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Tips for Writing an SAT Essay

The essay writing portion of the SAT may sound intimidating to some students, but don't worry. With these tips and a little practice, you'll ace that essay.

Read the question carefully:

-Before you pick up your pencil, read the question multiple times to be sure you fully understand what is being asked of you.
-You might break the question into parts if it asks for you to complete multiple tasks and create a separate checklist for each task.
-Another good strategy is to locate all essential verbs in your question. The verbs tell you what you need to "do" in your essay. Understanding if you're asked to persuade, refute, explain, or narrate is essential to doing a good job.

Stick to the rules:

-Write in the correct space.
-Answer the question without changing or deviating from what's been assigned to you.
-Write in pencil only.
-Don't write in your test booklet.

Plan your time wisely:

-Before test day, make a game plan. How much time will you devote to brainstorming? Drafting? Editing? Re-reading?
-Allow plenty of time before you begin writing to brainstorm and plan what you will write. This can save you a headache later when you run out of time or realize you didn't plan well to create a strong essay.
-Allow plenty of time after you finish writing to check for mistakes and reread your essay.

Outline Your Writing:

-By planning what you are going to write BEFORE you write it, you will save valuable time in the drafting process, ensure that you have included all key elements, and you will be able to evaluate whether you answered the question appropriately quickly.
-Start with a strong introduction paragraph that states your opinion/topic
-Organize each body paragraph around a single important idea and support each idea with examples and explanations
-Conclude with a paragraph that restates your opinion/topic, reiterates your supporting arguments, and leaves the reader with something to think about or a call-to-action.

Take a Stance:

-The essay will ask for your personal opinion so give it.
-Don't be worried if you have the right or wrong opinion, so long as your opinion is within reason, and is well-supported by your explanations, you have done a good job.

Write Well!

-This essay is about showing your writing ability, not answering a question correctly. So show that you know how to write!
-Organize your ideas appropriately in a manner that best frames your argument.
-Demonstrate your ability to use rich vocabulary, expressive details, and relevant examples.
-Show them that you have a strong grasp of grammatical and spelling concepts.
-Vary sentence length and structure to create strong flow and to demonstrate your writing ability.

Catch their attention:

-Start with something to "hook" the reader's attention and keep them interested in your writing.
-Popular ways to start include: a question, interesting idea/fact, a short, relevant story, an attention-getting statement/opinion
-Return to your hook in your closing sentence to create a well-rounded argument that leaves your reader with something to think about.

Know your reader:

-Keep in mind who is reading your essay as you write and use appropriate language and voice.
-Remember that your reader's task is to evaluate your writing not to be entertained, angered, or flattered and tailor your writing to show them what they are looking for.
-Give examples that add to your writing and connect to your reader.

Revise your writing:

-When you finish, reread your essay several times checking for:
a) Ideas and Content: Did you answer the question appropriately and provide sufficient evidence?
b) Organization: Does your argument flow properly from one idea to the next or does it leave the reader lost and confused?
c) Voice: Is your tone appropriate to the topic and audience?
d) Word Choice: Do you use appropriate grade-level words that enhance your writing.
e) Sentence Fluency: Is their variety in sentence length and structure, creating a natural fluidity?
f) Follow all spelling and grammar rules appropriately?

Write neatly:

-If they can't read it, they can't grade it.
-Write neatly to demonstrate professionalism.
-Write neatly to ensure that your essay is evaluated and not marked zero for being illegible.

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