[NOTE: this applies to the pre-2016 version of the SAT]
On the 25 minute SAT essay, you don’t have the time or the room to create such a comprehensive view of your argument. Here’s how you quickly organize your thoughts.
Briefly outline your essay
Right there on the bottom of the page outline your essay.
- Choose a side and write “yes” or “no”
- Write your thesis statement
- Write two specific examples
- Write the first line of your conclusion
What does a strong thesis look like?
A thesis is your main idea – it states your position and previews what you are going to say throughout the essay.
Laura Wilson uses a formula: main idea + supporting examples. Here’s an example from her fabulous book Write the SAT Essay Right!: Ten Secrets to Add 100 Points to Your Score
Essay prompt: Are people motivated more by fame and money or by their conscience?
Weak Thesis: People are motivated by many things.
Strong Thesis: Famous football star Pat Tillman and German industrialist Oskar Schindler both show through their actions that people are motivated more by conscience than by money or fame.
Use your thesis to help you narrow your thoughts down to the specific point you want to make.
What are specific examples?
You’ve already brainstormed a variety of examples. Quickly think through them and choose two to three to use to illustrate your thesis.
Add a few key words to remind yourself what point you are trying to make. (This will help keep you laser-focused on your thesis)
For example: “Tillman – no 3M, enlist army” which is my shorthand for Tillman turned down a $3 million professional football contract to enlist in the army.
This specificity will help you once you start writing – you’ll make your point and then move on.
Did I mention that you should zoom through this process in only 2-3 minutes? That’s one of the reasons you need to have your examples prepped and ready to go.
Image credit: Kyle McDonald on Flickr
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