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Essay Writing Guide


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The new redesigned SAT test has changed its format for its SAT essay section. Students are given a passage to read. They then have to analyze how the author uses persuasive techniques to support his or her claim. Students are scored on how they read, analyze and organize their essay.


1. The SAT Essay section will provide a passage between 650 and 750 words which you should read carefully. You are given 50 minutes to write the SAT Essay. You can therefore take 5 minutes to plan your approach.

2. You can indeed use the 5 body paragraph method, with one introductory paragraph, three body paragraphs and one conclusive paragraph. The essay length expected is between 650 and 750 words.

3. The whole intention of this new format is to allow you to showcase your ability to analyze the argument of a passage. You should focus on how the author utilizes evidence, reasoning and rhetorical elements to make his or her claim and be persuasive. In other words WHAT and HOW a message is being relayed.

4. You will hence be looking at WHAT type of information ie. evidence the author is using. This could comprise of a variety of support. A) ACADEMIC and PROFESSIONAL FACTS are delivered through expertise, academic studies and quotes. This can include statistics. Such information garners the respect of the reader and hence elicits more trust. B) ALLUSIONS to religion, history or popular culture help the reader understand the broad expanse a topic covers and it often adds context to the information. C) ANECDOTES often involve sentiment, such as nostalgia, while the vivid imagery in personal accounts draws the reader in and can often be more engaging than cold hard facts.

5. The College Board also invites you to explain the author's power of reasoning. You can do this in 2 ways. A) It's possible to show how the author uses EXPLANATION and links such evidence to the thesis. A word of caution. You will find that when you describe how the author is persuasive in taking facts from an academic study to present his or her case, you are essentially showing how the author uses explanation. Therefore if you choose a body paragraph topic such as facts and statistics, try to avoid writing another separate paragraph on explanation. You will find there is too much overlap and it's very likely you won't score as high for analysis or writing. B) It is, however, very possible to discuss COUNTERARGUMENT quite effectively even after you have discussed a topic about academic facts and statistics. This is because there is enough to write about how the author mentions an opposing view and then knocks down the view with a short rebuttal. You will find that there is quite a fair bit you can do to detail how the author displays ample knowledge as well as fairness in presenting more than one point of view.

6. Many good article writers not only bring up quality evidence, they often articulate their ideas well using various stylistic devices such as SYMBOLISM, METAPHOR, SIMILE, DICTION, and even VIVID IMAGERY. These elements bring evidence to life and often appeal to the reader's emotion. They also appeal to a reader's imagination while specific diction elicits specific responses such as respect or even curiosity. Finally, another emotionally directed method is when an author uses RHETORICAL QUESTIONS which is meant to draw the reader into becoming involved with the topic discussed.

7. Citing 3 key techniques is adequate but it's vital to make sure you can write one paragraph about each technique. Alternately, you can discuss two closely related techniques in the same paragraph, such as vivid language and emotionally weighted diction.

8. Lastly, it's also important to note that you shouldn't try to spend too much time explaining the writer's thesis, rather you should be explaining what techniques the writer utilises to defend his or her thesis. What a college is trying to assess is your ability to understand and appreciate various techniques that articles contain, thus showing your own critical ability.

Below is an example of a complete SAT Essay.

The copyrighted article, "MIND-BODY UNITY AS THE ROOT OF MORAL GROWTH” is by Amy Wright and can be found in humans and nature.org

(INTRODUCTION PARAGRAPH : Introduce the author's position on a central idea and the methods used to support her claims)

Science and culture have time and again shown that the mind and body are connected not only physiologically but also through a moral channel (article thesis). Amy Wright utilizes allusions to botany and biology, references to academic research and personal anecdotes (evidence and rhetorical techniques) to press her argument that the mind and body can hence serve to guide our moral compass as far as vital human actions and interactions are concerned (writer’s purpose).

(BODY PARAGRAPH 1: You can begin with her intention and then explain how her technique is effective)

Wright first postulates that morality is birthed when our body and actions are “subjected to ideals”. Culture, the human environment and religion exert their influence thus producing “principles of behaviour”. Such a wide basis may seem sweeping but her direct examples serve to illustrate how far ranging an area moral ideals stem from. This also reflects the depth of thought that went into her thesis. Wright first uses the allusion to traditions to illustrate her point. Hence children follow family or school schedules, while Christ is respected for his abstinence. She goes one step further in suggesting that fasting was a way for Jesus to connect with his physical body, pointing to her own practice of yoga as an effective method for “guiding moral progress”. She then alludes to botany as another example of how intelligence and the body are “integrative”. The comparison of allusions illustrates the wide berth that body and morality links have in a variety of areas, be it historically or in contemporary life.

(BODY PARAGRAPH 2: You can also begin with explaining her technique and then her intention)

Wright uses an academic reference by citing Michael Marder, a philosopher who pointed to botany research where plant roots are drawn to fertile soil just as leaves gravitate to sunlight. She underscores this intrinsic link by using a parallel example that Marder cites of how the human middle ear differentiates sounds such as a dog bark from a gunshot. She also points to how such reflection differ from the traditional “Cartesian split” as mentioned by Hester Oberman’s “The Matter of the Moral Mind” although she avoids going into any detail about the traditional mindset. Wright is more focused on the way our physiology interprets our environment as an “overlooked form of intelligence”, thus maintaining and developing the concept of the mind-body connection. The reference to science adds validity and strength to her argument.


Wright finally draws a bigger picture of how almost every living thing is interlinked with her initial example of how plants communicate with each other as well as the ecosystem. She urges her readers to consider the larger connection despite our “suppression of our senses” and to not assume that issues such as deforestation are isolated issues. It is here that Wright provides a personal anecdote by sharing her own experience with cooking mushroom risotto and crickets. This personal account serves to provide a visceral experience particularly as she describes how the crispy crickets were “thrillingly al dente”. This example effectively shows how committed Wright is to the idea that our senses ie. our body is connected to the mind including its former preconditioning of judging insects to be dirty and “wrong to eat”. By using such an unusual example, Wright both captures the attention of her readers but also illustrates the strength of her conviction. Wright provides a second anecdote of her experience with eating shrimp and how she noted the “textural comparison” with her previous meal. This time she goes for the punch when sharing her relief that crickets was an eco-friendly meal compared to the shrimp harvested by suffering indentured workers. The political implication of the simple act of choosing what we eat adds gravity to the various connections mentioned. Once again Wright offers a mind-body example to paint a convincing illustration of how morality kicks in at each and every physiological interplay.

(CONCLUSION : Summarise author's claim and once again, the main techniques used)

In her endeavor to illustrate deep connections with the mind, body and morality, Amy Wright uses allusions, academic references and personal anecdote. In so doing, she manages to draw vital implications from our connection to nature as well as to the whole human fabric.



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