SAT Essay: Prompts, Scores, and Examples

The SAT – also known as the Standard APtitutde Test – is a multiple-choice entrance exam for many colleges and universities in the United States. The test was created in 1923 by Carl Brigham and is owned and developed by the non-profit College Board. The test helps students prove themselves and helps college administration officers determine who to enroll in the college.

SAT Organization

The test is broken down into four parts – Reading, Writing, Math, and an SAT essay. The SAT essay was made optional in 2016, but some colleges still require it, and some students should still take it anyway.

Students have three hours to complete their SAT or three hours and fifty minutes to complete an SAT plus essay. Students should go through everything in the test to get the best possible score as points are deducted for unanswered questions. It’s better to guess than leave it blank.

SAT Essay Score

The SAT covers two sections. Reading and writing are bundled together, and math is separate. Students can score between 400 and 1600 for their test, as each section is worth between 200 and 800 points. The SAT essay score is between 2 and 8 for each section.

The essay is graded by two people who assign the reading, analytics, and writing of the essay a score between 1 and 4.

  1. Reading – The essay should show that the student has a clear understanding of the material. Go over all the main points and connect them together.
  2. Analysis – The essay should include persuasive arguments for the main claims. Evaluate your claims and provide evidence to back them up.
  3. Writing – The essay should be well structured. Arguments should be presented logically, with good sentence structure and overall essay structure. The fewer spelling and grammar mistakes, the better.

The two scores are added together to get the final SAT essay score between 2 and 8 points on each criterion. If one grader gave you a 3 for reading and the other gave you two, for example, your final reading grade would be 5.

SAT Essay Tips

The good news is that the SAT essay isn’t as complicated as it sounds. There are several SAT essay tips to keep in mind to help you get a good score. Here are our best SAT tips;

  • Understand how the scoring system works
  • Study and read example essays and learn from them – look at their structure and what they did right and wrong
  • Do some practice by reading SAT essay prompts. Create a piece from the prompt in under 50 minutes and see what you come up with.
  • Get better at analyzing texts, learn how to spot the central claims and evidence in the text.
  • Use only accurate facts. Find evidence to support your points in the passage itself.
  • Be objective in your essay. It’s fine to answer the prompt, but don’t add your own personal viewpoints or opinions.
  • Organize the SAT essay properly and go over it again when you’re done
  • Make the essay longer than just a single page. There are no guidelines about how long an SAT essay should be for a good score, but writing a more extended essay gives you enough space to show off your skills and earn a good Writing score.
  • Stick to the tried and true essay tips; make your thesis clear, structure the essay well, and write in straightforward language
  • Set a timer when practicing. Don’t forget you only have 50 minutes to complete the essay, so you should get a feeling for how long that is.

What Colleges Require the SAT Essay?

While the choice to take the essay or not is optional, whether you really have the option or not could depend on the college you apply for. Some colleges still require SAT essays, and others recommend that students take them anyway. It’s good to know if your college will need it or not.

Some of the more popular colleges, such as Benedictine University, Duke University, Stanford University, and the West Virginia University Institute of Technology, require students to take the SAT essay. Other colleges, such as Yale University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the California Institute of Technology, neither require nor recommend students take the essay.

The College Board website keeps a list of SAT essay policies for educational institutions on its website. Be sure to double-check it to see what colleges require the SAT essay.

SAT Essay Examples

They say practice makes perfect, and that certainly applies to SAT essays. One way you can practice for the essay is to look through some SAT essay examples. There are plenty of examples online to look through. These essays may have different SAT essay prompts to you, but you can still pick up a lot of insight on how the author structures their piece and explains their argument.

The College Board hosts a number of SAT examples, including detailed explanations of why the essays scored what they did. These examples are your best choice for learning more about what graders look for and how best to write an SAT essay.

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