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SAT Writing , SAT Essay


Writing an SAT essay consists of four major stages :

  • Reading : 5-10 minutes
  • Analyzing & Planning : 7-12 minutes
  • Writing : 25-35 minutes
  • Revising : 2-3 minutes

There’s a wide time range for a few of these stages, since people work at different rates. Some people, for instance, will be a lot faster at reading than they are at planning, while it might be the other way around for others. You'll need to find the timing combination that works best for you through a little bit of trial and error.

Writing takes the large bulk of the 50 minutes, but reading and analyzing and planning are equally important parts of the SAT essay writing process.

Stage 1: Read the Passage (5-10 minutes)

There are a couple of different ways to read through the passage on the SAT essay, each with their own advantages. No matter which strategy you use, though, make sure to keep an eye on the time so you don’t run out of time for analyzing and writing!

If you can just read straight through the passage without getting too hung up on details, go for it. This strategy works well for students who are naturally fast readers and don't have trouble getting distracted under time pressure.

If you’re a slow reader, get anxious about reading in timed situations, or find that the subject matter of the article is confusing, you might want to try skimming the article. You can use similar strategies to those you might use on SAT reading passages .

In either case, you'll want to make sure you get a good idea of the way the passage is laid out before you do a detailed pass through it. Why?

You'll probably end up reading through parts of the passage multiple times to make sure you fully understand it. Giving the passage a quick read-through before you do any detailed analysis can help cement which parts you'll want to come back to and which parts aren't as important.

When you go back do a more detailed reading of the article, sure to keep an eye out for argument-building techniques and to try to remain objective . You may want to circle or underline examples of these techniques as you read, which leads right into the next stage of SAT essay writing.

Stage 2: Analyze and Plan (7-12 minutes)

Many students resist planning on the SAT Essay because it already feels like there's not enough time to read and write, let alone take away some of that precious time for planning. But take it from us: you're better off with a plan. This is because the SAT essay graders look for a clear structure : introduction, conclusion, and specific evidence in between. It's almost impossible to create this kind of structure and still write quickly without a plan

You can write all over the passage as you analyze it – circle or underline key points , scribble in the margins, etc. This way, when you go back to quote the author in your essay, you’re not searching the text for the quote or supporting detail.

One way to mark up your passage is by numbering your examples and then circling and numbering any evidence from the passage you’ll be referring to in each paragraph. Another option is to write a brief description of the details from the passage in your planning and outlining, along with the location of the details. Taking this time during the analyzing and planning stage will end up saving you time in the long run.

I personally find it helpful to take notes as I read the passage and then organize them into an essay outline . Below are the TOTALLY LEGIBLE notes I took as I was analyzing the passage for the essay prompt:


As I was reading the passage, I scribbled down key details and the way I’d use them to support my thesis in the essay. For instance, I wrote, “ last paragraph – We need…we need (x4) -> overall use of “we” drawing reader into his POV ” in my notes. This describes what I want to talk about (the author's use of the word "We" and "We need"), what it means (it draws the reader into agreeing with his point of view), and where this is illustrated in the passage (last full paragraph).

I then organized these notes into some semblance of an outline I could use to plan the organization of my essay.


Here's a (rough) transcription of my outline:

Intro Facts/evidence -first paragraph stats and facts - to show issue is real, lend credibility -by not explaining has a couple of effects ->forces reader to draw own conclusions/think about which draws them into the argument ->alt makes reader look to author in rest o/article (b/c had facts at first + so can be trusted) Reasoning -acknowledges counterargument -so very easily could’ve gone on a rant abt twitter which would’ve undercut argument, disconnected from reader -instead, provides examples of when social media has been helpful (Arab Spring) -counterargument is more powerful as a result - take his “unease” more seriously Diction/style -“We” draws reader in, makes author sympathetic (not lecturing) -contrasts b/t ideal + real, b/t prof + amateur engage reader in the comparison, force to admit author is right -language elsewhere reinforces the idea that prof journalism under siege, words like “assailing” and “eroding” Conclusion

You can see that in the section labeled “Diction,” the first point is "We" draws reader in, makes author sympathetic (not lecturing)" .

You can combine these two steps if you’re comfortable enough doing it; I just find that separating them takes the pressure off to make sure that I take notes in an organized fashion.

Stage 3: Write Until 2-3 Minutes Are Left (25-35 minutes)

Once you have your analysis and planning done, it’s time to write like the wind. If you’ve taken notes and planned effectively, you should be able to jump right in and not have to go back and forth too much between the text and your essay.

Body Paragraphs

For most people, writing body paragraphs is easier than writing introductions. If this is the case, start with the body paragraphs, and just leave 10 lines or so at the top of the page to add the introduction later. One example should take up 1-2 paragraphs.

Let's use a methodical structure to try out a body paragraph about how the author uses a counterargument to add support to his own claim. The sample paragraphs below are all taken from an essay that I handwrote (and planned) in the 50-minute time limit.

Sample Body Paragraph

Start with a transition:

In addition to employing facts to his argument’s advantage, Goodman also cunningly discusses the counterargument to his position.

Then (briefly) introduce your topic:

By writing about how social media and man-on-the-ground reporting has assisted the state of foreign news reporting, Goodman heads off naysayers at the pass.

Explain the example’s context and relationship to your thesis:

It would have been very easy for Goodman to ignore the whole issue of citizen reporting, but the resultant one-sided argument would have been much less convincing. Instead, Goodman acknowledges things like “the force of social media during the Arab Spring, as activists convened and reacted to changing circumstances.” As a result, when he partially refutes this counterargument, stating the “unease” many longtime profession correspondents feel over the trend of ‘citizen journalism’ feel, the reader agrees.

Clearly state, in one sentence, how it is proof of your thesis:

Knowing that Goodman takes the power of social media seriously will make the reader more inclined, in turn, to take Goodman’s concern about the limits of social media seriously.

When you put all these pieces together, it’s a winning body paragraph. We start with a smooth transition from the introduction (or previous body paragraph), give enough background to understand why the example is relevant, and then connect it back to the thesis for the knockout punch.

Try to read through this again so the structure really makes sense to you.

Notice how this is formulaic – every one of your body paragraphs can be written in this structure , and you’ll get an excellent score! Having a structure like this will make many students less anxious about the new SAT essay.

You’d then go through the above process with the other 1-2 examples. In some cases, one very good example of the way the author builds his/her argument can be enough, if you can write 2-3 relevant paragraphs about it without repeating yourself. But having two examples is usually safer, because it gives you a better chance to show how well you've understood the passage.

Introduction and Conclusion

After finishing your body paragraphs, don't forget your introduction and conclusion paragraphs . Both should briefly mention the author’s argument and the examples you're using to support your thesis, but everything else is up to you. Some students write about the concept in general, and others just try to restate the thesis in different ways. Even a couple of sentences is better than nothing—try to scribble something in even if you're running out of time.

Sample Introduction Paragraph

In the article “Foreign News at a Crisis Point,” Peter S. Goodman eloquently argues the point that news organizations should increase the amount of professional foreign news coverage provided to people in the United States. Goodman builds his argument by using facts and evidence, addressing the counterarguments, and couching it all in persuasive and compelling language.

Stage 4: Revise (2-3 Minutes)

Much like planning on the SAT essay, revision seems unnecessary to most students. But trust us, it will help your score. There are two reasons for this:

  • Revising helps you change up your vocabulary and fix mistakes and/or illegible words
  • If you know you’ll revise, you can write much faster because you don’t have to worry about making it perfect

On the SAT essay, you can cross out words that you don’t want the grader to read. You don’t need to waste time erasing them, unless you want to replace them with something else.

So what do you do when you revise? Well, let’s take the body paragraph we wrote earlier and revise it. New text is bolded .

In addition to employing facts to his argument’s advantage, Goodman also cunningly discusses the counterargument to his position. By writing about how social media and man-on-the-ground reporting has assisted had some positive impact on the state of foreign news reporting, Goodman heads off naysayers at the pass. It would have been very easy for Goodman to ignore elide over the whole issue of citizen reporting, but the resultant one-sided argument would have been much less convincing. Instead, Goodman acknowledges things like “the force of social media during the Arab Spring, as activists convened and reacted to changing circumstances.” As a result, when he partially refutes this counterargument, stating his the “unease” many for longtime profession correspondents feel over the trend of ‘citizen journalism’ feel, the reader agrees. is much more likely to believe him. After all, Goodman acknowledges that social media does have some power. Knowing that Goodman takes the power of social media seriously will make the reader more inclined, in turn, to take Goodman’s concern about the limits of social media seriously.

At this point, you’ll have a complete winning essay.

Want to see what this essay looks like put all together? Read our article on how to get a perfect 8 on the SAT essay .

Our goal here was to show you how formulaic the SAT essay can be. By making the essay more predictable, you’ll go into every test with a game plan in mind , making the essay much easier (and less scary!).


"Guys guys guys! I figured out a plan for the SAT essay!"

Where to Go From Here

Now you know how to write an SAT essay. To put this information to good use, you need to practice with real SAT essay prompts . We’ve written the most comprehensive guide to SAT essay topics and prompts here .

Aiming for a perfect SAT essay score? Read our guides to get strategies on how to get an 8/8/8 on your SAT essay .

And if you haven’t read our 15 SAT essay tips article yet, do so now!

Want to improve your SAT score by 160 points?

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Laura graduated magna cum laude from Wellesley College with a BA in Music and Psychology, and earned a Master's degree in Composition from the Longy School of Music of Bard College. She scored 99 percentile scores on the SAT and GRE and loves advising students on how to excel in high school.

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Thinking about tackling the SAT Essay? Here's what you need to know: you'll be asked to read a text (typically a speech or editorial of some sort) and discuss how the author effectively builds an argument. This might be a familiar task if you’ve done it in school, but if not, don’t worry. The format is straightforward, and with some practice, you can learn how to write a great SAT essay.

What is the SAT essay?

The SAT essay is optional and costs an additional fee of $17.00. Currently, only 25 colleges and universities require the SAT essay. You can find a searchable list of school requirements for the essay here . If there is any chance that you might apply to one of those schools, you should sign up for the essay. If you are not sure where you will apply, you should strongly consider signing up for the essay. Your essay score will appear on every score report you send to colleges, regardless of whether or not the school requires an essay. 

Here are 5 tips for writing a killer SAT essay, should you decide to add on that section:

SAT essay tips

1. Stay Objective

The thing to remember here is that ETS (the company that writes the test) is not asking you for your opinion on a topic or a text. So be sure to maintain formal style and an objective tone. Tip: Avoid “I” and “you.

2. Keep It Tidy

Handwriting is becoming a lost art. Unfortunately, this is one occasion where your skill with a pencil matters. Graders read tons of essays each day. If they cannot decipher your script, they will lower your score. Do yourself a favor and write legibly.

