How to Crack The New SAT Essay?
Reading and Analyzing the Essay Passage
The SAT includes an optional rhetorical analysis essay. Your job is 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. If not, don't worry. The format is straightforward, and with some practice, you can learn how to write a good SAT essay.
THE "OPTIONAL" ESSAY
The Essay used to be a required part of the SAT Writing test, counting for about a third of the Writing score. Some colleges found the writing score to be helpful, while others did not, so when ETS rolled out the new SAT, they made the Essay "optional." The Essay score is now completely separate from your total score, so opting out of the essay will not have any effect on your 400–1600 score. Notice how we're using quotation marks whenever we say the Essay is "optional," though? You should consider the Essay to be optional for colleges, but not optional for you.
The problem is, some schools require the Essay, while others don't, and you can't do the Essay independently of the rest of the SAT. That means if you opt out of the Essay and later you realize you need it for your application, you can't simply redo the Essay: You have redo the entire SAT. So go ahead and write the Essay. You've already killed a Saturday morning, you're sitting in the testing room, and it's not ridiculously challenging to prepare for this Essay. Just write it.
Also, writing the Essay can make your college application look more attractive. Your Essay score will appear on every score report you send to colleges, regardless of whether or not the school requires an essay. Every school to which you apply will see that you took the initiative to write the Essay, which is a good thing.
YOUR ESSAY MISSION
In 50 minutes, you'll be required to read a text and write a logical, well-constructed analysis of the author's argument. The thing to remember here is that ETS is not asking you for your opinion on a topic or a text. Your essay will be an objective analysis of a speech or argument.
The prompt will be nearly the same every time, just with a different source text, and will be something like this:
As you read the passage below, consider how the author uses
- 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 aspects 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.
In the Essay, You Will:
- Carefully read a text
- Understand how an author appeals to a reader's logic, emotions, or morals
- Write a logical analysis of an argument
- Explain how style choices can affect an author's persuasiveness
In the Essay, You Will NOT:
- Give your opinion about a text
- Memorize examples from history or literature
- Have previous experience with the text
Two graders will read and score the essay on a 1–4 scale in three different categories: Reading, Analysis, and Writing.
4 = Advanced
3 = Proficient
2 = Partial
1 = Inadequate