Archive for the ‘SAT writing’ Category

SAT Essay Prep and ACT Essay Prep

Friday, September 7th, 2012
SAT Essay and ACT Essay

SAT Essay and ACT Essay

Many people aren’t sure how to approach the essay section on the SAT Test and the ACT Test. It doesn’t seem as straightforward as the other sections on an SAT or ACT, they think—you can’t drill it with flashcards, the way you can when you work on SAT vocabulary prep; you can’t memorize rules the way you do for SAT or ACT grammar prep, and it certainly isn’t as black-and-white as SAT math prep, ACT math prep, or ACT science prep. In some ways, that’s right—the essay is different than the other questions. It’s not multiple-choice, and all it gives you is a prompt question and a couple blank pages. Instead of being graded by a machine, essays are graded by two readers—usually teachers—who each give a score between 0 and 6. The scores are then added together to form a score between 0 and 12.

However, when you break it down, an SAT and ACT essay is really nothing to be afraid of. The readers are not expecting you to be Shakespeare, they’re not expecting you to be the next great American novelist, and they’re not expecting perfect penmanship. All they want to see is that you’re able to choose a side on the issue they present you with, and write a clear, concise essay that fully supports the argument you’re making. ACT essay prep and SAT essay prep are possible and necessary, and if you do solid prep work, and little structured brainstorming before you start writing, you can write a fantastic essay in the 25 minutes provided. Here’s how:

In your SAT essay prep or ACT essay prep, one of the best things you can do is come in prepared with some great examples. “But,” you may say, “how can I think of examples ahead of time if I don’t know what the question is yet?” Well, that’s true, you don’t, but you do have access to lots of past ACT essay questions and SAT essay questions, and if you take a look at them, in any of your books or online, you’ll start to see some patterns. SAT essay questions tend to take the form of a general question about society or human nature that can be answered many ways, like “Should people take more responsibility for solving problems that affect their communities of the nation in general?” SAT essay prompts ask you to “Plan and write an essay in which you develop your point of view on this issue. Support your position with reasoning and examples taken from your reading, studies, experience, or observations.” ACT essay questions are a little more specific, and a little more relevant to the life of a teenager, like “Should schools adopt dress codes?” ACT essay prompts ask for your opinion, and ask you to explain it. Both ACT and SAT essay questions give you a lead-in to the question in which they present two possible points of view on the issue, which you can choose from when you start writing.

So, how can you prepare some examples? For the SAT essay, you can start making charts of four or five great examples from history and literature. Books you may have read in school like Huckleberry Finn, Animal Farm, The Scarlet Letter, The Great Gatsby, and Romeo and Juliet or Macbeth are great for finding examples because they all have larger themes about society, personal responsibility, and how things can go wrong. Do yourself a favor, and fill out your chart with all the details you might want to have at your fingertips—you don’t want to be struggling to remember who wrote the book you want to use, or mix up the characters names. You can also note down some larger themes from each book, so it comes to mind when you’re thinking of examples.

As far as history goes, write down a few events or people who you know a lot about. There’s no point in trying to use examples that you’re not very familiar with—if you don’t know much about George Washington, it’s not going to help you very much to try to write about him. Instead, look for examples and events you’re knowledgeable about (maybe something you had to write a paper about in school) that reflects larger social themes. Civil Rights Movements, and polarizing characters in history who worked for social change are always helpful examples. Don’t forget recent history/current events—occupy Wall Street, for instance, would be a great example in an essay about taking responsibility for issues in your community, whether you want to argue that that it did work, and you should take responsibility, or that it didn’t work, and you shouldn’t. Just make sure you remind yourself of all the dates and facts beforehand.

Both the SAT essay questions and the ACT essay questions ask for examples about things that happened to you, and while it’s a lot easier to bring these to mind when you’re taking a test than it is to remember a book you read two years ago, it’s worth spending a little time thinking about. Particularly for ACT essays, it’s helpful to think about the question from multiple points of view: yours, maybe your parents or teachers, and perhaps the administration at your school, the local government, or the federal government.

The most helpful thing you can do, at the end of the day, is PRACTICE. When you’ve seen as many of these essays as we have, you realize that in some ways, they all start to look alike, and many of your favorite examples can be used again and again. Practice writing essays beforehand; practice using detailed examples, and developing a point of view. If you put in the prep time, and get used to brainstorming and writing a great essay in 25 minutes, when test day rolls around that essay will be a piece of cak