3. (Indented) Paragraphs Are Your Friend

Remember the basic essay structure you learned in school: introductory paragraph, body paragraphs and a conclusion? The SAT essay graders love it! Your introduction should describe the text and paraphrase the argument being made, as well as introduce the specific elements of the passage and argument that you will discuss in the essay. Your conclusion should restate the goal of the passage/argument and sum up the points you made.

Read More: SAT Tips and Strategies

4. For Example…

Use your body paragraphs to back up your thesis statement by citing specific examples. Use short, relevant quotes from the text to support your points.

5. Don't Worry About the Exact Terms for Things

Blanking on terminology? When describing how the author builds his or her argument, “appeal to the emotions” is fine instead of specifically referencing “pathos.” And “comparison of two things” can be used instead of referring to a metaphor. If you do know the official terms, though, feel free to use them!

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SAT Essay: Writing Tips, Test Scores & Examples

SAT essay

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The SAT essay is an optional section of the SAT exam that measures a student's ability to analyze and interpret a given piece of writing. It is a timed, 50-minute essay task that requires students to read a 600-700 word passage and then write a coherent response. This essay is designed to assess reading, writing, and analytical skills.

The SAT essay is scored on a scale of 2 to 8, with 2 being the lowest score and 8 being the highest score. The essay is scored based on three key areas: reading, analysis, and writing. The scores for each area are then added together to get a total score out of 24.

Feeling a little nervous before taking your SAT essay is normal. When you're dealing with something important for your future, it's ok to feel some pressure. That's why the goal of this guide is to help you get ready for this assignment and finally, get the highest SAT essay scoring. Let's take a look at SAT essay examples and the best practices to write it so that you can pass this test successfully.

What Is the SAT Essay?

SAT essay is a short, timed writing assignment that you'll get as part of the SAT. There are two great things about it. First, now the majority of educational institutions don't require an SAT writing essay. It is an optional task, which nevertheless, you are recommended to do. 

Secondly, new SAT essay rules don't require you to reinvent the wheel and deal with something you've never encountered before. At the same time, you shouldn't expect a typical essay-style question; there are no prompts like "Tell us about your favorite book." Instead, you will have to read a specific prompt, for example, a short article or speech, and analyze, interpret, and evaluate a given text.

Purpose of the SAT Essay

The main goal of the SAT essay is to evaluate three academic skills you should have and demonstrate. They are:

A perfect SAT essay wins 5-5-5 in reading, analysis, and writing. That's why you will have to read an assigned prompt first, then analyze the ways authors build their arguments, and describe their approach in writing. SAT essay is meant to be an opportunity for students to show off their writing skills, but it's also meant to test a student's ability to think critically about a topic, and most importantly, the ways an author explains it.

If you ever have trouble with SAT tasks, use college essay help online for the best result.

How to Write an SAT Essay

Keep in mind that SAT essay writing task is timed and requires you to analyze a passage and then support your analysis with evidence from a text. While SAT with essay usually lasts up to 5 hours, you will have up to one hour (usually 50 minutes) to complete a paper after you are done with the test itself. 

So, break down your assignment into four stages and keep track of the timeyou should devote to each of the states.

  • Read and analyze — 10 minutes. For the first time, read the passage quickly to get an overall sense of its main idea. Then, re-read it more slowly. Highlight any arguments or opinions that stand out to you. This is critical because if you don't have an idea of what exactly an author is trying to say and what persuasion approaches they use, then it will be hard for you to write an effective analysis based on their argumentation.
  • Outline — 10 minutes. Follow a standard essay structure of introduction-body-conclusion. Pay the most attention to the body. Draft three-four paragraphs, following one paragraph — one statement rule. Here, SAT essay practice doesn’t differ from writing any other type of paper.
  • Write — 20 minutes. Next, proceed with writing being guided by your outline. We recommend getting started right with a body paragraph. Pick up the writing or reasoning technique an author uses in the passage and explain it, using examples from the test. Do it three-four times discussing different approaches of a writer and highlighting their weak and strong points. Sum up everything in your conclusion. Here you can also briefly state your opinion. Then, get back to the intro. You will feel how easy it is to write it after you have fully understood the passage and analyzed it in your body.
  • Proofread and edit — 10 minutes. Don't skip this step! It's very important for your essay to be flawless in terms of spelling and grammatical correctness. So, make sure to provide enough time for essay revision and check everything twice before submission. Although the SAT have an essay as an optional assignment, do your best to show your paper writing skills.

>> View more: How to Write a Good Essay

SAT Essay Outline

Creating a new SAT essay outline before you start writing is a great way to ensure that you cover all necessary ideas. It is also an opportunity to prepare yourself mentally for such a task at hand. When you know what you're going to write and what SAT essay format to follow, you can get in the right mindset for writing effectively. The template you'll find below will help you as well. 

>> Read more: How to Write an Outline for an Essay

SAT Essay Template

  • Briefly introduce a topic
  • Mention a passage you're going to analyze and its author
  • State your thesis statement
  • State your first supporting point – how an author uses a specific persuasion technique
  • Provide evidence for supporting your point – cite an example for a passage directly
  • Explain how the evidence supports your point
  • Transition to the next paragraph
  • Follow the same structure as shown above
  • Elaborate on different points until you reach the necessary essay length
  • Restate your thesis
  • Summarize your supporting points
  • End with a strong concluding statement

You can pay for college essays at any time if you find anything too difficult or mind-boggling.

SAT Essay Prompts

SAT sample essay prompts are written in a way that asks you to analyze and evaluate other writers or speakers. SAT practice essay requires analytical writing on your part. That's why topics and questions for this assignment are diverse. Below you will find some prompts and corresponding samples to get an idea of what to expect from this task and how to deal with it. 

SAT essay is required to make sure you can think critically, and you can't just write about what you've already read. You should form your own opinions and explain them when writing the SAT essay.

Sample SAT Essay Prompt 1 & Answer

So, let’s proceed with real-life examples and discover what to write in an SAT essay. 

For instance, the task may sound as follows: 

Write an essay in which you explain how Bill Gates builds his argument to persuade the audience of the need to address global climate change in his "Innovating to Zero" speech at the TED conference in 2010.

Here is what you can write about.

SAT Essay Sample 1

Bill Gates was at the forefront of the innovation development that is now changing the world. However, these changes are not always positive. In his "Innovating to Zero" speech at TED2010, he set an ambitious goal of achieving zero emissions by 2050. Bill Gates used a combination of emotional, logical, and ethical appeals to persuade the audience of the urgency and importance of tackling climate change. The most prominent persuasion technique that he uses throughout the speech is an emotional appeal. He uses an approach that's on the verge of rhetoric and psychology, making his audience feel compassion and pointing out that 2 million purest people on the globe will be unable to survive climate change. The goal of this technique is to help people realize the true cost of the upcoming disaster, and then — get a solution everyone can contribute to. Next, Bill Gates uses a logical appeal. He says: "We have to go from rapidly rising to fall [carbon emissions], and falling all the way to zero." To add credibility to his persuasion, he cites examples of new technologies that already make a difference. The speaker also supports his statements with statistics and calculations, moving to the concluding part — the call to action. Finally, Gates uses a call to action to encourage the audience to take care and rethink their attitudes toward climate change now. At this moment, he is leveraging the power of his reputation and global recognition of his contribution to technology development. Through this example, we can see how the personality of the speaker significantly amplifies all the persuasion techniques he used during the speech.

Sample SAT Essay Prompt 2 & Answer

Let’s consider one more example and deal with the following task:

Write an essay in which you explain how Sojourner Truth builds her argument to persuade the audience on men's and women's rights equity in her "Ain’t I a Woman" speech at a women's rights convention in 1851 in Ohio, USA.

SAT Essay Sample

The problem of equal gender rights, especially for people of color, has been relevant for over three centuries. History knows many outstanding speakers and activists of both genders, and Sojourner Truth is one of them. Her speech "Ain't I a Woman?" is a worthy example of consistent logic and strong persuasion. The speaker builds her argument using the rhetorical approach of opposition and contrast. She argued that if women were capable of doing hard work and bearing children, then they should be treated as equals to men. Next, she cites examples from her life to show that women are capable of doing even more. In the next sections of her speech, Sojourner Truth asks rhetorical questions and repeats them for better persuasion. "Where did your Christ come from? Where did your Christ come from? From God and a woman! A man had nothing to do with Him." The goal of this tactic is to appeal to religion which was very important for people of that time and help women realize that they are more powerful than they used to think. "If the first woman God ever made was strong enough to turn the world upside down all alone, these women together ought to be able to turn back and get side up again". This statement is the continuation of the previous one. At the same time, it is a passionate, courageous, and driving call to action Sojourner Truth concludes her speech with.

Would you like additional assistance with your writing? If so, we can offer proficient support. Simply fill out our online essays order form, and our experts will handle your task quickly.

How Is the SAT Essay Scored? 

SAT essay scores simply. Two independent reviewers from an admission committee rate your paper based on 3 criteria:

They can score you from 1 to 4 points for each criterion. The points each of the reviewers gave are added together and students get a total SAT writing score with 24 points being the maximum. 

Tips for Writing the SAT Essay

So, now you have an idea of what to write in your paper, what kinds of topics to expect, and how your essay will be scored. Find out more SAT essay writing tips to skyrocket your chances of getting the highest grade possible.

  • Review successful SAT examples. The best way to get started is by reviewing past essays that got a good SAT essay score. Pay attention to topics and ways other students express themselves in response.
  • Practice at home before taking a test. Pick up prompts you like and try writing a piece at home. Exercise with different topics several times. Next, find a passage you've never read before. Set a cutdown timer and try to write an SAT essay under time pressure.
  • Read the passage twice. The first time through, focus on understanding what an author is saying and how they're saying it. The second time around, pay more attention to their logic and argumentation.
  • Highlight important points during the second reading round. Mark these points with a pencil. So, you can easily find them later when you're writing your essay.
  • Focus on analysis. Instead of simply stating your opinion or offering an example, explain why your opinion or example is valid based on what an author has written. You should be able to support your position with evidence from a passage. If there isn't enough evidence in the passage itself, draw from outside sources that support your argument (such as real-world experience).
  • Use specific evidence from the passage. Instead of making up your own ideas about what an author was trying to say, use specific examples from a text to support your point of view.
  • Use strong vocabulary. SAT essay is a very formal, academic writing prompt, so you need to write with that in mind. Choose words that are more advanced than those you'd use in conversation.
  • Proofread and edit twice. Once you've finished your draft, go back and read through it again. Making sure there are no typos or grammatical errors. Be very attentive since during your SAT test, you will not be able to use online tools for grammar and readability checks.

