SAT Essay

Posted: December 16th, 2020

All You Need To Know About the SAT Essay

The SAT Essay is a famous academic bully. It holds a reputation as a tricky beast. But do you know everything you need to about the SAT essay, or are you focused on listening to what people have to say?

Worried that you might have to take the SAT essay in future and you are looking for all the information you can? You have come to the right place. Our guide entails everything you need to know concerning the SAT essay. You will get essay tips and samples to familiarize yourself with writing one.

What is SAT?

Before discussing the SAT essay, it is essential to know what SAT is. SAT is an abbreviation for Standard Aptitude Test, an entrance exam that applicants must take before being admitted to most colleges and universities in the United States.

The SAT exam was invented in 1923 by Carl Brigham. Currently, SAT is owned by the College Board, which also reviews it and develop it. The College Board is an organization *(not-for-profit) based in the USA and has more than 6,000 member institutions. That is schools, colleges and universities.


Why is SAT Necessary?

The main aim of the SAT exam is to measure your readiness to join an institution. It focuses on the skills and knowledge you have attained through high school. Also, it provides thousands of colleges and universities a standard score through which they can compare their applicants.

Besides the SAT exam scores, the admissions board will also review other achievements. For example, your admission interview, high school GPA, essay, extracurricular activities, the classes you took in high school and your recommendation letters.


Will I Take the SAT essay?

Taking the SAT essay is optional. Yes, you heard that correct. The College Board, in 2015, made it optional for students to take the SAT essay. Therefore, the student chooses whether he or she would prefer to take the test.

Also, students get to choose when to register for the essay test date. On average, it will cost you $47.50 to take a SAT exam and $64.50 when inclusive of the SAT essay.

Besides making the SAT essay optional, in the SATs review, the College Board also added time available. However, the catch is that the student needs to write more about their selected essay topic. Some students find the essay more difficult compared to the paper done in previous years.

Essay writing

Should I Take The SAT Essay?

Having said the SAT essay is optional is a relief for many students. Just because it is optional doesn’t mean you should skip it. We recommend students to take the essay anyway. Here is why

First, some colleges and universities have added the SAT essay to be mandatory in their rules. Therefore, you will need to abide by the rules and take one. You wouldn’t want to miss a lifetime opportunity to join the college of your choice simply because you didn’t write the essay.

Second, writing the SAT essay gives you a chance to beat the competition. Through the essay, you can showcase your writing prowess, creativity and critical thinking skills. Writing the paper even when you don’t have to demonstrate your willingness to go the extra mile to the board.

Even institutions that don’t make it necessary for applicants to submit the SAT essay recommend their applicants to write one. It could determine whether you receive your application letter or not.

If you intend to take the SAT essay, always check with the institution. A common SAT rule is that it is done on the first Saturday of November, December, the next year in May and June. Some other irregular dates could be set in late January, April or late August. Therefore, you can take the SAT exam, including the essay, almost every month. However, always check for the deadline.


Advantages and Disadvantages of taking the essay

It is only fair if we share both the advantages and disadvantages that come with taking the SAT essay


  • A good score will boost your application and increase your chances of acceptance.
  • It ensures you are covered for all universities and colleges.


  • You will have to pay extra costs
  • It will make your SAT longer
  • You will spend more time preparing to write an essay.


How Do I Decide on The Best Time to Take The Essay?

When choosing the date to do your SAT, you need to consider some things. First, find out how much time you need to prepare for the exam adequately. Map out a plan, set goals and visualize it. It will help you come up with a suitable date to take the test.

Second, consider how busy your schedule is. If you are a working student or have too many commitments, you will be left with less time to prepare. Therefore, choose to take the SAT when your schedule is less occupied.

Lastly, consider the deadline. What is your university application timeline? You will need to have done the test before completing your application.

How to Write a SAT Essay

We have discussed why you might need to write a SAT essay. So, how do you write one?

When writing a SAT essay, you will need to analyze a persuasive argument deeply. You will be writing an essay on another piece. The test guidelines allocate the applicant 50 minutes, which they should spend reading the passage, developing and analyzing the argument and writing the essay.

