Some of my students did their first practice new format SAT on Saturday, and they panicked when they hit the Essay. It was so daunting in its complexity, and after having sat for over 3 hours of testing, they were a little numb.
All complex tasks become easier if we break them down into simpler (and doable steps). The SAT’s Essay is no different.
Step 1– Read and Annotate. 1/3 of your score will rely on how well you understood the given material. So give yourself some time to read and note the key points. After having read the given materials you should have a clear idea of the Main Idea, Tone, and Key points. Write these down (point form), so you don’t have to juggle them in your mind.(15-20 minutes)
Step 2– Identify the evidence, reasoning and rhetorical elements used and pick the 3 most important or prevalent.
Step 3-Make an outline. Plan the order of information you will be writing about. The introduction should summarize the given material and end with a thesis that gives the reader a path to what you will discuss. Leave your strongest element to the end because readers remember what they read last the best. (5-10 minutes)
Step 4-Write like the wind. That means fast. Hopefully you have at least 25 minutes left to write your essay. Follow your outline and remember to include references to the given materials including quotations to support your analysis.
Yes, I know, that seems simple in theory, but when confronted with an unfamiliar passage and the time pressure, we all tend to blank. This is why practice is important. The more you do this, the easier it becomes. You will start to be able to identify the patterns writers use. Future blogposts will go into these steps in detail.