I know, I know, the demographic for Biscuit City is not exactly one that will be taking the SAT (I'm not sure just what the demographic for BC is, but I somehow think it doesn't include a lot of high school readers). Anyhow, I figure some of you have children or grandchildren who are taking the test so I thought this week's writing advice should be about taking the essay portion of the SAT. Or maybe you're headed for college for the first time at age 83. Good for you! Rock on!
I would consider myself an expert at what makes a good SAT essay without bragging since I have personally scored over 100,000 of the writings. I can't say how or why I was able to do this or we'd all have to go under the Witness Protection to prevent a large and anonymous company from finding us and making us the victims of "extreme renditions" to obscure places like Newark or Bangor.
So we'll just assume I know what I'm talking about. That said, here are my tips for writing a good SAT essay:
1. Answer the prompt! Stay on the subject. Essays peripherally connected to the subject count, but I wouldn't stray too far afield. If the subject is the influence of media on culture, don't write about your lacrosse career.
2. Be specific! Use examples and stories. Factual accuracy does not count in this test so you can make up facts ("Benjamin Franklin invented the light bulb"), but it doesn't make scorers happy. The College Board says this is a test of writing and critical thinking, not of factual recall. But the better writers get it right. I'm just sayin'.
3, Don't waste time doing a rough draft. You're writing a timed test, not the Great American Novel. Jot down a few ideas if you need to, and then write.
4. Be organized. Transitions are your friends. Do a quick outline or web or jot list or whatever makes you happy. Don't take all day doing it, though.
5. If you see you're running out of time and you're not finished, start throwing down ideas. If it's there, the scorers can count it. If it's still in your mind they can't read that, as good as they might be.
6. Remember the test is one of critical thinking. Show some evidence of that, somehow.
7. Reserve the last one to two minutes for proofreading. Spelling errors and miswritings don't count against you, but they don't help, either.
8. Relax and enjoy yourself. Make us proud!
9. Practice before the test. There are sample prompts and papers on line Write, write, write! Good luck!