Comprehension tips and tricks? Check. Lists of vocabulary words? Check. Mathematical formulas? Check. It’s (relatively) easy to study for the Critical Reading and Mathematics portions of the SAT. The concepts that the exam covers are well-known and well-publicized, discussed in most high school classes and nearly every electronic aid or print book devoted to the SAT. By the time you take the test, you may, in fact, be able to recite the many techniques you’re expected to know– even in your sleep.
But what about the essay? In most guides to the SAT, the Writing section boasts the smallest number of pages. In classes, the shortest discussions. Given that the topic of your essay remains a mystery until you complete that piece of the exam, it can be difficult to prepare for. But there are some things you can do. Take a look below for three simple tips to get you started during your summer vacation.
1. Get to know past writing prompts. While the writers of the SAT will not notify you of your essay prompt prior to the exam, they will provide you with the next best thing– a hint or two. Where? In test preparation booklets, on the official SAT website…prior writing prompts abound. Not only are they easy to find, they’re also recent. CollegeBoard, for instance, already lists three of the four topics from the June 2013 test date. Why is this important? The summer months are a wonderful time to catch up on your reading, and reviewing just one prompt per week, then crafting a response to it, ensures that you are familiar with the latest SAT writing trends. What topics does the exam ask its test-takers to consider? How does it phrase its guiding questions? If you can answer these questions, you’re one step closer to a strong essay.
2. Start to develop a unique point of view. Chances are you have your favorite book, your favorite film, your favorite musician. Chances are you can persuade your friends to see things your way, too. But can you develop an argument about the most important quality a leader should possess? How about whether fairness is truly possible? More often than not, the SAT essay asks you to write about something that may not play a large role in your day-to-day life. It also requires you to choose sides. Do you agree or disagree with the guiding question? Why? The summer again provides you with the perfect opportunity to develop a database of information that will help you on the SAT. Begin to pay attention to the news, whether via television or Twitter. What events or policies affect your city and state? Then consider the following: would you argue for or against them on the SAT?
3. Learn to embrace the specifics. Good writing depends on detail. And “detail” can mean many things when it comes to the SAT. It means selecting words and phrases with particular meaning, like “dash” instead of “run.” It also means trying your best to be precise, both in sentence structure and in selecting arguments that support your point of view. If you pay close attention to media outlets during these summer months, you will have a wealth of information by the start of the new school year. Try sifting through it to find the most provocative and/or powerful points. SAT essays are successful when they expound upon two or three ideas– not ten. For some students, that can be a struggle. Rather than waiting until you receive your prompt on test day, begin to practice building concise, detailed responses now. You’ll thank yourself when your exam date rolls around.
Question about SAT prep? Visit http://www.varsitytutors.com and subscribe above to receive the latest posts