| Lesson 1 | Lesson 2 | Lesson 3 | Lesson 4 | SAT Vocabulary | Lesson 5 | Lesson 6 | Lesson 7 |
SAT Lesson 1( 03/03/05)
Objectives: To get familiar with the new SAT format and the New SAT Essay Scoring Guide
Motivational Activities: Go to Free SAT Practice and answer a few SAT questions. Share your experience with your classmates.
Materials : Chapter 1 and Chapter 2 from College Board SAT Study Guide
Objectives: How to do your best on the SAT?
Motivational Activity: Group share experiences of SAT-Taking strategies
Sentence Completion- test your voc and your ability to understand the structure of a sentence. Look for
Critical Reading: to grasp the structure of each paragraph
HW Read Prentice Hall Part 3 Sentence Revision-Sentence Fragments (pages 188-183) and do exercise 12.1 & 12.2.
SAT Lesson 2 (03/010/05)
HW Read Prentice Hall Part 3 Sentence Revision and Complete exercises for Chapter 13 Comma Splices and Run-On sentences on pages 196-197.
SAT Lesson 3(03/1705)
Aim: To study the techniques used in Sentence Completion
HW: Read Prentice Hall Part 3 Sentence Revision Chapter 14 "Agreement" and Chapter 15 "Pronoun Reference" and complete exercises for both chapters.
SAT Lesson 4 (03/24/05)
Aim: To study and practice techniques used in Passage-based questions.
Chapter 6 Passage – based Reading
Types of Questions
Extended reasoning Questions
Extended reasoning questions often include words or phrases like:
Extended reasoning questions require you to do some or all of the following:
To answer extended reasoning questions correctly, it helps to know the difference between facts, assumptions, and inferences.
Assumptions: These are suppositions or propositions that writers make to reach their conclusions.
Inferences: These are conclusions you reach based on what has been said in a passage.
LOGIC, STYLE, AND TONE
Many extended reasoning questions will ask you about the way the author develop and presented the ideas in the passage. Some questions will ask you to consider the tone or attitude of the author. They may also ask you to think about how a reader may react.
The context – that is, the particular situation in which the word is used, including information given in neighboring sentences – helps determine its meaning.
When answering vocabulary-in-context questions, keep the following in mind:
Literal Comprehension Questions
Here are some approaches to answering literal comprehension questions:
Approaches to Passage-based Reading Questions
· Keep in mind that the answers come from the passage. Every single
3. Review Grammar : Comma Splices and Run-On sentences & "Agreement" "Pronoun Reference".
HW: Prentice Hall exercise from Part 3 Sentence Revision: Chapter #13 Comma Splices and Run-On sentences on pages 196-197.
SAT Lesson 5 (03/31/05)
Chapter 7: Review & Practice for the Critical Reading Section
Grammar Review: Chapter 13 Comma Splices and Run-On sentences on pages 196-197.
HW Sentence Revision Chapter #14 "Agreement" and Chapter #15 "Pronoun Reference" and complete exercises for both chapters.
SAT Lesson 6 (04/07/05)
Review: Prentice Hall exercise from Part 3 Sentence Revision Chapter 14 "Agreement" and Chapter 15 "Pronoun Reference" and complete exercises for both chapters.
HW. Grammar: Prentice Hall exercise from Part 3 Sentence Revision-Complete exercise for Chapter #16 Shifts and Chapter #17 Misplaced Modifiers
SAT Lesson 7 (04/13/05 & 04/20/05)
Chapter 9: The Essay
The following notes are taken from SparkNotes.com:
Beat the Essay
A “great SAT essay” and a “great essay” are not the same thing. Truly great essays take hours or even days to plan, research, and write. The SAT essay can’t take more than 25 minutes. That means you’ve got to write an essay that convinces your grader of your genius in less time than it takes to watch The Simpsons, right? Wrong.
The SAT knows that 25 minutes isn’t enough time for anyone, anywhere, to write a genius essay. Forget genius. Forget about trying to write an essay that changes the world. When the SAT says to you, “Here’s 25 minutes, write an essay,” what they’re saying between the lines is: “Write a standard essay that does exactly what we want.”
