What Is Graded on the SAT Essay?

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.
2. Organization A score of a 6 “is well organized and clearly focused, demonstrating clear coherence and smooth progression of ideas.”  There is not one right way to organize an essay.
  • 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.
3. Use of Language A score of 6 “exhibits skillful use of language, using varied, accurate, and apt vocabulary.”
  • 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.
4. Sentence Structure A score of a 6 “demonstrated meaningful variety in sentence structure.”  The excellent essay will not only use a variety of sentence structures; the various structures will be used purposely.
  • 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.
5. Freedom from Errors A score of a 6 “is free of most errors in grammar, usage, and mechanics.”  The paper that earns a 6 does not need to be perfect, but it has very few errors.
  • 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.
Keep in mind that SAT essays are viewed as drafts.  No one expects perfection in two pages and 25 minutes, but good writing always goes a long way. To see the full SAT essay scoring rubric from the College Board click here.  ]]>

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