The SAT Essay

SAT Essay, SAT Essay Portion, SAT Writing Sample

There was recently a great editorial in “The Sacramento Bee” on the SAT essay (photo credit: Andreas Praefcke).

While many highly selective universities no longer require the SAT essay (or the ACT essay for that matter), applicants to these schools with such low admit rates should still of course submit such scores. When admit rates hover below 10%, that which is required is irrelevant. Not submitting such a score can raise a red flag, irrespective of what admissions officers at these very institutions may tell folks to the contrary. And as we’ve been telling our students for many years, there’s no reason they can’t submit great scores. The essay portion of both the SAT and ACT is arguably the most coachable section of the tests.

The SAT Essay Is So Coachable

There was recently an excellent piece entitled “The SAT essay is dying. The University of California should put it out of its misery” in “The Sacramento Bee” by Karin Klein, a former grader of the SAT essay for College Board, in which she writes, “Though the testing experts had gone to pains to make the grading as valid as possible – with double readers, and a sort of referee if the two scores were significantly different – the essay portion had little to do with the kind of writing college students are expected to do. It didn’t measure critical thinking skills because students could make up anything they wanted to as an argument to justify their assertions, and graders weren’t supposed to mark them down even if they were wildly inaccurate or based on nonsense. Students were given too little time to do any thoughtful writing. And, though the College Board tried to deny it, writing longer instead of better made for higher scores…’If I had to prepare my children for this test, I’d say: Prepackage some thinking,’ I wrote in the Los Angeles Times. ‘Get familiar with a couple of Greek myths or literary classics that would work for multiple themes.'”

Klein is precisely right. Our SAT and ACT tutors at Ivy Coach have long prepped our students to prepare their essays in advance of the actual tests, to “prepackage some thinking” as Klein well articulates. Irrespective of the prompt on the day of the exam, students can have arguments ready to go. They can be prepared to write about any theme and they can always source their arguments from a select set of a couple of books at the ready. So why shouldn’t students who receive SAT or ACT prep submit an SAT or ACT essay score when it’s such a coachable portion of the exams? It continues to boggle our minds.


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