SAT Study Guide/Part 4 - The Writing Section/The Essay

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The First WELL of the Excellent Essay:



The Importance of Structure

·        Just starting to write as soon as you read the essay prompt is a BAD STRATEGY! Unfortunately, this is how many students approach the test. Why do they do this? Because most students do not realize that THE TEST GRADERS ARE EVALUATING YOUR EFFORTS BASED IN LARGE PART ON THE ORGANIZATION OF YOUR IDEAS.

·        Taking 2 minutes to OUTLINE YOUR ESSAY enables you to CREATE A ROADMAP for your essay.

·        Writing your essay without first creating a general outline is like taking a car trip without first having any sense of the directions you’ll need to follow in order to arrive at your destination.

·        Without a map travelers get lost. Without an outline, student essays ramble.

·        Take the two minutes to create a map of your essay – it is time very well spent. (And NOT, contrary to popular misconception, time wasted.)


Success Secret for the Test





·        Is there a sensible progression of ideas?

·        Does the student logically move from Point A to Point B?

·         Does the essay have a Beginning, a Middle and an End?



·        It creates Focus.

·        It saves time. (Really, it does. When you know where you are going, it’s a lot easier to get there.)

·        It provides an intelligent Road Map that prevents rambling.


Reminder: Those who outline tend to succeed in writing focused, well-structured essays. Those who do not, tend to ramble and run out of time.


What to do before you write your essay:

·        Understand what the essay prompt is asking of you.

·        THINK before you write. (Thinking is good – just writing is bad. Unfortunately, too many students do NOT think before they begin to write.)

·        TAKE TWO MINUTES TO OUTLINE YOUR THOUGHTS because outlining provides focus, structure, purposefulness and clarity – all of which are elements students will be evaluated on by the Test Graders.


How to Create an Outline:

The Four Paragraph SAT Essay of Excellence


NOTE: Being that this is a timed test, students WILL NOT HAVE TIME to elaborate upon every possible aspect the question touches upon. Test Makers know this. Test Graders know this. Students who score well know this, too. By coherently and intelligently responding to the essay prompt in four well-written paragraphs students will enable themselves to earn an excellent score on the Essay Writing Section of the SAT.


There are Four Main Sections a student wants to outline before they begin to write their essay.


·        Paragraph 1The Main Idea (including a Thesis Statement)

·        Paragraph 2Supporting Paragraph #1 (Point A)

·        Paragraph 3Supporting Paragraph #2 (Point B)

·        Paragraph 4The Concrete Conclusion (re-connecting to the Thesis)


Outline these four Big Points in two minutes BEFORE YOU BEGIN!!


NOTE: Yes, this is a formula - a formula for success on the SAT. With only 25 minutes to complete a well-written essay, strategy is a HUGE factor for success on this test.


Put yourself in the shoes of a Test Grader.

If a Test Grader sees that you can write four well-structured paragraphs that progress from Point to Point, including a Thesis Statement and a Conclusion, you are on you way to an excellent score. Remember, all you need to do is write four paragraphs – there is no time for a 33 page doctoral thesis on the essay prompt - so do NOT try to write one.


PITFALLS: Watch out!

·        Avoid the temptation to skip the outline process.

·        Avoid the temptation to abandon the outline after taking the time to create it.


Samples Outlining Activities:

Sample #1

DIRECTIONS: Please explain the following quote and whether or not you agree or disagree with the statement.


Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm. (Ralph Waldo Emerson)


Two-Minute General Outline:

Paragraph 1 - You must care about something in order to really create greatness.

Paragraph 2 - I agree, being negative will never result in producing amazing results.

Paragraph 3 – Examples exist everywhere proving this point.

Paragraph 4 – Without genuine passion, excellence is unattainable.


Sample #2

DIRECTIONS: Please explain the following quote and whether or not you agree or disagree with the statement.


The person who lies for you will lie against you. (Harry Truman)


Two-Minute General Outline:

Paragraph 1 – A liar is a liar.

