What is the purpose of the essay?



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The SAT Essay
“The SAT® begins with an essay. You'll be asked to present and support a point of view on a specific issue. Because you have only 25 minutes, your essay is not expected to be polished—it is meant to be a first draft.” http://www.collegeboard.com/student/testing/sat/prep_one/writing_approaches.html
What is the purpose of the essay?

According to the SAT website:

The essay measures your ability to:


  • develop a point of view on an issue presented in an excerpt

  • support your point of view using reasoning and examples from your reading, studies, experience, or observations

  • follow the conventions of standard written English

The essay will be scored by trained high school and college teachers. Each reader will give the essay a score from 1 to 6 (6 is the highest score) based on the overall quality of the essay and your demonstration of writing competence. http://www.collegeboard.com/student/testing/sat/prep_one/writing_approaches.html
What are you required to do?

  • Read the assignment

  • Plan and write a draft of an essay in 25 minutes



So what can I do to write a successful SAT essay?

    • Plan specific information in advance. Preparing several possible topics (yes, do so research) will help you to fully develop your paragraphs

  • Read the entire assignment. It's all there to help you. Every essay assignment contains a short paragraph about the issue. Imagine that you are talking to the author of the paragraph about the issue. Would you argue with him or her, or agree? What other ideas or examples (hopefully that you already prepared) would you bring up? Answering these questions will help you develop your own point of view.

  • There's nothing wrong with "I." You are asked to develop your point of view on the issue, not give a straight report of the facts. This is your opinion, so feel free to use "I," and give examples that are meaningful to you, even ones from your personal life or experiences. Of course you need to support your ideas appropriately, and show that you can use language well, but remember: the essay is an opportunity for you to say what you think about an issue relevant to your life.” http://www.collegeboard.com/student/testing/sat/prep_one/writing_approaches.html


What are the directions?


The essay gives you an opportunity to show how effectively you can develop and express ideas. You should, therefore, take care to develop your point of view, present your ideas logically and clearly, and use language precisely.

Your essay must be written on the lines provided on your answer sheet-you will receive no other paper on which to write. You will have enough space if you write on every line, avoid wide margins, and keep your handwriting to a reasonable size. Remember that people who are not familiar with your handwriting will read what you write. Try to write or print so that what you are writing is legible to those readers.



Important Reminders:

  • A pencil is required for the essay. An essay written in ink will receive a score of zero.

  • Do not write your essay in your test book. You will receive credit only for what you write on your answer sheet.

  • An off-topic essay will receive a score of zero.

  • If your essay does not reflect your original and individual work, your test scores may be canceled.

Sample Question

You have twenty-five minutes to write an essay on the topic assigned below.

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

Many persons believe that to move up the ladder of success and achievement, they must forget the past, repress it, and relinquish it. But others have just the opposite view. They see old memories as a chance to reckon with the past and integrate past and present.

—Adapted from Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot, I've Known Rivers: Lives of Loss and Liberation

Assignment: Do memories hinder or help people in their effort to learn from the past and succeed in the present? 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.

Scoring


The essay is scored by experienced and trained high school and college teachers. Each essay is scored by two people who won't know each other's score. They won't know the student's identity or school either. Each reader gives the essay a score from 1 to 6 (6 is the highest score) based on the SAT essay Scoring Guide.

SAT Sample Essay

The Essay


Score: 6

Essay


Without our past, our future would be a tortuous path leading to nowhere. In order to move up the ladder of success and achievement we must come to terms with our past and integrate it into our future. Even if in the past we made mistakes, this will only make wiser people out of us and guide us to where we are supposed to be.

This past year, I was auditioning for the fall play, "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof." To my detriment I thought it would be a good idea to watch the movie in order to prepare. For two hours I studied Elizabeth Taylor's mannerisms, attitude, and diction, hoping I could mimic her performance. I auditioned for the part of "Maggie" feeling perfectly confident in my portrayal of Elizabeth Taylor, however, I was unaware that my director saw exactly what I had been thinking. Unfortunately, I didn't get the part, and my director told me that he needed to see "Maggie" from my perspective, not Elizabeth Taylor's.

