Admission News

The New SAT Essay

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The 2016 SAT has a new face. One very different part of the SAT is the essay.

The first difference is the essay is now optional. Some colleges will require it, and any free waivers will cover the SAT Essay. Most importantly, taking the new SAT Essay will help prove you are college-ready.

Why? Because the SAT Essay now measures three important skills: reading, analysis, and writing. No longer will the test taker be asked to agree or disagree with a position or write about a personal experience. Now the essay will be more like an actual college writing assignment. You will be asked to read a passage from a published work that explores ideas, arguments, or trends in arts, sciences, politicos or culture. The prompt will always read something like this, although the passages will change.

Write an essay in which you explain how [the author] builds an argument to persuade [his/her] audience that [author’s claim]. In your essay, analyze how [the author] uses one or more of the features listed above (or features of your own choice) to strengthen the logic and persuasiveness of [his/her] argument. Be sure that your analysis focuses on the most relevant features of the passage. Your essay should not explain whether you agree with [the author’s] claims, but rather explain how the author builds an argument to persuade [his/her] audience.

In your essay you will be expected to demonstrate these three things:

  1. Understanding of the passage.
  2. Ability to analyze for an author’s style and persuasive techniques.
  3. Ability to write a focused and organized essay that uses textual evidence.

Your essay will be scored 1 to 4 points for each of the three areas listed above; a perfect score is 12. You will now have 50 minutes to complete the essay.

Taking the new SAT Essay will likely be more difficult but will test your readiness for college and perhaps set you apart from other applicants. You can see sample essay prompts and passages at the College Board website.