10 SAT Writing and Language Tips to Improve Your SAT Essay

writing essayThe SAT Essay section is an optional part of the exam. However, many students decide to write the essay because they know it’s an admission requirement for some colleges. If you’re looking for tips on how to boost your performance on the SAT essay, there are many to be found. Use these 10 tips to improve your own SAT essay on test day:

 

1) Make an Outline. As a high school student, you know that the basic outline of an essay includes an introduction, body, and conclusion. One way to start out on the right foot with your SAT essay is to make an outline that lays out all of the points, details, and other elements you want to include. You can refer to your outline throughout the writing process to ensure that your essay is organized and complete. Though it takes some time to create an outline, it can reduce the amount of revisions you have to make.

2) Analyze the Writing Prompt. Some students skim over the essay prompt and dive right into the writing. This is a mistake. The prompt lays out exactly what you need to look for and evaluate in the author’s piece.

3) Focus on a Few Significant Points of the Argument. This is one of the most helpful SAT writing and language tips. When you focus on just a few significant points, you’re displaying your ability to recognize the most persuasive elements in the essay. Also, discussing a few points in a thorough way is a lot more effective than trying to touch on every persuasive element employed by the author.

4) Expand Your Vocabulary. An SAT essay-grader evaluates your command of the English language. Consequently, one way to boost your performance on the essay is to learn some new vocabulary words. Science, news, and literary magazines are great resources for new words. Once you have a dozen or more, use them in everyday conversation or on school assignments. Quizzing yourself with an online vocabulary game is a fun way to ensure that you retain new words. Ideally, you want to use words that lend to the clarity and succinctness of your SAT essay.

5) Strive for Quantity and Quality in Your Essay. As you practice your essay-writing skills, keep in mind that you are aiming for quantity as well as quality. As a rule, it takes about one to two written pages to fully explain how an author supports their claims.

6) Include a Strong Thesis Statement in Your Introduction. In your thesis statement, you should reveal the author’s argument and the persuasive elements they use. This sets the stage for you to begin pointing out specific examples of the author’s persuasive devices. When you create a strong, clear thesis statement, you’re showing essay-graders that you understand the author’s argument and recognize the persuasive elements.

7) Brush Up on Your Grammar, Spelling, and Punctuation Skills. This is one of the simplest SAT essay tips to follow. When you use proper grammar as well as correct spelling and punctuation, it adds to the quality of your essay. Keep in mind that these sorts of errors can detract from even the most convincing SAT essay.

8) Write With Objectivity. Chances are good that you’ll have an opinion on the topic discussed in the author’s essay. But your job is to evaluate the author’s persuasive argument, not state your opinion on the given topic. Writing an objective essay shows essay-graders that you read and are adhering to the prompt.

9) Highlight Specific Details. All of the material you need for your essay can be found in the author’s piece. When you point out specific details, you’re displaying your ability to effectively analyze an argument.

10) Take Care With Your Handwriting. The quality of your handwriting may not enter your mind as you prep for the SAT essay, but if graders have too difficult of a time deciphering a student’s handwriting, they aren’t likely to give the person’s essay much consideration. If you don’t feel comfortable with cursive, write the essay in print. Don’t let messy handwriting prevent you from highlighting your impressive essay-writing skills!

Our professional SAT instructors scored in the 99th percentile on the test, so when you take our courses, you’re getting SAT essay tips from individuals who conquered all parts of the exam. We teach you strategies designed to improve the quality of your writing. Sign up for SAT tutoring services at Veritas Prep and get access to many other SAT writing and language tips. Make the call today!

Deciding Between the SAT and ACT: Which Test is Right for You?

scottbloomdecisionsChoosing the right standardized test for you can make an enormous difference to your college application experience: working with subjects you’re more comfortable with and being tested on a skill set that better matches your own strengths, can greatly ease your study burden and boost your chances of a strong score.

The SAT and ACT are structurally and functionally similar, but their content differs in significant ways that can be used to a student’s advantage. Here are a few things to consider when choosing between the ACT and the SAT:

Similarities Between the SAT and ACT

Let’s start with what these two tests have in common. They take about the same amount of time to complete, and are equally popular test choices in the United States. They require both qualitative and quantitative skills, and each have four sections plus an optional essay. Colleges weigh the ACT sand SAT equally – you won’t be penalized for choosing either exam over the other, so many students choose to take both and submit whichever test they perform better on. All U.S. colleges accept scores from both tests.

