What Is Graded on the SAT Essay?
<![CDATA[In my last post I described my experience as an SAT essay grader and why I am confident in telling people that the scores on the essays are fair and objective. Today I’ll explain what graders are looking for as they read each essay. First, grading is done as a holistic or overall impression of the composition. Keep in mind graders are reading essays on their computers, so it is not like your old English teacher who labored over each paper with her red pen. Graders have a minute or two to read the essay and make an overall judgment of its quality. Essays do not need to be perfect to receive the highest scores, but they should consistently demonstrate the thinking and writing skills of a college bound student. Each essay will be graded on a scale of 1 to 6. A 1 or 2 paper is obviously unsuccessful in developing a college bound type of answer; a 6 essay is excellent. Most essays will fall in the 3 to 4 range. Essays are graded by two readers working independently. If scores differ by more than one point, a third “expert” reader will be brought in. Graders evaluate five elements. Here is a description of each, including the College Board description for a score of a 6, and a couple hints for what students can do to improve. 1. Content A score of a 6 “effectively and insightfully develops a point of view . . . demonstrates outstanding critical thinking, using clearly appropriate examples, reasons, and other evidence. . .” To improve your own content you should:
- Develop a point of view. It is not enough to state your position, you must develop it!
- Provide depth in examples. You can give great detail by developing one example at length or you can provide two or three examples that are presented in depth.
- Establish a clear answer (thesis).
- Develop your answer in a logical and orderly way. Do not jump from idea to idea and back again.
- No matter what format you select for your essay, you should provide a logical beginning, middle, and end to your work.
- Avoid slang and colloquialisms, but do not appear too haughty.
- Maintain a natural tone using well-chosen words that are actually part of your vocabulary.
- It is easy to repeat words or phrases from the question; be aware of repetition and look for opportunities to use varied vocabulary.
- Mix it up. Use long compound-complex sentences. Use short sentences.
- Be aware of your own writing style.
- Look for ways to show the reader your sophistication and aptitude with words.
- Watch for errors that interrupt a reader’s understanding of a sentence.
- Re–read your paper before time is called. Too often students have a complete idea in their minds, but in the rush to finish the essay in 25 minutes, they make careless grammatical errors.