SAT English Study Tip #6 – SAT Writing : The Plan

Test Sat English

 

The Essay component of the SAT can be intimidating for many students. Mostly, the idea of having to write an essay in 25-minutes, on a topic you’ve never seen before, in your neatest handwriting, only to have to write the rest of your entire SAT afterward – intimidating is an understatement! But, do not fear. A quick and easy solution is at your fingertips.

Consider the following excerpt, adapted from a recent SAT administration:

Think carefully about the issue presented in the following excerpt and the assignment below:

From childhood, we are encouraged – pressured, even – to be in the company of others. We are urged to belong to this or that group, to join this or that club, to spend time with this or that friend. Many people do everything they can to avoid being by themselves, almost treating solitude as though it were the equivalent of loneliness. And yet, it is only when people are by themselves that they can truly achieve their most important goals.

Assignment:

Is solitude—spending time alone—necessary for people to achieve their most important goals? Plan and write an essay in which you develop your point of view on this issue. Support your position with reasoning and examples taken from your reading, studies, experience, or observations.

No matter what the prompt, you will always feel a bit of anxiety after reading it. Sure, some topics may seem a little easier than others, but generally speaking, there is a moment of nervousness when you have to decide what to write about.

Making a plan is an obvious step. You must quickly decide what focus your essay will take. Here are some key tips:

  • Zone-in on the part of the assignment that asks the particular question – in this case, ‘Is solitude—spending time alone—necessary for people to achieve their most important goals?’ and use this to lead your thinking. Jot it down in the extra space in your test booklet along with a concrete ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to the question. Then, it’s time to develop your ideas.
  • Unlike the type of outline you might do if this were a routine essay question in your English class (where you would have more than just 25 minutes to respond!), choose two points that you will discuss. Keeping it to two points is important because one point will be from your personal experiences, and one will be from your observations. YES – be this particular.
  • Even though the assignment always says something like ‘support your position with reasoning and examples taken from your reading, studies, experience, or observations’, you don’t have time to start thinking about what you’ve read or what you’ve studied, but you do have time to think of something personally connected to you – you know yourself best after all.
  • If you’re stressed and have trouble finding a personal connection to the assignment – let your imagination wander and create an experience, create a memory, create an observation. That’s right – make something up if need be!
  • Your SAT essay is graded on strength of persuasion and how well you support your ideas. The notion of relating to a real-life example or experience will help tremendously with your writing process if you have one to relate to, but if not, don’t let panic set-in and eat away at your time – create a scenario that will allow you to connect with the prompt and to develop a sound persuasive essay – one that is tailored to what the assignment is asking of you.

In this case, ‘Is solitude—spending time alone—necessary for people to achieve their most important goals?’, build from the prompt’s hints about ‘belong to this or that group, to join this or that club, to spend time with this or that friend’. Write about how you used to belong to many groups when you were younger, but always found that you tried to do what others were doing instead of following your heart or following your dreams. Explain how you personally found that as you grew older, you valued your ‘time off’ from group activities and that being alone allowed you to contemplate all sorts of ideas without being bombarded with what others thought on the subject and what was good or bad about your opinion. Persuade your reader about the benefits that came from spending time in your own thoughts, and how it helped to make you the sound, independent thinker you are today.

You get the idea. Go into the SAT English Essay already knowing that you are going to write about two points only. By doing so, you eliminate the pressure of having to decide how many ideas to come up with. Practice using your technique long before test day (with the many practice prompts available to you), and you will quickly become very good at thinking under pressure. Use the prompt as a way to choose a side of the argument being presented and connect it to a personal story (real or imagined) to help you to move quickly through the planning stage of your essay. You only have 25 minutes, so don’t use up valuable time trying to recall things you have read about or studied, or things you may or may not have experienced in your life. Tailor your examples to fit what the assignment is asking, and you are well on your way to developing a strong essay that will be scored as such.


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