To give the SAT what it wants, you need to have a very firm essay-writing strategy in place before you sit down to take the test. You then need to apply that strategy to whatever question the SAT essay poses. In this chapter, we teach you a strategy for writing a great SAT essay that works every time, on any topic. It all starts with fast food.
Know Your Customers
After you finish taking the SAT, your essay is scanned into a computer, uploaded to a secure website, and graded on computer screens at remote locations by “essay-graders.” These essay-graders are either English teachers or writing teachers who have been hired and trained to grade SAT essays by the company that makes the SAT. Every essay is actually read by two graders. Each grader is instructed to spend no more than three minutes reading an essay before giving it a score on a scale of 1–6. The two grades are then added together to make up your entire essay subscore, which ranges from 2–12. (If two graders come to wildly different scores for an essay, like a 2 and a 5, a third grader is brought in.)
So the essay graders are your customers. You want to give them an essay that tastes just like what they’re expecting. How are you supposed to know what they’re expecting? You can learn exactly what SAT essay-graders expect by looking at two very important guidelines: the actual SAT essay directions and the grading criteria that the SAT gives the graders.
The SAT Essay Directions
The first thing you should not do when writing your SAT essay is read the directions. Don’t waste your time on the real test. Instead, read the directions now and make sure you understand them.
We’ve translated these directions into a list of Dos and Don’ts to make all the rules easier to grasp:
The Grader’s Instructions
The graders must refer to a set-in-stone list of criteria when evaluating each essay and deciding what grade (1 through 6) it deserves. The following chart is our explanation of the grading criteria that the SAT gives the graders.
Know Your Ingredients
To write a tasty SAT essay, you’ve got to know the necessary ingredients: The different grades of 1–6 are based on the quality of your essay in four fundamental categories.
Now you know your customers, and you know what they want. We’ll spend the rest of this chapter teaching you precisely how to give it to them.
SAT essay topics are always broad. Really, really, really broad. We’re talking “the big questions of life” broad. A typical SAT essay topic gives you a statement that addresses ideas like the concept of justice, the definition of success, the importance of learning from mistakes.
The broad nature of SAT topics means you’ll never be forced to write about topical or controversial issues of politics, culture, or society (unless you want to; we’ll talk about whether you should want to a little later). But the broadness of the topics also means that with a little thought you can come up with plenty of examples to support your position on the topic.
Philosophers take years to write tomes on the topics of justice or success. On the SAT, you get 25 minutes. Given these time constraints, the key to writing a great SAT essay is taking a strong position on an extremely broad topic. You need to select your position strategically. A solid position on two strategies:
It’s time to learn how to take a stand. Here’s a sample topic:
Rephrase the Prompt
Rephrase the prompt in your own words and make it more specific. If you rephrase the statement “There is no success like failure,” you might come up with a sentence like “Failure can lead to success by teaching important lessons that help us avoid repeating mistakes in the future.”
In addition to narrowing down the focus of the broad original topic, putting the SAT essay question in your own words makes it easier for you to take a position confidently, since you’ll be proving your own statement rather than the more obscure version put forth by the SAT.
Choose Your Position
Agree or disagree. When you choose an argument for a paper in school, you often have to strain yourself to look for something original, something subtle. Not here. Not on the 25-minute fast food essay. Once you’ve rephrased the topic, agree with it or disagree. It’s that simple.
You may have qualms or otherwise “sophisticated” thoughts at this point. You may be thinking, “I could argue the ‘agree’ side pretty well, but I’m not sure that I 100 percent believe in the agree side because. . . .” Drop those thoughts. Remember, you’re not going to have a week to write this essay. You need to keep it simple. Agree or disagree, then come up with the examples that support your simple stand.
To make an SAT essay really shine, you’ve got to load it up with excellent examples. Just coming up with any three examples that fit a basic position on a broad topic is not gonna cut it. But there are two things that do make excellent SAT examples stand out from the crowd:
Good examples discuss specific events, dates, or measurable changes over time. Another way to put this is, you have to be able to talk about things that have happened in detail.
