February 1st, 2018

The SAT Essay: What to Expect

The SAT essay presents a valuable opportunity for you to showcase your writing abilities, as well as your critical thinking and analysis skills. Though the SAT essay is optional, many colleges recommend or require a writing score. Therefore, it’s in your best interest to complete the SAT writing section so you do not limit your options when applying to schools. You can click here to access the essay policies of colleges and universities around the world.

As you prepare for the SAT, here’s a breakdown of what you can expect from the essay:

The Essay Prompt

The SAT essay prompt will ask you to read a passage and explain how the author builds an argument and demonstrates persuasion about a certain topic. You must support your explanation with evidence from the passage. Therefore, the essay evaluates your reading comprehension and critical thinking abilities. Students who excel at synthesizing information and getting to the root of a passage’s context typically do well with this. Click here for some sample essay prompts.

Timing & Format

You will be given a total of 50 minutes to complete the essay. In terms of format, your essay should consist of a clear introduction (one paragraph), specific examples that support your points (2-3 paragraphs), and a conclusion (one paragraph).  Make sure your essay is written in a cohesive and organized manner.


So how do you prepare for the SAT essay? You should always be working to improve your writing skills, by giving honest effort on all writing assignments in school. This should include your social studies essays. You must be able to write in an organized way that is easy for the reader to understand. Spelling and grammatical errors can detract from the content of your essay, negatively affecting your score.

Another part of your preparation should focus on your reading comprehension skills. In your essay, you’ll be expected to explain in detail how specifically the author constructs the passage with evidence, reasoning, and other techniques to support their argument. Your goal should be to effectively interpret and explain how the author’s writing tactics were used. Reading often and from a wide genre will help hone your skills.


The essay score is determined by two graders awarding between 1 and 4 points in each of these three categories: reading, analysis, and writing. Therefore, your score for each category can range anywhere from 2-8 points. You will receive three individual scores for each category, as there is no singular composite score for the essay. The average SAT Essay score for 2017 graduates was 5/8 Reading, 4/8 Analysis, and 5/8 for Writing. (Source: College Board 2017 Total Group Report)

Are you ready?

If you need support to prepare for the SAT essay, our team can help! Get in touch today with Melissa Cook, owner of Test Preps. You can reach her by email at or phone at (716) 574-7349.

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