So today, I introduced one of my students to how to write and plan the SAT essay for the first time. Generally, it’s a pretty straightforward beast. You have to analyze a persuasive text, and say what devices they use to built their argument. If you’re not sure what I mean, read this article where I discuss literary devices in the SAT essay.
I made 2 copies of the essay – my student annotated one, and I did the other. You can see what I’ve picked out, and what I’m going to write.
Here’s a great tip: before I started reading, I found the thesis of Carter’s argument by looking at the box on the end of the essay. In this case, it’s ‘the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge should not be developed for industry’. Knowing that this was what the passage was going to be about helped me to pick out persuasive devices right from the start of the text.
I’m going to write a 4 paragraph essay using the following plan:
- imagery – the imagery of the first three paragraphs contrasts with the fourth
- patriotism and non-partisan appeal (phrases such as ‘national heritage … frontier America’)
- structure, and how the writer builds emotional appeal before backing it up with facts later
- appeals to the timeless nature of the Arctic Tundra and contrasts it with the ‘short term’ economic benefit
This should give you some idea of the scope of what you can write about!
How long should my essay be?
This mostly depends on you and how fast you can write. You do have 50 minutes, and the planning process is quite straightforward, so I think most students should be aiming to write an essay with 3-4 body paragraphs. Try to pick 4 persuasive devices as you’re reading. This way, if you’re only writing a 3 paragraph essay, you’ve got a spare idea, and you’re still fine if you have time left over and can write 4 paragraphs.