Paragraph 2 – Betrayal will eventually happen.

Paragraph 3 – Honesty is a principle without exception.

Paragraph 4 – People who lie for you reveal their true character so beware.



Though these are only rough statements, one can see that these essays now have a clear sense of direction – and as a result they will be MUCH EASIER to write because a road map is now in place telling us where to go and what to accomplish.






The Second WELL of the Excellent Essay:



The Importance of Support

·        Test Makers and Test Graders are looking for the strong, solid support of ideas in student essays.

·        An idea without strong, solid support is like a roof without a strong, solid foundation – it is going to collapse.

·        Many students will offer a strong, solid idea but not follow it up -- as a result, they do not earn excellent scores for their efforts.


How to Support: Know (and Use) The Umbrella Theory

Think of the four main points of your outline as if each of them were an umbrella.

·        Items properly placed under the umbrella are shielded from a storm of point subtraction.

·        Items not placed properly under the umbrella are at risk of being rained on by a storm of point subtraction.

·        Supporting ideas that are sensible and properly placed will fit nicely underneath the umbrellas of your outline.

·        Rambling statements that shoot off in all sorts of nutty directions will not fit under your umbrella.


What to support: Paragraph 1 - THE MAIN IDEA/THESIS STATEMENT

Each Well-Written Essay has a Thesis Statement that needs to be supported.

·        What is a Thesis Statement?

·        A Thesis statement expresses the MAIN IDEA OF THE ENTIRE ESSAY.

·        Why do you need a Thesis Statement?

·        You need a thesis statement because it controls the direction, focus and purpose of the essay.

·        How do you create a Thesis Statement?

·        A great way to create a thesis statement that will ensure you address the question you have been asked is to CONVERT THE QUESTION PROMPT INTO A THESIS STATEMENT.


How do you support a Thesis Statement?

·        The well-written thesis statement will be like an umbrella for your entire essay – everything will fit underneath its scope.

·        The TOPIC SENTENCES of Paragraphs 2, 3 and 4 will be the specific tent poles of support for your thesis by the time you are finished. (More on that in a bit.)

·        Remember, support for the thesis statement will be found throughout the entire essay. In one sense, the purpose of the entire essay is to support the thesis.


Don’t forget…




1.      Read the Question Prompt.

2.      Change the Prompt from a question into a firm statement.


Question Prompt: Why do you like vanilla ice cream?

Thesis: Many reasons exist for me to like vanilla ice cream.

Question Prompt: Do you agree that the United States should avoid raising taxes?

Thesis: I completely disagree with the idea that the United States should avoid raising taxes.


3.      Use this converted statement as the basis for your thesis.


More examples:


Question: Considering that most teenage driving fatalities occur after dark, do you believe that teenage drivers should be banned from driving at night?

Converted to Thesis Statement: Because most teenage driving fatalities occur after dark, I believe teenagers should not be allowed to drive their cars after the sun sets.


Question: If at the age of eighteen a person can join the military and die for their country, do you feel that they should then also be allowed to go into a bar and be served an alcoholic beverage?

Converted to Thesis Statement: If a person can join the military and die for their country, they should definitely be able to enter a bar and be served an alcoholic beverage.


Tips to Remember about Thesis Statements:

·        They need to be direct and focused.

·        They need to serve as an umbrella which can be used for the entire essay.

·        They must address a specific topic and put forth a clear main idea.

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What to support: Paragraph 2 - THE TOPIC SENTENCE

·        Paragraph 2 will begin with a TOPIC SENTENCE.

·        This topic sentence will have been generated from your outline.

·        This topic sentence will need to be supported by the paragraph that follows.


·        What is a Topic Sentence?

The topic sentence will directly state the focus, direction and purpose of the paragraph.

·        Why do you need a Topic Sentence?