The passage that applicants are required to analyze varies between 650 and 750 words. That is around two pages. The topic for the passage varies but is commonly an argument written for a general audience.

For example, if you get a passage with the title “Climate change is a major cause for concern, but the government is in denial and hence not acting about it,” you don’t need to have any background knowledge on climate change.

Also, you don’t need to have a deep understanding of politics. Your role is to analyze the argument explained in the passage. Then write your SAT essay, taking a stand on whether you agree with the agreement or not.

How to write a SAT essay

Structure of a SAT Essay

A SAT essay is similar to writing an analytical or persuasive essay. It follows the format below;

  • Introduction section- it should be brief and enticing. Two to three sentences are enough for the introduction.


  • Thesis statement- this is the essential part of your Sat essay. Your thesis will form the argument which you will be arguing out in your essay. Therefore, it is essential to take time and craft a good thesis statement.


  • Paragraph one- your essay needs to have at least one section. Two paragraphs will make the piece even better, but the third paragraph will depend on if you had adequate time to work on it. All your paragraphs should be supporting your thesis statement.
  • Paragraph two
  • Paragraph three(if time allows)


  • Conclusion- like the introduction section, your conclusion needs to be short. Do not introduce anything new here. Instead, summarize your argument in a logical and easy to understand manner.


The Essay Prompt

The prompt is the question section. It is almost the same in every essay. The prompt is;

As you read the passage below, consider how the author uses evidence such as examples and facts to support your claims.

  • Evidence- facts or examples to support their claims
  • Reasoning to connect claims, develop ideas and evidence
  • Persuasive elements or stylistic elements. For example, the choice of words appeals to emotion and support the ideas expressed.

In your essay, explain how the author of the passage builds his or her argument. Show the elements they used to persuade the author into believing their claim. Also, analyze how the author uses the features mentioned above to strengthen his or her argument’s persuasiveness or logic.

Ensure that your essay focuses only on the essential elements and features of the passage. In your essay, do not explain whether you agree with the passage or the authors’ work. Instead, explain how the author argues his beliefs to persuade the audience.

The Topic

You will always see the same prompt when taking the SAT essay. However, the topic changes every time. But all passages have these in common;

  • The passages are always addressed to a broad audience
  • They argue out the author’s point
  • They express delicate views on sensitive matters
  • Rely on logical evidence and reasoning to back up their claims
  • Examine trends (civil, political, arts, culture and science), ideas, or debates
  • Always extracted from published pieces.


Preparation Tips

Deciding to write an essay is a bold step. But how do you prepare for it? The best way is to study for it, the same as studying for the general SAT exam. You can prepare to write the SAT essay by;

  • Going through sample passages either in other resources or online
  • Find SAT essay prompts, read them and try to imagine how you can answer them
  • Research and understand everything about pathos, ethos and logos
  • Do a lot of practice by writing SAT essays
  • Always try creating an outline with the essay layout, which will be your thought process
  • Seek advice, guidance or help from teachers or other trusted adults. You can ask them to go through your practice essays. Ask them what they think about your work. Also, ask them to pinpoint errors you may have made- grammar, writing, flow etc. You can contact us if you need a professional academic writer to go through your SAT essay and guide you.
  • Time yourself during practice. It will ensure you utilize your time maximally. Also, remember always to spare some minutes to go through your essay and make edits.

Remember, preparation is the key to any exam, including SAT, and a SAT essay is no exception. A SAT essay is similar to a puzzle, just that it is in written form. Luckily, you can master writing it, but you need to practice on different topics to do exemplary well.

How to write the best SAT essay

How to Make the Most of the 50 Minutes allocated

You have to do the SAT essay in 50 minutes. You need to go through the passage, read the prompt, come up with a thesis statement, plan the paper and write it. All these activities should be done in an hour. So, how do you plan your time?

First, start by reading the prompt, and allocate one minute. Second, take fifteen minutes or less to read the passage. It is wise if you go annotating the passage as you read. Third, create an essay outline in 5 minutes and lastly, spend the 29 minutes to write and edit.

