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How to Get a 12 on the SAT® Essay

The SAT essay can produce time management challenges and difficulties for SAT-takers. Many students score poorly on this section; however, using the AEC  TP  IT  2B  RCP strategies will help SAT-takers significantly increase their SAT scores on the SAT essay section.

Prewriting (5 minutes)

Spend no more than five minutes on the AEC TP planning. You get no points for planning.

    1. First, read the one-sentence question that begins the Assignment section. This is the critical writing direction for your essay. Ignore reading the rest of the Assignment section.
    2. Next, read the text of the boxed Excerpt above. The excerpt provides some background information on an issue to help you frame your thesis statement. This excerpt appears after the Think carefully about the issue presented in the following excerpt and the assignment below direction. Don’t bother to read the citation, unless you want to quote from it later in the essay.
    3. Read the Assignment again and Circle the subject of the essay.
    4. Write a one-sentence Thesis Statement as a declarative statement at the bottom of the essay directions page. A good thesis statement will mention the subject, will state the key words of the writing prompt, and will directly respond to the writing prompt with a specific point of view. Decide whether the prompt calls for more of an explanatory or argumentative response. Do not write a split (divided) thesis. Do not take an overly-controversial point of view.
    5. Quickly Prewrite the two body paragraphs underneath your thesis statement, using key words for the two topic sentences and the two or three major details for each body paragraph.

DRAFTING (17 minutes)

  1. Turn to the Section 1 Essay Box at the beginning of the answer sheets. You will compose your four paragraph essay on these lines. Indent all paragraphs, beginning with the Introduction. Your Introduction should consist of three-sentences. Select two appropriate Instruction Strategies from the list below as your first two sentences, using connecting transition words.

Introduction Strategies BAD RAP

    1. Background—Sentences that briefly explain the setting or help your reader better understand the thesis statement.
    2. Question to be Answered—A sentence worded as a question that asks either a question needing no answer (rhetorical question) or a question to make the reader think of a question that will be answered in the essay.
    3. Definition— Sentences that explain the meaning of a key word that may be unfamiliar to the reader or help to narrow the focus of the subject.
    4. Reference to Something Known in Common—Sentences that refer to a fact or idea already known by most people, including your reader.
    5. Quote from an Authority—Sentences that quote an authority in the subject of the essay. It must list the name of the authority.
    6. Preview of Topic Sentences—Sentences that list the subjects of each body paragraph topic sentence in the order they appear in the essay.
    7. Write the Thesis Statement after the two Introduction Strategy sentences, revising as needed from the Prewrite. This is the last sentence of your three-sentence introduction.
    8. Referring to the Prewrite, compose the 2 Body Paragraphs, beginning each with a topic sentence. The topic sentence appears in the first position of a body paragraph 80% of the time. Consider the fact that your readers expect your essay to conform to this standard and place the topic sentence as the first sentence of your body paragraphs as is expected. Don’t surprise your reader. Make sure that your topic sentence expresses the main idea of the body paragraph as a declarative statement and is not a subset of any major detail within the paragraph.
    9. Your body paragraphs should include two or three major details, each supported by two or three minor details. These detail sentences must include both evidence and your analysis of the evidence. Skip two lines after each body paragraph to allow for later revision. The subject matter of the prompt will be general enough for you to cite evidence from the following sources:
      -your personal experiences
      -content from middle school and high school classes
      -content from literature
      -current and past events

Vary the types of evidence that you present. No one is convicted for first-degree murder based upon one type of evidence alone, such as fingerprint evidence. Use several types of evidence from the following list to convince the reader of your point of view.

Types of Evidence CeF SCALE

A Comparison means to show how the subject is like something else in a meaningful way.

An experience used as evidence may be a commonly known event or an event of which there is limited knowledge.

A Fact means something actually said or done. Use quotes for direct or indirect quotations.

A Statistic is a numerical figure that represents evidence gained from scientific research.

A Counterpoint states an argument against your thesis statement and then provides evidence against that argument.

An Appeal to authority is a reference from an authority on a certain subject.

Logic means to use deductive (general to specific) or inductive (specific to general) reasoning to prove a point.

An Example is a subset typical of a category or group.

  1. Compose a Thesis Restatement as the first sentence of your conclusion paragraph. In other words, state your thesis statement in a different way that will lead smoothly into your two Conclusion Strategy sentences. Make sure that your thesis restatement covers the whole prompt, not just part. Select two Conclusion Strategies and use transition words to connect, if needed. Leave the readers with a finished, polished feel to your essay. Do not add any additional evidence to your conclusion.

Conclusion Strategies GQ SALES

  1. Generalization—Sentences that make one of your specific points more general in focus.
  2. Question for Further Study—Sentences that mention a related subject or question that is beyond the focus of the essay.
  3. Synthesis of Main Points—Sentences that pull together the points proven in the essay to say something new.
  4. Application—Sentences that apply the proven thesis statement to another idea or issue.
  5. Argument Limitations—Sentences that explain how or why your conclusions are limited.
  6. Emphasis of Key Point—Sentences that mention and add importance to one of the points of your essay.
  7. Statement of Significance—Sentences that discuss the importance and relevance of the proven thesis statement.

Proofread (3 minutes)

11. Save no more than three minutes to Proofread the entire essay. If the body paragraphs need an additional sentence, add it in on the skipped lines. The readers understand that your essay is a rough draft, so using editing marks is certainly appropriate. Squeeze additions in above the line, rather than in the margins. Don’t take risks with spelling and vocabulary words.

Writing Style

  • Write neatly in print or cursive. Don’t write too small or too large.
  • Don’t use big vocabulary. Keep your writing concise and simple.
  • Although the SAT publishers say that the readers will not mark down for use of the first person voice, use only third-person pronouns to emphasize objectivity.
  • Although the SAT publishers say that the readers will not mark down for use of narrative elements, avoid mixing the writing domains and stick with exposition.
  • Don’t try to be unique—no raps or poetry please. Write in formal essay style.
  • Don’t include slang, idioms (figures of speech), contractions, abbreviations, strings of prepositional phrases, or parenthetical remarks.
  • Keep pronoun references close to subjects in long sentences to make them clear. Make sure to keep pronoun references in number agreement.
  • Avoid passive voice.
  • Use specific and concrete nouns. Avoid general and abstract nouns.
  • Don’t split infinitives, end sentences with prepositions, or use intentional fragments.
  • Avoid gender-specific pronoun references by making them plural.
  • Don’t write a concluding statement at the end of body paragraphs.
  • Don’t overuse the “to-be” verbs.  Maintain the same verb tense throughout the essay and limit your use of the “to-be” verbs to no more than two per body paragraph. “To-be” Verbs: is, am, are, was, were, be, being, been
  • Don’t rely on adjectives to do the job of solid nouns and verbs.
  • Vary your sentence length and sentence structure.
  • Vary your grammatical structures by including a variety of Sentence Openers. Frequently, writers over-rely on the Subject-Verb-Object (Complement) pattern.

Also, check out Mark Pennington’s articles on writing unity, coherence, and parallelism.

Find 8 complete writing process essays (4 argumentative and 4 informational-explanatory) with accompanying readings, 42 sequenced writing strategy worksheets, 64 sentence revision lessons, additional remedial worksheets, writing fluency and skill lessons, posters, and editing resources in TEACHING ESSAYS BUNDLE. Also get the e-comments download of 438 writing comments to improve written response and student revisions.

Pennington Publishing's TEACHING ESSAYS BUNDLE


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