A Topic Sentence is needed for two distinct reasons:

1.      So that the point of the paragraph is clear and precise.

2.      So that the thesis statement is provide with solid support.

·        How do you create a Topic Sentence?

Since you will know what the focus and purpose of Paragraph 2 needs to be (because you did an outline that sketched out the main idea of this paragraph before you started writing this essay… remember section 1, Well-Structured?) you will know what you are going to be writing about and why. Take your topic sentence from your outline. 

·        How do you support a Topic Sentence?

There are 3 Major Types of Support in the Excellent Essay:

1.  Logical reasoning.

EX: If THIS happens, then THAT will be the result.

2. Personal Examples.

EX: Once, when I was younger, I learned THIS the hard way.

3.      Specific, vivid details.

EX: Green slime oozed from the nostril of the dead gazelle.

Remember, topic sentences are also like an umbrella.

·        Use logical reasoning, personal examples and specific, vivid details to support your topic sentences.


Students will want to include all three types of support for their topic sentences in order to score well on the SAT Essay Writing Section.

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·        Paragraph 3 will begin with a TOPIC SENTENCE.

·        This topic sentence will have been generated from your outline.

·        This topic sentence will need to be supported by the paragraph that follows.


NOTE: For an effective, excellent essay the topic sentence of Paragraph 3 will address A DIFFERENT/OPPOSITE PERSPECTIVE from the one addressed by Paragraph 2.





Students encounter problems when they do not address a different/opposite perspective in Paragraph 3:

·        Students who only look at the question from one perspective do not demonstrate the sophisticated thought process test graders like to see.

·        Students who only look at the question from one perspective tend to be repetitive in their thoughts and ideas.

·        Students who only look at the question from only one angle tend to not score as high as those who view the question from a different/opposite perspective.


How to Create a Different/Opposite Perspective for Paragraph 3:

·        Think in terms of, “The Other Side of the Coin.”

·        Take the other side of the argument.

·        Play “Devil’s Advocate.”

·        Change sides for a minute to consider all angles.

For example…

·        If paragraph 2 is discussing the need for teenage drivers to stay off the road at night, paragraph 3 can address why teenage drivers might argue that they deserve to be able to drive on the road at night.

·        If paragraph 2 is arguing that being able to fight and die as a soldier in the military has nothing to do with being able to responsibly handle being served an alcoholic beverage in a bar, then paragraph 3 can talk about how silly it is that being served alcohol requires more maturity than being asked to handle a weapon in the army.



Good phrases to incorporate in Paragraph 3:

·        However…

·        On the other hand…

·        Another way of looking at this is…

·        Opponents might say…

·        While most may agree, there are others who feel…

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 What to support: THE CONCLUSION


Each Well-Written SAT Essay has a Concrete Conclusion!


Paragraph 1 + Paragraph 2 + Paragraph 3 add up to Paragraph 4 (The Conclusion)


What is a Conclusion?

·        A conclusion is a definite ending whereby the reader of the essay will feel that the ideas are tied together and that the essay has been completed.

Why do you need a Conclusion?

·        Essays need endings. Including a conclusion shows the reader you understand the proper structure for the SAT essay and have implemented it successfully.

How do you create a conclusion?

·        Think of your essay as if it were a circle. You started at one point and now (in the conclusion) you need to bring everything back around again to complete the loop.


Techniques a student can use to craft a strong conclusion.

·        Restate and re-affirm your position.

·        Offer a solution to a problem.

·        Make a recommendation for a course of action.

·        Summarize your major points.

·        Restate your thesis.


Conclusion examples:

1)         In conclusion, teenage drivers are dangerous after dark and should be prohibited from taking the wheel at night. Too many pieces of evidence demonstrate that their general recklessness presents real peril after the sun has set. Stopping them from taking the road doesn’t just protect them, it protects all of us.


2)         Of all the crazy laws in our country, the one that says an eighteen year old can die for the American flag but not have a beer in a bar before doing so is the dumbest. Sure, people can argue about how the drinking age being set at twenty-one has some advantages but all in all, if I were thinking about serving my country, I’d find it ridiculous that Uncle Sam will permit me to shoot a man before sharing a glass of wine with him.