Bottom Line on SAT Essay Writing

SAT practice essays are challenging, but they are also an opportunity to show colleges you're ready to take on the next step in your education. Fortunately, SAT writing essays aren't as hard as they look. All you need to remember is that, at its core, an essay is just an argument — and every good argument has three parts: a claim, evidence for supporting that claim, and a conclusion. Invest your time and effort into getting ready for this assignment. Take a look at new SAT essay samples and try writing some pieces following the structure and tips we've shared in this article. 

If you found our SAT essay blog post helpful, you may also be interested in learning how to write an ACT essay  or succeed at AP English Language and Composition Exam .


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FAQ About SAT Essays

1. how long is the sat with an essay and without an essay.

The SAT without essay usually takes up to four hours. If you have to complete a writing assignment, you will be given extra 50 minutes for it. As for SAT essay length, it is 550-750 words.

2. What is a good SAT essay score?

The highest SAT essay scoring you can earn is five points for reading, analysis, and writing respectively. 3-4 scores on each task are average. 1-2 scores are a low result.

3. What colleges require the SAT essay?

The most famous institutions requiring the SAT essay include but aren't limited to: 

  • Harvard University
  • The University of California schools
  • City University London
  • Delaware State University
  • Howard University.

4. Should I take the SAT essay?

Despite being an optional task, it is still better to take the SAT essay. If you have a chance to improve your score and you know how to handle this task, take the fullest advantage of this opportunity.


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How to Write the SAT Essay

how to write a good sat essay

Understanding how to write the SAT essay can be a little intimidating.  There’s no multiple choice to fall back on with the SAT essay. It’s just you, some paper, and a Number 2 pencil, writing an essay out of thin air.

When it feels so open-ended, how do you know exactly what to write for your SAT essay, an essay possibly unlike anything else you’ve written in school?  Lucky for us, the SAT drastically changed its content a few years ago, and the essay is completely different now–and totally formulaic.

You can go into any SAT test totally ready to write the essay, no matter what passage the test offers you.You can be that much more confident about how to write the SAT essay now if you understand a little bit about the old essay and why it’s gone.

Why They Had to Change the Old SAT Essay

Ultimately, the old SAT essay was universally acknowledged as a pretty pointless exercise. It asked students to crank out shoddy, sometimes vapid essays that didn’t resemble anything they’d need to write in college and didn’t give them much room to show off their analytical skills. Basically, kids would read a couple quick prompts, pick a side of a silly argument, and crank an essay out in 25 minutes.The College Board decided this just wasn’t working for them and dumped that whole approach.By noticing exactly what the College Board changed, we can uncover the inside track on how to write an SAT essay.

SAT Essay Basics and What They Tell Us

Table of Contents

You’re given 50 minutes to write the SAT essay.

The days of turning in a glorified rough draft are gone: you have just short of an hour to write the SAT essay, which tells us that the College Board wants an essay that’s extremely organized, thoughtful, and, if you’re going for a top score, even polished.Look out, though: since some students take the essay section and others don’t, the essay comes after the rest of the test so that kids who aren’t writing an essay can go home. Point being, you might be tired by the time it’s time to write.Fifty minutes can fly by when you’re mentally wiped out, so it’s important to be prepared.

No more surprise topics: the SAT essay is always the same assignment.

It’s easier to be prepared when the essay assignment itself is more predictable. The SAT essay section uses an almost identical prompt on every single test; the only thing that differs is the source material, the passage you’ll read and write from.Straight from the College Board, here’s what the prompt will say :“As you read the passage below, consider how [the author] uses evidence, such as facts or examples, to support claims.

evidence, such as facts or examples, to support claims.

reasoning to develop ideas and to connect claims and evidence.

stylistic or persuasive elements, such as word choice or appeals to emotion, to add power to the ideas expressed.

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.”

The SAT essay is ONLY an analysis of someone else’s work and ideas.

You’ll find specific tips on how to write the SAT essay below, but did you catch that last sentence in the official prompt?They aren’t kidding: do not go into whether you agree with the author.Think about it this way: the SAT evolves to serve its real customers–colleges–and respond to growing trends they observe in American high schools. They certainly aren’t concerned with teen trends like denim cuts and hairstyles, but they absolutely worry about school trends like widespread grade inflation.You may think it’s wonderful that you can earn extra credit to cover a poor test score, but the College Board is adjusting its tests based on how much grade adjustment is becoming available. Moreover, they wonder if you have strong grades based solely on writing tasks in which you pontificate about your own opinions.Colleges that require the essay for admission want to be sure that you can prepare a solid, academic analysis based entirely on someone else’s ideas. In that case, show them what they want to see and leave your own opinion out of it.

Writing the SAT Essay is Relevant To College Work

While it might take some practice, the SAT essay is very similar to the sort of writing you’ll do in college: say, analyzing why an artist or politician made the choices he made at a particular time. It’s genuinely worthwhile to learn how to write the SAT essay well.After all, doing well in college is the whole point of the SAT, anyway.Let’s look at how you’ll do that.

How To Write an SAT Essay

First, writing an essay is a game of strategy, and–just like in any other game–you’ll build your strategy based on the way you’ll earn points.Two different readers read your essay and grade it independent of each other. You’ll be scored in three different areas, each on a scale of 1 to 4. Those two scores are added together and your official essay score will be reported as three subscores, each out of 8 possible points.I always tell my students that the absolute hardest part of learning to write anything is figuring out what exactly is important enough to include in your work (so we’re clear on what you’re saying) and what to leave out (because you’ll sound like you think your reader is an idiot if you spell out everything ) . The art of writing strikes that balance, and it takes practice.The College Board offers examples of real essays with all sorts of combinations of scoring for the three scored dimensions, which you can learn from here , but here’re the basics:

Scoring Dimension One: Reading

The reading dimension of the essay rates how well you show that you understand what the author of the passage is saying; you’re showing off your reading comprehension in real time, just like in the multiple choice reading section of the SAT.In other words, your essay reader wants to see that you can correctly identify the author’s argument and the specific supporting details she uses to make that case.

How To Improve Your SAT Essay Reading Score

Get out of the gate quickly: in your introduction say that [the author] argues that [what the author wants her audience to believe]. Remember: they want to know that you get it .

Use direct quotes from the passage, just like you would in a paper in school. Don’t extract big chunks, though. Just like your English teacher doesn’t want you to copy down two hundred words from A Tale of Two Cities to stretch the word length of a school assignment, the SAT essay readers want you to extract only snippets and phrases to incorporate into your own writing.

Here’s an example sentence to show you how to work a small quote into your own work: When the College Board website says SAT essays must be “free of… errors of interpretation,” it means that we can’t say the author meant A when she clearly meant B.

Scoring Dimension Two: Analysis

You earn a strong analysis score by explaining how the author builds her argument and appeals to her audience to get them to agree with her. If you want to know how to write an SAT essay, you have to know how other people make their arguments persuasive.

How To Improve Your SAT Essay Analysis Score

Be able to identify logos, ethos, and pathos, also known as the three rhetorical appeals. People in academia have been thinking about the usefulness of these rhetorical appeals for literally thousands of years, so knowing and identifying them can go a long way.

Your SAT essay reader will reward you when you notice

Ethos: the mechanisms that an author uses to build a sense of authority or credibility, thereby earning an audience’s trust. Here an author will go into detail about her own experience, education, or background.

Pathos: these are appeals to audience emotion. When someone arguing to protect the Arctic says, “Think of the poor polar bears,” that’s an appeal to emotion. It’s incredibly effective. Anything an author uses that evokes emotion is part of persuasion and qualifies as part of the argument.

Logos: the facts and sense of rationality an author brings to the table. Yes, you should actually spell out that it strengthens an argument when an author cites facts, figures, and historical situations.

In fact, feel free to use these three ideas as the framework for the body paragraphs of your own SAT essay; if they were good enough for Aristotle, they’re good enough for you.

Scoring Dimension Three: Writing

Finally, remember this is a writing sample, so the mechanics and style of your writing matter, too.

Structure: You need to write a well organized essay that includes a clear introduction, a thesis, and a conclusion. Don’t waste time: give us an intro and a thesis within two or three sentences. When you notice yourself running out of time at the end, make sure you wrap your essay up with a conclusion, even if it’s only a sentence.

Make sure your body paragraphs are concise, independent arguments. Every time you write a sentence, ask yourself, “So what?” It’ll help you know what to say next. If you catch yourself going off the rails, at least be sure the last sentence in each paragraph relates specifically back to your thesis up top.

Vary your sentence structure for sizzle.Study how to correctly use a colon, semicolon, and dash, since you’ll be tested on them in the multiple choice writing section, anyway.Start sentences with words like although and while . These words automatically change your sentence structure, which makes it sound more lively.

While the SAT essay is not a spelling test, the people who read SAT essays for their jobs are the same sorts of people who spell well and are likely to be distracted by goofy mistakes. Don’t give them any reason to doubt you: whenever you can, write with advanced vocabulary words you know–and know how to spell.

Remember, while it may take you time to write the best SAT essay you can, it’ll pay off, both for your score and where it matters most: college. For additional resources on preparing for the SAT test, check out our article on the best SAT prep courses and SAT practice books .

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How to Write a SAT Essay: Writing step by step Guide

  • Updated On December 19, 2022
  • Published In SAT 👩‍🎓

SAT essay is one of the major aspects of the assessment process; it checks how the students frame arguments and provide solutions to various problems. As announced by the College Board, from June 2021 onwards, there would be no essay portion of SAT. However, some schools still require a SAT essay submission as a part of School Day administration. Some states including Colorado, Delaware, Illinois, Michigan, New Hampshire, and Oklahoma, will be using SAT with Essay in 2022. Although the rules are ever-changing, the students should keep tracking any new regulations or notices.

Table of Contents

Overview of SAT Essay Writing

SAT essays require the candidates to complete a write-up using proper grammar vocabulary and analysing arguments in an exciting and engaging tone. In addition, with essays for SAT exams, students also prepare for their college essays.  Essay topics for SAT focus on issues like politics, culture, science, or arts. This is because most essays need to be supported with arguments and examples. For those looking for a guide to writing excellent essays, here are some tips and tricks to help you win the game.

Basic Structure and Purpose of SAT Essay Writing

  • A passage of 600- 750 words is given to the applicant.
  • Students need to read them and respond accordingly.
  • Fifty minutes are given to complete the essay.
  • The SAT essay evaluates the applicant’s ability to reason and understand an author’s argument.
  • Task remains the same for every essay, the only part of analysing changes in the reading selection.
  • You must remember your goal is not to agree or disagree with the author. Rather than explain the argument and how it persuades its audience.

Stages of Writing a SAT Essay

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How to Write a SAT Essay: Writing step by step Guide

  • Take the first 5-10 minutes to read the passage.
  • Invest the next 7-12 minutes in analysing and planning your points.
  • Do not take more than 35 minutes to write the essay.
  • In the remaining 2-3 minutes, revise thoroughly to avoid mistakes.

