Preparing for the SAT Writing Section

Posted by The Standarized Test Insider on 2/7/13, 9:05 AM

SAT writing

The SAT writing section was added in 2005 and aims to test students’ writing skills—specifically, their ability to write concisely, coherently, and quickly.

You are given 25 minutes to write an essay which will account for 30 percent of your writing score. The College Board indicates that the essay “tests students’ ability to articulate a coherent argument, supporting a point of view on an issue specified on the test.” For some people, this section of the SAT seems the most daunting. How on earth are you supposed to come up with examples in the span of a few short minutes to address a random prompt? Without fail, you are asked to “support your position with reasoning and examples taken from your reading, studies, experience, or observations.


The secret here is preparing an “example bank” ahead of time.

Having a short list of literature, current events, and historical events in your head will help you to produce the specific examples that the SAT essay graders like to see.

Pick out universal themes, such as struggle or power, and find a few specific examples within literature or current/historical events. For instance, if you are given a prompt about power and responsibility, you could write about the Greek gods, their great power, and lack of responsibility by pointing to stories about Zeus. You will be able to easily apply your “example bank” to whichever prompt appears on test day.

Here are some examples of broad topics you can read up on to form your example banks.

  • Literature: Great Expectations, Greek mythology, Catcher in the Rye.
  • History: World War I, the Roman Empire, the Crusades.
  • Current Events: the 2012 Presidential election, healthcare reform, conflict in the Middle East. 

Remember that practice makes perfect:

Take a look at essay prompts from previous test examinations on the College Board website: http://professionals.collegeboard.com/testing/sat-reasoning/prep/essay-prompts and practice writing a few essay so that you can a hang of the timing and format. Getting used to crafting an essay in 25 minutes will help you sharpen your SAT essay-writing skills for test day!

Tags: SAT, expository writing