Structure Of A Sat Essay Examples

This post has been updated with current, accurate content for the new SAT that premiered in March 2016 by Magoosh test prep expert David Recine!
 
 
You know how much first impressions count for? The people who read and grade your SAT essay (there will be 2 of them) are going to see a couple of things immediately. First, there’s the length and the handwriting, but those only count for so much. Almost immediately, the reader will get to your introductory paragraph.

What you put in that intro is going to be a significant chunk of their first impression, so you’ve got to make sure it’s good.

I’m going to give you a formula to follow for a clear and focused introduction to your SAT essay. No, it won’t guarantee you a high score, but if you follow it, you’ll have fewer choices to make, and that’s a good thing.

In the New SAT’s essay prompt, you will write a response to an opinion piece, either an historical piece of writing (such as an essay by past political leader), or a recently-written editorial about a modern issue. The example opening paragraph below will be based on an article about the benefits of exposing young children to technology. Before you look at the example sentences below, review the article and essay prompt on the official SAT website here.

 

First sentence – identify and describe the source article

In your opening, you want to immediately identify the reading passage you’re responding to. Name the author, other relevant information such as when the source was written or where it was published, and very briefly describe the source’s content. This demonstrates fundamental reading comprehension. It also makes the purpose of your essay clear—you are analyzing a specific piece of writing.

In “The Digital Parent Trap,” an op-ed for Time Magazine, author Eliana Dockterman asserts the many benefits of exposing children to multimedia technology via computer, Internet and mobile platforms.
The name of the author and the purpose/subject of the article are essential. Include the title and publishing venue for the article if possible. (Sometimes a really long title may not fit well into a sentence, and the publishing venue can also be unwieldy or difficult to correctly determine.)
 

Second sentence – Explain more about the writer’s purpose and beliefs

Note that in the first sentence above, the brief description of the article’s content appeared at the very end. This placement allows the end of the first sentence to transition smoothly to the second sentence. The second sentence will expand on the ideas from the end of the previous sentence, giving more details about the article’s content, and what the author is trying to do.

Dockterman challenges the traditional beliefs that electronic media is bad for children, saying that exposure to electronic media actually benefits children cognitively, developmentally, and educationally.

Notice the way that this sentence summarizes all key points from the source article, and lists them in the order they appeared. Dockterman first mentions conventional bias against exposing children to electronic entertainment, and then challenges this bias by listing three benefits of mobile technology for children. It’s best to have the second sentence follow the sequence of ideas in the article, as this is the easiest, most straightforward way to give a summary.
 

Third sentence – Characterize the argument and give your opinion of it

Now that you’ve given a good description of the article and its content, it’s time to actually analyze the article. Think about your own feelings on what you just read, in terms of writing quality. What does the argument look like, structurally? And how well-constructed is the argument?

The author’s argument unfolds clearly as she provides evidence that anti-tech bias exists and is incorrect.

Be careful when you write this third sentence. You may agree with what the author has written, or you may have a difference of opinion. But the focus of the sentence should be your opinion of the author’s writing skill, not your feelings on the rightness or wrongness of the author’s claims. Try to keep this sentence relatively simple and focused.
 

Fourth sentence – Give the reason for your opinion

Once you’ve stated your opinion on the quality of writing in the article, you need to justify your characterization of the argument. In this case, sentence four will need to explain more about why the Time Magazine article in question “unfolds clearly,” how the author “outlines biases,” and why the author’s evidence is “believable.”
Citing statistics, scholarly research and quotations from experts, Eliana Dockterman credibly demonstrates all of her key assertions.
 

Fifth sentence – Preview the body of your essay

The fifth sentence is optional, but I advise including it more often than not. By previewing what you’ll cover in the body of the essay, you provide a strong transition between your introduction and the rest of your written piece. The New SAT essay format is more complex than the previous format, and it helps to have a lot of transitions to hold everything together.
Through an impressive array of external sources, the author crafts a multifaceted argument that adults should allow children to use technology and electronic media.

By mentioning an “array” of evidence and a “multifaceted argument,” this sentence indicates that the rest of the SAT essay will analyze multiple pieces of evidence and different aspects of Dockterman’s rhetoric. This helps prepare the reader (in this case SAT scorer) for the sophisticated full written analysis that will follow the introduction.

 

Practice this intro structure before the day of your SAT

The best way to remember any system is to use it, so make sure you try this structure out a few times. If you have it down pat on the day of your SAT, it’ll make your life a lot easier.