Let’s say you’re trying to think of examples to support the position that “learning the lessons taught by failure is a sure route to success.” Perhaps you come up with the example of the American army during the Revolutionary War, which learned from its failures in the early years of the war how it needed to fight the British. Awesome! That’s a potentially great example. To make it actually great, though, you have to be able to say more than just, “The American army learned from its mistakes and then defeated the British Redcoats.” You need to be specific: Give dates, mention people, battles, tactics. If you use the experience of the American Army in the Revolutionary War as an example, you might mention the signing of the Treaty of Paris in 1783, which officially granted the Americans independence and gave the United States all lands east of the Mississippi River.
Just as bricks hold up a building, such detailed facts support an argument. There are literally millions of good, potential examples for every position you might choose. You need to choose examples that you know a lot about in order to be specific. Knowing a lot about an example means you know more than just the basic facts. You need to be able to use all the detailed facts about your example, such as dates and events, to show how your example proves your argument.
Knowing that the Americans defeated the British in 1783 is the start of a great example, but you must show specifically how the American victory proves the argument that “there’s no success like failure.” What failures on the part of the British government and army led to the Americans’ success? (Morale issues, leadership differences, inadequate soldiers and supplies, the Battle of Yorktown, and so on.) The one-two punch of a solid example and details that use the example to prove your argument make the difference between a good SAT essay example and a great one.
Variety of Examples
The other crucial thing about SAT essay examples is how much ground they cover. Sure, you could come up with three examples from your personal life about how you learned from failure. But you’re much more likely to impress the grader and write a better essay if you use a broad range of examples from different areas: history, art, politics, literature, science, and so on. That means when you’re thinking up examples, you should consider as wide a variety as possible, as long as all of your examples remain closely tied to proving your argument.
To prove the position that “there’s no success like failure,” you might choose one example from history, literature, and business or current events. Here are three examples that you might choose from those three areas:
A broad array of examples like those will provide a more solid and defensible position than three examples drawn from personal experience or from just one or two areas.
A Note on Truthfulness in Examples
The SAT essay tests how well you write. The examples you choose to support your argument and your development of those examples is a big part of how well you write. But there’s no SAT rule or law that says that the examples you use to support your arguments have to be true.
That does not mean you should make up examples from history or bend facts into falsehoods. Instead, it means you can take examples drawn from your personal experience or your own knowledge and present them as examples from current events, art, literature, business, or almost any other topic. For instance, let’s say your Aunt Edna started a business selling chocolate-covered pretzels on the street in New York City. She started the business because she noticed that her friends and neighbors were sick and tired of the dull, flavorless New York City pretzels offered at other stands, many of which had gone out of business due to lack of demand. Her chocolate-covered pretzel business became a success based on her competitors’ failures. Turn that example into an article you recently read in your local newspaper, and you’ve transformed your personal knowledge into a much more credible and impressive example about success and failure in business. It’s certainly better to use universal examples based on facts and events that your grader might recognize. If you’re in a bind, however, remember that you can bend the truth a bit and use your personal knowledge and experience to generate examples that prove your argument.
No matter what topic you end up writing about, the organization of your essay should be the same. That’s right, the same. If you’re asked to write about whether “there’s no success like failure” or about the merits of the phrase “progress always comes at a cost,” the structure of your essay should be almost identical. The SAT is looking for those standard ingredients, and the structure we’re about to explain will make sure those ingredients stand out in your essay.
So what’s this magical essay structure? Well, it’s back to the trusty fast food analogy: A good SAT essay is a lot like a triple-decker burger.
No matter what the topic is, what you feel about it, or which examples you choose, you should always follow this five-paragraph structure on your SAT essay. The first and last paragraphs are your essay’s introduction and conclusion; each of the middle three paragraphs discusses an example that supports and illustrates your argument. That’s it.
