Things You Need to Know About the SAT Essay

Yellow pencil on a blank lined test page.Taking the SAT in the near future? While most studying is focused on the math, writing, and reading portions, you can’t forget about the essay part of the exam. Here are some things you need to know about the SAT essay before your test date.

The SAT Essay is Optional…

In 2015, the College Board made the SAT essay optional. Students can choose to take the essay when they register for their test date. While the SAT costs $47.50, the SAT with Essay is $64.50.

In addition to becoming optional, the College Board also increased the time available for the section, but required students to write a bit more on the selected topic. To some, this essay is seen as more difficult compared to previous years’.

…But You Should Consider Taking It Anyway

Even though the SAT essay is completely optional now, you should absolutely consider taking it anyway! There are a few reasons for this. The most important one is that some colleges and universities still do require you to take the essay portion to apply. Even if you don’t have a college on your interest list currently that requires the SAT essay, you should still think about taking this part of the exam. You don’t want to find another college that fits you, yet you can’t apply because they require the essay!

In addition, the SAT essay gives you a chance to shine. You can show off your critical thinking skills, creativity, and writing. You’ll also be showing the colleges that you’re willing to go the extra mile. And while some schools don’t require the essay portion of the test, they may actually recommend it! It could tip the balances in your favor when it comes to receiving an acceptance letter.

The SAT Essay Format

The SAT essay requires you to analyze a persuasive argument. Essentially, you’ll write an essay about an essay. The test allots 50 minutes to read the passage, analyze the argument, and write an essay. The passage you’ll analyze is about 650–750 words (about two pages or so).

Topics for the passage can vary greatly, but will always be about an argument written for a wide audience. Even if you come across a passage arguing that “Climate change denial within high government positions is irreversibly damaging the environment”, you won’t have to know anything about climate change science or political systems. Your task is to simply analyze the passage’s argument, whether or not you agree with it.

How to Prepare

If you do decide to take the SAT essay, you’ll want to study for it just as you do the rest of the test. Some tips to prepare include

  • Find sample passages online or in other resources.

  • Study SAT Essay prompts and consider how you would personally answer them.

  • Understand ethos, logos, and pathos
  • Take practice essays.

  • Outline your thought process and essay layout.

  • Ask teachers, parents, or other trusted adults to read your practice essays to see what they think of your writing, points, grammar, and more.

  • Leave time to make any necessary edits.

    • Timing yourself even during your practice essays will ensure you have plenty of extra time at the end of the test to do this!

Will You Take the SAT Essay?

The essay isn’t for everyone, but you should absolutely consider your options before deciding not to take it. Colleges may recommend it or even require it, which might mean you need to take it to get into your dream school. Preparation is key to any part of the SAT and the essay is no different. Weigh your writing skills, needs, colleges, and more before making a final decision.

Use College Raptor to discover how your SAT scores affect your acceptance odds!


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