Keep in mind…

·        The conclusion is the final say.

·        The purpose of the conclusion is to hammer home an idea and make a point.

·        This is no time for wishy-washy language nor unclear positions. Take a side and assert your belief. Strength counts.


DO’s for the conclusion…

·        Tie up the major points of the essay.

·        Use strong, forceful language that MAKES A POINT.

·        Give the reader a sense that the essay is completely finished.

·        Hammer home an idea and let the reader know precisely the position the author of the essay has taken on the subject matter being discussed.

·        Draw a direct line to the thesis statement.


DON’T’s for the conclusion…

·        Start talking about new points and side issues that haven’t been mentioned in the essay prior to this paragraph.

·        Give the reader a sense that the essay might go on and may not be finished with yet.

·        Use weak, soft language that doesn’t really make a point about anything in particular.

·        Doesn’t leave an impression that the author of the essay has any particular belief about the subject matter being discussed.

·        Draws no connection to the thesis statement.



·        Conclusions can be short (after all, this is a timed test and it might just come down to the last few nitty-gritty moments) but short conclusions can be effective.

·        Not writing a conclusion, however, is ineffective and will lower your score.




Two more Principles of the Well-Supported Essay you MUST use to Earn Higher Scores:


1. Use an example from your Personal Experience.

Test Graders are looking for you to support your essay with personal experience.

·        Your own life.

·        A friend’s life.

·        A family member’s life.


Test Graders want to see the generalities of the ideas you write about exemplified through concrete, real-life examples taken from your own personal experience.


If I were writing an essay about the need to keep teenagers off the road at night, I might want to tell the story about the neighborhood teenager who crashed his mother’s new car and ended up in a wheelchair three days after he first got his license. Why?

·        It’s got relevance.

·        It’s got juicy details.

·        It is unique. (Out of all the people taking the SAT in the entire country, I am probably the only one who can tell such a story because it really happened in my life.)




2. Be Specific, Use Details

Why be specific and use details?

Test graders read lots and lots of papers. Lots of them are dull papers, too. Exciting language will stand out and capture their attention.

·        Bland language lays flat on the page.

·        Descriptive language leaps off the page.

·        General thoughts put readers to sleep.

·        Specific details make readers pay attention.



Students MUST use descriptive language in order to achieve high scores!!


Never use the word GOOD!

Use fantastic, amazing, incredible, tremendous, spectacular, extraordinary, unbelievable, phenomenal, stupendous, remarkable, astonishing, etc…

Never use the word BAD!

Use horrible, disgusting, terrible, appalling, dreadful, horrifying, detestable, hideous, abominable, offensive, despicable, etc…


Enhance Your Descriptions by Tapping the Five Senses

·        Write about how the sunshine’s sizzle sounded like a Sunday morning omelet.

·        Write about how the old car smelled like a bad tuna fish sandwich.

·        Write about how the baby’s skin felt like the petal of an orchid.

·        Write about how the fresh rain tasted like an angel kissing your tongue.

·        Write about how the broken computer looked like a fallen soldier.




PITFALLS: Watch out!

·        Not following your outline.

·        Making generalized statements that lack support.

·        Not including personal experience.

·        Using dull, non-descriptive language.

The Third WELL of the Excellent Essay:



·        The Importance of Well-Reasoned: Simple, Strong and Straightforward.

With only 25 minutes to write an excellent SAT essay a student must know what they can and cannot accomplish. Almost all of the topics could lend themselves to 5 page typed papers if a student were given the time to write one.

            This is NOT what the Test Graders are looking for.

Test Graders are looking for students to demonstrate solid, strong proficiency in the area of essay writing when they only have a limited amount of time. The secret to successfully accomplishing this is found in the three S’s: SIMPLE, STRONG AND STRAIGHTFORWARD.