SAT Essay- Step by Step Guide

Read properly.

Not all of you have the same pace in reading, so it is better to follow your speed. Students who can read quickly without getting into too many details go for it. This is a proven strategy that works for fast readers. Some of the students who are slower readers can adapt to the method of reading only important parts of the section. This strategy works effectively as well. Another tip is to read the passage once without analysing then go through it the second time to frame your pointers. When reading the same for the second time, try to build arguments and remain objective. You can also highlight the important words or phrases.

Draw a structure

Before writing, planning is very important. Some students feel that planning the essay is not required since the time is limited. On the contrary, having a structure or framework saves time. For instance, roughly write which sections you are going to focus on. This will save you a lot more time than you expect. 

Jot down details

Some prefer writing key points while reading; others accumulate important notes after reading. Both the methods work; you can choose anyone according to your preferences. Scribbling notes while reading is very helpful for writing. If you have the highlights of the passage, you will be clear about what to put in the introduction, body, and conclusion.

Add an introduction

Now you can start writing. Begin with a brief introduction. You need not pour in all the details in the beginning.  The style of the introduction will decide the flow of the essay. As the time is limited and you will have to make it one-shot-okay, be careful about the diction. You must not sound rude or lecturing in your essay. 

The body must contain details

Some students prefer to start with the body and then add the introduction. If this process works for you, continue with it. Those who want to maintain parity and follow a methodological structure follow the same.  As a writer, you must remember the body of the essay contains most of the details; thus, frame sentences accordingly. Use transitions and examples to make your essay richer and more authentic.

Add a concluding note

In conclusion, make sure the tone of the essay remains the same. In order to make an argument or analyse the author’s point of view, students sometimes tend to change the tone of writing. Concluding notes must have a brief mention of the author’s argument along with examples that have been used in the body. Do not miss the conclusion; it is more than enough, even if you are writing two-three sentences.

Now, as you’ll have some time left, check your essay. Some students skip this step to save time for the next question.  However, this increases the chance of making silly mistakes in the essay. If you have a habit of revising after writing, you write faster as you need not worry about making it absolutely perfect. You can change the vocabulary spelling and fix other mistakes while revising. These are some of the basic tips to follow during SAT essay writing.

SAT Essay Format

The basic SAT essay format includes-

  • A brief introduction
  • Facts and evidence to support the body
  • Acknowledgement of the arguments
  • Providing counter arguments with proper reasoning
  • And a conclusion

SAT Exam Essay Sample 

The question for SAT essays is provided in a particular format. It is generally an excerpt from any passage followed by asking the students to plan and write an essay after analysing the issue presented.  It demands the students to develop their viewpoints and examples to support the arguments. Students are then required to read, observe and share their outlook on the topic.

SAT Essay Writing Score

SAT essay is assessed on three metrics, namely – reading, writing and analysis, and each section is marked on 1-8. Two examiners will evaluate one’s essay, and each of them will award points for the three sections mentioned above. The score is briefly explained in the table below:

After the evaluation is complete, marks given by both the examiners are combined. One will receive three scores for the essay. Moreover, one might ask oneself, ‘What is a good SAT essay score’. The answer to this question is explained below in further detail:

Candidates attaining 19 out of 24 is considered to be a good score, whereas those obtaining 22 out of 24 are perceived to be excellent. Princeton University, University of Pennsylvania, University of Chicago and Stanford University expect their applicants to score a minimum of 6 in Reading out of 8, 4 out of 8 in Analysis and a minimum of 6 out of 8 in Writing. The breakdown of SAT essay score percentile is shown in the table below.

Apart from the above mentioned, several other colleges also accept the SAT essay score. They are:

  • Benedictine University
  • City University London
  • Delaware State University
  • DeSales University
  • Dominican University of California
  • Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University
  • Howard University
  • John Wesley University
  • Kentucky State University
  • Martin Luther College
  • Molloy College
  • Schreiner University
  • Soka University of America
  • Southern California Institute of Architecture
  • Texas A&M University—Galveston
  • United States Military Academy (West Point)
  • University of North Texas
  • West Virginia University Institute of Technology
  • Western Carolina University

Frequently Asked Questions

1. is the sat essay optional.

June 2021 onwards, SAT essays are declared as not compulsory. However, if you are applying for a college that requires SAT essay scores, it becomes mandatory to appear for it.

2. What is the highest SAT essay score?

The SAT essay score is given in three separate sections, out of 8 each. Thus, the highest is 8 in each section.

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Lalitha Manjunath

My 8-year long journey as a SAT trainer has been paved with considerable success, excellent feedback, and extremely satisfactory learning outcomes.

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How to Write an SAT Essay

Last Updated: June 23, 2023 References

This article was co-authored by Christopher Taylor, PhD . Christopher Taylor is an Adjunct Assistant Professor of English at Austin Community College in Texas. He received his PhD in English Literature and Medieval Studies from the University of Texas at Austin in 2014. There are 8 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page. This article has been viewed 36,726 times.

While the SAT’s revised essay section is optional, it’s an excellent way to develop the writing skills you’ll need in college. Plus, many colleges will expect you to complete this portion of the exam. You’ll have 50 minutes to read a 500- to 750-word passage and explain how the author uses rhetorical devices to make their argument. The key is to analyze persuasive elements such as factual evidence, logical reasoning, and stylistic choices instead of discussing your opinion on the topic. The new SAT essay is rigorous but, if you practice, it shouldn’t give you much trouble.

Example SAT Essay

how to write a good sat essay

Analyzing the Passage

Step 1 Spend about 5 to 10 minutes reading the sample passage.

  • In order to get a good score, you’ll need to demonstrate your understanding of the text’s main point and the rhetorical devices the author uses to make their case. Read the passage twice so you thoroughly comprehend it.
  • It’s wise to bring a watch to keep track of time. Just be sure it doesn’t have an alarm or make any other sounds. [2] X Research source

Step 2 Underline examples and write notes in the margins.

  • For example, underline a reference to a study by a reputable agency (which would be considered ethos). In the margins, write, “factual evidence,” or “appeal to authority.”
  • The way the author appeals to emotion (known as pathos), can be identified through asterisks, exclamation points, or other symbols that call your attention to key examples.
  • You won't have extra scrap paper, but you can take notes and outline your essay on the page in the answer booklet labeled "For Planning Only." [4] X Research source

Step 3 Identify how the author supports their argument.

  • An author might establish their authority (ethos) by citing factual evidence, such as scientific studies or expert quotes. Keep in mind the passage might lack strong evidence, and your essay could explain how data or statistics would have strengthened the author’s claim.
  • Logical reasoning (logos) is the thread that ties the author’s argument together. You might explain how the author cites a fact, then draws a conclusion, such as, “This study shows ocean temperatures are rising. If ocean temperatures get warmer, then more strong hurricanes will form.”
  • An author might appeal to readers’ fears or beliefs, or use vivid, passionate language to add force to their claim (pathos).
  • Analyze the stylistic elements of the text as well, such as the tone, figurative language (alliteration, metaphors, irony, etc.), imagery, parallel structure, and so on.

Step 4 Focus on the most relevant persuasive elements.

  • For example, the passage might argue that a decline in literacy has harmful effects on society. The key persuasive devices in this case would be factual evidence of a decline in literacy and specific examples of its harmful effects.

Crafting Your Response

Step 1 Analyze rhetorical devices instead of discussing your opinion.

  • You can critique persuasive devices and write that the author’s argument is ineffective, but you shouldn’t merely write that you disagree with their claim. Explaining that the author failed to support their argument with concrete, credible evidence is different than writing that you disagree with them.
  • It shouldn’t be hard to identify the author’s main point. The essay instructions will most likely identify the passage’s thesis, so read the prompt carefully.

Step 2 Come up with a concise thesis statement.

  • Your thesis might be, “By appealing to authoritative evidence, Dana Gioia crafts a convincing argument that a decline in literacy negatively affects society.”
  • Note that this example doesn’t mention whether or not you agree with the argument. Instead, it states the author's argument (a decline in literacy negatively affects society) and the key persuasive elements (authoritative evidence).
  • Since you won't have extra scrap paper, write your thesis and other notes on your answer booklet's blank planning page. [9] X Research source

Step 3 Map out your essay briefly in the introduction.

  • Your thesis can be the first sentence of your introduction. Then, you could map out the body by writing, for example, “First, Gioia proves that the decline actually exists by referencing reports by the National Endowment for the Arts and the US Census Bureau. He then expounds this decline’s harmful political and economic consequences, and supports his conclusions by citing credible agencies and publications.”

Step 4 Explain and evaluate specific examples in your essay’s body.

  • For instance, the body’s first paragraph might focus on the reports by the National Endowment for the Arts and the US Census Bureau that Gioia cites. This paragraph should explain that Gioia’s first task was to prove that the decline is real, and he accomplishes this by citing factual evidence compiled by authoritative agencies.
  • Your next paragraphs could discuss the evidence Gioia uses to connect the decline in literacy to economic impacts, decreases in civic awareness, and lower political engagement.
  • A final body paragraph could explain that including factual evidence instead of using impassioned, evocative language made Gioia’s argument more effective.

Step 5 End your response with a clear conclusion.

  • You might close by writing, “Gioia's appeals to authority prove that there is actually a decline in literacy, then connect this decline to specific consequences. Furthermore, rather than waxing poetic, Gioia constructs an effective argument by including facts compiled by credible sources.”

Practicing for the Essay Test

Step 1 Familiarize yourself with the scoring rubric.

  • Your essay will be graded by 2 scorers. They’ll assign individual scores from 1 to 4 for 3 categories: reading, analysis, and writing.
  • The 2 scores from each grader are added up for each category, so your best possible score for each category is an 8.

Step 2 Find sample passages, essays, and other resources on College Board.

  • Find all the help you’ll need at .

Step 3 Use a timer when you write practice essays.

  • Take the last 5 minutes to proofread and polish your work.
  • Make sure you finish in the allotted time! If you run out of time when you practice, try to analyze the prompt faster, make your writing as concise as possible, and stick to the introduction, body, and conclusion structure.
  • If your school has a writing lab, have a reviewer offer feedback on an essay you wrote and see if you can get a writing tutor. You could also get extra help from your English or literature teachers.
  • Review grammar topics including subject-verb agreement, proper sentence structures, and punctuation. Additionally, reading more books and articles can improve both your grammar and comprehension skills.
  • Try using a word of the day app or calendar to improve your vocabulary.

Step 5 Work on varying your sentence structures.

  • For example, avoid writing terse, repetitive sentences like, “The author wrote this. They then explained that. This is a strong argument.”
  • Additionally, keep your writing formal and objective. Avoid personal pronouns, slang, contractions, and other informal expressions.

