If you are taking the SAT with Essay, on the exam you will be asked to read a text (typically a speech or editorial of some sort) and discuss how the author effectively builds an argument. This might be a familiar task if you’ve done it in school, but if not, don’t worry. The format is straightforward, and with some practice, you can learn how to write a great SAT essay.
The SAT essay is optional, but we recommend you complete it. Some college and universities require that you complete the essay portion if you submit SAT scores instead of ACT scores, and some schools do not require it. Completing the essay portion of the SAT will help you be ready to apply to any college. Your essay score will appear on every score report you send to colleges, regardless of whether or not the school requires an essay. Every school to which you apply will see that you took the initiative to write the essay, which is a good thing.
1. Stay Objective
The thing to remember here is that ETS (the company that writes the test) is not asking you for your opinion on a topic or a text. So be sure to maintain formal style and an objective tone. Tip: Avoid “I” and “you.
2. Keep It Tidy
Handwriting is becoming a lost art. Unfortunately, this is one occasion where your skill with a pencil matters. Graders read tons of essays each day. If they cannot decipher your script, they will lower your score. Do yourself a favor and write legibly.
3. (Indented) Paragraphs Are Your Friend
Remember the basic essay structure you learned in school: introductory paragraph, body paragraphs and a conclusion? The graders love it! Your introduction should describe the text and paraphrase the argument being made, as well as introduce the specific elements of the passage and argument that you will discuss in the essay. Your conclusion should restate the goal of the passage/argument and sum up the points you made.
4. For Example…
Use your body paragraphs to back up your thesis statement by citing specific examples. Use short, relevant quotes from the text to support your points.
5. Don't Worry About the Exact Terms for Things
When describing how the author builds his or her argument, “appeal to the emotions” is fine instead of specifically referencing “pathos.” And “comparison of two things” can be used instead of referring to a metaphor. If you do know the official terms, though, feel free to use them!
Build the right SAT prep plan for you
Our private tutors will help you build a prep plan that's customized to your score goals, study habits, and schedule.
Find a Tutor
The Staff of The Princeton ReviewFor more than 35 years, students and families have trusted The Princeton Review to help them get into their dream schools. We help students succeed in high school and beyond by giving them resources for better grades, better test scores, and stronger college applications. Follow us on Twitter: @ThePrincetonRev.
The SAT Essay is a lot like writing assignments you’ll see in college. It asks you to read a passage and analyze how the author constructs a persuasive argument. You’ll have 50 minutes to complete your response.
- You aren’t required to take the SAT Essay—it’s optional—but many colleges require or recommend it.
- If you don’t register for the SAT with Essay at first, you can add it later.
- You can use an SAT fee waiver to take the SAT or the SAT with Essay.
Who Should Take the SAT with Essay
You don’t have to take the SAT with Essay, but if you do, you’ll be able to apply to colleges that recommend or require it.
The list below includes our essay policy information for U.S. and international colleges, as well as scholarship providers. If you don’t see a college you’re looking for, or if you want to make sure a college’s essay policy hasn’t changed, contact them directly. Higher education professionals, learn more about setting essay policy for your institution.
SAT Essay Policies of Colleges and Scholarship Providers