The SAT Essay is optional part of the test, and won’t affect your score score out of 1600 (You do, however, get a separate essay score, see tip #2 for more on that). Some colleges require it, while others recommend it, so you’ll have to decide for yourself if you want to take the essay.   Check out this blog to see which colleges require it, and why it might be a good idea to take it, even if you don’t want to. After reading that blog, if you’ve decided to take it, be sure to check out our top tips below! 

Understand your aim

Knowing how you’re supposed to attack the SAT Essay is a good place to start. If you are in AP Language, the SAT essay is very similar to the rhetorical analysis essay on the AP exam.  You’ll need to identify and analyze the ways the author uses evidence, reasoning, and other rhetorical devices to craft his or her argument.  In other words, you’ll need to identify the point the author is making and the methods they use to make that point. You should not to summarize the passage nor give your personal opinion.

Understand how it’s scored

Three components make up your score—reading, analysis, and writing. Each essay is read by two scorers, who will give you a score 1-4 in each of the three areas listed above.  So, for each reader, the maximum score is 12 and the minimum is 3. They add both scores together to make your composite essay score out of 24. For colleges with competitive admissions, over 18 is considered a solid score for the essay portion.
According to the College Board, the reading component is scored based on how well your essays demonstrates that you understood the passage. The analysis component is scored based on how well your essay analyzes the author’s argument. The writing component is scored based on the cohesiveness of the essay, rich and appropriately used vocabulary, and the use of complex and varying sentence structures.

Correctly structure your essay

Your essay needs to have an introduction and conclusion that skillfully contributes to the cohesiveness of the essay. A conventional five paragraph essay is fine— it’s what’s inside the paragraphs that matters!  We recommend using each of the three body paragraphs to analyze a different rhetorical device.

Integrate information from the passage in a way that shows you were able to comprehend it

The passage should be your only source of evidence to back up your claim. Integrating short quotations from the passage is a great way to provide evidence for your argument. You should pick quotes that demonstrate the rhetorical devices you are analyzing.
Some types of rhetorical devices you should be on the lookout for when you’re reading include ethos, logos, pathos, diction, irony, rhetorical questioning, understatement, hyperbole, repetition, parallel structure, the use of 1st person pronouns, data or statistics, contrast or comparison, and speculation.
It’s really important that you focus on analysis.  In fact, the analysis score is usually the lowest score for students.  When you choose which rhetorical devices to analyze, be sure to focus on how each rhetorical device is used to make the essay more persuasive and to move the author’s claim forward in a compelling way.
A few examples:  If the author draws on “logos (logic),” they are probably trying to bolster a claims credibility or emphasize the extent of a problem.
If an author employs rhetorical questions, then they are probably trying to illustrate the extent of a problem, employ a sense of urgency, emphasize a call to action, or imply skepticism about a counterargument.

Quickly outline your essay before you start writing

Spend a few minutes outlining.  This not only allows you to collect and organize your thoughts, but spending a few minutes outlining will surely contribute to a more coherent and polished essay, and thus, a higher “writing” score.

An ideal outline should look like this:

Author’s thesis: __________________________________ (this will be an important component of your introductory paragraph)

Rhetorical device 1-> where and how does the author use it? Find a quote, if possible

Rhetorical device 2-> where and how does the author use it? Find a quote, if possible

Rhetorical device 3-> where and how does the author use it? Find a quote, if possible

The SAT Essay is considerably less important today than it was a few years ago. Still, if you choose to take it, you should put your best foot forward.  You shouldn’t should stress about it, but you should make sure you are prepared. Talk to your tutor about spending a few minutes in session talking about the essay and what you can expect.