Just as important as the organization of your entire essay is the organization within each of the five paragraphs. Let’s take a closer look at each paragraph next.
The Top Bun: Introduction
The introduction to an SAT essay has to do three things:
To accomplish these three goals, you need three to four sentences in your introduction. These three to four sentences will convey your thesis statement and the overall map of your essay to the grader.
The Thesis Statement:
The thesis statement is the first sentence of your essay. It identifies where you stand on the topic and should pull the grader into the essay. A good thesis statement is strong, clear, and definitive. A good thesis statement for the essay topic, “There’s no success like failure,” is
This thesis statement conveys the writer’s position on the topic boldly and clearly. In only a few words, it carves out the position that the essay will take on the very broad, vague topic: learning from failure yields success.
The Essay Summary:
After the thesis statement, the rest of the first paragraph should serve as a kind of summary of the examples you will use to support your position on the topic. Explain and describe your three examples to make it clear how they fit into your argument. It’s usually best to give each example its own sentence. Here’s an example:
Three sentences, three examples. The grader knows exactly what to expect from your essay now and is ready to dive in.
The Meat: Three-Example Paragraphs
Each of your three-example paragraphs should follow this basic format:
For now we’re just going to show you one “meat” paragraph. As we continue through the chapter, you’ll see several more, some that are good, some that are bad. This one is good:
The best meat paragraphs on the SAT essay are specific. The SAT’s essay directions say it loud and clear: “Be specific.” In its topic sentence, this paragraph states that the United States is one of the great examples of “a success achieved by studying and learning from failures.” It then uses the specific example of the Articles of Confederation, the Annapolis convention, and the Constitution to prove its position. It’s specific throughout and even includes a few dates.
Transitions Between Meat Paragraphs: Your first meat paragraph dives right into its thesis statement, but the second and third meat paragraphs need transitions. The simplest way to build these transitions is to use words like another and finally. That means your second meat paragraph should start with a transitional phrase such as, “Another example . . .”
A slightly more sophisticated way to build transitions is to choose examples from different sources, such as from history and business. If the first paragraph is about a political instance of learning from failure and the second is from business, make that fact your transition: “As in politics, learning from failure is a means to gaining success in business as well. Take the case of. . . .”
The Bottom Bun: Conclusion
The conclusion of your essay should accomplish two main goals:
To accomplish these two goals, your conclusion should contain three to four sentences.
Recap Your Argument:
The recap is a one-sentence summary of what you’ve already argued. As in the thesis statement, the recap should be straightforward, bold, and declarative. By “broadening” your argument, we mean that you should attempt to link your specific examples to wider fields, such as politics, business, and art. Here’s a recap example:
Expand on Your Position:
The last two or three sentences of the essay should take the argument you just recapped and push it a little further. One of the best ways to push your argument further is to look to the future and think about what would happen if the position that you’ve taken in your essay could be applied on a broader scale. Here’s an example:
The bottom bun wraps up the entire SAT essay. And there you have it! If you follow the template we just provided, and break down the essay into its core ingredients, your SAT essay will be strong, clear, and easy to write.
The Universal SAT Essay Template
To make sure you really get the essay organization, the following chart sums it all up. Here’s the SAT essay outline you should use, no matter what topic you get or what position you take:
4. Command of Language
Taking a clear position and defending it with solid, detailed examples is a strong start to a successful SAT essay. But the SAT-graders also care about the mechanics of your writing, which we call your “command of language.” Think of your command of language as your fast food essay’s Special Sauce—it’s the sprinkling of perfect word choice, grammar, sentence structure, and spelling that must ooze through your entire essay. An SAT essay with a clear position and strong examples won’t get a perfect score without the Special Sauce, so pay close attention to these three facets of your essay (the actual SAT essay-grading guidelines mention them specifically):
Did you notice how dull that entire last paragraph became after the first two sentences? That’s because every one of those sentences not only started in the same way but also all had the same straight-ahead plodding rhythm.
