Ways to Write a Thesis
Whether you've never written an SAT Essay or didn't get the score you wanted on your last test, you can benefit from knowing more: both about the Essay itself, and what really matters when the graders are reading your essay.
Here are 15 tips to master the SAT essay. If you can reliably follow all these points, you'll be able to get at least a 6/6/6 on the SAT essay - guaranteed.
The SAT Essay is a very short assignment. You only get 50 minutes to read a 650-750 word passage, analyze the devices the author uses to structure her/his argument, and write a full-fledged essay - and it can pass in a flash if you don't have a method for attacking it.
What the College Board Does Tell You: 5 Tips
The College Board explains the main components of the successful SAT Essay in its scoring criteria. Here they are condensed:
#1: Give a Clear Thesis
The SAT essay rubric states: "The response includes a precise central claim.”
What this means is that your essay needs to make a clear argument that the reader can easily identify. All you have to do to create your "precise central claim" is to identify the main idea of the passage and list the methods the author uses to support it.
Fortunately, the SAT provides you with the passage’s main idea, so you don’t have to go hunting for it yourself. I've bolded the claim in this (fake) sample prompt so you can see this for yourself:
Write an essay in which you explain how Sam Lindsay builds an argument to persuade her audience that more works of art should feature monsters. In your essay, analyze how Lindsay uses one or more of the features listed in the box above (or features of your own choice) to strengthen the logic and persuasiveness of her argument. Be sure that your analysis focuses on the most relevant features of the passage.
Your essay should not explain whether you agree with Lindsay’s claims, but rather explain how Lindsay builds an argument to persuade her audience.”
Now, here's an example of a thesis statement for an essay responding to this prompt:
In the article “Monsters Monsters Everywhere, ” Sam Lindsay uses personal anecdotes, vivid language, and appeals to emotion to persuade her audience that more works of art should feature monsters.
It's fine to copy the exact words describing the author’s central claim from the prompt into your thesis statement—in fact, this guarantees that the graders will see that your thesis is there and on-topic.
#2: Include Both an Introduction and a Conclusion
The SAT essay rubric states: "The response includes a skillful introduction and conclusion.”
Including an introduction paragraph in your essay is absolutely essential to getting a Writing score above a 4/8. The introduction paragraph introduces the reader to what you’ll be talking about and allows you to set up the structure for the rest of the essay. Plus, an introduction can be a pretty good indicator of the quality for the rest of the essay – a poorly constructed introduction is often a warning that the essay that follows will be equally discombobulated. It's best to have both an introduction and a conclusion, but if you’re running short on time and can only have one, definitely pick the introduction.
A good introduction includes your thesis statement. For the SAT essay, as I discussed in the previous point, your thesis (or your "precise central claim") should be a statement about what devices the author uses to build her/his argument.
Introductions can be tricky to write, because whatever you write in that paragraph can then make you feel like you’re locked into writing just about that. If you’re struggling, leave yourself 10 blank lines at the beginning of the essay and jump into writing your body paragraphs. Just make sure you remember to go back and write in your introduction before time’s up!
#3: Use Effective Language and Word Choice
There are a couple of parts of the Writing score section on the SAT essay rubric that pertain directly to style.
First, the SAT essay rubric states: "The response is cohesive and demonstrates a highly effective use and command of language."
For most of us, this is an area that takes a long time to develop, so unless your language skills are really rough or you're prepping a year ahead of time (or both), you'll probably get more out of focusing on the other components of the essay.