List of Rhetorical Devices for the SAT Essay

What follows is not an exhaustive list of rhetorical devices you might encounter on the new SAT Essay, but this is a good starting point. I have split them into the larger categories of Logos, Ethos and Pathos, but some of these devices fall into more than one category, so don’t get too hung up on that.



Perhaps the easiest to identify. Statistics are numbers used to suggest factual information. But beware statistics are open to interpretation.

Factual Evidence (examples)

Factual evidence occurs when the author offers examples of something or provides proof.


Reasoning is the use of a logical progression of ideas to come to a conclusion.


Analogy is used when the author makes an extended comparison between 2 things which are alike in many respects to suggest that they may be alike in other respects.


Comparison is when the author compares limited aspects of 2 or more things.

Challenging Assumptions

Challenging Assumptions occurs when the author wants to present a radical argument, but in order to do so, old ideas must be removed first.


Hypotheticals are the weakest form of logical argument because they rely on imaginary situations. However, in limited circumstances, they can form the base of a larger argument.


Credibility of the Author

Authors establish their credibility through experience, education, past actions and even just charisma.

Credibility of Contributor (person or group)

This is the same as credibility of the author except that the author is using someone else’s credibility to build the argument. When this is referred to a appeal to authority it can become a logical fallacy because we are merely trusting someone in authority.



Diction is also referred to a word choice. English has a vast vocabulary and many words have specific connotations in addition to their denotations. Those connotations carry emotional weight. For Example, thin versus emaciated. Thin has a positive connotation (when speaking about people), but emaciated has a negative connotation.


Syntax is the structure of sentences. Certain sentences due to their constructions are inherently more persuasive than others.


Concession happens when the author concedes to the oppositions points and agrees they are valid.

Refutation is the anticipation of an attack and an explanation why the opposition’s point of view is invalid. These strategies are persuasive because they create the sense that the author has considered all sides of the issue and thus is giving an less biased point of view.


Anecdotes are short descriptions of events that are designed to set up a point or evoke a feeling in the reader.

Rhetorical Questions

Rhetorical Questions are questions posed to the reader that have an obvious or intended answer.

Appeal to Identity (we)

Appeal to Identity can involve more than one rhetorical strategy, but at its heart it creates a sense of belonging with the reader through appeal to experience, the use of collective pronouns (we, us), the use of 2nd person (you), and flattery.

Logical Fallacies

It is also possible that the provided essay will have flawed logic. Being able to identify this will boost your analysis score as it requires more advanced cognition. Below is a list of some common logical fallacies.

Loaded Words–Loaded words is the use of connotative language to sway the listeners emotions

Slippery Slope–Slippery Slope suggests that if one small change is made it will automatically lead to disastrous consequences

Straw Man–Straw Man fallacy occurs when an argument is misrepresented or exaggerated in order to make it easier to attack.

Bandwagon–Bandwagon occurs when a course of action is done by many and there for is right or acceptable

Circular Reasoning (begging the question)–The conclusion is presented in the premise

Either/Or–Presenting a situation as having only 2 possible points of view

Ad Hominem–Attacking an opponent’s personal qualities in order to undermine his/her argument

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