The most important aspect of a successful SAT essay is a coherent, concise argument. The standard five-paragraph essay is the best way to organize the essay. Before beginning to write, quickly decide on a viewpoint with supporting details. While writing, make sure every sentence relates to the thesis.
Begin the essay with an introduction stating your thesis or viewpoint on the topic given. Clearly argue for one side or the other; never take a middle-of-the-road stance. In the introductory paragraph, give the reader a glimpse of the direction your essay will take. Supporting details should be briefly inroduced as a kind of roadmap of the essay. These details will be fully developed in the three body paragraphs.
Each of the three body paragraphs should state a supporting detail and develop that detail thoroughly with facts, examples, and real-life experience. A body paragraph should not be a collection of random facts or thoughts on a topic. The information in the body paragraphs can be drawn from many sources. A relevant real-life situation is very persuasive. Facts and statistics from reliable sources are also very persuasive. Draw on actual experiences and knowledge gained in school to develop each supporting detail. The three body paragraphs should stem directly from the introductory paragraph and be wrapped up neatly in the conclusion.
The concluding paragraph should mirror the introduction and include an intelligent insight that is a logical conlusion from the argument expressed in the essay. Avoid using phrases such as “in conclusion.” The reader is intelligent and is aware that the last paragraph will conclude the argument.
In addition to developing a coherent argument, here are some other tips for a successful essay. Avoid unnecessary words, especially phrases such as “I believe” or “my viewpoint/opinion/position is.” The whole purpose of the essay is to state your viewpoint, so it goes without saying that the words expressed reflect your views and opinions. Do not use big vocabulary words in an attempt to sound intelligent, unless you are absolutely sure of their correct use. Incorrectly used vocabulary sounds worse than common vocabulary. Grammar, spelling, and punctuation are important, but minor errors will not reduce your score dramatically. Only errors which hinder the reader’s understanding of the essay will cause huge deductions.
Do not be intimidated by the essay portion of the SAT. It is a only a portion of the overall writing score, which in turn is one third of your entire SAT score. You are only given 25 minutes, so the scorers are not expecting a perfectly polished essay. Just remember to choose a side and stick with it.