Want to know the secret to writing an essay for the SAT? Cuba Gooding Jr., in the movie Jerry Maguire, puts it well when he says, “SHOW ME THE MONEY!”. In the movie the catchphrase is a request to back up talk with cash.
In the case of the SAT essay, the money is in the details. Specific details in an essay support a thesis statement like experimental evidence proves scientific theory. The more substantive detail you include into your writing, the more you support your argument. Here are some tips for how to generate and organize those details into a perfect scoring essay.
Make your introduction and conclusion paragraphs short and to the point.
The body paragraphs are what earn points because they contain the details and the support. You only have 25 minutes to write this essay, so allot the majority of time for the point earning paragraphs. A great introduction can be written in just three sentences. Start with your thesis statement and take a stance. Next, elaborate on that point a little bit to add support to the stance you chose. Lastly, state the examples you are going to use to prove your point. Now, you have used only a fraction of your allotted time and you are ready to move on to the heart of your essay.
Know the details.
Many students are intimidated by the body portion of the essay. “My mind goes blank! I can’t think of anything to relate to the topic!”, they say. My response to this is, know your topics and know the details before entering the room on Saturday morning. Many SAT essay prompts are general and can be argued with a wide range of topics– historical events, people, books, movies, and current events. When you are tempted to procrastinate doing your homework by browsing Facebook and looking at Twitter, why not do some “Wikipedia browsing” instead? Refresh your memory on the details of old books you have read and historical figures you have studied. You can start a journal and write these details down. Jot down character names, plot points, and important events. Soon you will have a collection of topics to pull from and you will be ready for any prompt the SAT throws at you.
Use the details.
Once you have the salient details at your fingertips, make sure to use them in your body paragraphs. You need specific facts to back up your statement and not wishy-washy conjecture. If you are writing about social pressure and body image, for example, don’t simply state, “Societal pressure creates a desire to be thin”. Rather, write about the specific conditions or circumstances that bring about this pressure – ultra-thin celebrities on magazine covers, foods such as “Skinny Cow ice cream” and “Skinny Pop” popcorn, and an abundance of dieting ads. Pile on those details to support your argument.
Don’t be stingy. Remember the mantra, “Show me the money!”. Details buy you points, so use them.
Danielle Kipnis is a Veritas Prep SAT instructor based in Miami. She is a native New Yorker who then majored in English and Dance at Northwestern University. At Northwestern, she founded the dance company Steam Heat. She now continues to dance, choreograph, and satiate her love for teaching through SAT prep.