Step 6 Hone your skills by reading and analyzing a variety of texts.

  • Try to read at least 1 text a day for at least a month before the test date.

Expert Q&A

  • You’ll take the essay portion of the SAT after spending 3 hours on the other sections. Pack a snack and drink to help you stay sharp. [17] X Research source However, you cannot eat or drink during the actual test, so plan to snack during the allotted breaks. Thanks Helpful 0 Not Helpful 0
  • Make sure your writing is neat and legible. When you start a new paragraph, indent the first line to help the scorer identify how your essay is organized. [18] X Research source You want to make it easier for the graders to give you a good score! Thanks Helpful 0 Not Helpful 0

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About this article

Christopher Taylor, PhD

To write an SAT essay, start by reading the sample passage to understand the author's main point, and the persuasive elements they used to make their argument. Next, come up with a thesis statement that identifies the most relevant persuasive elements, such as factual evidence, imagery, or appealing to the reader’s emotions. Then, give some specific examples and incorporate quotations from the passage as evidence. Finally, end with a closing argument that restates your thesis and the main themes of your essay. For tips from our Education reviewer on how to practice for the essay test, read on! Did this summary help you? Yes No

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how to write a good sat essay

How to Write an SAT Essay

how to write a good sat essay

A winning SAT essay requires a range of specific skills for the top result. In this article from the cheap essay writing service EssayPro, we will discuss how to write SAT essay and get that SAT essay score for college admission. This includes the definition, preparation steps, time-management, SAT essay outline, tips, and examples.

What Is an SAT Essay?

So what is the SAT essay writing task in general terms? SAT writing is very much similar to your regular college paper. In fact, it’s not what you’re asked to write about. It’s how you’re graded on it that makes it stand out from the rest of the academic writing tasks you are surely familiar with.

Many people question: what schools require this type of assignment? The colleges that require the SAT essay are institutions like Stanford, Stanford, Yale, and many more. Considering most colleges with high reputations require this entrance exam, it is essential to learn how to write a great SAT essay if you want to enter college.

Before You Start Writing an SAT Essay...

While studying for the entrance exam, consider the question: ‘how long it takes to write an SAT essay?’. Time management is an essential part of the test and something to consider while writing the examination. Usually, writing time is made up of four examination stages:

examination elements sat

There are different variations of these stages. Some people are faster with reading than they are creating an outline, and some are very quick writers. But regardless of how long it takes, the general approach to essay writing is the same.

Throughout the first stage, you familiarize yourself with the tasks you're going to deal with. 5 minutes is more than enough. But don’t rush through it. Missing some key details during this first stage can lead to failing the entire task before you even get to writing.

After you’ve got all the info you need - you can start planning. A plan of action will help you stay on track throughout the writing process. You can even draw up a schematic to reference as you go.

Writing will take up the majority of your time. Consult your outline and start filling it out step by step. Do not get bogged down. If you can’t get through some section of your outline - move on to the next one and return later.

Proofreading is one of the most important parts of essay writing. You should always try your best to leave as much time as possible for post-editing. The task is finished; now you have to relax and look through your text a couple more times to weed out any mistakes.

Whichever way your mind thinks, SAT essay practice is always the right way to go, so you’re able to find the most reliable timing combination that works for you within the set duration of the exam.

It is important to consider that the writing segment takes up a large portion of the 50 minutes. The reading and creating outline segments play a vital role in the completion of the SAT essay.

Our argumentative essay writers are ready to help you any time. Order essay or leave us a message ' Do my math homework '.

Things Your SAT Essay Needs

Now, let’s talk about how to write SAT essay tasks in a little more detail. To write a winning SAT essay outline , it is important to know what to include in it. Any paper regarding this examination should include these elements:



  • First impressions count;
  • Remember to avoid argumentative language;
  • Discuss, briefly, the analysis methods that the author has used;
  • Address the author’s points;
  • Examiners want to see an understanding of the source, a quote might be in order;

Feeling Overwhelmed Writing an Essay on Your Own?

We only need your paper requirements to create a plagiarism-free paper prompt.

  • Use examples that support your claims;
  • Quote the passage where the writer has used vivid language;
  • A short quote will suffice, no need to cite entire paragraphs;
  • Follow your evidence up with supporting claims;
  • Talk about what makes your arguments strong;
  • Explain why the examples are compelling to the reader;


  • Restate the thesis;
  • Briefly talk about how your examples support it;
  • Be aware that this is not a place to write more in-depth text or more examples;
  • End with a conclusive sentence;

This outline should give you a pretty good idea of how to SAT when it comes to essay writing tasks.

SAT Essay Outline

In recent years, a new SAT essay format has been created. Take a look at how applicants tackle this assignment in 2022.


  • This introduction paragraph is 2-5 sentences;
  • Write about the purpose of the source material;
  • Write a few lines describing the techniques used in the rest of the paper.
  • Usually, the body is made up of 2-3 paragraphs;
  • Each paragraph is around six sentences;
  • Your first sentence is a transition from the previous paragraph.
  • Paraphrase the thesis;
  • Mention the arguments discussed in the assignment;
  • End with a conclusive sentence.


Tips on How to Write an SAT Essay

For a high SAT essay score, consider these SAT essay tips below to get a good feel of how to create a great exam paper. They’ll give you a solid understanding of how to SAT in order to get a decent score.

How to Get a Good Score on SAT

  • SAT Essay Prompts Are Essential. Analyze the provided promptly. It can give you hints about the writer’s intent.
  • Introductions Are Essential. Ease your reader into the topic. Focus their attention and remember - it sets the stage for the rest of your essay.
  • Use Your Vocabulary & Effective Language. Only use formal language. Don’t repeat points, and watch your grammar. Avoid using simple words, slang, and writing in the first person.
  • Avoid Going Off-Topic. Keep your essay precise in regards to the source. It is essential to show the examiner that you have read and understood it.
  • Practice Makes Perfect. Looking at SAT essay examples will help you understand how the essay should be written. Practice writing your paper using an SAT essay sample as a reference.

What Is an Average SAT Essay Score?

An average SAT essay score is 5\4\5 (for reading\analysis\writing). But you don’t really want to aim for an average SAT essay score. You need to land above that if you want your application to benefit from it.

You have to consider several factors if you want to get a good SAT essay score. Here they are:

You have to demonstrate your proficiency in all three in order to get a perfect score. First, you have to show that you have a thorough understanding of the subject matter of your essay. There is no place for even the slightest missteps. You want to show that you have knowledge of the facts and can interpret them well.

Analysis has to do with the personal conclusions you draw in your essay. You have to show that your writing is not just a stream of consciousness. Your thesis should be well-thought-out and supported by relevant and strong evidence.

Finally, the writing aspect is about presentation. Here you need to show that you have a strong command of language. It’s not only about grammar. Even the particular choice of words matters. How well you form your thoughts will determine your writing score. You should also watch your writing style. For a serious academic paper like this one, it should always be formal. No matter the subject.

So what is a good SAT essay score? It’s the result of your careful consideration of source material, your argument, and your form.

Is SAT Now Optional?

SAT is indeed optional. Very few colleges still practice this approach to applicant screening. But you can still take this test if you’d like to showcase your formidable writing skills. Will it help you when applying to top universities? For example, does Harvard require SAT essay submissions? Ivy League institutions like Harvard have also opted to take SAT test score submission during the application process optional. If you want to get an edge in a competitive environment like this, you have to research modern methods of applicant assessment. Like writing a personal statement.

Should I Take SAT?

Well, that depends on your goals. For example, if you are going for a major that has to do with analytical writing - an SAT test with an essay is a great way to show your skills and talent. But you shouldn’t obsess over it if you’re not entirely sure you’d be able to get a good score. There are alternative ways to show your writing off.

SAT Essay Examples

Check out these SAT essay examples to get a further grasp of how to write an outstanding paper. Feel free to use them as a reference.

Paul Bogard’s “Let There Be Dark” illustrates a large variety of rhetorical writing methods to create a key message. The message being: before the almost infinite list of benefits of the night’s natural darkness is completely lost, people should make more effort to decrease light pollution.
Dr. John’s “The Classics” argues that the enthusiasm of modern children of English literature in the classroom is at the lowest it could possibly be. He argues that there can be some extreme consequences for the survival of classic texts. The claim, itself, mentions classroom surveys that have taken place in high schools across the country.

Don’t Know How to Start?

Have you read the whole article and found yourself in a situation where you type " write my essay online "? Start from structuring your ideas. Writing an outline and a pinch of professional writing help can put you onto the right path to writing your SAT essay paper.

You can also look for SAT essay prompts if you want to practice a bit before the actual exam.

SAT Topics: Best Ideas

The best ideas for an SAT practice essay come in the form of prompts. You are unlikely to find the same exact prompt you have been practicing with on your SAT exam. But it will give you enough experience to feel confident in your writing abilities.

  • Write an essay in which you explain how Volodymyr Zelensky builds an argument to persuade his audience that the democratic countries must unite to help the Ukrainian cause.
  • How does the availability of information influence our perception of global issues?
  • Analyze and evaluate societal constructs and stereotypes in regard to different age groups
  • Analyze and evaluate the importance of factors of competition and cooperation in relation to humanity’s technological progress.
  • Consider and analyze potential issues of creating a new society in isolation from the rest of humanity. For example, a colony on a faraway planet.

The SAT test is slowly going out of fashion. The pandemic has only reinforced this trend. Despite that, it still remains a pretty comprehensive way to gauge one’s abilities. So, while it’s not mandatory to take the SAT test anymore, you can certainly take it anyway if you think it will help you showcase the skills relevant to your education.

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What is a Good SAT Essay Score?

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Is your SAT score enough to get you into your dream school?

Our free chancing engine takes into consideration your SAT score, in addition to other profile factors, such as GPA and extracurriculars. Create a free account to discover your chances at hundreds of different schools.

Students taking the latest version of the SAT have a lot of questions about the Essay section in particular. When the College Board redesigned the SAT in 2016, the Essay section was the aspect of the test that changed most substantially.

As a result, it is the section that is least understood. Keep reading to learn how we approach setting a good target score for this often enigmatic section of the SAT.

What Is the SAT Essay?

Students taking the optional Essay section are provided with a written argument and asked to analyze it. Check out the College Board’s example prompt with sample graded responses to get a sense of what the exam looks like.

Is the SAT Essay Required?

This is the only optional section of the SAT. It does not impact your overall score out of 1600. Instead, your Essay grade stands alone on your score report.

While the College Board does not require the SAT Essay, certain schools do. 

