas that can make their way into the outline. In any case do not start writing until you have developed your writing plan.

2. Compose an introductory paragraph that will state in a few sentences just what you intend to advocate or propose. Use this paragraph to stay on task. Stick with your topic, because you will not have time to change your mind.

3. Write three or more topic sentences that will introduce your middle paragraphs and will support the thesis statement or statements in your introductory paragraph. Now go back and add substance to your middle paragraphs.  Said substance needs to consist of unstilted, first-person language that conveys sincerity that is appropriate to the subject.

4. Add “music” to your words and strive for clear transitions between elements of your essay. Those transitions -- terms like therefore, so, on the other hand -- alert the reader that new ideas are coming, but your previous points are related and coherent.

5. Write a final summary paragraph that wraps up everything in a way that says, “See? I told you what I was going to talk about; I talked about it and I my introductory thesis.”

Finally, it is not necessary that you do the foregoing steps in order. The important thing is to connect the dots between what your SAT graders are looking for and come up with an effective strategy for you to do a great job on your essay.

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