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Flashcards in SAT Essay: Overview & Strategy Deck (35):

From the design team:

In order to use this product effectively, we on the design team want you to understand our approach to a confident selection process for SAT Writing.

We created a term called "flag" for any word or phrase that indicates the possible presence of a certain error.

(click to see more)

We are using the Brainscape CBR model to help you identify those "flags" that trigger you to make a specific check.  

As you go through the decks, you'll get faster and faster at linking the "flags" to a process of checklisting for errors.


About this deck:

For the Essay portion of the test, flash card order is of some importance.  Though the cards are meant to be independent enough to be helpful in any order, there may still be confusion.


If you are getting confused when the cards begin to appear in random order, you may go into the website and reset the order at any time.


What is the SAT writing assignment?

You must compose a 300+ word essay on a given prompt taken from a quote by a noteworthy person.


What type of essay should you expect to write?

You will have to write a persuasive essay.


How many minutes do you have to write your essay? How should you structure your time?

You have 25 minutes to write your essay

  • 5-7 minutes planning (on test booklet)
  • 16-19 minutes composing the essay
  • 1-2 minutes proofreading and making quick edits


What will you be instructed to write with -- and where?

You will be instructed to write in pencil only in the space provided.


What are some things that could cause you to not get full credit for the essay that you write?

  • Writing too lightly
  • Poor penmanship
  • Writing in pen
  • Writing outside the space provided
  • Writing off topic

Write large enough to be read when scanned, but small enough to fit 300+ words on two pages.


How important are grammar and spelling?

Nothing needs to be perfect, but errors that affect clarity, coherency, or effectiveness will impact your overall score.


What are the criteria for evaluating the essay?

There are three areas of focus in the criteria for evaluation:

  • demonstrating strong critical thinking through a developed point of view and appropriate examples / support
  • smooth-flowing and well-organized structure
  • effective use of language with varied and appropriate sentences


How is the essay scored?

Two high school or college English teachers (or their equivalent in skill set) will independently read and score your essay on a scale of 0-6.

Therefore, the maximum score is a 12.


How should you structure your essay?

You should write 4 or 5 paragraphs.

  • Intro
  • 2-3 body paragraphs
  • Conclusion


What should your first paragraph accomplish?

The first paragraph should...

  • Establish contact with the audience.
  • Clearly state your position and basic reasoning why you think the way you do.
  • Introduce the examples that support your point in the order that they follow in the body paragraphs.


What should the body paragraphs accomplish in the structure of the essay?

The body paragraphs present each example (one per paragraph) and relate them to the main sentence of the 1st paragraph.


What should the conclusion paragraph accomplish?

The conclusion should briefly...

  • Restate your main sentence.
  • Restate how your examples supported your point of view.
  • Connect back to the idea in the introduction.
  • Leave the audience wanting more.


Should you try to explore both sides of the question in your essay?

No. Although acknowledging the other side is acceptable, it harms the essay's unity to try to fully cover both sides of the question.

In 25 minutes, it should not be attempted.


What are some non-writing keys to a successful approach to the SAT essay?

Focus, time management, and good strategic use of scrap paper.


What makes the SAT essay more difficult than writing samples on other standardized tests?

The SAT writing test is more difficult because of the time limitation. 

25 minutes means a student must plan in about 5 minutes, compose at a speed of nearly 18 words per minute, and edit in less than 2 minutes


What is the best way for you to improve your understanding of SAT essay prompts?

The best way to improve that skill is practicing on sample questions.

(We'll go into how you can best do this later.)


What kinds of essay prompts are typical for the SAT?

SAT essay prompts usually involve value judgements...

  • how important is something (e.g. trust)
  • how important is something compared to this other thing?

...or questions of moral or societal obligations.

  • what should a person do or think


Which techniques can help you better analyze the prompt?

Try marking the keywords and clearly defining them before attempting to take a position.

This step ensures focus and clarity when you do the steps to answer the assignment prompt.


Find and define the keywords from this quote and prompt:

"Men kick friendship like a football, but it doesn't seem to crack, women treat it like glass, and it goes all to pieces." -- Anne Morrow Lindbergh

Prompt: Is the durability of friendship different within the sexes?