Now go back and look at the earlier sample meat paragraph on the Constitution. Notice how the various sentences start differently and also have different internal rhythms. These variations in sentence structure keep the writing vibrant and interesting. Focus on changing the structure of your sentences as you write the essay. You don’t have to invert every clause, but you should be careful not to let a few sentences in a row follow the same exact structure. You’ve got to mix it up. Here’s the boring first paragraph of this section rewritten with varied sentence structure:
Much easier to read and far less repetitive, right?
Transition Between Sentences
One great way to vary your sentence structure while increasing the logical flow of your essay is to use transitions. Transitions are the words that provide the context necessary to help readers understand the flow of your argument. They’re words, phrases, or sentences that take readers gently by the hand, leading them through your essay. Here are some different kinds of transitions you can use to spice up your sentence structure:
Overly Complex Sentences
Sometimes students think writing long complicated sentences will impress teachers. Maybe, but it won’t impress SAT essay-graders. Keep your sentences short and simple. Complex sentences are difficult to understand, and your SAT essays should be as clear and easy to read as possible.
We could fill an entire book with rules about creating simple and succinct prose. Instead, we give you two handy rules to simplify the sentences that you write on the SAT essay:
Those rules are certainly not foolproof, but abiding by them will keep you from filling your SAT essay with overly complex sentences and will ultimately make your essay easier to understand.
When students see that “word choice” plays a part in their essay score, they think it means that they have to use tons of sophisticated vocabulary words in order to score well. That belief is wrong and potentially damaging to your SAT essay score. If you strain to put big fancy words into your essay, you’re bound to end up misusing those words. And misusing a sophisticated word is a worse offense than not using one at all.
Word choice doesn’t mean that you have to go for the big word every time. It means you should go for the proper word, the best word, the word that makes your essay as clear as possible. Let’s look at part of the paragraph about the Constitution:
This is 6-level writing, but it isn’t teeming with five-syllable words. What the passage does is use every single word correctly. When it does reach for an uncommon word, like beacon, it uses the word appropriately and effectively. Now that’s good word choice.
So don’t try to use a word unless you know what it means. Don’t go throwing around tough words in the hope that you’re going to use it correctly and impress your reader. The likelihood is that you’re going to use the word incorrectly and give the grader a bad impression. Instead, keep it simple and stick to words you know well.
Grammar and Spelling
A few grammar or spelling mistakes sprinkled throughout your essay will not destroy your score. The SAT understands that you’re bound to make minor mistakes in a rushed 25-minute essay.
Graders are instructed to look out for patterns of errors. If a grader sees that your punctuation is consistently wrong, that your spelling of familiar words is often incorrect, or that you write run-on sentences again and again, that’s when your score will suffer.
You need to be able to write solid grammatical sentences to score well on the essay. As for learning the grammar, well, you’re in luck. We cover all the important grammar you need to know in “Beat Identifying Sentence Errors” and “Beat Improving Sentences.”
Know How to Put the Ingredients Together
By now you know all of the ingredients you should use and the template you should follow to write a great SAT essay. Next you need to learn the writing process that will empower you to put it all together into a top-score-worthy essay every time. Follow the five steps we describe next and you’ll be on your way to a 6.
Five Steps to a 6
Step 1: Understand the topic and take a position. (1 minute)
The first thing you must do before you can even think about your essay is read the topic very carefully. Here’s the sample topic we will use throughout this section:
Make sure you understand the topic thoroughly by making it your own. To do that, use the two strategies we discussed in the Ingredients section:
That’s it. One step down, four more to go.
Step 2: Brainstorm examples. (2–3 minutes)
Your position is that you agree with the statement that “failure can lead to success by teaching important lessons that help us avoid repeating mistakes in the future.” Terrific.
Brainstorming, or thinking up examples to support your position, is the crucial next step. Plenty of SAT-takers will succumb to the temptation to plunge straight from Step 1 into writing the essay (Step 4). Skipping the brainstorming session will leave you with an opinion on the topic but with no clearly thought-out examples to prove your point. You’ll write the first thing that comes to mind, and your essay will probably derail. So even though you feel the time pressure, don’t skip brainstorming.