·        Make SIMPLE Arguments

Being Simple does not mean being stupid, unsophisticated or unintelligent. Being simple means being; clear, precise and achievable.

Simple equals Clear.

·        On a timed test, the clarity of an argument adds to a student’s score. Some students try to tackle too much and get embroiled in convoluted thought processes that tangle them up more than they help them out. BEING CLEAR allows you to score higher.

Simple equals Precise.

·        On a timed test, the preciseness of an argument adds to a student’s score. Communicating a specific idea in a clear-cut manner allows a Test Grader to see evidence that the student can fashion a distinct, precise perspective in a limited amount of time, which allows you to score higher.

Simple equals Achievable.

·        On a timed test, completing one’s thoughts - and not leaving ideas or essays incomplete - adds to a student’s score. Many students begin elaborate, complicated patterns of logic that require 26 sentences to explain. This makes it very tough for them to finish the essay and opens the door up for them to make avoidable mistakes like constructing run-on sentences, engaging in convoluted logic or simply not finishing the essay because they have run out of time.

*You do not want to run out of time. As discussed earlier, you need a strong conclusion to score well. If you try to tackle an overly complicated thought process, you might not finish in the allotted time frame. ACHIEVING COMPLETION OF YOUR ESSAY IN THE TIME ALLOWED IS A BIG PART OF SCORING WELL. Simplicity allows you to do this.

·        Make STRONG Arguments

Break out the big guns right away! Find your biggest, most solid, most forceful, most dominant, #1 point and ADDRESS IT FIRST!!!

Some students have 2 small points and then one really big one and they figure that they will save the biggest one for last and go with the smaller ones first. This is a bad strategy for the SAT essay!

            Remember, on a holistically graded test such as this, strong impressions count and the best way to make a really strong impression is by going with your number 1, biggest, strongest, most influential point first. Besides, there might not even be enough time to get to your #1 argument if you wait. (And wouldn’t that be a shame if you had saved your best for last but never got a chance to use your best due to time constraints?)


·        Each paragraph should make a specific, solid point.

·        Each sentence should make a specific, solid point that relates to the overall, specific, solid point of the paragraph.

·        Use your best first.

·        Make STRAIGHTFORWARD Arguments

Avoid over-complicated, intricate, sophisticated patterns of logic and reasoning. They suck up tons of time, open up the door for too many simple grammatical and punctuation mistakes to happen and they tend to cause students to ramble and go on straying tangents. Remember the Umbrella Theory? Arguments that stray from underneath the umbrella of the main point (either of the topic sentence or of the thesis statement) open up a student’s test to a rainstorm of point subtraction.

Remember, a straightforward argument…

·        Creates an achievable goal because time is limited.

·        Prevents straying from the essential point.

·        Avoid Over-Extended logic patterns that create opportunities for missteps. 


Something Else your Essay MUST HAVE to Earn Higher Scores:




Test Graders want to see you take a clear position in your answer.

·        Test questions do not have right or wrong answers – they are subjective, interpretive, open-ended questions. Therefore, ASSERT YOUR OPINION.

·        You will not be penalized for the stance you take on a matter, nor on your beliefs. Your ideas are your ideas, however… YOU WILL NOT SCORE HIGH IF YOU DO NOT TAKE A STANCE OR PUT FORTH YOUR BELIEFS!





·        Having an obvious P.O.V., countering with an opposing P.O.V. and then re-asserting an additional reason to support your own P.O.V. raises your scores into the upper echelons of the grading rubric.


Also remember…

You will not be marked down by a scorer because they disagree with your argument. You will be marked down by a scorer if you do not take a position and make an argument.




·        Trying to impress scorers by using big vocabulary words you are not sure how to use properly detracts from – not adds to – your score.

·        Trying to impress scorers by sounding artificially sophisticated when you do not know what you are talking about detracts from – not adds to –your score.

