How to Earn a Perfect Score on the SAT Essay

Paragraph 1: Introduction

Paraphrase the author’s claim in a “roadmap” sentence that lists three features the author uses to convince the reader of his or her argument. You will then discuss each feature in a separate body paragraph.

Student Example 1: “Adam Summers conveys this through citing statistics, appealing to the audience’s emotions and sense of self-interests, and utilizing sarcastic diction.”

Student Example 2: “Summers, like any good writer, employs tactical reasoning and persuasive devices to plead with the audience to take his side. In this article, he demonstrates many such devices.”

Paragraph 2: Discuss feature #1.  Example: Irony

Consider the following six questions.

6 Questions to memorize:

-Where does the author use this feature? What example(s) of this feature can you quote from the passage or paraphrase?

-How does the example relate to the author’s central claim? Does this feature make the author’s claim more compelling? If not, why? What is the function of this feature in the overall text?

As you read the passage, underline and take margin notes on examples of the following elements for features.

A feature can include:  

1 – Evidence to support a claim (i.e. facts, statistics, quotes from experts, examples, etc). Is the author’s evidence strong, unrelated, or unsubstantiated? What evidence is provided to support claims?

2 – Reasoning to develop central ideas  (i.e. the author may explain his logic for using a specific piece of evidence to support his claim) Ask yourself, “Are there any unstated assumptions that the author makes?

Does the author use any errors of fact or interpretation? Does the author use faulty logic? (i.e. nothing is quantified; possible alternate cause; correlation doesn’t equal causation; too small a sample or the sample is not representative). Each time you mention a flaw, state how to fix it.

3 – Stylistic or persuasive elements the author uses to stake his claim

(i.e. irony, simile, metaphor and other elements that appeal to emotions)

Paragraph 3: Discuss feature #2.  Example: Historical Evidence

Consider the above “6 questions to memorize.”

Paragraph 4: Discuss feature #3.  Example: Juxtaposition

Consider the above “6 questions to memorize.”

Paragraph 5: Conclusion

Think of your conclusion as a mirror of the your introduction. If you’re struggling with the conclusion, re-read your introduction and paraphrase it in the final paragraph. Summarize the author’s central claim and remind the reader of which stylistic and rhetorical devices that the author used in the body paragraphs (i.e. the 3 features in your body paragraphs).  

For example:

“Goodman’s use of up-to-date references as well as connections to social media, use of statistics, and diction establish his argument of the need for more foreign reporters and persuade his audience of the need to do so.”

The “So What?” Strategy

Consider the so what strategy. What are the implications of the author’s argument beyond his main point? This strategy allows you to leave readers with an understanding of why the argument is important in a broader context. Ask yourself, “How does this issue affect the world at large?

The Twist

Interesting conclusions have a twist. The twist is a surprise ending, something new that you haven’t shown the reader before. It could be a judgment or interpretation about what was the most important point the writer made, the most convincing source he used, or the weakest point he made. Or it could tie the author’s main point to a broader context, as shown here:

For example:

Introduction: “Overall, this essay focuses on the importance of the principles of Authority and Responsibility, Unity of Direction, Division of Work and Esprit de Corps.”

Conclusion: “Other modern businesses may have thrived by strenuously applying different principles than the four mentioned, but it appears, as Pumpkin Patch shows, behind any great business, past or present, you will find the application of one or more of Fayol’s 14 General Principles of Management.”

(Example from jwrait’s blog