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Introduction to the SAT Writing Test

Learn basic principles and tips behind the writing section of the SAT.

In this article, you will find:

Page 1

Introduction to the SAT Writing Test

Raise Your SAT Writing Score by 100 Points (or More) in One Week (Practically) Guaranteed!
Your score on the SAT Writing Test will be determined by how well you do on its two parts.

In the first part, you'll have to write a persuasive essay on an assigned topic in 25 minutes. This will be a general topic that does not require any specific knowledge, and the "prompt" (topic) will be one for which there is no "correct answer." The SAT essay is not a test of your knowledge. Right now, as you read this, you know enough information about the world—assuming you haven't slept through the last eleven years of school—to compose an outstanding response to any topic you might be asked to write about on the SAT.

The second part consists of 49 multiple-choice proofreading and editing questions in two sections. Your job here is to spot common writing errors in sentences and paragraphs, and sometimes to decide which of five alternatives is the most clear, concise, and grammatically correct.

Although this is called the SAT Writing Test, your essay counts for just one-third of your total score; the rest comes from your performance on the 49 proofreading and editing questions.

The Most Important Section of the New SAT
If there is anything that all teachers agree on, it's this: If you can't write well, you can't think well. If your writing is disorganized and muddy, your reader will most likely assume that your thoughts are, too.

Writing well is an important skill in the "real world" as well as in school. Colleges recognize this fact, which is why they insisted on the new SAT Writing Test.

All three SAT sections—math, reading (formerly "verbal"), and writing—are important, of course, but your performance on this new SAT section in particular will receive close scrutiny from college admissions committees.

Here's a Scary Thought
The SAT essay is far more important than many students (including some of your friends and maybe even you) realize! Sure, you know it's a significant part of your overall Writing Score, but get this: The admissions committees at dozens of selective colleges—Harvard and Yale among them—will now require you to include your actual SAT essay in your applications!

So what? For the first time admissions committees will be able to compare a sample of your actual writing, composed under pressure, with the personal statement and other essays you'll have to write for the application.

It's fairly common for students to receive a lot of editing "help" from their parents, tutors, or college advisors on their application essays (something colleges deplore in the extreme, by the way). These students are now on their own because the SAT essay gives admissions committees a standard by which to judge each applicant's personal statement essay.

And you'd better believe that a big red flag will be raised in the minds of admissions officers (which is a Very Bad Thing) if the quality of a student's SAT essay is markedly different from that of his or her application essays.

There are important psychological reasons for doing well on the SAT essay. The essay section is the first one you'll complete on the test day. By constructing an outstanding essay quickly and efficiently, you'll conserve your energy and put yourself in a positive frame of mind for the rest of the test.

But Here's the Good Part
The ability to write outstanding persuasive essays is not a skill possessed only by geniuses or professional writers, but rather a skill that can be mastered, like playing the guitar or shooting a basketball.

If you learn what specific things the SAT essay readers are looking for, and if you then follow a simple formula and some basic rules that you'll discover, you will be astounded—astounded—at how quickly and dramatically your essay score improves.

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