Learnist: How to Write a Great SAT Essay

The SAT essay is about 25% of your SAT Writing score, but you’ll only have 25 minutes to write it! Here’s how to beat the timing pressure, develop the topic successfully, and score a perfect 12!

Tip #1 – Have the directions and instructions down cold.

If you are super-familiar with the directions ahead of test day, you won’t waste precious time reading them. Bullet points:

  • you can only write in pencil
  • the essay must be written in the space provided, NOT the test booklet
  • you’ll receive 2 scores from 2 readers (between 1 and 6)
  • the “issue presented” will usually come in the form of a quote
  • the actual prompt is the question after the “Assignment” bolded word

Tip #2 – Choose one side ONLY.

We live in a world of greys, but for SAT Essay purposes, we have to pretend the world is “black and white.” In 25 minutes, you won’t have time to effectively present a “middle of the road” approach, so choose one side and stick to it. This is one of the most challenging (and most frustrating) aspects of writing the SAT Essay.

For example, let’s say you had a prompt that asked: Is honesty the best policy? In the “real world,” we know the answer is complex, sometimes yes and sometimes no. However, you must build a thesis either 100% in favor of perpetual honesty, or 100% not in favor of perpetual honesty.

As this blog points out (rather aptly), you don’t even need to agree with your thesis statement – you just need to demonstrate that you can make a strong argument for it.

Read more tips on how to write a great SAT essay on Learnist!