Differences Between the SAT and ACT

The main difference between the SAT and the ACT is their content – choose the exam that tests your strongest skills. The SAT is more qualitatively oriented in that it has Reading, Writing, and Math sections, while the ACT is more quantitatively oriented in that it has English, Math, and Science sections. ACT English passages tend to be at an easier reading level than SAT Reading passages, but ACT Math typically contains more trigonometry questions than SAT Math.

The ACT also includes a science section, although ACT Science questions focus on a student’s ability to comprehend and evaluate given scientific information and hypotheses, rather than on his or her outside knowledge of scientific concepts. You won’t need to remember everything you learned in Biology, Chemistry, or Physics class for this exam, but you will need to know how to understand those concepts when they are explained to you using common scientific vocabulary words.

The Optional Essays

Both tests include an optional essay, but these take very different forms. The ACT essay asks you to evaluate and analyze a complex issue. You are given three perspectives on a worldly, relevant question – like the implications of automation for history – and asked to discuss your own perspective on the issue relative to at least one of the given perspectives. The ACT essay favors those with strong logic, debate, and discussion skills. Test-takers are also asked to use reasoning and outside examples to support their arguments, so a strong knowledge of history, literature, and/or current events can come in handy.

The SAT essay, on the other hand, tests comprehension of a source text, and is a good choice for those with strong reading comprehension, interpretation, and critical analysis skills. Test-takers are given a passage to read and asked to examine the author’s use of evidence, reasoning, and stylistic or persuasive elements. Strong SAT essays typically include references to and explanations of literary concepts like allusion, rhetorical language, and anecdote, so a strong knowledge of English literary components and concepts is also useful.

How to Decide Whether to Take the SAT or ACT

The best way to determine which test is better for you is to take at least one official ACT practice test, and at least one official SAT practice test. (I’ll emphasize official – you want to ensure that your practice session is as representative of the real thing as possible, and a copycat practice test won’t achieve that.)

If you still can’t decide between the two exams, or if you take one and realize you might have done better on the other, recognize that there’s no penalty if you officially sit both the SAT and the ACT. The SAT and ACT are operated by different organizations, so reporting your SAT scores to colleges won’t automatically send your ACT scores to them too, and vice versa. If you take both tests, you can choose to report scores for just one exam – whichever one you do better on. (Keep in mind, though, that some colleges require you to submit all scores you’ve received from each test, so if you’ve officially sat three SAT’s, you’ll have to report all three scores, not just your best one.)

It’s best to devote your energy to just one test out of the two, but ultimately, you can’t really go wrong when choosing between the SAT and the ACT. Apart from the test fees and studying time spent, there is no cost to taking both exams. Play to your strengths by choosing the test with content that better fits your skills, but don’t worry about choosing wrong – you can always change your mind later on! The best option is to start your test prep early in your high school career, in order to give yourself time to explore both tests and to switch to the other one if you need to.

Still need help deciding whether to take the SAT or ACT (or both)? Check out Veritas Prep’s free SAT vs. ACT Comparison Tool to determine which exam is right for you. And as always, be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and Twitter!

By Courtney Tran, a Veritas Prep college admissions consultant and 99th percentile SAT and ACT instructor. Courtney Tran is a student at UC Berkeley, studying Political Economy and Rhetoric. In high school, she was named a National Merit Finalist and National AP Scholar, and she represented her district two years in a row in Public Forum Debate at the National Forensics League National Tournament.

How the SAT Works: Format Breakdown and Function

SAT Scantron TestIf you’re a junior or senior in high school, you’re probably planning to take the SAT. You know that the SAT is a standardized test taken by students across the country, and you know that college officials look at SAT scores when evaluating student applications. But have you ever taken a really close look at the parts of this well-known exam? Learning what’s on the new SAT and how the SAT works is an important first step in preparing for the test.

What Is the Purpose of the SAT?
The questions on the SAT are meant to reveal what you learned in your high school classes, so you should find that you’re already familiar with the types of material on this exam. In addition, the test is a way to evaluate whether you’ll be successful in your college courses. Of course, a high SAT score isn’t a guarantee of success in college, but the test serves as a way to measure your academic abilities.

The SAT Format
Reading, Writing & Language, and Math are the three tests that make up the SAT. There is also an optional Essay section. You have 65 minutes to complete the Reading section and 35 minutes to complete the Writing & Language section. In addition, you receive 80 minutes to complete the Math questions. As for the essay, you are given 50 minutes to write it.