I learned from this experience, and promised myself I would not try to imitate another actress, in order to create my character. Perservering, I was anxious to audition for the winter play just two months later. The play was Neil Simon's "Rumors," and would get the opportunity to play "Chris," a sarcastic yet witty role, which would be my final performance in high school. In order to develop my character, I planned out her life just as I thought it should be, gave her the voice I thought was right, and the rest of her character unfolded beautifully from there. My director told me after the first show that "Rumors" was the best work he'd ever seen from me, and that he was amazed at how I'd developed such a believable character. Thinking back to my first audition I was grateful for that chance I had to learn and to grow, because without that mistake I might have tried to base "Chris" off of someone I'd known or something I'd seen instead of becoming my own character. I utilized the memory of the Elizabeth Taylor debacle to improve my approach to acting and gave the best performance of my life so far.

Why this Essay Received a Score of 6


This essay effectively and insightfully develops its point of view ("In order to move up the ladder of success and achievement we must come to terms with our past and integrate it into our future") through a clearly appropriate extended example drawing on the writer's experience as an actor. The essay exhibits outstanding critical thinking by presenting a well-organized and clearly focused narrative that aptly illustrates the value of memory. The essay also uses language skillfully, demonstrating meaningful variety in sentence structure ("To my detriment I thought it would be a good idea to watch the movie in order to prepare. For two hours I studied Elizabeth Taylor's mannerisms, attitude, and diction, hoping I could mimic her performance. I auditioned for the part of "Maggie" feeling perfectly confident in my portrayal of Elizabeth Taylor, however, I was unaware that my director…"). Despite minor errors, the essay demonstrates clear and consistent mastery and is scored a 6.

SAT Sample Essay

The Essay


Score: 6

Essay


Memories act as both a help and a hinderance to the success of someone. Many people advise you to learn from the past and apply those memories so that you can effectively succeed by avoiding repeating your past mistakes. On the other hand, people who get too caught up with the past are unable to move on to the future.

Elie Wiesel's memoir Night perfectly exemplifies the double nature of memories. Wiesel, a Jewish man, suffered heavily throughout the Holocaust and Night is rife with horrific descriptions of his experience. These memories help to spread the view of what life was like. Through recounting these memories, Wiesel is able to educate world readers about the atrocities committed in hopes that the same blatant violations of human rights are never repeated again. Through reliving the Holocaust through his writing, Wiesel was inspired to become proactive in the battle for civil rights. Some would point to his peaceful actions and the sales of his book and label him a success.

Despite the importance of recounting such memories, Wiesel acknowledges the damage that memories can also cause. Following his liberation from the Auschwitz concentration camp, Wiesel was a bitter, jaded man. He could not even write Night until several years later. The end of the novel describes Wiesel's gradual but absolute loss of faith throughout the experience. His past experiences haunted him for several years, rendering him passive. It was not until he set aside his past that he could even focus on the future. Had he remained so consumed with the pain and damage caused in the past, he may never have achieved the success that he has attained.

Overall, Wiesel's experiences exemplify the importance of the past as a guide. Wiesel's past experiences helped to guide him in later life, but it was not until he pushed them aside that he could move on. To me this means that you should rely on your past without letting it control you. Allow your past to act as a guide, while making sure that you are also living in the present and looking to the future.


Why this Essay Received a Score of 6


This essay exhibits outstanding critical thinking by effectively and insightfully developing its point of view ("you should rely on your past without letting it control you") through the clearly appropriate example of Elie Wiesel's Holocaust memoir, Night. The essay demonstrates clear coherence and smooth progression of ideas, carefully contrasting Wiesel's success in using his memories to gain attention for his cause with the difficulty Wiesel faced in dealing with those same powerful memories. The essay uses language skillfully to convey Wiesel's struggle ("Despite the importance of recounting such memories, Wiesel acknowledges the damage that memories can also cause. Following his liberation from the Auschwitz concentration camp, Wiesel was a bitter, jaded man. He could not even write Night until several years later"). The essay demonstrates clear and consistent mastery and receives a 6.

SAT Sample Essay

The Essay


Score: 5

Essay


Memories and past experiences serve as a rail, a guiding support, for people in an effort to succeed in the present. People not only learn from the past, but the very act of going through something provides experience for a person who is to "move up the ladder of success and achievement".