 

About Lucas Fink

Lucas is the teacher behind Magoosh TOEFL. He’s been teaching TOEFL preparation and more general English since 2009, and the SAT since 2008. Between his time at Bard College and teaching abroad, he has studied Japanese, Czech, and Korean. None of them come in handy, nowadays.


Magoosh blog comment policy: To create the best experience for our readers, we will approve and respond to comments that are relevant to the article, general enough to be helpful to other students, concise, and well-written! :) If your comment was not approved, it likely did not adhere to these guidelines. If you are a Premium Magoosh student and would like more personalized service, you can use the Help tab on the Magoosh dashboard. Thanks!


The body of your SAT essay is where the bulk of your argument will lie (and remember that you are making an argument), and it’s probably the piece that students are most comfortable with. Even if your nerves are fried from SAT anxiety, once you’re halfway through the essay, it’s a bit easier to think of what to say than it is when introducing the thing. After all, a lot of us have had the experience of staring blankly down at a paper that stares blankly back..

But even if you’re tearing it up, scribbling furiously through the details of some fantastic example in your body paragraph, you still might not be doing what you need to for that perfect essay score. Since the body paragraphs are when we’re most comfortable writing, we tend to make careless mistakes in them. And I don’t mean just grammar or spelling mistakes—although those can definitely hold back otherwise fantastic essays—but also structural problems.

It’s easy to lose sight of your point in those body paragraphs. Be careful to follow some amount of structure… it doesn’t have to be exactly the same as the structure I give you here, but this isn’t a bad way to go.

 

The essay prompt and intro

I’m going to use the same prompt and introduction from my example intro post. So here’s that, condensed:

“Is it more important for students to pursue their studies individually or to work under the guidance of a teacher?”

Education is a complex process.Over the course of students’ studies, they’ll inevitably spend time working both alone and with their teachers. Guided learning is helpful, but it only needs to play a relatively minor role in the process. Rather than devoting excessive time to working with teachers, students have to take education into their own hands and work alone as much as possible. Doing so fosters creativity and cements the skills in students’ minds.

 

Transitioning into your first point

The first sentences of your body paragraph should be relatively broad in its scope. You want to move smoothly from your intro, so don’t just throw an example in here.

That creative thought is an integral facet of education, and there’s no better way to develop it than to have students explore their own ideas. When we’re not given direct instruction, we’re free to create unique, personalized ways to solve problems.

Each body paragraph should have a mini-thesis like this. Notice I’m not just repeating my main thesis that students need time alone; I’m arguing that time alone is good because of something.

Make sure that reason why is clear. Then, move on to the example.

 

Give some specifics to back it up

Remember that examples can come from just about anywhere. The one I’ll use is historical, but you can use your own experiences or make stuff up.

The ideas of Leonardo da Vinci, for example, were hatched largely in solitude. Da Vinci’s education was limited to art, but he was an incredibly innovative engineer, and that’s most likely because he followed nobody’s rules but his own.

It’s important that you use a phrase like “for example,” or “for instance,” in this part of the paragraph. If you don’t, those specifics will feel disconnected from the rest of the essay.

 

Explain why the example proves your point

Ideally, any examples you give will be relevant enough to your argument that you won’t really need to explain them for your reader to get the message. But that’s not saying you shouldn’t explain. In reality, analyzing that example is one of the most important parts—that’s what makes the link between your ideas and the real world.

If he had instead followed the regular instruction of teachers who obeyed the standards of the day, he may not have created the sketches of machines that were so far ahead of his time. Independent thinking can have spectacular, unexpected results.

And now you’re nicely set up to transition into your next reason.

 

Rinse and repeat

Your next body paragraph could follow the same basic structure. Start of with a linking sentence (Self-directed learning gives more than just an opportunity to think for oneself, though), then give an abstract reason, a specific example, and an analysis.

Follow a system like this, and you’ll minimize the number of flaws your essay might have. Argument structure helps clarify your message, so make sure you get it down pat before the day of your SAT.

About Lucas Fink

Lucas is the teacher behind Magoosh TOEFL. He’s been teaching TOEFL preparation and more general English since 2009, and the SAT since 2008. Between his time at Bard College and teaching abroad, he has studied Japanese, Czech, and Korean. None of them come in handy, nowadays.


Magoosh blog comment policy: To create the best experience for our readers, we will approve and respond to comments that are relevant to the article, general enough to be helpful to other students, concise, and well-written! :) If your comment was not approved, it likely did not adhere to these guidelines. If you are a Premium Magoosh student and would like more personalized service, you can use the Help tab on the Magoosh dashboard. Thanks!


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