Time to polish your writing skills
More and more emphasis has been attached to the Writing section since its introduction in 2005. As a test which assesses a student’s readiness for college, the assessment of writing skills is indispensible. It pushes students to improve their writing skills which are essential for undergraduate study.
The essay always appears in the first section in the entire SAT test. You will have 25 minutes to write on 2 pages with 52 lines (around 350 to 400 words). It accounts for 30% mark of the Writing section. The essay is marked by 2 markers separately, each to give a score between 0 to 6. If the two scores differ more than one point, a senior third marker will decide. Let’s first read its instruction which many students ignore while it gives valuable insight into what markers are looking for.
What you need to show
The instruction reveals that it is most important that you can show your ability to
- insightfully develop and reason your point of view with the support of 1 or 2 thoughtful examples
(strong reasoning skills and logical organization)
- use language skilfully and precisely, following the conventions of standard written English
(sophisticated mastery of language)
Criteria of a good essay
The following criteria are important elements of any good essays, not only the SAT essay. If you practice the SAT essay right, it should help your future writing as well.
1. Clearly expressed thesis statement which demonstrates outstanding critical thinking
2. A relevant, convincing supporting example which insightfully develops the thesis
3. Strong organization with clear focus
4. Appropriate, accurate & varied vocabulary
5. Meaningful variety of sentence structures:
6. Grammatical accuracy
Learn from other Writing sub-sections
I will discuss each of the above criteria, except point 6, in the coming articles. Point 6 has already been covered in Identifying Sentence Errors. I have stressed again and again that every sub-section of the Writing section is inter-twined. Improving one sub-section will help you improve another.
- Identifying Sentence Errors: Grammatical accuracy
- Improving Sentences: Effective sentence construction
- Improving Paragraphs: Effective flow between sentences
- Read the entire assignment, including the short paragraph or quotation about the issue.
- Imagine you are talking to the writer of the short paragraph about the issue. Would you agree or disagree with the writer? What ideas would you bring up? What example would you use to support your ideas?
- Write an outline of the essay (DO PLAN YOUR ESSAY!)
- State your point of view as a thesis
- Develop and support your thesis with a concrete example
The question will always be about a value or moral issue. The issue is philosophical so that students from different education, social or cultural background can respond to it. As a grade 11 or 12 student, you must have some thoughts about the issue. There is no right or wrong answer. Markers will not judge the quality of your answer based on whether you agree or disagree with the assignment topic. Thus, do feel free to express your own critical thinking and your own ideas on the issue. Only if you are arguing a position that you truly believe, can you put forth your argument strongly, especially when you have merely 25 minutes.
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(Next Tue: The Essay – Thesis statement)