The keywords are "durability of friendship" and "different within the sexes".

"Durability of friendship" refers to how well friendship stands against rough or careless treatment.

"Different within the sexes" refers to how men treat friendships among men and how women treat them among women.


How should a student begin to practice for the SAT Writing section?

Evaluate your general writing skills in these areas:

  • Writing under pressure
  • General focus level
  • Prior knowledge
  • Relating ideas
  • Composing logical statements
  • Finding and assessing examples
  • Grammar and style


What should you do to improve your ability to deliver enough words to satisfy the demands of the SAT essay?

Practice writing under time pressure!

You could turn some of your writing tasks at school into timed tests with a goal of 18 words per minute.

Writing under time pressure is just a skill.  All skills are improved by practice.


How should you address a low focus level?

Practice minimizing distractions as you do your work.

Learn to turn off music, cell phones, etc. while working. Set a limited amount of time to do a task and do it, gradually increasing your focus time as you improve.

This problem will affect your performance on all sections of the SAT.  If you have a problem here, try to find a way to address it.


How can you improve your ability to use prior knowledge for effective examples on the SAT?

Concentrate on areas of strength. 

If you're stronger in literature, build up literature. If you're stronger in history, sharpen history.  If you're strong in neither, pick one.


How can you beef up your usable knowledge of literature for the SAT essay?

Use the College Board's list of the 100 best books to study for the SAT, as well as book summary websites.

Remember you only need enough knowledge of these books to write 4 to 5 sentences within a body paragraph.  Concentrate on books you've already studied.  Review your notebooks from English classes. Target 20-25 books to know, then go to summary websites and pull out details, put them into a graphic organizer, and study.  Instant knowledge!


How can you beef up your usable knowledge of history for the SAT essay?

Use timelines from textbooks or internet sources to check your familiarity of major figures and events. Study what you don't know.

The place to start is old notebooks.  You might even ask your history teacher to provide you notes (he or she probably has them on file) to study.  You need not be a master of history, but you do need to be able to write half a paragraph relating Julius Caesar to the concept of ambition, for example. 

In both cases, if you kept good notebooks from classes, reread them.


How do you address a difficulty in relating ideas?

A proactive approach where you consider a list of possible ideas to relate long before you sit down to take the test.

Example: "Success" may be defined as "reaching one's goal", but in order to write about that you'll need to relate goals to other words like money, fame, love, family, etc.


How do you get better at composing logical statements?

Practice composing logical statements with someone you acknowledge as a better writer.

Find someone with whom you're comfortable working. Some things in writing are much eaiser to learn with someone else.  Ask your English teacher for advice here too.


What should you do if you realize you have difficulty finding and assessing examples to use to support a position?

Proactive approach.  As you practice prompts, after you've picked your own brain, research excellent examples.

For "friendship", choose Hamlet and Horatio. Remember the example you choose should impress the two people reading the essay. 


What do you do if you realize you are weak in grammar and style?

Don't panic. You are not alone. 

When you practice doing the other portions of the SAT writing section, you'll receive guidance on how to improve grammar and style in your own writing.  Keep it in mind while you're practicing!


How should you divide your time in essay preparation vs. preparing for the critical reading and math of the SAT? 

Take a real practice test. If your number is an 8 or above on the essay, then target and work 10% of your practice time and concentrate on planning.

You may check our flashcards on planning the essay.  Structural problems related to ineffective planning are usually the reasons that the essay failed to earn a top score. 


How can you successfully use SAT prep books to prepare for the SAT essay?

Use them to sharpen your comprehension of the writing task and to assess your own skill.

Read and analyze the scoring rubric and sample essays by other students. Compare them to sample essays of your own.


What should you gather from other sources to help you prepare for the SAT essay?

You need a source for vocabulary and a source for practicising writing prompts.


How long should you expect to have to practice to improve in SAT writing?

Students build this skill at different rates, but with focused practice--even 5-10 hours, many students can improve their essay score by 2 points rather quickly.