Why should I begin by reading the prompt? You are probably wondering why we suggest reading the prompt before the passage. The prompt will guide you on the appropriate lens that you will focus on as you read the passage.

When reading the passage, you need to know what is required of you. Read it to answer the prompts and to gather enough evidence for your essay. That is why reading the prompt should come before reading the passage.


How is the SAT Essay Scored?

Your SAT essay should show you have a full understanding of the passage. You need to show you used the passage to derive a deeply thought out discussion.

Note that the SAT essay is separate from other SATs. The two results will not be combined. Each SAT essay needs to be assessed and scored by two different evaluators.

When the evaluators go through your essay, they are focusing on three main categories. They are looking at the reading, writing and analysis. In each category, you can score between 1 and 4 from each evaluator. The scores awarded for each section are then added together to give you the final essay score.

Reading- a well-written essay should show you completely understand the written material. Therefore, you need to base your essay on the main points provided in the passage and how they inter-relate.

Analysis- the essay should have persuasive claims on the main ideas explained in the text. Evaluate these ideas and support them using enough evidence.

Writing- your essay should be well-structured. It should relay a clear flow of thoughts and explain your arguments logically. The paper should be free of any spelling or grammatical errors. Don’t forget to add your thesis statement in the introduction section.


Highest achievable SAT score

How to Score an 8 In Each Section

Each evaluator can award you between 1 and 4 marks for each section of your essay. Since two evaluators will be going through your paper, you can score a maximum of 8 in each area. How achievable is scoring an 8 in the three categories?

Well, perfection is hard, especially as a learner. Therefore, scoring eight is hard, but not impossible. It is hard to achieve eight because you need to complete everything in 50 minutes. Before time runs out, you need to read, analyze, plan, write and edit your essay.

By analyzing, we mean you need to understand the piece and how the author bases his or her argument. You also need to identify relevant concepts of the authors’ argument and have evidence from the passage to support your idea.

There are a lot of factors that depend on how quickly you can develop a thesis statement. Besides, coming up with relevant support factors from the passage could be challenging. That is because some passages are easy to go through and analyze their argumentative structure compared to others.

Moreover, when writing, you need to use formal and precise language to show your good command of English. Writing a two-page extended essay will leave you with hardly enough time to spare. Thus, scoring eight could seem quite impossible, and it doesn’t happen often.

So much for the downside; here is some good news.

The good news about writing a SAT essay is that it is formulaic. SAT essay follows a specific formula, which you can master and score a 6 or 7. The main goal is to show the evaluator that you can understand a passage, form a base of argument, support your argument with facts and write down an error-free essay within 50 minutes.

Tips to help you score high in your SAT essay

Tips to Score High in Your SAT Essay

Here is how to increase your chances of scoring high in your essay;

  1. Use precise language

The evaluators are very keen on checking clarity. That is the use of clear, precise language that sounds logical. Therefore, you need to use vivid language appropriately and effectively


  1. Effective Organization and Analysis

Before writing your essay, you need to lay on an outline, which helps organize your essay. The clarity you have will extend to having an effective outline and, finally, a logical analysis of the passage.

Your essay needs to have an introduction. This is the first section of the paper, where you need to discuss facts and present evidence. You should also present your argument and refutation using clear language.

Effective organization includes the use of transition words. These are words that create a smooth flow between a sentence or paragraph to the next. Using them gives your essay a consistent argument which the evaluator can follow. Your essay should also have a body and a conclusion section.

When analyzing the passage, you need to answer three questions- why, what and the effect. You need to identify the techniques which the author used. Also, you need to understand why the author chose to use those particular techniques and the effects these techniques have on the reader.


  1. Maintain consistency

Your argument should be clear from the introduction section to the conclusion. Human is to err, but the error should be few, and shouldn’t distract or confuse the evaluator.

Also, note that how you write your thesis in the introduction section shouldn’t be the same way you write it in the conclusion. When writing the conclusion, include your thesis, which should be similar to that in the introduction but shouldn’t be identical. That is, do not restate it word for word. Unfortunately, this is a common mistake among applicants.