·        Writing simply for the sake of writing (i.e. aimless, wandering, & imprecise sentences written just to fill space on the page) detracts from – not adds to - your overall score.



Test Graders are masters at detecting B.S. so don’t even try it.

·        Make real points.

·        Take a definite P.O.V.

·        Implement the proper, 4 paragraph structure.

·        Use specific details and vivid language.

·        Include a personal example from your own, unique life.

*If you do all of this, there is no need to B.S. – you will be in good shape.

The Fourth WELL of the Excellent Essay:



The Importance of Execution

Time is limited. MAKING A STRONG IMPRESSION in this limited amount of time is a key ingredient to success.

The best way to make a strong impression is to prove that you can write well.

The way you prove that you write well is through the use of proper grammar, spelling and punctuation.


No matter how brilliant your ideas are, if you do not know how to write a PROPERLY PUNCTUATED essay that USES CORRECT GRAMMAR and is ALMOST ENTIRELY FREE OF SPELLING ERRORS, you will not earn an excellent score.

And the truth is, you do not deserve one, either. These are the basic tools of the writer’s trade… KNOW THEM!!!



A student does NOT have to be perfect to earn an excellent score.

·        Small mistakes such as misplaced commas will not ruin you.

·        Too many simple errors will definitely hurt your score.


But Spelling, Punctuation and Grammar Count!


Simple Tools to Ensure a Higher Score

Proofread Your Work.

·        It always amazes me to watch students who finishes their essay with 2 minutes to spare and fold their paper over and stare into space as if they have nothing to do.

·        What they NEED to do is PROOFREAD their work!

·        On timed tests when students are working quickly and efficiently, test takers often forget a word in a sentence, omit a period or question mark and misspell easy words they know how to spell. Finding even one of these small mistakes might be the last little thing you need to inch your score up a notch and move you into a higher echelon in the Test Grader’s eyes.

·        PROOFREAD!!! If you have the time and you really care about earning the best score you can, there will not be a wasted moment of time on the SAT Essay writing section. Students who have the time but do not bother to check over their work are not students who traditionally perform excellently well on the test. Proofread! It matters.

Avoid Carelessness.

·        Pay attention to details.

·        Make it a point to do away with sloppiness.

·        If you practice NOT BEING SLOPPY during your practice essays, you will find that your performance will tend not to be sloppy as well.

Be legible.

·        Students will NOT be marked down for their handwriting HOWEVER, without being legible, scores might suffer. (If I can’t read it, I can’t evaluate it.)

Remember, the Essay is Graded Holistically

Students get one score (on a scale from 1-6).

·        Simple, proper execution can raise scores.

·        A lack of simple execution can lower them.

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·         Excellently Execute your Essay: Use Proper Grammar

I’ll say it again, these are the basic tools of the writer’s trade and this is the foundation for what your score will be based upon. KNOW THIS MATERIAL!!!


Subject/Verb Agreement

All subjects and verbs need to agree.

·        Writing things like, “They is going to the store” is the same as begging for a low score.

·        Basic subject/verb agreement is a fifth grade Language Arts skill strong essay writers need to have mastered.


Make sure you properly use commas where they are needed.

·        One or two misplaced commas will not kill you.

·        An entire essay riddled with misplaced commas will definitely hurt.

·        If you are not sure how to properly use a comma, seek help.


Possessives, contractions, plurals – hey, they need apostrophes (sometimes).

·        Proper apostrophe use is a fairly simple skill to know.

·        Students who forget apostrophes are sending a secret signal to the Test Grader that they are really not a solid, competent writer.

·        Forgotten apostrophes are usually due to sloppiness, laziness or a lack of attention to detail. REMEMBER THEM!

Parallel Sentence Structure

Smooth, clear writing has parallel sentence structure.

·        Use the same grammatical form to express equal, or parallel ideas.

·        Pair a noun with a noun.

·        Pair a phrase with a phrase.

·        Pair a clause with a clause.

