Prior to the adoption of Common Core, the No Child Left Behind approach to education reigned for over a decade, “relying too heavily on standardized tests” according to many critics. One of the policy’s greatest deficits was the abandonment of writing curricula throughout the nation’s districts, charter schools, and other Local Education Agencies in order to focus on “teaching to the tests,” all of which were multiple choice. Unfortunately, the 21st century appears to demand effective writing skills, which are trending once again and in high demand, not only by the College Board, the engineers of the SAT, but also by college professors, universities and employers.
Furthermore, given the excruciating competition of college admissions, particularly with respect to top performing Ivy Leagues and the University of California system, 2016 SAT qualifying scores range between 1400-1600 and a formidable score on the new 2016 SAT essay of 7-8 is a must!
So, how can parents, teachers, and students themselves prepare for the SAT essay after the prolonged absence of sufficient public school writing programs?
Familiarize yourself with the SAT Essay directions prior to taking the exam.
Know that the prompt; it will always be the same, except the author and passage will always be unique.
As you read the passage below, consider how Dr. King uses
- evidence, such as facts or examples, to support claims.
- reasoning to develop ideas and to connect claims and evidence.
- stylistic or persuasive elements, such as word choice or appeals to emotion, to add power to the ideas expressed.
Practice reading various test released essay passages, annotating and constructing a brief outline of quotes for a five paragraph analysis.
Craft your introductory paragraph. Let’s use Dr. Martin Luther King’s, “Beyond Vietnam,” speech as an example to illustrate how to compose an impressive, emotionally potent introductory paragraph:
I. “Hook” the reader:
- Poignant observation
- Rhetorical Question
- Reference to the Constitution
- Personal anecdote
- Quote from the passage
- Combination of all of the above
Example Has the U.S. consistently upheld the civil liberties of every American citizen? Some might question the United States’ credibility as the enforcer of democratic ideals around the world when it has not always defended the Constitutional rights on its own citizens at home.
II. Present a relevant summary of the author’s argument with:
- Title, author and genre (TAG)
- Powerful quotes from the passage
Example: In his 1967 speech, “Beyond Vietnam,” civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. argues that the United States, “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today,” has undeniably failed many of its civilians, particularly the poor and African American communities. Furthermore, he claims that such hypocrisy has “crippled” our nation’s ethical and literal health.
III. Establish your thesis:
- Use your outline
- Answer the SAT Essay Prompt: “Write an essay in which you explain how Martin Luther King Jr. builds an argument to persuade his audience that American involvement in the Vietnam War is unjust.”
- Use unique verbs- replace uses with maneuvers, applies adopts, employs, etc.
Example: Dr. King maneuvers expert emotional appeal or style, and reasoning to build his argument that the US government’s involvement in the Vietnam War is an unjust constitutional violation which Americans must ardently “attack” with free speech to promote a healthy and free society.
Stay tuned for more information about how to build an effective SAT essay outline!