Preparing for the SAT Essay

Preparing for the SAT Essay

…so he’s like “Gurl, I am so busted.” and he starts FREAKING OUT and then she’s like spazzing and ANYWAYS that’s what I think Hamlet meant in this quote. –Jim Borgman (Zits Cartoon)

I couldn’t find the artwork to go with the above cartoon quote that sits on my refrigerator. The picture shows enormous stacks of essay tests to grade with the evaluator holding a gun to his head.

Here are a few quick tips to prepare for the essay portion of the SAT test:

Come prepared

    Pick three topics ahead of time in three areas: literature or history, current events and personal experience. Make sure that you know these topics well ahead of time.

Bend the topic to suit the question

    The SAT questions are values or ideals related. Tweak your topic to suit the value: sucess/failure, greed/generosity, passion/persistence, imagination/knowledge, education/talent. These are the kinds of topics the test will focus on so get used to bending your expertise to those kinds of areas.

Take a position

    It’s fine if you don’t feel fully convinced of the position, just don’t let the essay reader know that. Pick an “I agree” or “I don’t agree” posture and stick with it. The readers don’t evaluate arguments, but they will mark you down for not having a position.

Start with something visual

    If you set a scene or start with an anecdote, the essay will spring to life.

Use transitions

    First, second and third work but are flat-footed. Tie the previous paragraph to the next one by referencing the former and alluding to the subsequent:

And while television is important in emergencies, the reason it is so popular to today has more to do with entertainment…

Remember that two well-developed points are better than three shallow ones

    Deep and narrow, not wide and shallow.

Conclude with a bang!

    Finish with personal experience, a wish, a provocative question, or showing the larger significance of your topic.


    end with “In conclusion…” For some reason, English teachers are hostile to those two words.

Get a good night’s rest. Take two pencils with erasers so if the tip of one breaks, you have another. If you freeze during the test, close your eyes and breathe for a moment. Allow words to come from within and start writing. You can always take the test again.

Good luck!


Brave Writer offers an online SAT/ACT Essay Class to help students beat the odds.

Check it out!

Image by Nicolas Raymond (cc cropped, circle of text added)

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