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Guide to writing a SAT essay for all students

19 Oct 2016Guides

Your SAT Essay is a test of only one thing: SAT ESSAYS EXAMINE YOUR ABILITY TO MAKE A LOGICAL ARGUMENT AND SUPPORT IT WITH EVIDENCE IN A STRUCTURED MANNER.

Whether you're writing about "why we should wear helmets on bicycles" or explaining the proper course of action that America should follow to improve our economy, your essay is meant to do the same thing: prove a point. Logically.

While the SAT essay can be a complex topic, the basics of any essay are easy to explain, and if you adhere to the following guidelines, you're almost guaranteed to get a high score.

Every great essay is composed of the following elements:

  • What?
  • Why?
  • So what?
  • Prove it!

The what of your SAT essay is your thesis. The main idea. Before you write your essay, come up with a "what" that boils down your entire essay into one simple sentence. Think about it like this: if you were driving by someone going 100MPH and you needed to summarise your essay to them in the time that it took to drive by, what would you scream out the window? Whatever you'd scream is your thesis.

Each WORD OF YOUR ESSAY IS MEANT TO DO ONLY ONE THING: PROVE YOUR THESIS.

Next, up, you need to come up with good Why?s. Your why?s are your topic sentences. These are your basic, GENERAL answers to the question "why do you believe in your what?" The other great pieces of advice you can find in our article: What is academic style.

For instance, if your what is that "dogs are better than cats," your why?s could be:

  • Dogs are softer than cats
  • Dogs are friendlier than cats
  • Cats can give you rare, incurable diseases

An incredibly important thing to realise is that your why?s, or topic sentences, should NEVER CONTAIN EVIDENCE WITHIN THEM. Do NOT mix your thesis, your topic sentences, and your evidence. The ultimate flaw in essays kills their structure.

Next up is your evidence, which is composed of your so what? And you prove it! Real evidence needs to do two things:

  1. It needs to be relevant to your thesis.
  2. It needs to be true.

Remember that you're why?s do the general job of supporting your thesis. The evidence comes in to back up your why?s.

Let's say that you're what is that "silver is a better investment than gold," and you're why? Is that "John Herman says so." Well, that's pretty thin. Until your so what!? Shows up:

"John Herman is the world's leading expert in precious metal investment, with more than 50 years experience in the field." All of a sudden, your why? Seems essay like a pretty darn good piece of evidence. In the above example, when I said that "Dogs are friendlier than cats," my so what? Might be: "People only own pets to foster their positive emotions and gain companionship. By being so friendly, dogs improve your mood and provide you with a constant, loving companion." NOW THAT'S A RELEVANT PIECE OF EVIDENCE!

Finally, you need your prove it what most people think of as "evidence." For the silver/gold example, you prove it! Could be:

"In a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, John Herman said that "any smart person should be putting their money into silver right now. It's the best investment in the world, outstripping gold by 10 to 1." See what I did there? Did I prove that my why? Was true. In the dog/cat example, I might say: "In a recent study done by the veterinarians association of America, dogs were found to display 6.4 times as much affection as cats, with only 1/3rd the hostility."

Excellent essays can be boiled down to the following process:

  1. Make a point.
  2. Explain why you believe that point.
  3. Explain why your reasons for your belief are relevant.
  4. Show that those reasons are valid.

If you want to write an excellent essay, practice, practice, practice! To get more advice on how to write the perfect SAT essay.

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