The Reading and Writing & Language tests are multiple-choice. The Math test has multiple-choice questions as well as grid-in questions. Grid-in questions require you to figure out the answer to a math problem instead of selecting an answer option. The entire SAT takes about three hours and 50 minutes to finish. The total test time varies depending on the amount of breaks you’re given during the exam. You’re able to take the SAT either on paper or digitally.

The Reading Section
Taking a closer look at an SAT breakdown detailing the types of questions in each section can help you perform well on the test. The Reading section includes vocabulary in context, detail, function, inference, analogy, author technique, and main idea questions. After reading each passage, your job is to answer several multiple-choice questions about what you have read. This section has a total of 52 questions.

The Math Section
The SAT format for the Math section starts students off with relatively easy problems and gradually increases in difficulty. Geometry, trigonometry, algebra, and data analysis are all topics covered by questions in the Math section. You can use a calculator on some portions of the Math section but not others. There are 58 questions on the Math test.

The Writing & Language Section
There’s a Writing & Language section on the new SAT, as well. You’ll find several shorter reading passages here that are accompanied by questions. For each question, choose the answer option that corrects a grammar, punctuation, or structure error within the passage. Some questions include a “no change” option, which you should select if there is no error present. There are 44 questions in this section.

The Essay
The SAT essay gauges your ability to analyze the author’s argument, using evidence to support your points. You’re not called upon to agree or disagree with what the author is trying to convey. You have 50 minutes to write the essay. Though this is an optional part of the test, it’s a chance to highlight your ability to write an organized, thoughtful essay. Additionally, many colleges require their applicants to write this essay, so you will want to check with the schools you are interested in applying to.

Preparing for the Test
Now that you know the SAT breakdown and how the SAT works, you must make sure you’re prepared to dive in on test day. The tutoring program at Veritas Prep can provide you with simple strategies that help you navigate all sections of the exam. Each of our instructors has already proven their mastery of the test by earning a score in the 99th percentile on the SAT, so when you work with a Veritas Prep tutor, you’re studying with the best! We’ll have you take a practice SAT and look at your results to see where you can improve.

To make your tutoring sessions as effective as possible, we’ll match you with an instructor who is familiar with your learning style. Our online and in-person courses are designed to give you the resources you need to highlight your skills on the SAT. Call or email Veritas Prep today to learn more!

Still need to take the SAT? Check out our variety of free SAT resources to help you study successfully. And be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and Twitter!

The New SAT vs. the ACT: A Simple Test Comparison

Law School Images“Are ‘SAT’ and ‘ACT’ the same thing?” If you’ve been thinking about this question, you’re not alone. Many high school students are curious about the similarities between these two tests and how different they really are.

A quick SAT-to-ACT comparison can help you to decide whether to take the new SAT, the ACT, or both.

Scoring
The scoring scales for the ACT versus new SAT are very different. The highest score you can earn on the ACT is a 36. There are four sections on the ACT, and you receive a raw score for each section, which is changed into a scaled score ranging from one to 36. Your final score is the average of your four scaled scores. On the other hand, the highest score you can achieve on the new SAT is 1600. You receive a subscore for each section of the new SAT, and your final score is the sum of your subscores.

Math Questions
When making an SAT-to-ACT comparison, you’ll find that both tests include questions on advanced math concepts such as geometry and trigonometry as well as algebra. Of course, knowledge of arithmetic is necessary on both tests. One difference between the two Math sections is that you’re given 60 minutes to complete 60 questions on the ACT and 80 minutes to complete 58 questions on the new SAT. You’re also allowed to use a calculator throughout the Math section on the ACT, but your calculator use is limited on the new SAT.

Science Questions
One major difference in the new SAT versus ACT test is that there’s no specific Science section on the new SAT. However, some of the skills you use in science class are tested in other sections on the new SAT. For instance, in the Math section you’re often asked to analyze the information given on a chart or graph, and the Reading section contains passages that cover science-related topics. The ACT does have a section of Science questions – earth science, chemistry, and biology are among the sciences found on the ACT. You must answer a total of 40 questions in 35 minutes in the Science section of the ACT.