Schools that Require the SAT Essay

  • All of the University of California schools
  • Benedictine University
  • City University London
  • Delaware State University
  • DeSales University
  • Dominican University of California
  • Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University
  • Howard University
  • John Wesley University
  • Kentucky State University
  • Martin Luther College
  • Molloy College
  • Schreiner University
  • Soka University of America
  • Southern California Institute of Architecture
  • Texas A&M University—Galveston
  • United States Military Academy (West Point)
  • University of North Texas
  • West Virginia University Institute of Technology
  • Western Carolina University

how to write a good sat essay

Discover how your SAT score affects your chances

As part of our free guidance platform, our Admissions Assessment tells you what schools you need to improve your SAT score for and by how much. Sign up to get started today.

Additionally, these schools do not require the SAT Essay but recommend it.

Schools that Recommend the SAT Essay

  • Abilene Christian University
  • Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences
  • Allegheny College
  • Amherst College
  • Art Institute of Houston
  • Augsburg University
  • Austin College
  • Caldwell University
  • California State University, Northridge
  • Central Connecticut State University
  • Central Michigan University
  • Cheyney University of Pennsylvania
  • Coastal Carolina University
  • Colby College
  • College of Wooster
  • Colorado School of Mines
  • Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art
  • Corban University
  • Cornerstone University
  • Dallas Christian College
  • Duke University
  • Eastern Illinois University
  • Eastern Nazarene College
  • Easternn University
  • Endicott College
  • Five Towns College
  • Gallaudet University
  • George Washington University
  • Georgia Highlands College
  • Greenville University
  • Gwynedd Mercy University
  • High Point University
  • Hofstra University
  • Holy Family University
  • Husson University
  • Indiana University South Bend
  • Indiana University Southeast
  • Indiana Wesleyan University
  • Inter American University of Puerto Rico: Barranquitas Campus
  • Juilliard School
  • Keiser University (West Palm Beach)
  • Lehigh University
  • Madonna University
  • Manhattan College
  • Marymount California University
  • Massachusetts Maritime Academy
  • McMurry University
  • Mercy College
  • Modern College of Design
  • Montana Tech of the University of Montana
  • Morehouse College
  • Mount Saint Mary College
  • Mount St. Joseph University
  • National-Louis University
  • New Jersey City University
  • Nichols College
  • North Park University
  • Occidental College
  • Ohio University
  • Oregon State University
  • Purdue University Northwest
  • Randall University
  • Randolph-Macon College
  • Reading Area Community College
  • Rowan University
  • Rutgers University—Camden Campus
  • Rutgers University—Newark Campus
  • Saint Michael’s College
  • Seton Hill University
  • Shiloh University
  • Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania
  • Silver Lake College of the Holy Family
  • Southern Illinois University of Carbondale
  • Southern Oregon University
  • Spring Hill College
  • Sul Ross State University
  • SUNY Farmingdale State College
  • SUNY University at Stony Brook
  • Tarleton State University
  • Texas A&M International University
  • Texas A&M University
  • Texas State University
  • The King’s College
  • United States Air Force Academy
  • University of Evansville
  • University of La Verne
  • University of Mary Hardin—Baylor
  • University of Massachusetts Amherst
  • University of Minnesota: Twin Cities
  • University of New England
  • University of Northwestern—St. Paul
  • University of the Virgin Islands
  • University of Toledo
  • University of Washington Bothell
  • VanderCook College of Music
  • Virginia Union University
  • Wabash College
  • Webb Institute
  • Webber International University
  • Wesleyan College
  • William Jewell College

Should You Take the SAT Essay Section?

We recommend taking the Essay section just in case you want to apply to one of the schools that requires or recommends it. If you’re absolutely sure you won’t apply to any of these schools, you can skip it. Just know that you can’t retake the SAT essay alone, so if you change your mind and want to apply to a school that requires the Essay section, you’ll have to retake the whole test.

How Is the SAT Essay Scored?

Your essay will be evaluated on three criteria—Reading, Analysis, and Writing.

The Reading grade is meant to gauge how well you understand the passage content. Did you absorb the information you just read? Especially when the details are not intuitive, your readers will be checking to see that you read closely and caught the nuance of the piece.

The Analysis score relates to how well you represented the argument that the writer made. Your goal in the Essay section should be to determine what the writer’s main argument is and describe how they present it. 

Finally, your score in Writing reflects your own command over the English language. Your capacity to write clear, well-structured sentences that use a wide range of vocabulary will determine this grade.

Two readers each give the essay a score between 1 and 4, depending on how well each reader thinks you did in the three categories. Their grades are then summed to give you a three-part grade. The highest grade you can receive is 8, 8, 8, while the lowest possible score is 2, 2, 2. To give an example, one student may score a 5, 4, 4, which would mean that their readers submitted the following feedback:

What’s a Good, Average, and Bad SAT Essay Score?

In 2019, the mean score on the Reading and Writing for the SAT Essay was a 5. For the Analysis section, the mean score was a little lower at 3, simply because Analysis is a skill that high school students spend less time honing than Reading or Writing.

For a detailed breakdown of how 2019’s test takers performed, here are a few score distributions:

sat essay reading score distribution chart

Here’s a rough breakdown of the percentile scores based on the most recent College Board data. Here’s how this chart works: say you scored a 6 on the Reading section. According to the data, that means that you performed better than 70% of other essay writers.

SAT Essay Score Percentile Rankings

Source: College Board and CollegeVine data analysis

How Should You Understand and Improve Your SAT Essay Score?

Unless your SAT Essay score is rock-bottom, you should not feel the need to retest just to improve your Essay score. If you received a low score that you feel isn’t representative of your writing abilities, focus on crafting stellar college essays instead of retaking the SAT just for the Essay section.

If you were unhappy with your SAT Essay score AND your overall SAT score, however, then you should consider retaking the test with the Essay section. 

Here are a few tips on how to improve your SAT Essay score:

1. Annotate the passage. Read carefully. Start by boxing the main argument of the passage, then put a star next to three or four places where the author employs a strategy to win the readers over. These may include:

  • Refuting a counter argument
  • Raising a question
  • Providing anecdotal evidence
  • Using statistics to support a claim
  • Citing historical examples
  • Employing rhetorical devices, such as metaphor

2. State the main point of the passage author. Make it clear that you understand what the author is trying to say by stating their thesis clearly in your essay response. No one reading your essay should have any doubt as to what you think the main point of the passage is.

Make the author’s thesis clear at the beginning of your response as well as in your concluding paragraph. Tie back to it often within your body paragraphs too.

3. Outline before you write. Spend 3-5 minutes organizing your thoughts. Build up 2-4 points about the argument’s structure. Think of yourself as a debate coach. Give feedback on the persuasion tactics the author used. Which ones were most effective? What could they have done to sway their audience even more?

Remembered the strategies you starred when you were annotating? These are the building blocks of the author’s argument, and your essay should provide analysis of how effectively these building blocks were used.

4. DO NOT include your personal opinion. The essay exists to assess whether you can analyze an argument. It has nothing to do with your personal views. If you find yourself defending or disagreeing with the passage, that is a good sign that you are missing a chance to analyze the argument’s structure.

5. Proofread your essay. Give yourself 2 minutes towards the end of the section to improve the language you used. Search for spelling and grammar mistakes, as well as weak word choice. Replace monosyllabic words like “good” and “is” with more dynamic vocabulary, such as “striking” or “constitutes.” This is a quick and easy way to boost your Writing score.

For more advice on how to study for the Essay section, check out our How to Get a Perfect Score on the SAT Essay and The Ultimate Guide to the New SAT Essay .

Want to know how your SAT score impacts your chances of acceptance to your dream schools? Our free Chancing Engine will not only help you predict your odds, but also let you know how you stack up against other applicants, and which aspects of your profile to improve. Sign up for your free CollegeVine account today to gain access to our Chancing Engine and get a jumpstart on your college strategy!

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8 Best SAT Essay Examples To Prepare For Your Test

Are you looking for the top SAT essay examples? Take a look at our guide containing the best examples to prepare for your examination.

Are you busy preparing for the SAT essay? The College Board is responsible for administering the SAT, which is essential for determining college decisions. In addition, writing is important for every field of study, which is why the SAT values the essay. As a result, your SAT essay score can have an impact not only on the entirety of your test performance but also on your college admissions decisions. Therefore, it may be helpful to look at a few sample essay prompts, allowing you to determine how you can maximize your performance on your essay.

1. The Value of Struggle

2. the topic of greed, 3. politicians and personal character, 4. demonstrating a lack of knowledge, 5. fame and fortune, 6. truth and lies, 7. expectations and public figures, 8. quick reaction times, what should i write in my sat essay, how long should my sat essay be, what should i do before i write my sat essay.

Prompt: Do we only value the things that we struggle for?

Plan your response carefully, and make sure you support your point of view with specific examples. The examples can come from history, a personal anecdote from high school, or knowledge of particular subjects.

This is a very common type of SAT writing prompt. In the prompt, the essay alludes to absolutism. In this case, the absolute is that we only value things we struggle for. Unless we struggle for it, we will never love it. In general, taking an absolute point of view will unnecessarily pigeonhole you into an impossible argument. Therefore, it is essential to change your response slightly. Instead, it would help if you talked about situations where you value things you struggle for and do not value things you struggle for. Just because you do not struggle for it doesn’t mean it is not valuable.

For example, you may not necessarily have valued your relationships with your siblings. If you are lucky, you may get along well with your siblings without stressing about it. This could be an example you can use in your essay. Likewise, you value your relationships with your family members but do not struggle for them. Then, you might want to share an example of something that you value after struggling for it.

SAT essay examples: The topic of greed

Prompt: Is greed always a bad thing?

Greed is a driving force behind a lot of decisions that we make. There are some situations where greed is terrible and others where greed is good. You don’t want to take the standpoint that greed is always wrong. For example, greed is something that can help you maximize your score on the SAT. Because you want to go to an established college, someone could say you are greedy. It depends on how you use that motivation. Because you are channeling it for a positive force, such as doing well on the SAT, it is not necessarily bad. You can also talk about athletes who are greedy for success and decide to channel that motivation into excelling in their chosen field.

On the other hand, there are situations where greed might be bad. For example, you may want to point out a famous person who has gone to jail for financial misdeeds. You might even want to talk about Bernie Madoff , who ran one of the largest Ponzi schemes in history. He hurt many people out of greed and ended up paying a steep price for it. It would be best if you wrapped up the essay by discussing specific circumstances where greed is bad and others where greed is good. Then, you can talk about how that difference can guide our decisions and make us better people. 

Prompt: Should you consider the personal character of a politician before deciding to vote for that person?

Anyone who has recently paid attention to politics has likely seen many attack ads. They are trying to convince people to vote for politicians based on personal character instead of what they might do (or not) for the country. Even though the personal character is not necessarily the most important thing you should think about, it should play a role in your decision-making process.

