How to Write a Sat Essay

The SAT Essay is a component of the SAT (Scholastic Assessment Test) that assesses your reading, analysis, and writing skills. Here are the key points about this essay:

Purpose and SAT Essay Format:

  • The SAT Essay asks you to analyze a given passage (usually between 650 and 750 words).
  • You’ll read the passage, understand its argument, and then write an essay in response to a single prompt related to that passage.
  • Unlike personal essays, you won’t express your opinion or share personal experiences. Instead, you’ll focus on analyzing the author’s argument.

Scoring and Evaluation:

  • The essay is scored on a scale from 2 to 8 in three areas: Reading, Analysis, and Writing.
  • Two scorers evaluate each essay independently, and scores between 1 and 4 are awarded in each dimension.
  • The total score combines these three dimensions, resulting in a range of 2–8 points.
  • A perfect essay score would be 8/8/8, but the average score is typically 5 for Reading and Writing and 3 for Analysis.

What You’ll Do:

  • Read the passage carefully.
  • Explain how the author constructs their argument to persuade the audience.
  • Support your explanation with evidence from the passage.

Why Take the SAT Essay? Is the Sat Essay Required For Students?

SAT Essay is optional at many colleges, but some institutions still require it.

  • Some colleges require applicants to take the SAT with Essay. If you skip the essay, you won’t be eligible for those schools.
  • However, the essay is now optional at many institutions, including most elite schools. Only the University of California schools still require it.

If you’re taking the SAT during school (such as on SAT School Day), check with your counselor to see if the Essay section is included. Whether you choose to take it or not, understanding its purpose and format will help you make an informed decision about your test strategy.

How Long is the Sat with Essay

The SAT with Essay lasts approximately 3 hours and 50 minutes. This duration includes the additional time for the essay section. Without the essay, the test takes 3 hours.

Here’s what you need to know about the SAT Essay:

Essay Section Duration:

  • The essay section adds 50 minutes to the overall test time.
  • It comes after the Reading, Writing, and Math sections.

Essay Content:

  • You’ll read a passage (usually between 650 and 750 words).
  • Your task is to explain how the author constructs their argument to persuade the audience.
  • Support your analysis with evidence from the passage.
  • Unlike personal essays, you won’t express your opinion or share personal experiences.

Scoring Categories:

Your essay will be scored in three dimensions:

  • Reading: Demonstrates understanding of the passage and effective use of textual evidence.
  • Analysis: Shows how the author builds their argument by examining evidence, reasoning, and stylistic techniques.
  • Writing: Focuses on organization, precision, style, and adherence to standard written English.

Make sure to check with your counselor if the SAT you’re taking includes the Essay section!

SAT Essay Structure

What is the typical structure of an SAT Essay? It follows a specific structure that allows you to demonstrate your reading comprehension, analysis, and writing skills. Here’s the typical format:


  • Begin with a concise introduction that briefly summarizes the passage you’ll analyze.
  • State the author’s main argument or purpose.

Thesis Statement:

  • Present a clear thesis statement that outlines your response to the prompt.
  • Your thesis should address how the author constructs their argument.

Body Paragraphs:

  • Typically, you’ll have two or three body paragraphs.
  • Each paragraph focuses on a specific aspect of the passage:

Reading: Discuss central ideas, important details, and how they contribute to the argument.
Analysis: Examine the author’s use of evidence, reasoning, and persuasive techniques.
Writing: Evaluate the essay’s organization, precision, style, and adherence to standard English.

Evidence and Examples:

Support your analysis with specific evidence from the passage.
Quote relevant lines or paraphrase key points.
Explain how each piece of evidence strengthens the author’s argument.


  • Use transitional phrases to connect your ideas smoothly.
  • Show how different parts of the passage relate to each other.


  • Summarize your main points.
  • Restate your thesis in a fresh way.
  • Reflect on the overall effectiveness of the author’s argument.

SAT Essay is not about expressing your personal opinion; it’s about analyzing the passage. Aim for clarity, coherence, and precision in your writing.

Good Examples For Sat Essays

Here are some SAT essay prompts along with brief explanations and examples to help you prepare effectively:

The Value of Struggle:

  • Prompt: Do we only value the things that we struggle for?
  • Approach: Instead of taking an absolute point of view, consider situations where you value things you struggle for and situations where you don’t.
  • Example: You may not have initially valued your relationships with siblings, assuming they were easy. However, valuing those relationships after overcoming challenges could be an example.

The Topic of Greed:

  • Prompt: Is greed always a bad thing?
  • Approach: Avoid extreme positions. Discuss situations where greed can be both negative and positive.
  • Example: Greed for success can drive athletes to excel in their chosen field, channeling motivation positively.