Reading Questions
When making an SAT-vs.-ACT comparison, you’ll see that the Reading sections on both tests share a lot of similarities. The Reading sections on both exams feature several passages accompanied by questions. The SAT has five passages, while the ACT has four. In addition, the two tests share many of the same question types. For instance, they both have main idea, detail, vocabulary-in-context, and inference questions. In addition to those, the new SAT has data reasoning, technique, and evidence support questions. You’re given 35 minutes to finish 40 questions on the ACT and 65 minutes to finish 52 questions on the new SAT Reading section.

Writing and English Tests
There is a Writing & Language section on the new SAT that requires you to improve on phrases found within the given passages. There may be grammar or punctuation errors in the passage or problems with sentence structure. You’ll read the passage and select the better options for the underlined phrases.

The ACT has an English section with passages that also contain underlined phrases. Your task is to find a better alternative to the phrase or, in some cases, select the “no change” option. Once again, there may be grammar errors or problems with punctuation, sentence structure, or organization. You are given 45 minutes to finish 75 questions in the English section on the ACT and 35 minutes to complete 44 Writing & Language questions on the new SAT.

The Essay
When it comes to the essay on the ACT vs. new SAT, both tests make this section optional. For the new SAT Essay section, you’re required to analyze an argument and offer evidence as to why the author’s argument is valid or invalid. Alternatively, the ACT Essay section presents you with three different perspectives on a particular issue, and your job is to evaluate each of them. On both essays, your score depends on your ability to organize your thoughts, present evidence, and convey your ideas in a clear way.

Are “SAT” and “ACT” the same? In some ways, the answer is “yes,” but in many others, the answer is “no.” Regardless of which test you take, our professional instructors can help you practice for it. Look at our video tutorials and sign up for our in-person or online test prep courses today!

Want to learn more about how the SAT and ACT differ? Attend one of our upcoming free live online SAT vs. ACT workshops to determine which exam is right for you. And be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and Twitter!

Common Traits of SAT Writing Prompts and How to Best Prepare

SAT WorryOn the optional SAT Essay section, you have 50 minutes to analyze the argument an author puts forth in a passage. The content of the given passage remains a secret until you see it on test day, but you do have an opportunity to learn about SAT Essay prompts as you prep for the test. Studying the elements of SAT writing prompts can help you lay the groundwork for a stellar essay.

Elements of the SAT Essay Prompt
All of the optional SAT Essay prompts adhere to the same basic template. First, the prompt instructs you to consider how the author of the passage uses evidence (examples or facts) to support their claims. Secondly, you’re asked to consider the author’s idea development as well as how they connect their claims with evidence. Third, you must consider the author’s use of elements such as their word choice to enhance their ideas. Though these are the basic elements of all SAT writing prompts, the passages vary from one exam to the next.

What to Expect in the Passage Given for the SAT Essay
The practice Essay prompts that are available reveal some of what to expect on the actual test. For example, one practice prompt may ask you to analyze a portion of a speech made by Martin Luther King Jr. on the injustice of the Vietnam War. Another may be a prompt connected to a passage from a book written by President Jimmy Carter, asking you to analyze his argument against the industrial development of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Other passages available for students to use to practice their writing skills before taking the SAT are pieces written by contemporary authors such as Paul Bogard and Eliana Dockterman. But keep in mind that when responding to every SAT Essay prompt, the content of the passage is not as important as the quality of the author’s argument.

Preparing to Write Your Essay
The best way to prepare for the new SAT Essay is to practice writing essays with sample SAT writing prompts in mind. Also, get into the habit of jotting down notes as you read the passage. These notes can help you to include evidence that supports your analysis of the author’s argument.

Creating an outline before writing your practice essay is another effective way to prepare for this task. The typical outline features four parts: an introductory paragraph that includes your thesis sentence, a paragraph offering specific examples that support your thesis, a third paragraph covering details of how these examples support your thesis, and a concluding paragraph restating your thesis. Dedicating several minutes to creating an outline for your essay is worth your effort. If you happen to lose your train of thought while writing the actual essay, you can look at your outline to get back on track.

The Ingredients in a High-Scoring SAT Essay
In addition to studying the available SAT Essay prompts, it’s a smart idea to read several essays that received high scores. The new SAT Essay rubric reveals the specific features an essay must have in order to earn a high score. Write your essay using a practice prompt, then evaluate your piece using the rubric to get an idea of how you would have scored. By doing this, you can determine what needs to be put into and left out of your essay in order to earn a high score.

Want to practice with the best? The SAT instructors at Veritas Prep are experts at crafting high-scoring essays. We hire tutors who scored in the 99th percentile on the SAT, so you’ll have access to teachers who know tips and tricks to simplify the essay-writing process. We’ll critique your practice essays and provide you with strategies for crafting a solid analysis of the passage.

