The Optional SAT Essay: What To Know

The essay portion of SAT 2016 was no longer optional, but many students still choose to write it in order to show potential colleges their writing skills.

The College Board decided to end the SAT essay in June 2021. The SAT essay is no longer available to students from certain states or school districts. This is applicable to students, among others, in the SAT School Day Program.

While the SAT essay decision is not the most difficult one you’ll make in highschool, it is one that will require thought. The 50-minute SAT essay is a short but important part of the decision making process.

  • A skilled reader is essential if you want to do well on the SAT essay.
  • Writing persuasive and rhetorical sentences is a key part of the SAT essay.
  • Many colleges are dropping their standardized testing requirements.

To be able to write the SAT essay well, you need to be a skilled reader

It is important to have a supporting text for the SAT essay prompt. It follows a text of approximately 700 words or one page. Before the test-takers will be able to plan their responses, they must first read and then annotate the passage.

Students with poor comprehension of English may find it difficult to understand the SAT essay prompt’s many dimensions. This prompt is predictable. It requires students to explain the author’s argument. “How” here refers specifically to the types of rhetorical tools used (e.g. metaphors, deductive reasoning, etc.

Fortunately, the prompt will usually include the argument of the author. Consider this SAT prompt: “Write a paper explaining how Paul Bogard argues against natural darkness.”

Students should pay attention to specific devices rather than “big ideas” when reading the essay prompt. You should analyze at most two devices in your tour SAT essay. Three is better.

Background knowledge of rhetorical and persuasive writing is required for the SAT Essay

You must respond to the author’s rhetorical devices in your SAT essay. This means that you need to be familiar with at least 10 common ones. You will be able to recognize rhetorical devices faster if you have a better grasp of them.

Once you have read and identified several notable rhetorical devices in the passage, you can use many of those same essay-writing strategies that you learned in high school English classes.

To begin with, brainstorm to identify the devices that you are most passionate about. Write a succinct thesis statement. Use quotes from the text. Close with an interesting conclusion.

Always use the text to back up your claims. Last but not least, take a moment to go through your essay and correct any mistakes.

An increasing number of colleges are dropping standardized test requirements

Some of America’s most prestigious colleges and universities – including Ivy League institutions Harvard University in Massachusetts and Princeton University New Jersey – have made it optional for students to submit ACT and SAT scores.

This trend started in 2018, but many schools have since adopted a more relaxed testing policy.

Educational fairness advocates have long complained that standard admissions tests could disadvantage students from low socioeconomic backgrounds. Colleges have adopted this idea after the coronavirus virus pandemic which prevented almost all high school students from taking the exam.

Colleges have a new way to evaluate writing ability.

This does not mean that one test or any portion of the ACT/SAT is no longer required by colleges. Writing the SAT essay is still an option for students who want to study in a writing-intensive area.

A progression in writing skills can be demonstrated by an essay.

For those students who are not yet eligible, the SAT essay can help boost college applications. If you are subject to the requirement, you should learn more about it and practice it frequently as you prepare for the SAT.


  • kaydenmarsh

    I am Kayden Marsh, 34yo educational blogger and school teacher. I am a mother of two young children, and I love spending time with them and learning new things. I also enjoy writing about education and children's issues, and I hope to continue doing so for the rest of my life.

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