How to write the SAT essay

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Here's a sample SAT essay topic:

You have twenty-five minutes to write an essay on the topic assigned below. DO NOT WRITE ON ANOTHER TOPIC. AN OFF-TOPIC ESSAY WILL RECEIVE A SCORE OF ZERO.

Think carefully about the issue presented in the following excerpt and the assignment below.

In his poem "In Memoriam," romantic poet Alfred Lord Tennyson expresses his view that loss is an unavoidable consequence of love. Yet, rather than shunning love because of this, Tennyson resolves to accept both the experience of love and the pain that inevitably comes with it. As he writes in his often quoted passage, "Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all."

Adapted from James R. Kincaid, Tennyson's Major Poems

Assignment: Are people unwise to pursue love even when they know it will cause them pain? Plan and write an essay in which you develop your point of view on this issue. Support your position with reasoning and examples taken from your reading, studies, experience, or observations.

DO NOT WRITE YOUR ESSAY IN YOUR TEST BOOK. You will receive credit only for what you write on your answer sheet.

So What Does This Really Mean?

You'll notice the instructions tell you to "think carefully about the issue being presented," and "plan and write an essay in which you develop your point of view on this issue." How much time do you have for all of this planning, developing, AND writing? Twenty-five minutes. That means ETS is not expecting a polished work on par with Hemingway; in fact, your essay will be graded as if it were your rough draft (which it is). So you should really take a couple of minutes to figure out your viewpoint and to jot down a few examples before you begin writing.

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