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Twenty-five minutes to compose an essay addressing a random prompt! Uggghhhh!

You probably have two big problems with writing the SAT essay (which counts toward your Writing score):

  • There is not enough time
  • It is hard to come up with examples

Here are some simple strategies to help you overcome these difficulties. They'll be posted in blog-style installments, so keep checking back if you want a perfect score on your SAT essay...

(first off... be sure to buy The Official SAT Study Guide, 2nd edition before attempting ANY prep for the SAT.)

Know what you are going to write, even before you see the prompt - Part 1: Structure

First of all, come up with an essay STRUCTURE that you will use, no matter what the prompt is, no matter what your examples are. You should not be trying to organize your paper while the timer is counting down, so do it now. Many different formats might be appropriate; here's a suggestion that is based upon the 5-paragraph essays that you're already writing in school.

We'll discuss the overall paragraph structure first:

(Be sure to buy The Official SAT Study Guide, 2nd editionbefore doing ANY SAT prep!

READ MORE... SAT Essay Structure

Always put the important stuff in the expected places

Make it easy for the essay grader - put your important sentences right where they should be, at the beginning of each paragraph. Most importantly, you need a clear THESIS (your answer to the prompt) as either the first or last sentence of your introductory paragraph. (I'd just make things simple and write a one sentence intro - nothing but the thesis). Each of the EXAMPLE paragraphs should begin with a Topic Sentence, which relates the example to your thesis (see below).

READ MORE... Important Stuff Placement

Learn the "Topic Sentence Formula"

Every paragraph needs to begin with a topic sentence that has a dual purpose:

1)  Introduce the example using proper nouns

2)  Connect the example to the thesis

READ MORE... Topic Sentence Formula


Make your argument OBVIOUS by using phrases that are obviously argumentative

Your SAT Essay is scored by two readers who must follow the SAT Scoring Guide very carefully.  This rubric gives you almost a checklist of EXACTLY the specific phrases that you should include.  Just use the following phrases, and you will make it easy for the Scorer to give you every point.

READ MORE... Argumentative Phrases for the SAT Essay


Be MORE specific. Nope, even MORE specific than that!

There's nothing more boring and ineffective than generalities.  Interesting, convincing writing is specific. Instead of writing "Last year in one of my classes...", write "For example, I found myself in a predicament during a review session in Pre-calculus when...".


Read more... Be Specific

Know what you are going to write, even before you see the prompt - Part 2: Examples

Grab a piece of paper. Really... do it now. Write down your 3 favorite books (or, if you have no favorite, write down the names of 3 books that you ACTUALLY read and discussed in class this school year. Write down the topics of your 3 best school essays. Write down 3 controversial current events that you know something about. There you go... you now have 9 examples that you can try to write about, regardless of the essay prompt.

More detailed info coming soon.

Create a sophisticated essay by using a "counter argument"

Read More... Counter-Arguments


Use your conclusion to adjust your thesis for "off-target" examples.

It often happens that your argument ends up in different place than you intended.  In a normal writing process, this is one of the purposes of revision; you can change earlier assertions to fit with later conclusions.  On the timed SAT essay, however, you probably will not be able to rewrite your introduction and topic sentences to account for drift.  So, you can use this trick to leave the impression that your examples remained on target.

Read More... coming soon.