Neil Chyten Discusses the New SAT Essay

The SAT Essay section is a 50-minute section that comes at the end of the test. During this time, you will read a passage (the source text) and write an essay in which you evaluate how the author formulates an argument to convince an audience of a particular point of view. Specifically, your task will be to discuss the logical validity and strength of the author’s case and provide analysis of the author’s line of reasoning and the use of evidence.

In doing so, you must prove your deep understanding of the source text by evaluating his:

  • use of evidence.
  • use of reasoning.
  • use of stylistic elements.
  • use of persuasive elements.

The SAT Essay receives a total of four scores. The overall score is scaled from 3 to 12. Three subscores (see table below) are scaled from 1 to 4. The total of the three subscores is your overall score. The SAT Essay score is not calculated into the test’s overall 400-1600 scale.

Subscores

1: Reading

2: Analysis

3: Writing

General Characteristic

Demonstrate an understanding of                the source text

Provide an accurate analysis of the source text

Keep to a central theme representing your view of the source text

Detail

Understanding of the structure of the source text with respect to main points and supporting details

Evaluation of the author’s use of evidence, reasoning, and/or stylistic and persuasive elements

Effective organization         of ideas

Detail

Accurate representation of the source text

Support for claims or points made in the response

Use of varied sentence structure and appropriate word choice

Detail

Use and citation of evidence to demonstrate your understanding of the source text

Identification of features in the text most relevant to addressing the task

Maintenance of a consistent style and tone

Detail

Command of the conventions of standard written English

One thing that makes this assignment particularly interesting and unique is that your essay will be graded on roughly the same attributes that you must consider in evaluating the source text.

In other words:

  • You must cite evidence of the author’s use of evidence.
  • You must use reasoning to describe how the author uses reasoning, and so on.

To earn a high score, your essay must be:

  • correct in assessing the perspective, rationale, and strategy of the author.
  • logical and consistent in presenting its case.
  • well organized with respect to paragraph and overall structure.
  • well written with respect to standard English conventions.
  • well written with respect to use of varied sentence structure, vocabulary and rhetorical devices.

The SAT Essay is optional. But while many colleges do not require that you take it for admission, you might consider doing so anyway. Certainly, if you are planning to apply to highly competitive colleges or if you wish to demonstrate your writing and analytical abilities—abilities highly coveted by college admissions personnel—the SAT Essay can be an important differentiator. Also keep in mind that, while many colleges do not require the SAT Essay, there is not a college in the country that does not accept it if submitted.