As you write this essay, you may want to use an example of a situation where the personal character is important for deciding who to vote for. For example, you may want to talk about Richard Nixon, who was forced to resign after the press unveiled the Watergate scandal. While Richard Nixon did many great things in the office, such as opening up China, the Watergate scandal demonstrated that he could not be trusted. Because he lost the trust of the people, he would not be able to govern effectively, forcing him out of office.

Another example includes Bill Clinton, who is widely known to have cheated on his wife with Monica Lewinsky. Despite this, he was not forced to resign from office, and he is widely respected as a good president, if not a good person. He presided over one of the largest economic expansions in US history, and he was the last person to have a balanced budget. In this case, despite his personal character flaws, he was able to govern effectively.

There are plenty of other examples you can use to write this essay, but it all comes down to whether someone’s personal character has an impact on their ability to govern. If their individual character flaws do not impact their ability to govern effectively, then it might not impact their potential success as a leader. On the other hand, if someone’s personal character flaws completely remove their ability to govern effectively, then you may want to vote for someone else. You can use these general points to craft a strong essay. You might also be wondering, which colleges require SAT essay section for consideration .

Prompt: Are you required to admit your lack of knowledge before you are able to learn something?

This essay prompt is one that just about everyone can relate to. The premise of the essay is clear: if you feel like you already know everything, you will not be able to learn something new. At the same time, it is possible for you to learn something without admitting that you totally lack knowledge. You simply need to be open to a new point of view. You might be able to pull an example of this from the classroom.

For example, the first day you walked into chemistry class, you probably didn’t know the first thing about chemistry. You did not necessarily need to admit your lack of knowledge before you can start learning something new. This could be an example you can use that goes against the premise of the prompt.

On the other hand, there are situations where admitting a lack of knowledge can help you learn something new. For example, you may want to point out a discussion that you recently had with an expert in a certain area. By admitting that you did not know anything, you might have allowed that person to teach you. If you acted like you knew everything, that expert may not have wanted to teach you anything. By admitting your lack of knowledge, you open yourself up to new sources of information. 

To do well on this essay, you will need to specify when admitting a lack of knowledge can help you learn something and when it is unnecessary. That difference will help you maximize your SAT essay score. You might also be interested in these GRE writing examples .

SAT essay examples: Fame and Fortune

Prompt: Is fame always a good thing? 

Fame and fortune have been popular topics of discussion recently. There are many people who believe that famous people lead lives of comfort and luxury. Many people believe that they lead lives that the rest of us can only dream of. Even though it may look nice to be a famous person, it is not always a good thing. Therefore, you should immediately take the point of view that there are situations where fame can be good, but there are other situations where fame can be bad. 

You might want to start with an example of a situation where fame is good. You can talk about almost any famous athlete, actor, or actress. You can talk about how their fame has landed them a lot of endorsement deals, making them enormous sums of money that they can use to support a luxurious lifestyle, their children, and future generations. Clearly, there are situations where fame can be a good thing.

On the other hand, you will need to use examples where fame might not necessarily be a good thing. For example, you may want to talk about the tremendous mental health issues that Britney Spears has suffered because of her fame and her conservatorship. Or, you may want to talk about the mental health struggles that a lot of famous musicians have, such as Kurt Cobain (who ultimately committed suicide).

You might also want to talk about the tremendous anxiety that Naomi Osaka struggles with when she has to talk to the press. Despite her tennis success and fortune, she doesn’t always appear happy on the tennis court. Based on the examples you choose, you will ultimately have to decide when fame is a good thing and when fame is a bad thing. The answer varies from person to person, and there is not necessarily a right or wrong answer. You simply need to write a strong essay that supports your point of view. 

Prompt: Is it always important to tell 100 percent of the truth?

Growing up, we are always taught to tell the truth. It is easier to tell children that they should tell the truth no matter what. At the same time, life is not black and white. There are some situations where shades of grey matter. When you write this essay, you should not do it as a “yes or no” answer. Instead, you need to talk about when it is important to tell the truth and when telling a lie, even a lie of omission, is important.

For example, you may want to take the point of view that telling a lie is a good thing if it benefits the person listening. You might want to use an example of explaining life and death to a small child. If your child really loves your next-door neighbor, but your next-door neighbor is dying of cancer, you don’t necessarily want to tell the child that the neighbor has cancer. The child might not be able to understand this. Instead, you may want to say that the person is not feeling well.

On the other hand, there are plenty of situations where telling the truth is a good thing. For example, you definitely don’t want to lie to your significant other about major financial issues. You probably don’t want to lie to your family members about major events in your life. If you lie to people important to you, particularly if you hurt them, it can damage your relationship with them, causing irreparable harm. When you close this essay, you will have to define when it is okay to lie to someone and when it is not. You might find it easier to say that lying is okay when it benefits the person you are talking to. You will need to use specific examples to write a strong essay. 

Prompt: Do we expect too much from our public figures?

As a society, we tend to hold our public figures in high esteem. What this means is that we also hold them to a higher standard. Therefore, things that might not necessarily get us fired from our jobs could force a public figure to resign. At the same time, public figures are people, not superheroes. Therefore, do we expect too much from them?

You may want to start by discussing whether it is appropriate to place high expectations on the shoulders of public figures. After all, they have only earned that position by demonstrating that they may have more knowledge, wisdom, or personal capacity than the average person. Therefore, it should only make sense that we would hold them to a higher level. Then, you may want to share some of the high expectations we place on public figures. We expect them to defend the country, help those less fortunate, and foster scientific and economic growth. 

On the other hand, you may want to talk about situations where the expectations we have for public figures are not necessarily reasonable. For example, you may want to discuss the expectation that public figures should immediately end a global pandemic. Or, you may want to talk about situations where public figures fall short because of events outside their control.

For example, our public figures are still accountable to the law. They are not dictators and could fall victim to significant companies or politicians who do not cooperate with them. When you finish this essay, you may want to discuss the difference between reasonable and unreasonable expectations. How do you define reasonable and unreasonable? You may even want to take the point that what is reasonable or unreasonable can vary from person to person.

Prompt: Is it better for us to react instinctively in times of crisis?

They call them reflexes for a reason, you want to respond as quickly as possible when there is a crisis. Evolutionarily, we would expect our reflexes to guide us in the right direction, but that is not always the case. For this essay, you will need to specify when it is better to react instinctively and when it is better to take a slower approach.

For example, you might want to talk about slamming on the brakes when trying to avoid an accident. If a child crosses the street in front of you, you don’t have time to pause, think, and decide whether you want to swerve or stop. Therefore it would be best if you reacted instinctively. If you wait too long, you will hit the child, leading to a catastrophe. In this situation, your reflexes are good.

Then, there are situations where it is better to take a more thought-out approach. For example, you might want to talk about a politician behind a desk trying to deal with energy, climate, or military crises. It may be prudent for politicians to reach out to their advisers, get everyone’s input, and decide what to do next. To write a strong essay, you will have to decide when it is crucial to react instinctively and when it is essential to pause for a moment and take a step back. Then, if you choose strong examples, you can write a solid response.

Looking for more? Check out these SAT writing tips .

FAQs About SAT Essay Examples

It would help if you used specific, varied examples to write a strong essay. The models need to support your point of view. It would help if you tried to choose examples from your personal life, current events, and history to demonstrate an extensive knowledge base. With a bit of test prep, you could get a perfect score. 

There is no set length for your SAT essay. A five-paragraph essay is an excellent rule of thumb, but it is not required. It is more critical to show that you know how to organize your essay using paragraphs. There will be a time limit, so your essay cannot be super long. 

It is always helpful to spend a couple of minutes brainstorming and outlining your essay before you start writing. You only have so many sheets of paper, so you need your essay to be organized before you begin. Think about your central claim, your sentence structure, and word choice. Next, write your thesis statement, topic sentences, and examples you want to use before you start writing your new SAT essay. Then, step by step, you will have a template around which you can build your central idea.

For help with this topic, read our guide explaining what is persuasive writing ? If you’re still stuck, check out our general resource of essay writing topics .

how to write a good sat essay

Amanda has an M.S.Ed degree from the University of Pennsylvania in School and Mental Health Counseling and is a National Academy of Sports Medicine Certified Personal Trainer. She has experience writing magazine articles, newspaper articles, SEO-friendly web copy, and blog posts.

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Tips for Writing an Effective Application Essay

student in library on laptop

How to Write an Effective Essay

Writing an essay for college admission gives you a chance to use your authentic voice and show your personality. It's an excellent opportunity to personalize your application beyond your academic credentials, and a well-written essay can have a positive influence come decision time.

Want to know how to draft an essay for your college application ? Here are some tips to keep in mind when writing.

Tips for Essay Writing

A typical college application essay, also known as a personal statement, is 400-600 words. Although that may seem short, writing about yourself can be challenging. It's not something you want to rush or put off at the last moment. Think of it as a critical piece of the application process. Follow these tips to write an impactful essay that can work in your favor.

1. Start Early.

Few people write well under pressure. Try to complete your first draft a few weeks before you have to turn it in. Many advisers recommend starting as early as the summer before your senior year in high school. That way, you have ample time to think about the prompt and craft the best personal statement possible.

You don't have to work on your essay every day, but you'll want to give yourself time to revise and edit. You may discover that you want to change your topic or think of a better way to frame it. Either way, the sooner you start, the better.

2. Understand the Prompt and Instructions.

Before you begin the writing process, take time to understand what the college wants from you. The worst thing you can do is skim through the instructions and submit a piece that doesn't even fit the bare minimum requirements or address the essay topic. Look at the prompt, consider the required word count, and note any unique details each school wants.

3. Create a Strong Opener.

Students seeking help for their application essays often have trouble getting things started. It's a challenging writing process. Finding the right words to start can be the hardest part.

Spending more time working on your opener is always a good idea. The opening sentence sets the stage for the rest of your piece. The introductory paragraph is what piques the interest of the reader, and it can immediately set your essay apart from the others.

4. Stay on Topic.

One of the most important things to remember is to keep to the essay topic. If you're applying to 10 or more colleges, it's easy to veer off course with so many application essays.

A common mistake many students make is trying to fit previously written essays into the mold of another college's requirements. This seems like a time-saving way to avoid writing new pieces entirely, but it often backfires. The result is usually a final piece that's generic, unfocused, or confusing. Always write a new essay for every application, no matter how long it takes.

5. Think About Your Response.

Don't try to guess what the admissions officials want to read. Your essay will be easier to write─and more exciting to read─if you’re genuinely enthusiastic about your subject. Here’s an example: If all your friends are writing application essays about covid-19, it may be a good idea to avoid that topic, unless during the pandemic you had a vivid, life-changing experience you're burning to share. Whatever topic you choose, avoid canned responses. Be creative.

6. Focus on You.

Essay prompts typically give you plenty of latitude, but panel members expect you to focus on a subject that is personal (although not overly intimate) and particular to you. Admissions counselors say the best essays help them learn something about the candidate that they would never know from reading the rest of the application.