Some view failed experiences as a hinderance to future success. This is very untrue because history has a tendency of repeating itself, and in recognizing past failures, one can learn how to successfully approach similar situations in the future. An example of this is looking back in history to WWI. Sedition acts at this time allowed for the imprisonment of anyone who voiced an opinion against the president, or against the war. America recognized this shady time in its past, and instead of covering it up in a movement towards a more democratic nation, these acts were published in textbooks and taught to students. Americans saw the poor judgement of this situation and later with the war in Iraq, approached "patriotism" differently. With this present war, those adverse to the war are able to voice their opinions without fear of imprisonment or death. In seeing the undemocratic ways of an earlier era, America was able to recognize the bad and try to reform it. If the Sedition Acts had been forgotten then what is to say that they wouldn't come back? Remembering the failed times insures that improvement is possible.

In my personal experience, I have found that the very act of living through something not only matures me, but also provides skills and knowledge. In remembering past events, I am able to use them as reference, and sometimes assurance. A personal example, somewhat juvenile, but also effective, is when my first pet died. I was devastated and wanted to just clear my mind of the event, but I didn't. After time, I recovered, but maintained the memory of this horrible tragedy. Later in life, another pet died. I looked back to that memory as a guide and learned from it that in time I would be fine and to just hang on. In this situation, a memory served as a reference and catalyzed in my personal growth and recovery.

Memories, good or bad, assist people in obtaining success. Whether used as reference for guidance, or lessons on what not to do, past experiences can only offer a gap between the steps on the ladder of success. Forgetting the past can and will only erase experience and knowledge from a person and in affect hinder one in seeking achievement. In looking at historical repeats and personal events, it is clear that old memories can only aid in success.


Why this Essay Received a Score of 5


This essay effectively develops its point of view ("Memories and past experiences serve as a rail, a guiding support, for people in an effort to succeed in the present") through the appropriate examples of dissent during wartime and grieving for a pet, thus demonstrating strong critical thinking. Well organized and focused, the essay demonstrates coherence and progression of ideas ("In seeing the undemocratic ways of an earlier era, America was able to recognize the bad and try to reform it. If the Sedition Acts had been forgotten then what is to say that they wouldn't come back? Remembering the failed times insures that improvement is possible"). The essay also uses appropriate vocabulary and demonstrates effective variety in sentence structure. To earn a 6, this writer needs to achieve smoother progression of ideas by using language more skillfully (the phrase "past experiences can only offer a gap between the steps on the ladder of success" seems to express the opposite of what the writer intends). The essay demonstrates reasonably consistent mastery and receives a 5.

SAT Sample Essay

The Essay


Score: 4

Essay


The point of making mistakes is to learn from them. If you don't learn from what you do wrong, then making mistakes has no silver lining, it is purely bad. I have come to believe this through personal experience and watching others.

When climbing the "ladder of success," each step gets you closer to the top. Therefore each step is a mistake that you learned from, a good decision, or even a stroke of luck. How could a person climb that ladder without each and every wooden rung to help them? I am human, therefor, far from perfect, I make mistakes all of the time and I am a better person because of that. You could almost say that the more mistakes a person makes, the stronger a person they are, assuming of course that they learn from them.

As a child I stole cookies from the cookie jar, lied to my parents (still happens every once in awhile), and played tricks on my brothers. I, in turn, got in trouble with my parents and was punished. After that I learned that those things aren't okay. Now I tend to make different mistakes, such as, going to places that aren't safe for me, and giving up when things get hard. Life is a huge cycle of making mistakes and learning from them. That is why people can become so wise and strong in what they do, they make good out of the bad.

I also see people close to me using problems and mistakes to make a good situation out of a bad one. My parents, my brothers, and my closest friends are all slowly building up the knowledge to be successful. How can a person be more successful by forgetting what they have already learned? That doesn't push you forward it just holds a person back. Even if a person wanted to forget their past, they couldn't. It's like forgetting that if a stove is turned on and you touch it, it will burn you.