We also offer free tutorials to give you an idea of how we can help you prepare for the SAT Essay section as well as all other parts of the test. And when you sign up with Veritas Prep, you can take advantage of either online or in-person courses for your convenience. Give us a call and let our instructors give you the advantage on the new SAT Essay section!

Still need to take the SAT? Check out our variety of free SAT resources to help you study successfully. And be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and Twitter!

Why Are Some Schools No Longer Requiring Students to Complete the Optional SAT and ACT Essays?

Cornell UniversityToday’s high school student has the choice of either writing or skipping the essay on both the ACT and the SAT. Though many colleges don’t require students to submit an essay score, there are some that still do. This leaves many students wondering whether they should write the optional essay for the ACT and/or the SAT. It’s a good idea for students to find out if a college they are interested in requires an essay score for either of these two tests.

This brings up the question: Why do some colleges require SAT and/or ACT essay scores while others don’t? Take a look at the reasons why many colleges consider the SAT and ACT essays optional for all of their applicants:

Focusing on Other Scores
Some school officials feel that the scores on other sections of the ACT and SAT serve to adequately represent a student’s suitability for college. For instance, a college may focus on a student’s scores in the Reading and Writing and Language sections of the SAT – the Writing and Language section tests skills such as command of evidence, the proper use of words in context, and expression of ideas.

Though a student isn’t actually writing in these sections, their answers can indicate an understanding of these skills. Furthermore, college admissions officials can look at the subscores for these sections to get an idea of a student’s specific skills. Other college officials get a clear picture of a student’s skills by looking at their scores on the Reading and English sections of the ACT. With all of these other scores at their fingertips, many college officials don’t see the need for an essay score on standardized tests.

The Admissions Essay
Many colleges consider the SAT and ACT essays optional because they prefer to focus on a student’s admissions essay. There are some colleges that prefer to set the topic for the essay instead of leaving it to the discretion of the SAT or ACT. They like to have control over what their applicants are writing about as well as the number of words they use.

Furthermore, they want to give their applicants as much time as they need to craft their essays before turning them in with their applications. Consequently, students don’t have the added stress of finishing an essay within an allotted amount of time. School officials feel they can get a good indication of a student’s knowledge of vocabulary, sentence structure, creativity, and ability to express ideas by evaluating the person’s admissions essay. They don’t see the need to factor a second essay into their decision.

High School Literature and English Classes
Other school officials believe that looking at a high school student’s grades in English and Literature gives them enough information to determine whether the applicant would be a good fit at the college. They can see whether a student has taken on the challenge of increasingly difficult courses over their high school career. In addition, if a student has taken honors English classes throughout high school, that is a definite sign of someone with excellent reading and writing abilities. These colleges feel that they get a better indication of a student’s skills by looking at their coursework over a long period of time.

Awards, Honors, and Recognition for Writing
Often, colleges that don’t require students to do the essay on the ACT or the SAT look at whether a student earned any writing awards or honors during high school. For instance, one student’s application may note that they were recognized by a literary magazine for a poem they wrote. Another student may have received recognition from their school for an editorial they wrote for the local newspaper. Prizes and honors for writing endeavors can help convince college officials of a student’s writing abilities.

At Veritas Prep, our professional instructors show students how to sharpen their essay-writing skills as well as prep for every other portion of the SAT and the ACT. We hire instructors who scored in the 99th percentile on both tests because we want our students to learn from the very best teachers! Our students have access to test-taking strategies that can simplify every question on both the ACT and the SAT. Contact Veritas Prep today and tell us how we can help you get into the college of your dreams.

Do you still need help with your college applications? We can help! Visit our College Admissions website and fill out our FREE Profile Evaluation for personalized feedback on your unique background! And as always, be sure to follow us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+, and Twitter!

SAT Tip of the Week: 6 Strategies You Learn in High School That Will Help You Prepare for the SAT

SAT Tip of the Week - FullIf you’re anything like me, the SAT might seem irrelevant to your high school classes. I know the College Board says that the SAT tests the same skills you learn in high school, but let’s be real – it never feels that way. High school essays have different questions than SAT essays, high school math questions are much more detailed, and high school science content barely shows up on the SAT.

