A few pointers on that SAT essay

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Express your real feelings, offer personal examples and keep it simple

By Heather Lobb, Special to UnionvilleTimes.com

You want me to write about what?

There aren’t many students that can say they are completely comfortable writing an essay, let alone a timed essay for which they cannot plan.  So here are a few tips to scoring well on the SAT essay.

You will be given a writing prompt, which will most likely consist of one or two quotes and a question about your opinion on the given topic.  Two English teachers, or some type of writing professional, will read your essay, each assigning a score from 1-6.  (If you write in pen, you get a 0.  Don’t write in pen!)  Their scores will then be combined to give you a score from 2-12.  The very first thing you have to do is consider the question you are being asked, and then have a definite opinion about it.  The readers do not want to read about you sitting on the fence of a controversial topic.  They want to see that you have a strong head on your shoulders and you can defend your position.

Next is a quick brainstorm.  By this point, you probably have a technique with which you’re comfortable.  If you typically make an outline, use the blank test booklet page opposite the prompt.  If you prefer using a web diagram, go with that.  If you have never brainstormed anything in your life, take about 2 minutes to jot down some notes.  This will help you form your ideas and stay on topic while you are writing.

The length of your essay doesn’t necessarily matter, as long as you are getting in all the appropriate information.  But try to stick with what you were taught; a typical essay consists of a thesis statement in the introductory paragraph, followed by three supporting paragraphs, and ends with a conclusion to wrap up your ideas.  It’s okay to write your SAT essay in the first person.  The question will be asking for your opinion, so the best way to do that will be to give it!

So what qualifies as a good supporting example?  You can pull from a number of sources; examples can typically be found in current events, politics, the medical field, technology, and many classic novels you may have read in class.  The most effective way of showing that you understand the prompt is to mention how that scenario has affected your own life.  Try to use a personal example, or something that happened to a close friend or family member.  Even if you can’t come up with anything that actually happened, make it up!  The readers aren’t going to know that you’re lying.  They will see that you understand and can relate to the question.  But don’t tell anyone we told you to lie…

The last tip is to just relax.  The readers will be more impressed with your ability to express your thoughts than of an expansive vocabulary.  Just keep it comfortable, and you’ll be just fine!

Heather Lobb co-founded the Unionville-based Thinking Cap Corporation in 2007 to help students achieve their academic goals.  Heather graduated from Millersville University and continues to take the SATs on an incredibly unnatural regular basis for a grown up.  

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