Your SAT Essay score can rely on some small things. The SAT Essay Section asks you to read a passage and analyze the rhetorical devices the author uses to try and convince their audience. Basically, it doesn’t ask you to refute or deny the essay itself, it asks to explain how the author tries to convince their audience. Here’s what you need to know to improve every score on your SAT Essay.
The passages are about 650-750 words long, not too different from the SAT Reading passages. If you can handle the reading section, you can absolutely master the essay. Also like the SAT reading, you should absolutely mark up these passages. Pay attention to how the author is trying to convince you of their position. Make notes in the margins, and underline potential evidence for you to use later. Coming up with a code to denote what kind of persuasion technique you’ve found is often useful. Some students mark evidence with a little square, emotional appeals with a little heart, rational reasoning with a thought bubble, and stylistic elements with a loop. You can use whatever symbols you wish, but remember what they mean!
Make sure you are writing analysis! Every piece of evidence you include should be to back up some insight you have about the strategies the author is using to try and convince you. The SAT Essay graders are not looking for a summary of the article, they are looking for your insight into the persuasive nature of the article. Find where they try and sway you, and then explain it.
Have a thesis about how the author is trying to convince you. Are they using emotional appeals? Do they reference a lot of statistics and evidence? Are they leaning heavily on stylistic elements to paint their cause in a certain way? Explain this to your reader, and use quotes and examples from the essay to support your claims. Evidence and quotes should be there to support a claim, not just fill up space until you can write a conclusion. The SAT Graders are looking for analysis, not just length.
You will always benefit from spending a couple minutes outlining your essay. Taking the time to sit down and write out what you want to say prevents you from writing yourself into a corner or completely losing your train of thought. Make some bullet points about the main rhetorical strategies they use that stick out to you the most, and then write a thesis tying them all together. This should keep you from having wandering paragraphs and keep your essay on track.
Remember to include an introduction and a conclusion! Without them, it’s likely your essay won’t score above a 2/4 in the writing rubric. Your introduction should introduce what you think the author was trying to achieve with the essay and what rhetorical strategies they used to try to persuade their audience. This is not an essay about whether you agree or disagree with the author, it’s an essay analyzing how they’re trying to convince you.
That’s all! Now go forth and write that 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.