However, even with these and other differences, you shouldn’t totally divorce high school from the SAT. There is some important overlap between the two, and it’s important to use every resource you can to improve your SAT performance. Here are some solid strategies that will help you best use your time in high school to prepare for the SAT:

1) Build good vocabulary habits. The new SAT has done away with the notoriously obscure vocabulary questions the old SAT was known for, but there are still vocab words in context. When reading challenging texts for English class, be sure to look up words you don’t know and practice using them in appropriate ways to prepare for this type of vocab usage on test day.

2) Learn math content basics. It is true that SAT math does not align perfectly with high school math, but hey, numbers are numbers! Focusing in on high school math, especially on what you learned during your first few years of high school, can be a good way to establish basic comfort with a lot of the skills the SAT will test you on. Even if SAT-specific strategies are the most useful in answering SAT math questions, knowing how to do quick calculations and having a familiarity with important formulas will serve you well on this exam, especially with regards to time.

3) Recognize grammar rules. Many high school English curricula place a strong emphasis on grammar in writing, but lots of students tend to dismiss it as boring. Don’t be one of these students! Having a basic understanding of grammar rules is key to being confident on the SAT Writing and Language section. Even if you don’t remember all the exact rules and exact names of the things you learned in class, by paying attention, you will be more likely to spot mistakes and know how to correct them.

4) Get practice writing essays. The old SAT essay had almost nothing to do with anything you would write for high school, but the new SAT essay (the one that matters now) has some overlap with high-school-style assignments.

The new essay is all about argument analysis – a skill that many Social Studies and English classes in high school try to hone. If you practice these skills in class and work with your teachers to improve your writing ability, you will be more comfortable writing the SAT essay. Merely the act of writing itself tends to improve your overall writing ability, so think of all your high school assignments as making your writing clearer and stronger for the SAT down the road.

5) Develop good test-taking habits. The SAT is a standardized test, unlike many tests you will take in school. However, a test is a test, and there are mental strategies you can develop that will help you no matter what kind of test you’re taking, and a big one is discipline.

Tests are long and can be boring, so the more practice you have taking tests, the more you’ll be able to effectively deal with the feeling of just wanting to give up. Also, you can use the act of taking high school tests to practice things like bubbling in answers, getting better at timing, and knowing how to utilize multiple choice questions to your advantage.

6) Take the pressure off your SAT score. Practically everyone will agree that how you perform in high school is more reflective of your academic merit than how you fare on one exam some Saturday morning. Even so, the SAT is weighted pretty heavily in college admissions, so it’s a good idea to do as well as you can. The better you perform in high school, though, the less pressure you will have to do as well on the SAT.

Without the intense pressure to do incredibly well, many students find that they end up performing better on the SAT, since they are more relaxed and confident when taking the test. Therefore, living up to your potential in high school is a win-win situation: if you do well in high school, you’re likely to do better on the SAT, and even if you don’t do well on the SAT, you’ll have your good grades to fall back on.

The SAT and your high school classes may have more in common than you think. To achieve your best results on the SAT, it’s important that you apply the lessons you learn and the skills you acquire in high school to your preparation for the test.

Still need to take the SAT? Check out our variety of free SAT resources to help you study successfully. And be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and Twitter!

By Aidan Calvelli.

SAT Tip of the Week: How to Write a Perfect Essay on the New SAT

SAT Tip of the Week - FullOn the old SAT, the essay questions were often vague philosophical prompts asking you to develop and support your position on the topic. This opened itself up to all sorts of shenanigans by students, like blatantly lying about personal examples (I’m guilty…) or using examples from classic novels to show off their smarts.

On the new SAT, the format of the essay is different. Now the SAT is about analyzing how an author develops her argument and convinces readers of her point. This difference means that the same old strategies won’t cut it anymore. Luckily, there’s an effective way to make the new essay as formulaic as the old essay, giving students a useful framework that they can always use, regardless of the prompt

First, here are the directions for the essay. The top of the page will read something like:

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.

After the article, the instructions for the essay will be:

Write an essay in which you explain how (the author) builds an argument to persuade his/her audience that (author’s argument is true). In your essay, analyze how (the author) uses one or more of the features in the directions that precede the passage (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 features 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.

At first glance, these directions might seem vague. “Evidence,” “reasoning,” and “stylistic or persuasive elements” are sometimes too broad to conceive an essay out of. Here’s where my strategy comes in.