Politicians and Personal Character:

  • Prompt: Should politicians’ personal character matter more than their political achievements?
  • Approach: Weigh the importance of character versus accomplishments.
  • Example: Discuss cases where personal character influenced political decisions or public trust.

Demonstrating a Lack of Knowledge:

  • Prompt: Is it better to admit ignorance or pretend to know something you don’t?
  • Approach: Consider the consequences of both options.
  • Example: Highlight situations where admitting ignorance led to growth or where pretending caused harm.

Fame and Fortune:

  • Prompt: Does fame bring happiness or misery?
  • Approach: Explore the complexities of fame and its impact on well-being.
  • Example: Discuss celebrities who struggle with mental health despite their fame.

Truth and Lies:

  • Prompt: Is honesty always the best policy?
  • Approach: Examine situations where honesty is essential and where it might cause harm.
  • Example: Reflect on cases where white lies protect relationships or where brutal honesty damages trust.

Expectations and Public Figures:

  • Prompt: Should public figures be held to higher standards?
  • Approach: Consider the influence of public figures and the impact of their actions.
  • Example: Discuss how public figures’ behavior affects society’s expectations.

Quick Reaction Times:

  • Prompt: Are quick reactions always beneficial?
  • Approach: Weigh the advantages and disadvantages of rapid decision-making.
  • Example: Explore scenarios where quick reactions prevent accidents or lead to impulsive mistakes.

Support your points with specific examples and maintain a balanced perspective.

The Best SAT Essay Topics

Here are 10 real SAT Essay prompts that you can use for practice:

  • “Write an essay in which you explain how Jimmy Carter builds an argument to persuade his audience that the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge should not be developed for industry.”
  • “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.”
  • “Write an essay in which you explain how Eliana Dockterman builds an argument to persuade her audience that there are benefits to early exposure to technology.”
  • “Write an essay in which you explain how Paul Bogard builds an argument to persuade his audience that natural darkness should be preserved.”
  • “Write an essay in which you explain how Eric Klinenberg builds an argument to persuade his audience that Americans need to greatly reduce their reliance on air-conditioning.”
  • “Write an essay in which you explain how Christopher Hitchens builds an argument to persuade his audience that the original Parthenon sculptures should be returned to Greece.”
  • “Write an essay in which you explain how Zadie Smith builds an argument to persuade her audience that public libraries are important and should remain open.”

Sat Essay Tips

Writing a strong SAT essay requires careful planning and effective execution. Here is a SAT writing guide to help you succeed:

  • Stay Objective: Remember that the SAT essay is not about expressing your personal opinion. Maintain a formal style and an objective tone. Avoid using “I” or “you” in your essay.
  • Keep It Tidy: Graders read many essays, so legible handwriting matters. Write neatly to ensure your essay is easy to read and understand.
  • Use Paragraphs: Follow the basic essay structure—introduction, body paragraphs, and conclusion. In your introduction, describe the text and paraphrase the argument. Use body paragraphs to back up your thesis statement with specific examples from the text. Summarize your points in the conclusion.
  • Provide Examples: Cite relevant examples from the passage to support your analysis. Use short, relevant quotes to strengthen your points.
  • Avoid Clichés: Instead of using exact terminology (e.g., “pathos”), focus on describing how the author builds their argument. For instance, use “appeal to emotions” instead of specifically referencing “pathos” if needed.

Recent Changes to the SAT (2023-2024):

  • Content Changes: Starting in August 2023, the SAT underwent adjustments to its content. The changes aimed to streamline the test and align it more closely with what students are learning in school. While specific details haven’t been released yet, be aware that there may be adjustments to the test’s structure, question types, and emphasis on certain topics.
  • Optional Essay: As of June 2023, the SAT Essay is no longer offered. Students taking the SAT won’t have the option to complete the Essay section as part of their test. However, some colleges and universities may still require or recommend the SAT Essay, so check the requirements of the schools you’re interested in.
  • Digital Testing: The SAT is transitioning to a predominantly digital format. By 2024, most SAT administrations will be digital, with paper testing options limited to specific circumstances. Familiarize yourself with the digital testing format and practice using it beforehand.
  • Score Reporting Changes: Starting in September 2023, students can choose which scores to send to colleges. You’ll have the option to send only your best scores from individual sections of the SAT, rather than sending your entire test scores. Understand how this policy change may affect your score reporting strategy.
  • Fee Waivers: The College Board expanded access to fee waivers for eligible students, reducing or eliminating costs associated with taking the SAT. Explore fee waiver options to ensure cost isn’t a barrier to taking the test.

Best of luck with your SAT preparation!

Discount applied successfully