Admissions Testing Planning for College

How to Write for the SAT and Score

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After spending a minute or two reading and digesting the writing prompt, you have 23 minutes left to write a good essay, not a perfect one, but a good one. Here are a few tips that will help you write the best essay you can so you can score well on the Writing Section of the SAT.

1. Write a good thesis sentence for your essay. It should be a short and clear statement of an opinion you have based on or closely related to the writing prompt. Choose to write about something you are familiar with; the prompts are broad enough, and the best essays come from the real you, good knowledge, or personal experience.

EXAMPLE A If you were asked to write about a quote that means heroic deeds are often small, everyday acts, and you chose to write about seeing that in novels or plays you have read, you could write,

The quote, “Big things come in small packages” reminds me of how small, frail characters in some of the reading I’ve done in high school are often capable of heroic acts.

EXAMPLE B If you were to fill in a blank in a thesis statement the prompt provides you, it could be written like this:

The most significant lesson I learned was from…my tryout for Little League.

 

2. Spend around 3 to 4 minutes thinking about how to support or develop your statement with three main ideas, to each of which you can add a couple or three specifics. Jot your notes down in case you have a lapse of memory from time constraints.

EXAMPLE A (See above.) You might think about Juliet defying her parents and standing up for her new husband, Tiny Tim dealing with his handicap and staying cheerful in the face of difficulties, and Penelope keeping the kingdom running and fending off fierce suitors. (You could just discuss Juliet, too, outlining her three heroic acts: defying her parents, defending her husband, taking the poison despite her fear.)

EXAMPLE B (See above.) What did you take away from that Little League tryout–that you could compete with your peers, that it’s okay not to be perfect, that your coach cared, that your parents were a great source of support, that other kids could be kind or mean, etc.? Pick three and think about details for each of the three you chose.

3. Begin by writing an introduction of two to three sentences, one of which is your thesis sentence and one or two more to direct the reader into how you will support your statement.

EXAMPLE A “Big things come in small packages” reminds me of how small, frail characters in some of the reading I’ve done in high school are often capable of heroic acts. Juliet, a young girl; Tiny Tim, a poor, disbaled boy; and Penelope, Odysseus’ abandoned wife, all did big things. What did each do that was heroic?

EXAMPLE B The most significant lesson I learned was from my tryout for Little League. It’s amazing what an eight-year-old can pick up when he’s nervous. That day, despite my concentration on making the team, I found out I have the support of my parents, of coaches, and even of my competitors.

4. This may be getting ahead of yourself, but now is the best time to at least think out, maybe write out, your conclusion because your conclusion should be much like your introduction. Your conclusion, too, will be only one or two sentences. It will restate, although not with the exact wording, your thesis sentence, and it will have another sentence or two to wrap up gracefully.

EXAMPLE A Despite the fact they are not the typical heroes with brawn and power, Juliet, Tiny Tim, and Penelope were brave and acted heroically. Perhaps some of the people of stature today that we bill as our heroes could take a lesson from a young girl, a poor boy, and an older single woman.

EXAMPLE B Competition like my Little League tryout can bring out the best or the worse in people. What I learned is the people I need to count on can rise up and help me in ways I couldn’t imagine.

5. The short quick writing is done. You should have only taken two to three minutes to do so. You should have at best 18 minutes and at worst 14 minutes left to write the body of your essay. That body should be three paragraphs in length, one paragraph for each of your supporting ideas. You should plan that each paragraph will be 5 sentences long: one sentence will be a topic sentence that explains how you will support your thesis sentence in your introduction, 3 sentences for details about the supporting idea, and a concluding sentence that restates or concludes this paragraph’s support of your thesis.

EXAMPLE A (one body paragraph) Also, Tiny Tim was a young boy who was poor and crippled, but he acted heroically by facing all his problems without fear. Rather than play the cripple, he worked, walked, and faced each day as if he were every bit as healthy as anyone on the street. When he met with disappointments, like having little food for Christmas, he still smiled and carried on; he even tried to cheer others. And, when he saw his father’s pain for not providing for his family, Tiny Tim gave him comfort and expected nothing in return. These may be small acts from a small and crippled person, but these are acts that make Tiny Tim much bigger than many selfish people who can not do for others or themselves.

You would have two other paragraphs, one about Juliet and one about Penelope, each with its own specific details showing how these women were heroic.

EXAMPLE B (one body paragraph) Even my eight-year-old competitors turned out not to be enemies. As I stepped to the plate to show my batting ability, the kid behind me yelled, “Get ‘em.” I wondered why he was cheering me on, but I suddenly understood how he would be a great teammate. Then when I tried to stretch my single into a double, the second baseman helped me to my feet, after he tagged me out, and somehow he didn’t seem so bad. Finally when I lost my glove before I had to go to center field, Tom Bangs came running up to me from the dugout with a big smile and my glove in his hand. Little things—but they struck me, and I realized I could compete, but I didn’t have to compete mean.

The other two paragraphs would cover your coaches and parents, each with its own details showing their support of you.

6. Check for flow. Make sure that the body paragraphs flow one to another. Note Example A and B above. See the words Also and Even? These are transition words: first, second, third, finally, after all, also, too, next, again, last…. They move one thought to another, one section to another, helping the reader shift and pointing the reader in the right direction. Even within paragraphs transition words are helpful. Look again at Example B and notice the word finally.

7. Do a quick read through for glaring errors. Do you have obvious misspellings, do you have any run on sentences, have you left out words or jumbled an idea, and do you have your basic punctuation and caps correct?

Overall:

You have just written 19 to 20 sentences in a five-paragraph essay. It might help to think of this essay as a picture so you can plan it and write it in a short amount of time.

Introduction with thesis sentence.________________________________ _____________________________._________________________ ________________________________. (2-3 sentences)

Body paragraph #1 with topic sentence,_________________________________. support sentences,______________________________________________. ______________________. _______________________________. and concluding sentence._______________________________. (5-6 sentences)

Body paragraph #2 with topic sentence,_________________________________. support sentences,______________________________________________. ______________________. _______________________________. and concluding sentence._______________________________. (5-6 sentences)

Body paragraph #3 with topic sentence,_________________________________. support sentences,______________________________________________. ______________________. _______________________________. and concluding sentence._______________________________. (5-6 sentences)

Conclusion with restatement of thesis___________________________________.and a wrap senetnce _____________________________________. (2-3 sentences)

Also, remember to write clearly and in a straight-forward way, as though you were talking to your parents. You don’t need to use three-dollar words!

Major Tip: If you are a slow writer or thinker or if you see you are simply running out of time in a big way, make this into a four-paragraph essay!


What Do I Do To Get a 6?

All of the above! And then, you add the icing. First, be a diverse thinker. Take a different point of view or make a new point. Be humorous and creative. Also, you should have voice. Be more than just clear and conversational. You should be YOU, that is, let your real voice through and not be neutral or merely pleasant. Of course, you do not want to be outrageous, but readers like to see your personality. On top of these things, you might want to vary sentences. Don’t always go for the subject-verb order. Use questions, start with a subordinate clause: when we went to…, although you may be wondering if…, or embed clauses: the way that an old man sees the world is quite different… or I loved the cold air which climbed up my nose and made my forehead scream.

You’re ready! Go get ‘em!