On every essay, I like to have three go-to techniques that I always look for when reading the article and can use in my essay. These three are pathos, logos, and ethos – modes of persuasion that are present in practically all argumentative writing, these three techniques are easy to apply to an SAT essay. Plus, analyzing how the author uses these intellectual terms will show your grader that you have a high-level command of rhetorical analysis, and set you up for a classic five-paragraph essay. Let’s break down these techniques further:

Pathos is an appeal to emotion. Authors use pathos to draw readers into their pieces and connect them with the story. You can often find examples of pathos in anecdotes, calls to action, or appeals to a common purpose.

Logos is an appeal to logic.  Authors use logos to make their pieces more intellectually persuasive and consistent. You can often find examples of logos in the use of data, statistics, or research. You can also find logos in trains of reasoning: if x happens, then y will also happen, because of factor z (or something akin to that).

Ethos is an appeal to ethics, character, or credibility. Authors use ethos to add authority or legitimacy to their arguments. This can be done by demonstrating that the author is qualified to make the argument he or she is making. It can also be done by citing experts or authority figures who let the reader know that the author’s claims are backed up by sound evidence or opinion. As such, ethos is often present in quotes from experts or citations of authority figures.

These three techniques – pathos, logos and ethos – are specific and complex enough to let you write a sophisticated new SAT essay, as well as broad enough to allow you to find and analyze them in any article the SAT essay throws at you. This combination of factors creates a structure of analyzing how the author uses pathos, logos and ethos to build his or her argument that is a great way to approach the new SAT essay.

Still need to take the SAT? We run a free online SAT prep seminar every few weeks. And be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and Twitter!

By Aidan Calvelli.

The New SAT Essay

stressed-studentStarting in March of 2016, high school students across the country will be introduced to the new SAT. Like the current test, the new SAT has sections that challenge a student’s reading and math skills, as well as an essay, which is now optional. Students who choose to write the essay now have 50 minutes instead of just 25.

Let’s learn more about the new SAT essay, discover some helpful tips students can use when tackling this portion of the exam, and determine whether it’s necessary for every high school student to write an SAT essay.

Writing the Essay on the New SAT

Students who decide to write the SAT essay begin the process by reading a passage. Next, they must follow the essay prompt and craft an essay that analyzes the passage. A student’s essay must clearly explain how the author of the passage made their argument, and should include examples and evidence from the passage to support their analysis. In addition, they should point out persuasive elements used by the author and highlight words that add to the writer’s argument. A student writing an essay for the new version of the SAT does not take a stand on the argument put forth by the author of the passage – this is one of the main differences between the current SAT essay and the new SAT essay.

Skills Tested in the Essay Section

The essay on the new SAT tests a student’s reading comprehension skills, as a student must be able to both read and understand the passage in order to write an analysis. The essay also tests a student’s ability to recognize evidence used by the author to persuade readers toward a certain point of view.

Most importantly, a student’s ability to take this information and create a clear, organized essay is put to the test. The essay section on the new SAT gives students the opportunity to sample the type of writing they will be doing in their college courses – the ability to analyze an argument is a valuable skill that college students can use in practically any course.

Tips for Writing an Impressive Essay

Writing practice essays is the best way for students to prep for this portion of the test. After reading a practice prompt, it’s a good idea for students to make an outline for the essay and jot down critical pieces of evidence and pertinent details. An outline will also help a student organize all of the parts of an essay and make note of important points to include in their piece. In some cases, an outline can help a student to refocus if they lose their train of thought during the test.

At Veritas Prep, we assist students in learning how to write a compelling essay for the SAT. Our talented instructors have practical experience with the SAT and know what it takes to craft a stellar essay, so students who work with our professional tutors are receiving instruction from the experts!

Should Every Student Write the Optional Essay?

Most students want to know if they should write the optional essay. The answer depends on where a student wants to go to college. There are some colleges that require an applicant’s SAT essay score and some that don’t – it’s a smart idea for students to check with the schools they plan to apply to. Some students make the decision to take the essay portion of the SAT so they can offer a college solid proof of their excellent writing skills.

In addition to offering guidance on writing an essay for the SAT, our online tutors at Veritas Prep help students study for all of the other sections on the exam. Students learn valuable test strategies that they can use on test day to boost their performance from tutors offer who encouragement every step of the way. We know that preparing for the SAT can be stressful, and we are here to help!

Planning to take the current or new SAT? We run a free online SAT prep seminar every few weeks. And, be sure to find us on FacebookYouTube, Google+ and Twitter!