  1. Meet the length requirements


The College Board clarifies that short essays (which don’t meet the word count) will get a lower writing score. Short essays do not offer enough for evaluators to judge your writing skills. Nonetheless, it doesn’t mean that you need to meet the word count without the proper information.

Your essay needs to be detailed. It should include your argument, backed by relevant examples. The length of a SAT essay is enough to add in three detailed examples.

Do's and Don'ts

Dos and Don’ts

The only way to score high on your essay is to make good use of the time allocated and remain fully focused on the paper.


  • Write everything you can without including fluff or repetitive details
  • Revise your work, especially the introduction and conclusion
  • Use appropriate transitions to get a seamless essay
  • Explain the author’s techniques and how these techniques affect the reader. What did the author use to persuade you?




  • Avoid spending too much time thinking of what sounds smart in your essay. Instead, focus on analyzing the techniques the author employed in the passage.
  • Do not try to correct each error in your writing. Yes, the writing section is important to score high marks. However, you first need to focus on getting enough details and completing your essay. This doesn’t mean you should leave errors and sentence fragments.
  • Please refrain from trying to use all the vocabulary you can in your essay. No doubt you need to write formally and add in stylistic flourishes. However, do not overdo it, or else your paper will sound clunky.


Do Colleges Consider Your SAT Essay Score?

Yes, they do. While most colleges deem it optional, they will always prefer applicants who have taken the essay. Therefore, colleges indeed consider your essay score. Here is a list of colleges and universities which require applicants to take a SAT essay.

Are There Universities That Don’t Require a SAT Essay?

Not all universities require a SAT essay. Here are some Universities in the USA which don’t require a SAT essay from their applicants.

Sample paper

Sample SAT Essay

Do you feel ready to start preparing for your SAT essays? Here are some SAT Essay Prompts you can use to practice. Also, we have SAT essay samples to guide you further.

SAT Essay Topics

The topic of your SAT essay will depend on the passage given. Therefore, there is no topic which you can prepare to use in your essay. However, here are some SAT essay topics that will give you an idea of writing your topic.


essay writing tips

Tips for Writing Your Essay

Here are some tips which will help you ace your SAT essay;

  • Ensure that your essay has an introduction section and a conclusion
  • When writing the essay, rely solely on the information provided in the passage. Do not include any personal knowledge
  • Start by reading the prompt before going through the passage
  • When reading the passage, be objective. It will help you find relevant points to write in your essay.
  • Always identify the most important details and thoughts in the passage. Then, base your essay on this information
  • Write using a formal style
  • Do not use the first person

You are probably tensed about writing the essay, and it may seem like there are several dos and don’ts. Nonetheless, with adequate preparation, you will excel in your SAT essay.

Is the SAT same as the ACT?

You are probably aware of the SAT and ACT, but do they mean the same thing? Though both are required when seeking admission to an institution, the SAT is different from ACT in many different ways.

  1. The ACT is done in 2 hours and 55 minutes without the writing section, while the SAT is done in 3 hours, excluding the essay. When done with writing, ACT will take 3 hrs. and 55 minutes, while the SAT will take 3 hours and 50 minutes.
  2. The different tests have different order sections. The ACT includes- English, Mathematics, Reading, Science and Writing, which is optional. SAT includes- Reading, Writing & Language, Mathematics (with no calculator), Mathematics with Calculator and an optional Essay.
  3. The total score range in an ACT exam is between 1 and 36. On the other hand, the total score range for SAT is between 400 and 1600.

The only similarity between the two tests is that both are acceptable by universities and colleges across the United States.



You have all the information you need to wow examiners in your SAT essay. Remember, the university or college you are applying to may not demand you to write a SAT essay. Nonetheless, you should consider writing one. Writing the paper increases your chance of admission as it could place you ahead of other competitors sharing similar or better grades. With our detailed guide on preparing, writing, formatting your SAT essay, you have everything you need. Good luck with your writing!

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