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What Is SAT Essay?

The SAT, offered seven times a year, is an entrance exam forcollege, which is annually selected by more than a millionstudents. Many high school students take it in the spring in the10th grade and then again in the fall in the last year ofschooling. On the official website, you can find an onlineregistration form (containing useful info for those who study athome, as well as advice on registration). Also, there is a listof rules with a list of questions regarding the day of passingthe exam. (For example, it is forbidden to have mobile phones orsmart clocks with you).

For students who passed the old version of SAT (which was useduntil the end of January 2016), the SAT essay was a mandatory25-minute task that opened the test.

The students had to respond to a common philosophical questionlike “Is it true that the best things in life are free?” or “Isoptimism less valuable than hard work?” Usually the question waspaired with a completely useless instruction on performance of awritten assignment.

Well-prepared students had several key-working examples in theirmind (eternal favorites are Martin Luther King, Great Gatsby,World War II, Macbeth, etc.). They were ready to quickly draft ashort text, including a short entry, one paragraph for a detailedexamination of each of the elements mentioned in the foreword,and an elegant conclusion.

Then they added the following:

  • A few complex words
  • Author’s punctuation
  • A rhetorical question that forced the dozing reader to wakeup
  • A few quotations and statistics to give a special view

Students who managed to write something cute and long, followingthese rules, almost certainly could get 10 points out of 12. Thatwas enough to get an excellent rating for Writing, provided thatthey managed to score good points for the test part of thecorresponding section.

New Test

Since March 2016, the rules have significantly changed. Timegiven for the SAT essay in a new test has doubled, turning from25 minutes into 50. It is assumed that the essay should belonger, and therefore the students are now given 3 sheets ofpaper, instead of 2. If earlier this task opened the exam, now ithas moved at the end of a 3-hour test. For the first time, theessay writing became optional. However, students who wish toenter prestigious colleges, will certainly have to write it allthe same. The structure of the text has also changedsignificantly: from the argumentative one it has turned into ananalytical one. In this regard, the students have to spend a lotof time reading before moving on to writing an essay.


The evaluation system has also updated. If before, the essay wasgiven a comprehensive assessment on a 6-point scale, now itsquality is determined by three parameters:

  • Reading
  • Analysis
  • Writing

For each of these parameters, a 4-point ranking operates. Eachessay is evaluated by two teachers. Of these (3 parameters and 2examiners), the overall result is added. These scores are notincluded in 1,600 points of the final assessment, includingEvidence-Based Reading and Writing, as well as Math. The questionof how colleges will use the assessment of the essay during theintroductory process is still open.


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Excerpts and Instructions

Excerpts for reading can be taken from scientific articles,fiction, essays, or speeches. However, the question thataccompanies endurance always remains the same: “Write an essayexplaining how the author’s argument is constructed, and analyzehow he uses evidence, reasoning, and stylistic techniques toreinforce his point of view.”

In other words, the student’s task is not to give arguments infavor of his own opinion on the proposed issue, but to evaluatethe author’s text and arguments. The difficulty level of thesepassages has grown significantly compared to what the CollegeBoard has ever used in SAT. Working with similar passages andinstructions is a task for a reader who is prone to analyticalthinking, who has confident skills in fluent compilation oftexts.

Study the Examples

After reading the template articles and questions from CollegeBoard, carefully read the answers given. Think like examiners:start analyzing why each of the essays received just these 3marks (Reading, Analysis, and Writing). Focus on the mostsuccessful examples and find in them features that can belearned.

Understand the Author’s Position

Before writing your first training essay, make sure that youunderstand the passage and essence of the author’s argumentation,and not just the topic and your opinion on this account.Emphasize the key transitional words (such as furthermore, incontrast, however, etc.) and think what meaning they attach tothe author’s general line. Emphasize strong phrases, importantwords, and other points of reference that you consider important.

Think about what the writer was trying to say. What in thepassage confirms the main statements? Is the evidence relevantand convincing? Is there logic in their presentation? Are therestrong or weak points in the author’s argument? Is there anyimportant information missing in the passage that could convincethe reader?

Distribute the Time

As a product of a good carpenter, the structure of an excellentSAT essay is based on thoughtful and thorough preparatory work.Make sure that you answer exactly the question posed and do notlose the course. When you have selected several minutes to writeyour own answer at the beginning of the essay, you can savevaluable time, getting rid of the need to completely correct thedraft version. Be sure to focus attention in the abstract onthree components:

  • Refer to the evidence provided by the author to confirm hisapplication.
  • Discuss the methods by which the author uses the arguments todevelop his ideas.
  • Refer to the author’s style and rhetorical methods ofinteraction with the reader and the belief of the latter in thecorrectness of his point of view.

Be Laconic, but Look Deep

As before, a long essay is still highly valued, so try your bestto fill in the 3 pages provided with quality text. If your planis good, then you will have something to say, avoiding repetitionand empty lengthy proposals. If your handwriting is too large,try to write in smaller letters. Your task is to effectively useall available space at your disposal. Try to leave space in themargin just for the sake of highlighting a new paragraph. Do notmiss the lines, you can fill them with words that will bring youextra points.

Add Interesting Constructions

To get an essay worthy of a high grade, do not forget to use someof your own rhetorical decorations:

  • Clever words
  • Literary tricks
  • Statistics
  • Quotes that you remembered while preparing for the test

With rational use, these tools can play in your favor the sameway as they helped the author of the passage, which you have toanalyze during the exam.

4 Key Changes of SAT

Here are the main changes in SAT that you need to pay attentionto:

  • Conformity of the meaning of words to the context. The newSAT test format is focused on identifying the ability todetermine the desired word value based on the context of thepassage. To successfully complete these tasks, you need to have alarge and constantly updated vocabulary. High requirements to thelevel of the student’s vocabulary will have a beneficial effecton the seriousness of preparing the student for the exam.
  • Proof and reasoning. To determine the correct answers to theSAT test, students need to demonstrate the skills of perceptionand analysis of information, as well as the use of evidence fromdiverse sources, including graphics and excerpts with severalparagraphs from the artistic and scientific literature;humanitarian and technical texts, as well as from other sourcesrelated to the chosen specialty. For each passage read, thestudent will need to complete at least one task that requires aquote from the text that best illustrates and confirms aparticular position. Some texts will be accompanied by graphs,the information from which is important for determining thecorrect answer to the text. Assignments for the evaluation ofwriting skills will also be based on testing the students’abilities to an evidential and reasoned response.
  • Essays as an analysis of the source. The testing principleslaid down in the SAT essay section will fundamentally differ fromthe current format. In the changed model, students are invited toread the excerpt and explain the structure of the author’sargumentation. You need to back up your statements with proofsfrom the passage. This principle reflects in more detail the useof academic writing skills in college. The changes in the sectionare designed to encourage to develop skills of thoughtfulreading, careful analysis, and clear presentation of the materialin writing.
  • Topical tasks from the global context. The updated SAT testwill consist of questions based on the real situation in themodern world, which are directly related to the future learningprocess and professional activities of students.