Brainstorming seems simple. You just close your eyes and scrunch up your face and THINK REALLY HARD until you come up with some examples. But, in practice, brainstorming while staring at a blank page under time pressure can be intimidating and frustrating. To make brainstorming less daunting and more productive, we’ve got two strategies to suggest:
Brainstorm by Category
The best examples you can generate to support your SAT essay topic will come from a variety of sources such as science, history, politics, art, literature, business, and personal experience. So, brainstorm a list split up by category. Here’s the list we brainstormed for the topic, “There’s no success like failure.”
Let’s say you took three minutes and came up with a list of eight categories like ours, and you got examples for five of them. That’s still great. That means your next step is to choose the top three of your five potential examples.
Prepare Ahead of Time
If you want to put in the time, you could also do some brainstorming ahead of time. Brainstorming ahead of time can be a great method, because it gives you time to do more than just brainstorm. You can actually prepare examples for each of the seven categories we’ve brainstormed above in our chart. You could, for instance, read up about various scientists, learning about their successes, their failures, the impact of their discoveries (positive and negative), and memorize dates, events, and other facts.
The risk inherent in planning ahead is that you can get stuck with a topic on the SAT in which all your knowledge about scientists just isn’t applicable. But while this is somewhat of a risk, since the SAT essay topics are so broad, you can often massage your examples to fit. Preparing ahead of time will pay off if you develop a few examples that you know a lot about for the essay. But it could backfire if it winds up that you absolutely cannot use the examples you prepared. Then you’ll have to resort to thinking up examples on the spot. If you don’t want to risk wasting time preparing ahead of time, don’t. It’s up to you.
Choose Your Top Three
When you go through your brainstormed and pre-prepared examples to decide which three you should actually use, you need to keep three things in mind:
The first two reasons are pretty straightforward: Specificity and variety in your examples will help you write the strongest essay. The point about controversy is a bit more subtle. Staying away from very controversial examples ensures that you won’t accidentally offend or annoy your grader, who might then be more inclined to lower your grade. For instance, the 9/11 example from our brainstormed list should be cut. The event just is too full of unresolved issues to serve as a suitable essay topic, and the last thing you want to do is upset or offend anyone.
Here’s another example. Let’s say that you’re not so certain if that story about James Joyce being a singer is even really true, and that you think lots of people might go for the babies walking example. That would mean you decide to keep the examples about the Constitution, Google, and the story of Rod Johnson. What if instead of referring to Rod Johnson as your enterprising uncle, you portray him as a businessman you read about in an esteemed publication recently? Transform your personal experience and make it seem like an actual example from current events. The SAT essay graders care much more about how well you write and how intelligently you can use examples to back up your position than they care about the truth of what you say in examples drawn from personal experience.
That means you’ve narrowed down your brainstormed topics to the top three. Next up: Outlining.
Step 3: Create an outline. (3–4 minutes)
After brainstorming comes the essay writing step that students tend to dread most—writing an outline. So we’re here to encourage you to embrace the outline. Love the outline! Live the outline! At the very least, write the outline. On fast food essays like the SAT essay, which rewards standard conformity much more than it does creativity, organizing your ideas in outline form and then sticking to that outline is crucial. Though you may feel that you’re wasting your time, we guarantee that the four or five minutes that you invest in writing an outline will definitely be paid back when you write the essay.
Writing the Outline
Since your outline is a kind of bare-bones “map” of your essay, the outline should follow our Universal SAT Essay Template. Here’s a summary of the template:
As you write the outline, remember that conveying your ideas clearly matters at this stage. Your outline need not be articulate or even comprehensible to anyone other than you. Your outline must contain all the essential raw material that will become your thesis statement, topic sentences, and concluding statement when you write your essay.
As you sketch out your outline, consider where you want each example to go. We suggest that you put what you consider to be your strongest example first, followed by the second strongest, and then the least strong. We suggest this because the essay is a timed section, and if for some reason you run out of time and can only fit two example paragraphs between your intro and conclusion, they might as well be your best two examples. Here’s a sample outline we’ve written based on the topic and examples we have already discussed. Notice that we’ve placed our examples in strongest to weakest order starting in paragraph 2.
