The SAT Essay Essay section asks a student to write a rhetorical analysis essay, where they write one to two pages analyzing the rhetorical devices a piece of persuasive writing uses. For some students, beating the time limit on the SAT Essay poses a challenge, and they find themselves trading time for points. Let’s break down how score a 12/12 on your SAT Essay in under 50 minutes.


1. Know What the SAT Essay Wants From You

The SAT Essay is a rhetorical analysis paper. That means that it wants you to look at how the passage it gives you argues it’s point, and then analyze the methods it uses in a clear, well-supported way.

Let’s take a look at the scoring rubric. It’s split into three parts: reading, analysis, and writing.

Reading is all about your understanding of the passage they’ve given to you and using examples from the passage to support your argument. You don’t have to exactly quote the passage, but a reader should be able to get the gist of the passage just by reading your essay.

Analysis is  about the arguments you make and the insights you gain. It’s what links your evidence to your claims. Take the time to interpret your evidence and tie it to your claims.

The Writing section of the rubric is about the actual style of your writing. Are most of your sentences grammatically correct? Do you spell words correctly and use them how they should be used? Is your writing interesting to read and help rather than hinder your point? Try and make your handwriting as clear as possible as well, so the graders can actually read the essay to grade it.


2. Take Notes While You Read

If you see a bit of evidence, put a lil square by it. See a bit of logical reasoning, draw a star. An appeal to an authority or to a community? Circle it. Is the author trying to inspire an emotion in you? Draw a heart. You want to be sure you know what they’re trying to convince you of in this essay, and what methods they’re using to try and convince you.

The actual symbols don’t matter so much as you being able to recognize each of them and know what your notes mean. This makes referring back to the passage for evidence much easier.


3. Plan Out Your Essay

Spend 5 minutes planning your essay. It will make the actual writing of the essay a breeze. It’s also a great help for finishing under the time limit on the SAT Essay.

Think of three ways the author was trying to convince you of their point. Those are your three body paragraphs, and you can easily turn those into topic sentences. Try and organize your essay by rhetorical tactic rather than chronological appearance in the text. Then find 2-3 examples of this in the passage. You don’t have to quote directly from passage, but the grader should be able to get your point without looking back at the passage themselves. Once you have those, you’re ready to go.


4. Don’t Rush, But Don’t Get Stuck

Now it’s time to actually write the thing. Don’t rush yourself, but don’t slow down or get stuck looking for the right word. You know where you have to go and what you’ll have to do to get there. Fill in the spaces of your outline, and make sure to analyze the examples you give. Describe how the author uses them and why. Show how you’re thinking all this through.

Your introduction should outline what the passage is, and what you’re going to talk about in your essay. Your conclusion should recap the points you’ve made. Remember: you aren’t trying to sprint to the end, you’re trying to power-walk there, hitting every goal you need to hit. You can do this! Just remember to plan out your essay and don’t get distracted.



That’s all! Now go forth and get a perfect score on the SAT Essay!  If you want more SAT and ACT prep advice sure to join our mailing list for a free 27-item checklist and 30-day free SAT email course.

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