·        Pair an infinitive with an infinitive.


·        A Pronoun by itself has no definite meaning.

·        A Pronoun is only clear when the reader knows what the pronoun refers to.

·        Be sure that the references you utilize pronouns for are clear.

Colons and Semicolons

In general, I recommend students AVOID USING COLONS AND SEMICOLONS.

·        Students do not gain extra points for using colons and semicolons properly.

·        Students can lose points for using colons and semicolons improperly.

·        If there is really nothing to be gained but something to be lost, why bother getting involved in the first place?

NOTE: Many students love to try and impress the Test Graders by showing off their vast use of sophisticated punctuation when they really do not have an excellent grasp of how to use the punctuation properly.

This is NOT necessary - avoid doing it yourself. You’re only creating potential potholes on the road you’ll be travelling.


·        All proper nouns must begin with a capital letter.

·        All sentences must begin with a capital letter.

·        Capitalization is easy – try not to shoot yourself in the foot.

Indent your paragraphs

·        You will be writing 4 paragraphs.

·        Indent all 4 Paragraphs.

·        Again, this is very simple stuff that low scoring students do not do.

Use Proper Spelling

·        If you are not sure how to spell a word, use a different word. The English language is very flexible.

·        Remember, synonyms you do know how to spell are better than enriched vocabulary words you do not know how to spell.

·        Test score do not rely on any one word so do not feel the need to force things.

NOTE: Do NOT use vocabulary words with which you are not familiar to impress test graders. It’s a BAD IDEA.

·        Trying to impress Test Graders by using 14 letter vocabulary words that you are not sure about how to use properly is a sure sign of an amateur test taker. Remember, using words incorrectly can do more harm than good.

Use Proper Punctuation

All sentences require punctuation. Use it properly. Keep it simple.

·        The period.

·        It’s a silly mistake to forget these at the end of sentences.

·        The question mark.

·        It’s a silly mistake to forget these at the end of questions.

·        The exclamation point.

·        A great tool – but not if used every other sentence. Be judicial!

·        Quotation marks.

·        Knowing how to use them correctly impresses Test Graders.


The Rule on Slang

This is a test to see how well you use formal, written English – so use formal, written English. In general, AVOID SLANG!!!

·        However, slang can be effectively used to make a point – particularly inside a line of dialogue a student might be quoting.

·        For Example: If you are telling a story to make a certain point about how crime is rampant in your own neighborhood, you might make reference to the time when a guy crept up behind you, put a weapon in your lower back and said in a very menacing tone, “Dude, gimme your wallet.”

·        This would be an acceptable use of slang.

·        However, when writing an essay about how rampant crime is in your neighborhood, you should not write a sentence that reads, “There are a multitude of dudes who only want me to give ‘em my wallet which I ain’t gonna do.”

·        This is a poor use of slang. Know the difference!



Yes, this is a formula - a formula for success on the SAT. With only 25 minutes to complete a well-written essay, students need a strategy to succeed. This is it.


Achieve this and you will have done well.



Paragraph 1    Main Idea

Includes a Thesis Statement

Paragraph 2    Topic Sentence – Point A

                                    Supported by Vivid Details and/or a Personal example

Paragraph 3    Topic Sentence – Point B – Opposite/Different Perspective from Point A

                                    Supported by Vivid Details and/or a Personal example

Paragraph 4    Strong Conclusion

                                    Connects back to the Thesis Statement


Plus, you have…

·        Addressed what the question has asked you to address.

·        Used a uniquely personal example from your own life to illustrate an idea.

·        Used vivid language and specific sensory details.

·        Made simple, strong and straightforward points.

·        Shown a clear Point of View in your essay.

·        Avoided B.S.

·        Properly punctuated your essay.

·        Used proper grammar throughout your essay.

·        Done a solid job of spelling almost all words correctly.

·        Capitalized and Indented.

·        Tried to write legibly.

·        Avoided slang.

·        Proofread your work.