While the essay is optional on the SAT, some colleges require it for admission. Others suggest it (which pretty much means “it’s required”).  Some work the Essay score into a formula; others leave it as a stand-alone score for evaluation.

Beyond college admission there is a benefit to Essay prep. The SAT essays are akin to many college midterms and finals, where analysis, organization, writing, and editing are all needed in a short time span. So, how can you write a great SAT essay in 50 minutes?

Respond to THEIR Task

Class taking a test

Their rules govern how you are graded.  A beautiful, flowing, mellifluous essay that doesn’t address the rhetoric in the prompt will get low grades on two of the three graded areas.

Organize Your Essay

Have in mind a “Template” or two. Ivy Bound suggests a “paragraph-by-paragraph” template and a “theme-by-theme” template. After reading the 2-page prompt, choose one and conform. Some of our students will choose before reading the prompt, simply based on the number of paragraphs – five or fewer paragraph prompts gets the paragraph-by-paragraph template, and six or more paragraphs gets the theme-by-theme template.

For the essay you write, a five-paragraph structure is NOT necessary. You’re not limited to five paragraphs. Indeed, when you change the subject within an argument, it is best to start a new paragraph to avoid any confusion.

Your Analysis CAN Include Your Opinion

The SAT and ACT essay scorers want an evaluation, and that can in places include your opinion. You are analyzing an author’s piece that was meant to be persuasive. How persuasive is it?  Why?  Where might the author be unconvincing? Where might the author have researched further? Address these as you “speak” to the scorers through your essay.

Use Illustrative Adjectives, Nouns and Verbs

This does not mean “use Big Words for Big Words’ sake.” It means using crisp adjectives, nouns and verbs. Specifics are good. Most importantly, use words whose meaning you really know. It makes sense to expand your vocabulary to include rhetorical devices. But, even if armed with a large logic vocabulary, don’t force a complex word when simple word will do.

Use Your Time Wisely

50 minutes to write a persuasive essay is not much time. Here’s an easy way to break it down:

  • Reading and Organizing: 6 – 8 minutes.
  • Writing: 38 – 44 minutes to write 3 to 4 pages.
  • Editing: 0 – 4 minutes to make changes. Plan on 0 if you need time to get onto page 4 AND you are a person who rarely finds your own errors.

One last tip to remember is that the longer your essay is, the better score you’re likely to receive. Yet, you shouldn’t fill the pages with meaningless information for the sake of length.

Ivy Bound tutors can help students build their essay abilities for the SATACT or general application (school assignments). Our tutors work with students on their grammar, organization, use of vocabulary and following assigned tasks. Contact us today to learn more about our Essay services.