5 Reasons Students Fear the SAT Essay... and Why They Shouldn't

High school is where you begin to learn perhaps the most important life skill of all: how to write. In order to be able to communicate effectively (especially with more and more professional communication being done through e-mail), you need to be able to write well.

And the SAT Essay is one standardized measure by which you can show colleges just how good you are at this life skill. Even though the SAT Essay section scares many high school students, there’s no need to worry.

Here are 5 reasons why you probably fear the SAT Essay…and why you shouldn’t.

1. It’s the the first section
Many high school students freak out during the SAT Essay because it’s the very first section of every SAT exam. You just got to the testing center and you’re already a little nervous. And the first thing you have to do is start writing frantically! Not too fun.

But if you prepare for the SAT Essay ahead of time, you’ll have no problem. You’ll know what to expect to expect and what to write. Don’t treat the SAT Essay like a high school English essay. After all…you’re not starting it at 2:00 AM!

2. Incorrectly believe the SAT Essay = SAT Writing 
Parents often hold this false belief more often than students do. But just to be clear: the SAT Essay is not equivalent to SAT Writing…well at least not completely. The SAT Essay makes up approximately 1/3 of your scaled SAT Writing score out of 800. The other 2/3 of your score depend on how well you do on the multiple-choice SAT Writing sections, which test grammar.

By incorrectly believing that the essay accounts for 800 points of the SAT, many students place an inflated amount of importance on their SAT Essay score. In reality, the SAT Essay only accounts for about 200 points. So don’t sweat it if the essay is not your best section.

3. Students treat the SAT Essay like an in-class essay
There’s nothing I hated more in high school than walking into English class only to be surprised my teacher with an in-class essay due by the end of the period on a topic our class had never seen before. Well, that’s kind of what the SAT Essay is like, except you only have 25 minutes to come up with a well composed two-page essay!

To write more quickly, take the creativity out of the equation. Although your English teacher has read your essays before, the SAT Essay graders have never read anything you’ve written. So use this to your advantage by making your essay formulaic: a simple 5-paragraph essay. Include an introduction with a thesis and plan of procedure, three body paragraphs to discuss examples, and a short conclusion. The more formulaic you make your essay, the easier it will be to pump out a quality essay quickly.

4. Students believe they don’t have “smart” examples
One of the biggest fears students have about the SAT Essay is that they won’t be able to spontaneously think of academic examples on the topic that they are confronted with. What usually ends up happening is that students use personal stories or pop culture references. Make sure you’re not one of these students.

Use academic examples from literature, history, and current events in your SAT Essay. Because SAT Essay topics are so general, you will often be able to connect the examples that you are familiar with to the topic at hand. If you’re not confident in your “natural” knowledge of such examples, do your homework. Write down details of books you’ve read in English class, historical events you’ve learned about in history class, and the latest hot topic in the headlines. That way, you’ll never have to come up with a spontaneous example during the SAT again.

5. Getting writer’s block
Now this is a fear that has plagued writers since the beginning of time. Sometimes, you just don’t know what to write. You put your elbow on the table, palm on your furrowed brow, look around the room, and tap your pencil away on the desk as you search for inspiration for the next sentence.

If you plan to enroll in our SAT prep course, you don’t need to worry about this ever happening to you. We’ve come up with Essay Templates: use the same skeleton for certain parts of the essay (introduction, conclusion, topic sentences) for every single SAT Essay you ever write. All you need to do is fill in the blanks in our Essay Templates in order to make it relevant to your topic, and you’re good to go! Say goodbye to writer’s block for good!

Shaan Patel is the Director of SAT Programs at Veritas Prep and is the author of the best-selling book SAT 2400 in Just 7 Steps.

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