Factual Accuracy in the SAT Essay

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This tip for improving your SAT score was provided by Samhita Noone at Veritas Prep.

The SAT essay is graded across five dimensions: demonstration of critical thinking, coherency and clear organizational structure, skillful and varied use of language, variety of sentence structure, and lack of grammar and usage errors. You can find more specifics about these five dimensions on the College Board website. The essays are graded strictly according to this framework in an effort to minimize bias—and basically, keep it fair. All in all, it’s a pretty good idea to look up this framework and attempt to abide by it. However, many miss that the College Board inherently limits itself by keeping to its standardized rubric. What am I talking about? I’m talking about facts. The essay readers are only allowed to grade your writing based off of those five dimensions, none of which refer to content knowledge.

I encourage you to keep coming up with relevant examples from literature, current events, and historical events. However, in case you don’t have an example that fits, or can’t recall it at crunch time, it would be remiss of me not to mention that you can just make up an example. You will not be marked down for mixing up dates or completely contriving your own example. The current SAT essay does not test for veracity, although  that is changing.

Keep in mind that the new SAT will make this back-up plan obsolete.

In a positive move, starting in spring 2016 the SAT essay section will prompt students to analyze the logical structure and organization of a passage. There will be no making up examples. Furthermore, this back-up plan does not apply to AP Exams, SAT Subject exams, or classroom assignments. First, content knowledge will be tested on these exams and you will be penalized for incorrect information; second, as a matter of ethics, you should not be contriving examples for assignments.

I personally made this mistake in High School. I spent way too much time stressing about details when the details were not even being tested. I could have saved a crucial  five to 10 minutes figuring out how to put together my examples in the most powerful and logical manner, rather than trying to remember the protagonist’s name in the book I was referring to. Read through the SAT essay rubric once again, and spend your time focusing on the structure of your essay and the variety of your sentences. Build to a powerful conclusion, and make sure you support your thesis throughout. And remember that—for now—you have a back-up option.

Plan on taking the SAT soon? Take advantage of Veritas Prep’s free SAT resources including free SAT video lessons!

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