7. Stay True to Your Voice.

Use your usual vocabulary. Avoid fancy language you wouldn't use in real life. Imagine yourself reading this essay aloud to a classroom full of people who have never met you. Keep a confident tone. Be wary of words and phrases that undercut that tone.

8. Be Specific and Factual.

Capitalize on real-life experiences. Your essay may give you the time and space to explain why a particular achievement meant so much to you. But resist the urge to exaggerate and embellish. Admissions counselors read thousands of essays each year. They can easily spot a fake.

9. Edit and Proofread.

When you finish the final draft, run it through the spell checker on your computer. Then don’t read your essay for a few days. You'll be more apt to spot typos and awkward grammar when you reread it. After that, ask a teacher, parent, or college student (preferably an English or communications major) to give it a quick read. While you're at it, double-check your word count.

Writing essays for college admission can be daunting, but it doesn't have to be. A well-crafted essay could be the deciding factor─in your favor. Keep these tips in mind, and you'll have no problem creating memorable pieces for every application.

What is the format of a college application essay?

Generally, essays for college admission follow a simple format that includes an opening paragraph, a lengthier body section, and a closing paragraph. You don't need to include a title, which will only take up extra space. Keep in mind that the exact format can vary from one college application to the next. Read the instructions and prompt for more guidance.

Most online applications will include a text box for your essay. If you're attaching it as a document, however, be sure to use a standard, 12-point font and use 1.5-spaced or double-spaced lines, unless the application specifies different font and spacing.

How do you start an essay?

The goal here is to use an attention grabber. Think of it as a way to reel the reader in and interest an admissions officer in what you have to say. There's no trick on how to start a college application essay. The best way you can approach this task is to flex your creative muscles and think outside the box.

You can start with openers such as relevant quotes, exciting anecdotes, or questions. Either way, the first sentence should be unique and intrigue the reader.

What should an essay include?

Every application essay you write should include details about yourself and past experiences. It's another opportunity to make yourself look like a fantastic applicant. Leverage your experiences. Tell a riveting story that fulfills the prompt.

What shouldn’t be included in an essay?

When writing a college application essay, it's usually best to avoid overly personal details and controversial topics. Although these topics might make for an intriguing essay, they can be tricky to express well. If you’re unsure if a topic is appropriate for your essay, check with your school counselor. An essay for college admission shouldn't include a list of achievements or academic accolades either. Your essay isn’t meant to be a rehashing of information the admissions panel can find elsewhere in your application.

How can you make your essay personal and interesting?

The best way to make your essay interesting is to write about something genuinely important to you. That could be an experience that changed your life or a valuable lesson that had an enormous impact on you. Whatever the case, speak from the heart, and be honest.

Is it OK to discuss mental health in an essay?

Mental health struggles can create challenges you must overcome during your education and could be an opportunity for you to show how you’ve handled challenges and overcome obstacles. If you’re considering writing your essay for college admission on this topic, consider talking to your school counselor or with an English teacher on how to frame the essay.

Related Articles

The SAT is now digital for the first time. One test expert says the new format makes the test easier.

  • A new digital SAT is now being offered for the first time. 
  • The test is shorter, adaptive, and tests real-world skills.
  • One test expert says it's easier than past versions but clarifies it's still not an easy test. 

Insider Today

In March, the first US high school students took the SAT exam — digitally.

This switch to digital comes as many top-tier colleges, such as Dartmouth, Yale, and Brown, are reversing their decision to be exam-optional — a trend that started during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, a recent study suggests that test scores actually do predict academic performance and college success — better than high school grades.

Shaan Patel — the founder and CEO of Prep Expert, with more than two decades of experience with the popular college entrance exam — told Business Insider the test will be significantly different than in the past. It may even be easier.

The digital SAT has some content changes

For starters, the digital test will be shorter and adaptive. That means the test will get harder as the student progresses through it, but the level of difficulty will depend on how they performed on earlier questions.

According to Patel, the digital SAT is also more "student-friendly" than previous years.

For example, in the past, there was a section where students couldn't use the calculator, but on the digital SAT, Patel said a calculator could be used on all the questions.

"There's even a digital calculator built into the testing application, in case you don't have a graphing calculator," Patel said.

Related stories

In addition, the reading passages are a lot shorter in the new exam. The essay section has also been dissolved, and the grammar questions have now been integrated with the reading section.

"So it really tests your reading and writing together, which I think will be a welcome change for most people," Patel said.

Plus, there are new question types where students read notes and decipher what is most relevant.

"I think that's a super useful skill in the real world where you get a long email, and you have to sift through the important data," Patel said.

He added students no longer have to memorize difficult, obscure vocabulary words that were once required.

The digital SAT is easier

"The new question types are actually testing students in a much more real-world manner than the previous versions of the SAT," Patel said. "Overall, this test will be more relevant to real-world skills . So, I'm optimistic the changes will be good."

He said, in that regard, the SAT will be easier.

"But, I want to be careful about saying it's easy," Patel said. "I don't think it's easy because what's going to happen is with the adaptive testing structure…you are going to see harder questions as you go along, even though you're going to see fewer questions."

Prep for the SAT shouldn't change all that much

Patel recommended that all students download the College Board's Bluebook app , where they can take practice tests and familiarize themselves with the new adaptive feature.

"They must get used to not letting their brain become overused at the end of the test since that is when most students will encounter the hardest questions," Patel said.

But the most important piece of advice remained the same: prep early.

"I usually recommend getting started in 10th grade so that by the time the fall of 11th grade rolls around, you'll be ready to knock the PSAT out of the park," Patel said, "because the PSAT, especially this new digital PSAT , is more similar to the digital SAT than ever."

Watch: The SAT is getting a massive overhaul — and they’re ditching one of the most annoying parts

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Guest Essay

How the SAT Changed My Life

An illustration of a man lying underneath a giant SAT prep book. The book makes a tent over him. He is smiling.

By Emi Nietfeld

Ms. Nietfeld is the author of the memoir “Acceptance.”

This month, the University of Texas, Austin, joined the wave of selective schools reversing Covid-era test-optional admissions policies, once again requiring applicants to submit ACT or SAT scores.

Many colleges have embraced the test-optional rule under the assumption that it bolsters equity and diversity, since higher scores are correlated with privilege. But it turns out that these policies harmed the teenagers they were supposed to help. Many low-income and minority applicants withheld scores that could have gotten them in, wrongly assuming that their scores were too low, according to an analysis by Dartmouth. More top universities are sure to join the reversal. This is a good thing.

I was one of the disadvantaged youths who are often failed by test-optional policies, striving to get into college while in foster care and homeless. We hear a lot about the efforts of these elite schools to attract diverse student bodies and about debates around the best way to assemble a class. What these conversations overlook is the hope these tests offer students who are in difficult situations.

For many of us, standardized tests provided our one shot to prove our potential, despite the obstacles in our lives or the untidy pasts we had. We found solace in the objectivity of a hard number and a process that — unlike many things in our lives — we could control. I will always feel tenderness toward the Scantron sheets that unlocked higher education and a better life.

Growing up, I fantasized about escaping the chaos of my family for the peace of a grassy quad. Both my parents had mental health issues. My adolescence was its own mess. Over two years I took a dozen psychiatric drugs while attending four different high school programs. At 14, I was sent to a locked facility where my education consisted of work sheets and reading aloud in an on-site classroom. In a life skills class, we learned how to get our G.E.D.s. My college dreams began to seem like delusions.

Then one afternoon a staff member handed me a library copy of “Barron’s Guide to the ACT .” I leafed through the onionskin pages and felt a thunderclap of possibility. I couldn’t go to the bathroom without permission, let alone take Advanced Placement Latin or play water polo or do something else that would impress elite colleges. But I could teach myself the years of math I’d missed while switching schools and improve my life in this one specific way.

After nine months in the institution, I entered foster care. I started my sophomore year at yet another high school, only to have my foster parents shuffle my course load at midyear, when they decided Advanced Placement classes were bad for me. In part because of academic instability like this, only 3 percent to 4 percent of former foster youth get a four-year college degree.

Later I bounced between friends’ sofas and the back seat of my rusty Corolla, using my new-to-me SAT prep book as a pillow. I had no idea when I’d next shower, but I could crack open practice problems and dip into a meditative trance. For those moments, everything was still, the terror of my daily life softened by the fantasy that my efforts might land me in a dorm room of my own, with endless hot water and an extra-long twin bed.

Standardized tests allowed me to look forward, even as every other part of college applications focused on the past. The song and dance of personal statements required me to demonstrate all the obstacles I’d overcome while I was still in the middle of them. When shilling my trauma left me gutted and raw, researching answer elimination strategies was a balm. I could focus on equations and readings, like the scholar I wanted to be, rather than the desperate teenager that I was.

Test-optional policies would have confounded me, but in the 2009-10 admissions cycle, I had to submit my scores; my fellow hopefuls and I were all in this together, slogging through multiple-choice questions until our backs ached and our eyes crossed.

The hope these exams instilled in me wasn’t abstract: It manifested in hundreds of glossy brochures. After I took the PSAT in my junior year, universities that had received my score flooded me with letters urging me to apply. For once, I felt wanted. These marketing materials informed me that the top universities offered generous financial aid that would allow me to attend free. I set my sights higher, despite my guidance counselor’s lack of faith.

When I took the actual SAT, I was ashamed of my score. Had submitting it been optional, I most likely wouldn’t have done it, because I suspected my score was lower than the prep-school applicants I was up against (exactly what Dartmouth found in the analysis that led it to reinstate testing requirements). When you grow up the way I did, it’s difficult to believe that you are ever good enough.

When I got into Harvard, it felt like a miracle splitting my life into a before and after. My exam preparation paid off on campus — it was the only reason I knew geometry or grammar — and it motivated me to tackle new, difficult topics. I majored in computer science, having never written a line of code. Though a career as a software engineer seemed far-fetched, I used my SAT study strategies to prepare for technical interviews (in which you’re given one or more problems to solve) that landed me the stable, lucrative Google job that catapulted me out of financial insecurity.

I’m not the only one who feels affection for these tests. At Harvard, I met other students who saw these exams as the one door they could unlock that opened into a new future. I was lucky that the tests offered me hope all along, that I could cling to the promise that one day I could bubble in a test form and find myself transported into a better life — the one I lead today.

Emi Nietfeld is the author of the memoir “ Acceptance .” Previously, she was a software engineer at Google and Facebook.

The Times is committed to publishing a diversity of letters to the editor. We’d like to hear what you think about this or any of our articles. Here are some tips . And here’s our email: [email protected] .

Follow The New York Times Opinion section on Facebook , Instagram , TikTok , WhatsApp , X and Threads .


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