Your outline does not have to be written in complete sentences. Notice how in the example above we drop verbs and write in a note-taking style. Feel free to write just enough to convey to yourself what you need to be able to follow during the actual writing of your essay. Once you have the outline down on paper, writing the essay becomes more a job of polishing language and ideas than creating them from scratch.
Step 4: Write the essay. (15 minutes)
Writing the essay consists of filling out your ideas by following your outline and plugging in what’s missing. That adds up to only about ten more sentences than what you’ve jotted down in your outline, which should already contain a basic version of your thesis statement, one topic sentence for each of your three examples, and a conclusion statement that ties everything together. All together your essay should be about fifteen to twenty sentences long.
As you write, keep these three facets of your essay in mind:
Following your outline will make sure you stick to the Universal SAT Essay Template. That means organization shouldn’t be a problem.
As far as development goes, you should make sure that every sentence in the essay serves the greater goal of proving your thesis statement as well as the more immediate purpose of building on the supporting examples you present in the intro and in each example paragraph’s topic sentence. You should also make sure that you are specific with your examples: give dates, describe events in detail, and so on.
By clarity, we mean the simplicity of the language that you use. That involves spelling and grammar, but it also means focusing on varying sentence length and structure as well as including a few well-placed vocabulary words that you definitely know how to use correctly.
Do not break from your outline. Never pause for a digression or drop in a fact or detail that’s not entirely relevant to your essay’s thesis statement. You’re serving fast food, and fast food always sticks to the core ingredients and the universal recipe.
If You Run Out of Time
If you’re running out of time before finishing the intro, all three example paragraphs, and the conclusion, there’s still hope. Here’s what you should do: Drop one of your example paragraphs. You can still get a decent score, possibly a 4 or 5, with just two. Three examples is definitely the strongest and safest way to go, but if you just can’t get through three, take your two best examples and go with them. Just be sure to include an introduction and a conclusion in every SAT essay.
The Finished Essay: Our Example
Here is an example of a complete SAT essay. It’s based strictly on the outline we built in step 3 of our Five Steps to a 6, with a focus on clear simple language and the occasional drop of special sauce.
In the Practice Essay section at the end of this chapter, we provide analysis to explain more fully why we think this essay deserves a 6. For now, it’s time to move on to the final step of our Five Steps to a 6—proofing your essay.
Step 5: Proof the essay. (2 minutes)
Proofing your essay means reading through your finished essay to correct mistakes or to clear up words that are difficult to read. If you don’t have two minutes after you’ve finished writing the essay (step 4), spend whatever time you do have left proofing. Read over your essay and search for rough writing, bad transitions, grammatical errors, repetitive sentence structure, and all that special sauce stuff. The SAT explicitly says that handwriting will not affect your grade, but you should also be on the lookout for instances in which bad handwriting makes it look as if you’ve made a grammatical or spelling mistake.
If you’re running out of time and you have to skip a step, proofing is the step to drop. Proofing is important, but it’s the only one of the Five Steps to a 6 that isn’t absolutely crucial.
Anatomy of the SAT Essay
Yes, it’s true: the SAT now has an essay. It’s part of the Writing section, and you’ll have 25 minutes to complete it.
Before we get into the concepts and strategies you’ll use to tackle the essay, let’s lay out the terrain. In this section, we provide you with an X- ray of the SAT essay by answering the following questions:
Answering these questions will not only demystify the SAT but will also put you in a good position to prepare yourself for writing a winning essay.
You may be asking yourself, “Why do I need to know so much about the essay score? I’m writing the essay, not scoring it.” Well, understanding how to score the SAT essay will actually help you to write a better essay. By studying the scoring process in detail, you’ll understand exactly what your writing should include and what you should avoid. Most important, you’ll gain an understanding of how The College Board defines good writing, which is not necessarily how you, your teachers, or your parents may define it.
