The SAT Essay Test: A Guide for First-Time Examinees

In 2016, the SAT underwent a few modifications and revisions. One of the biggest changes that were implemented was making the essay test an optional item. Because of this amendment, examinees have the choice to take this exam or to skip it.

For first-time SAT examinees, this optional test poses a big dilemma. They will spend several days thinking if they should take the exam or skip it. After making the decision, they will still be plagued by doubts about whether they made the right one or not.

There are many benefits of not taking the essay test. For one, you will have one less section to study for and take up in your SAT test prep classes. Your SAT exam will also be shorter and you will pay a lower fee as well.

However, your decision to take or skip the optional essay test should not be based on these benefits alone. There are specific instances wherein taking this exam will be more advantageous, even if it means more work and expenses on your part.

When to Get the SAT Essay Test

Below are three situations that will require you to take the optional essay part of the SAT:

1. You are planning to apply to at least one college or university that requires an essay test score

Researching the admission requirements of the schools you are interested in is an integral part of the college application process. If you find out that one of your shortlisted academic institutions requires the SAT essay test, you have no choice but to prepare for and take it.

If you don’t take it at the same time as your SAT, you will have to retake the entire exam simply because you need an essay score.

2. You are applying to competitive schools that recommend you take the SAT essay test

In this instance, the college or university you are eyeing does not require applicants to take the essay test. However, they recommend that candidates do so.

If you heed their advice, you will give your application a boost. You will impress the college admissions officers even more if you get a high score in this part of the SAT.

3. You are still looking for the right schools to apply to

In case you still haven’t started your college or university applications yet or are unsure about which ones to apply to, it is best to take the essay test.

By doing so, you won’t have to retake the exam because the school you have decided to apply to requires an SAT essay score.

The SAT Essay Test: An Overview

The essay part is given at the end of the SAT. You will have 50 minutes to analyze a passage that is between 650 and 750 words.

The text is written by an author who is trying to argue for or against a particular subject matter.

Your essay will come in the form of a rhetorical analysis. You have to explain how the author made his or her argument persuasive or compelling for the reader.

You will be given four pages to write down your essay.

Your essay will then be read and graded by two human evaluators or graders. They will give you scores in three sections: reading, analysis, and writing.

To get a perfect score in this part of the SAT, you have to get four points on each of the three subsections from both graders.

Tips for Taking the SAT Essay Exam

Here are a few tips that will help you take the essay test with less stress and get a high score:

1. Make sure you understand what you need to do during the essay test

One of the most crucial steps you need to take to breeze through and score higher in this part of the SAT is to understand what the test is all about beforehand.

This means having prior knowledge about what kind of passage you will be given to analyze and write about. Understanding the grading process will also help you feel less pressured and have the right strategies for tackling this test.

2. Practice writing rhetorical analysis essays

Include in your SAT study plan or revisions writing, rhetorical analysis papers. Make sure you do this during your practice exams and when reviewing on your own.

This type of essay requires you to analyze how an author builds his or her argument. You will have to examine and discuss this instead of simply restating what the case is.

When writing sample rhetorical analysis essays, make sure you cover the evidence and details on how you think the author presented his or her arguments that won you over. You have to hone your skills in reasoning while improving your competencies in stylistic and persuasive writing.

3. Take notes while reading

Another skill you have to master that will be useful for the essay test is taking down notes while reading.

During the actual test, you can write all over the passage as you read and analyze it. Encircle or underline critical points, scribble in the spaces, etc.

By doing so, you will have an easier time finding what you need to include in your essay.

Another technique you can follow is to write a short description of the details from the passage when planning and outlining your essay, along with the location of these facts. This will help you save some time when creating your final text.

4. Manage your time wisely

Lastly, to make the most out of the 50 minutes of test time, divide it smartly. Take five to ten minutes to read the passage. Re-read the text, take down notes, analyze, and plan your essay during the next seven to twelve minutes.

Write your essay until you have three to five minutes left. Use the remaining time to re-read and revise your composition.

You have practice managing your time during your mock exams so that you can do this easily come test day.

With the facts and tips about the SAT essay test shared above, you can make the right decision whether to take it or not. You will have a better chance of getting a high score in this section as well.

Maloy Burman is the Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director of Premier Genie FZ LLC. He is responsible for driving Premier Genie into a leadership position in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) Education space in Asia, Middle East and Africa and building a solid brand value. Premier Genie is currently running 5 centers in Dubai and 5 centers in India with a goal to multiply that over the next 5 years.

In this article

Join the Conversation