Why this Essay Received a Score of 4


This essay develops a point of view ("Life is a huge cycle of making mistakes and learning from them") with adequate reasons and examples, thus demonstrating competent critical thinking. Generally organized and focused around the notion that remembering past learning experiences is crucial for success, the essay is marked by coherence and progression of ideas ("As a child I stole cookies from the cookiejar, lied to my parents . . . , and played tricks on my brothers. I, in turn, got in trouble with my parents and was punished. After that I learned that those things aren't okay. Now I tend to make different mistakes"). The essay also exhibits adequate facility in the use of language, despite some errors ("I am human, therefor, far from perfect, I make mistakes all of the time and I am a better person because of that"). To attain a higher score, the writer needs to support and extend the essay's argument with additional focused examples of people learning, or not learning, from their experiences. The essay demonstrates adequate mastery and is scored a 4.

SAT Sample Essay

The Essay


Score: 3

Essay


Memories can be helpful to some and hinder others. I believe that memories from different aspects of ones life have different consequences. One memory may be bad and it may be best forgotten about, when trying to succeed. Though some memories may give on strength to suceed in achieving a higher status in life.

When a person completes a task they have done once before, it trigers a memory and lets the reader reflect on that particular time in life. For example, a sporting team at the local high school makes it to the state championships, but severly loses to their opponent, the next time they get to the state championships they may think about the past and how they lost before, and it may hinder there feelings and they may once again lose. This demonstrates how a memory can ruin a certain activity for ever. On the other hand a memory can also help someone to move up the ladder of success. As an example if a person has cancer and is given treatment then diagnosed in remission they feel like they have beat the cancer.

When the patient in remission is later told that the cancer has grown back, the patient might feel that they can kill the cancer again because when looking at the past they see they have beat it once why not beat it again. This demonstrates how a memory can be helpful to a person. In this case it did not help the person climb the ladder of success though it helped the to continue climbing the ladder of life to the extent that they were able to climb.

Those two short examples just go to demonstrate how memories of the past can both help and hinder a person in their path of not only success but also in the path of life.


Why this Essay Received a Score of 3


This essay develops a point of view ("Memories can be helpful to some and hinder others") and shows some critical thinking by providing examples of the positive and negative effects of memories. However, the examples are limited in focus, featuring some lapses in coherence and progression of ideas, and are thus inadequate to support the position. The essay also demonstrates occasional problems in sentence structure and mechanics. To achieve a higher score, this writer needs to use critical thinking to clarify and expand each example by adding additional focused reasoning and details. The writer also needs to avoid using run-on sentences (". . . when looking at the past they see they have beat it once why not beat it again"). The essay demonstrates developing mastery and earns a 3.

SAT ESSAY Scoring Guide


The essay will be scored by experienced and trained high school and college teachers. Each essay will be scored by two people who won't know each other's score. They won't know the student's identity or school either. Each reader will give the essay a score from 1 to 6 (6 is the highest score) based on the following scoring guide.

SCORE OF 6


An essay in this category demonstrates clear and consistent mastery, although it may have a few minor errors. A typical essay

  • effectively and insightfully develops a point of view on the issue and demonstrates outstanding critical thinking, using clearly appropriate examples, reasons, and other evidence to support its position

  • is well organized and clearly focused, demonstrating clear coherence and smooth progression of ideas

  • exhibits skillful use of language, using a varied, accurate, and apt vocabulary

  • demonstrates meaningful variety in sentence structure

  • is free of most errors in grammar, usage, and mechanics

SCORE OF 5


An essay in this category demonstrates reasonably consistent mastery, although it will have occasional errors or lapses in quality. A typical essay

  • effectively develops a point of view on the issue and demonstrates strong critical thinking, generally using appropriate examples, reasons, and other evidence to support its position

  • is well organized and focused, demonstrating coherence and progression of ideas

  • exhibits facility in the use of language, using appropriate vocabulary

  • demonstrates variety in sentence structure

  • is generally free of most errors in grammar, usage, and mechanics

SCORE OF 4


An essay in this category demonstrates adequate mastery, although it will have lapses in quality. A typical essay

  • develops a point of view on the issue and demonstrates competent critical thinking, using adequate examples, reasons, and other evidence to support its position

  • is generally organized and focused, demonstrating some coherence and progression of ideas

  • exhibits adequate but inconsistent facility in the use of language, using generally appropriate vocabulary

