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!

The Pros and Cons of Skipping the ACT Essay-Writing Section

SAT WorryAs you read about the different sections on the ACT, you’ll notice that the essay (or Writing section) is optional. So should you do the ACT Writing section or opt out of it?

The best way to answer this question is to check out both the pros and cons of signing up for the ACT without the essay:

Pros of Skipping the ACT Essay

Saving Time
One of the advantages of signing up for the ACT without the essay is you can reduce the amount of time you spend preparing for the exam. Preparation for the ACT Writing section means learning the scoring rubric to find out the elements necessary to achieve a high score. Also, you must spend time practicing your essay-writing skills to ensure that you’re ready to create an impressive essay. Skipping the ACT essay means you have more study time to dedicate to the other sections on the test. Plus, taking the ACT without writing time means your total testing period is shortened by 40 minutes.

Saving Money
The official website for the ACT displays one fee for taking the test with the Writing section and another for taking the ACT without the essay, so if you decide to skip the essay, you can save a little money on your testing fees. This can be important, especially if you have a tight budget for standardized tests taken in your junior and senior year in high school.

Sticking With Your Strengths
Perhaps essay-writing is not one of your strengths – when you take the ACT without the Writing section, time can be spent studying for the other sections of the test. You can focus on the Math, Reading, Science, and English sections to achieve scores that will impress college admissions officials. However, if you want to improve your essay-writing skills, our capable instructors can help you to achieve that goal. We can teach you strategies for how to set up a logical, well-organized essay and provide you with guided practice to help make your essay the best it can be.

Cons of Skipping the ACT Essay

Lacking a Requirement?
One of the cons of taking the ACT without the essay is that you may want to apply to colleges that list a score for the Writing section as an admissions requirement. In order to apply to those colleges, you would have to go back and take the entire test again to get an essay score. Checking to see if the ACT essay is a requirement for the colleges you plan to apply to is a wise idea. But keep in mind that you may want to add a college to your list later or even transfer to another school that requires an ACT essay score.

Skipping the Opportunity to Make an Impression
Another con of skipping the essay section on the ACT is that you’ll miss out on an opportunity to show off your writing skills. Earning a high score on the essay is sure to capture the attention of college admissions officials. If writing is one of your strengths, why not take the time to highlight that talent to colleges?

Missing Out on an Intro to College-Level Work
If you skip the ACT essay, you miss out on the chance to become familiar with college-level work. The task of writing this essay is similar to what you’ll be doing in your English classes as a college freshman. You’ll be writing a lot of papers for classes once you start working toward a degree, so why not give yourself the opportunity to dip your toe into the type of academic work you’ll be doing as a college student?

Whether you decide to take the ACT with or without the essay, we are here to help you prep for the test. You may want to start by trying a free ACT trial class taught by one of our professional, 99th percentile instructors. This will give you an idea of all that we have to offer you at Veritas Prep. Sign up for our test prep services and you have the choice of online tutoring, in-person courses, or On Demand instruction. At Veritas Prep, we make it easy for you to learn what you need to know to ace the ACT!

Still need to take the ACT? We run a free online ACT prep seminar every few weeks. 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!

How to Prepare for College-Level Writing

writing essayI’ve written previously on how to make the transition to college writing once you’re already in college, and that’s important. What’s also important is using your time in high school to prepare yourself early for the rigors of college writing.

I know that when you’re in high school, college can seem light-years away. It’s hard to see how your high school assignments will really help you be a better student in college, but trust me, they can. If you use your time in high school right, especially in regards to writing, you can get a strong head start towards producing college-quality work.

Here are 3 tips that you can start using right away to prepare for your future college writing:

1) Create your own topics on assignments.
Or at the very least, alter the prompts given to you. Often times, papers in college will either have no prompt or will have very generic prompts – you have to be creative enough to come up with your own question and then have enough evidence to answer it.

In high school, paper topics are often clearly delineated, and students just go along with what their teacher says. While this might be easy to do, it won’t help you down the road. By practicing going out of your way to confect unique topics that you can explore in depth, you won’t be intimidated when the only instruction your college professor gives you is, “Go write a paper on the book we just read!” (Just be sure to clear this creative topic change with your teacher before submitting your paper!)

2) Ask your high school teachers for feedback, even if you did well on an assignment.
Many high school students just look at the grade on their essays and then move on with their lives. However, knowing that you got an A or a B doesn’t let you know how you can continue to improve your writing. By looking at your teacher’s feedback, you’ll start to see your strengths and weaknesses in writing and be able to raise the quality of your work. What’s more, you can go above and beyond by meeting with your teacher to ask for ways that your writing could better fit college-level writing. After all, your teachers have gone through college already and it’s their job to get your ready for the rigors of the next phase of your academic journey.

3) Focus on argument, not exposition.
In high school, you can sometimes get by with writing a paper focused on who did what, what an idea means, or what techniques someone used. This is exposition (or description) and it is only one part of writing. Good college papers make arguments – they don’t just explain what a character did or what an author’s idea is. So, even if a high school assignment asks you only a simple question, it’s good practice to go above and beyond to make a more complex argument. This mode of thinking will prepare you for the rigorous analysis you must do in college.

I know it can be tempting to just skate by on high school assignments. However, there are certain ways you can use your time in high school to solidly prepare yourself for college writing, and doing this will be well worth your time. Even if this requires more ingenuity and diligence from you now, it will set you up for abundant future success in college and beyond.

Do you still need help with your college applications? We can help! Visit our College Admissions website and register to attend one of our FREE Online College WorkshopsAnd as always, be sure to follow us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+, and Twitter!

By Aidan Calvelli.