How to Prove You Can Write Good Papers Also known as the SAT essay section
How are you graded? Five key ingredients: - appropriate examples - organization and focus - language and usage (glitzy vocabulary!) - varied sentence structure - grammar
What does this mean? Think of your essay as the skeleton of something great and as an opportunity for you to show that you know where all of the different bones connect.
25 minutes That’s all of the time you have to write, so you MUST plan Figure out as much as possible before the clock starts ticking (here in this class) Then create some sort of outline before you begin writing
It’s a basic structure Put together an essay with a beginning, middle and an end All parts of the essay should be extremely identifiable This means it serves you well to write in such a way that screams, “OK! I GET THIS!” Get it?
The beginning Sentence 1: the hook 2: explanation or comment on the hook 3: introduction to the topic 4: introduction to your answer to the question 5: old-school thesis statement
This sample prompt “What brings success: determination or luck?”
1. The hook This can be any kind of quote, fact or saying that you think somehow relates to the topic and will grab the reader’s attention For example: “Today’s preparation determines tomorrow’s achievement,” declares a poster that hangs in many high school classrooms. (This came from a student who said she actually saw that hanging on the wall in the room where she took the SAT. It worked; she used it!)
2.Explanation of or comment on the hook This is a little sentence that helps ease you into the topic: The American populace believes the ideology that effort results in guaranteed results. This sentence just says “Lots of people think hard work yields success,” but does so in a fancy way.
3. Introduction to the topic This means we need to think about the topic, in this case success, overall. Don’t tell your opinion just yet. Instead make sure that we’re all clear that the essay is about the concept of success and not about the poster in the classroom from the hook. Sadly, the achievement of success per the American people is not as cut and dry. Obviously, but now we wonder what defines success (or at least realize that more is to come about this!)
4. Introduction to MY answer to the question This is the big preparation sentence that keeps the thesis from sounding like it came out of thin air. In the United States today, success is defined by celebrity, wealth, fame and power. Look! This gets the reader thinking about how we define success. The first step in actually answering the question is defining the terms.
5. Old-school thesis statement Thesis needs to tell two things: - your direct answer to the question (in this case, “What brings success?”) - the examples you will use to support that claim in the order that they will appear in the essay Those who pursue the ultimate in the American dream, although their dreams may be as disparate as success on Broadway to attaining the most powerful position in the world– the United States presidency– find that success is largely determined by luck.
The middle Point 1: Intro and brief background 2: Character example I 3: Character example II 4: Character example III 5: Summarizing comment that directly relates to your thesis • We will work to put together a list of possible examples for the essay to jog your memory on test day. Your list should include books you’ve read in high school, historic situation (wars, famines) that you’ve learned about, and maybe some influential and/or inspiring people.
Should I get personal? The use of books, movies or history rather than personal anecdotes allows you to explain the ins/outs of a situation in an analytical sense. This is difficult to do with a personal situation. You earn no higher points for enduring difficult situations or personal experiences, btw. At 8 a.m. on a Saturday morning, you will be glad to have a list of examples.
Point 1: Intro and brief background 2: Character example I 3: Character example II4: Character example III 5: Summarizing comment that directly relates to your thesis Becoming a “star” in modern culture is deemed a valuable vocation to pursue. There is no better example of the iconic rise to the top than current Broadway leading lady Sutton Foster. Ms. Foster, Tony award winner and nominee, finds herself at the top of her profession, but not through hard work alone. Her career started at 17 when she auditioned for the national tour of “Les Miserables.” She was offered the job promptly—even as an unknown. So started her road to success.Not long after, she found herself in the chorus of a Broadway workshop. There her luck proved significant again: the lead actress was unable to fulfill her commitments, was fired, and Foster found herself cast as the title role. Although Ms. Foster is a highly talented and well-trained individual, no amount of training guarantees the luck– and precipitate success—that she currently experiences.
The next body paragraph follows the same structure The same success of attaining the job of U.S. president requires the same final dose of luck. Potential presidents are groomed from childhood to be dynamic individuals with exceptional social skills and fundamental political acumen. They attend the best educational institutions and travel in the best influential circle in the interest of “earning” the nomination. Ultimately, though, preparation succumbs to luck, as the decision is not made by the candidate. Earning a nomination and the election are the product of circumstance, the media, and again, luck.
The End These final sentences tie everything together. It is simply a rephrasing (not an exact copy) of the argument in your thesis Do NOT allude to the other side of the argument (that is, don’t say “maybe success is earned…”) And DO NOT introduce an entirely new example in the last paragraph Although you may think that the examples you have already chosen aren’t as strong as the one you have miraculously thought of in the 19th minute, the strength of your paper is really found in its organization, and you will ultimately be better off leaving out the new idea
It is interesting that modern culture defines success in terms that are circumstantial. Perhaps if success were redefined as personal happiness and peace, the world would be populated by a significantly larger number of “successful” people.
Emergency Situations Making up examples, names, places, facts or even dates for the SAT essay is acceptable The whole point of the essay is to prove your strong rough-draft writing technique – and to prove this technique using “appropriate examples” The College Board doesn’t say “true examples”
A caveat … Is the example actually related to the essay topic? Is it neither stupid nor in bad taste? If you pass both of those tests, you’re golden! However, be careful. You may not be good at making up examples.
How To Up Your Score Vary sentence structure: Starting a sentence with Despite, Although, Though, In spite of … will force you to use a dependent clause and put the subject in the middle of the sentence rather than at the beginning. English teachers (and essay scorers) love this!
Use the right word the right way They’re versus their versus there Your and you’re Its and it’s Lame words: Replace a lot with many or multiple or often or frequently. Avoid get and try; instead use attain, attempt, works to achieve Misusing simple words is like reaching out from your essay and punching the reader in the face. These essay scorers are expert writers; they freak out about the smallest details.
Don’t use contractions You should exhibit formal writing on the SAT.
No Slang! Just like you want to avoid informal contractions, you also want to avoid informal language of slang A character won’t be bummed; he’ll be disheartened Use the most formal, uppity, professional-sounding language you can muster
Use better vocabulary Use this selection of broad words that can be applied universally. Ultimately, fundamentally, quintessentially, significantly, demonstrably, consequently, remarkably, broadly, generally
No Personal Pronouns Avoid I and you like the plague! Instead of saying “I think Dickens implies that…” just say “Dickens implies that …” Instead of saying “When you really want something, you tend to work hard for it,” write something more powerful. “Desire produces effort.”
Avoid Passive Voice This is just a remote, drawn out way of saying something, usually by putting the subject after the verb For example: The game was played badly by the team.
Avoid Extra Words Steer clear of phrases like “because of the fact that” and “being as she is” that unnecessarily wordy. Either of these phrases could be replaced with because. The more powerful writing often uses the fewest words.
Learn, Study and Know Grammatical Rules The rules for the other Writing section apply to the essay as well! Learn them, own them, and use them!
Self-fulfilling Prophesy The essay is the first task you will encounter on test day Feeling successful on the essay, although it is only 30 percent of the Writing score, can take you into the rest of the test with high confidence!