  • demonstrates some variety in sentence structure

  • has some errors in grammar, usage, and mechanics

SCORE OF 3


An essay in this category demonstrates developing mastery, and is marked by ONE OR MORE of the following weaknesses:

  • develops a point of view on the issue, demonstrating some critical thinking, but may do so inconsistently or use inadequate examples, reasons, or other evidence to support its position

  • is limited in its organization or focus, or may demonstrate some lapses in coherence or progression of ideas

  • displays developing facility in the use of language, but sometimes uses weak vocabulary or inappropriate word choice

  • lacks variety or demonstrates problems in sentence structure

  • contains an accumulation of errors in grammar, usage, and mechanics

SCORE OF 2


An essay in this category demonstrates little mastery, and is flawed by ONE OR MORE of the following weaknesses:

  • develops a point of view on the issue that is vague or seriously limited, and demonstrates weak critical thinking, providing inappropriate or insufficient examples, reasons, or other evidence to support its position

  • is poorly organized and/or focused, or demonstrates serious problems with coherence or progression of ideas

  • displays very little facility in the use of language, using very limited vocabulary or incorrect word choice

  • demonstrates frequent problems in sentence structure

  • contains errors in grammar, usage, and mechanics so serious that meaning is somewhat obscured

SCORE OF 1


An essay in this category demonstrates very little or no mastery, and is severely flawed by ONE OR MORE of the following weaknesses:

  • develops no viable point of view on the issue, or provides little or no evidence to support its position

  • is disorganized or unfocused, resulting in a disjointed or incoherent essay

  • displays fundamental errors in vocabulary

  • demonstrates severe flaws in sentence structure

  • contains pervasive errors in grammar, usage, or mechanics that persistently interfere with meaning

Essays not written on the essay assignment will receive a score of zero.

SUGGESTED OUTLINE for YOUR SAT ESSAY
Introduction

  1. Introduce the topic (use info. from the prompt) Try to do so using an attention grabber

  2. state your thesis that clearly tells your viewpoint and introduces your examples

One sentence of background (own words) about topic

Possible Thesis Fill In: I (agree/disagree) with (topic) because (your reasons). (First example), (second example) and (third example) illustrate/demonstrate (how your view is valid).


Body Paragraph 1

  1. Topic sentence that introduces first example and tells how example fits

  2. at least 3-4 sentences explaining/detailing your example

  3. Concluding or tieback sentence(s) that explain(s) how the example relates to your thesis


Body Paragraph 2

  1. Transition

  2. Topic Sentence that introduces second example and tells how example fits

  3. At least 3-4sentences explaining/detailing your example

  4. Concluding or tieback sentence(s) that explain(s) how the example relates to your thesis


Body Paragraph 3 (Depends on whether you have planned examples, your time, your thinking ability) A third body paragraph is strongly advised if you want a 10 or better.

    1. Transition

    2. Topic Sentence that introduces second example and tells how example fits

    3. At least 3-4sentences explaining/detailing your example

    4. Concluding or tieback sentence(s) that explain(s) how the example relates to your thesis


Conclusion

  1. Restate your thesis, trying to use “snippets” from the background to the question. 1 to 3 sentences is/are acceptable.


Points to Remember:

    • Critical thinking is key, so plan the essay. Planning in advance will help you think. If not, use the brief form I showed you.

    • You need to use very specific and ample detail. Your body paragraphs are the most important. The more examples you prepare, the better you will be.

    • Be sure to proofread to get rid of silly errors. First impressions are important.

Suggested Timing


If you have planned in advance,

    • 1-3 minutes: Read the prompt and decide what examples you will use. Write your thesis so it reflects your examples. Be sure to underline the key words that you will purposely use in your conclusion.

    • 20-22 minutes minutes: Write

    • 1-2 minutes: Proofread for silly errors.

Total Time= 25 minutes

If you have not planned in advance or cannot make your examples work:



  • 5 minutes: Read the prompt and decide what examples you will use. Use ROSE. Write your thesis so it reflects your examples. Be sure to underline the key words that you will purposely use in your conclusion.

  • 19 minutes: Write

  • 1 minute: Proofread for silly errors.

Total Time= 25 minutes



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