Your ability to choose, support, and develop an argument will determine much of your essay score. And language is the tool that you’ll use to construct and convey your argument.
To help you maximize your essay score, we’ve collected the most relevant elements of language and writing an argument you’ll need to maximize your score. As you study these concepts, don’t get too caught up in the formal or grammatical names. The names are there simply because we have to call these concepts something, but don’t be intimidated or turned off! Concentrate on the concepts behind the names.
To make these concepts more digestible, we’ve pared down the huge subject of writing to what actually matters most for the essay. We’ve also taken some small liberties with terminology for the sake of simplicity.
The scoring rubric rewards essays that are:
These goals are related but somewhat separable. Since you only have 25 minutes to achieve these three goals, it makes sense to split them up. That’s where our step method comes in.
Turning the Tables
Play SAT Essay-Reader
We’ve said this before, but it’s worth repeating: by learning how to grade SAT essays, you will train yourself to write an essay that matches the essay-readers’ expectations.
Read the following essay prompt:
We will provide you with six responses to this prompt.
We will provide both the “distilled” and complete scoring rubrics below. Use these to score each response holistically. If you like, you may reread the sections How Is the Essay Scored and How Essay-Readers Apply the Scoring Rubric (pp. 20–28). When you’re ready to score, skip to page 88 for the responses.
After you’ve scored the responses, you’ll get a chance to compare your scores with ours and to read our scoring rationales.
First, here’s the “distilled” version of the scoring rubric:
Remember, first the essay-readers focus on holistic grading—their overall impression—and decide if an essay is in the top (4, 5, 6) or bottom (1, 2, 3) of the rubric. Then they decide what the score is within each half. Here is the complete scoring rubric to guide your decision:
Finally, the responses, in no particular score order.
Practice Essay Prompts
Plan, write, and score your responses to these essays.
You may not want to give yourself a time limit on the first of the following essays you attempt. But note how long each step takes you. By the second or third practice essay, you should keep yourself to the following time limits:
Remember to construct your own Student Response Sheets. Get a normal-size pad of college-ruled 8 1/2"-by-11" paper. That’s about the size of your actual Student Response Sheet. Count off about 50 lines and give yourself left and right margins of about a half inch each. That’s about the size you’ll be given. You can use both sides of one sheet of paper, if you like, to be as realistic as possible.
Give yourself a reasonable amount of planning space. In addition to the 50 lines above, give yourself about two-thirds of a separate sheet of paper to plan your essay.
Don’t forget the two-column method. We suggest that you separate your planning space into two columns. Use the left column for steps 1 and 2, defining terms and brainstorming. Use the right for step 3, outlining. You’re much less likely to run out of space for your outline that way.
From SparkNotes.com: The New SAT
Other Tipsa to write the SAT Essay:
1. SAT scorers want to read essays that break free from the dull subject-verb sentence mold. Use nine different sentence variations to add interest and a more mature voice to compositions. In WriteShop II, students review and repeatedly practice each one until it flows naturally from their pens.
3. Timing Once students know how to develop and polish their essays in a pressure-free setting, they are ready to begin writing against the clock. The Timed Essay lesson teaches them to break the essay into smaller parts, devoting a certain number of minutes to each. At first students walk through the process assisted by a guide sheet, teacher prompts, and a clock. As they practice writing timed essays, these “crutches” are slowly removed until the students can pace themselves with the aid of the clock alone.
Grammar Review :Part 3 Sentence Revision-Complete exercise for Chapter #16 Shifts and Chapter #17 Misplaced Modifiers
HW: Prentice Hall exercise from Part 3 Sentence Revision-p.188 complete exercise for #18 Dangling Modifiers #19 Omissions; Incomplete and Illogical Comparisons #20 Mixed or Confused Sentences
SAT Lesson 8 04/20/05
Chapter 10: Identifying Sentence Errors
Grammar Review: #18 Dangling Modifiers #19 Omissions; Incomplete and Illogical Comparisons #20 Mixed or Confused Sentences