Although the essay portion of the SAT is optional, it may be in your best interest to take it. It’s strongly recommended because it offers you an opportunity to showcase your skills in comprehension, logic, and of course, writing. College is going to require a lot of writing from you so the more you practice this, the better you’ll be set up for the future. The lessons learned in AP Language and Composition and AP Literature and Composition will prepare you for the essay on the exam and college in general. After taking one or both of these courses, you will have the skills necessary to craft an “A” worthy essay for any course. There is no need to worry if you have never taken classes like this before or if taking both seem scary. Below are some tips that will help you prepare for the essay that has been inspired by AP courses.
Teachers will say the “AP” in AP Lit and Comp is for “address the prompt.” This will be the golden rule to follow no matter what subject you’re writing for. Being that the SAT essay prompt is available online for students, you’ll be able to familiarize yourself with it before test-day. The only aspect of the prompt that will change is the reading sample you will be analyzing and referencing. By addressing the prompt early, you’ll be able to know exactly what the prompt is asking and save time when discerning what is being asked of you. Prepping this way will allow you more time to read the sample closely and take away key elements that will help you during the writing process. Once you’re familiar with the prompt make sure to practice following the points they want you to address. Failure to follow the prompt will result in a test-reader not giving you full marks.
How boring would it be to have someone explain the plot of your favorite show when you know exactly what happens? Simply summarizing the reading for the prompt will not showcase your comprehension skills that are necessary to your success in taking the exam.
Unfortunately, no matter how many teachers, tutors, and test prep coaches say it, many students will only summarize the reading and that is not what the exam will ask of you unless explicitly stated. Most likely, you will be asked to analyze the argument made in the reading – the complete opposite of summarizing a text. The analysis portion consists of drawing out something new from the excerpt or trying to get into the author’s head and explore why they used a particular voice or choice of words. If it helps, use scrap paper to briefly write down your thoughts on it and write reference points to back up your argument and analysis. Consider this to be your pre-writing so that you can ensure you’re confident in the points you are drawing out. The more prepared you are in what you’re talking about, the less likely you will be to summarize the reading.
Whether it’s with a tutor or not, taking practice tests will benefit you in the long run. You should try your best to mimic the test-taking conditions, but if you are worried about running out of time, short change yourself while practicing on your own. This will allow you to have the peace of mind of knowing you can complete the assignment effectively in less than the allotted amount of time. If you’re working on your own, ask a teacher to review your work and tell you where you can improve so you can pinpoint the areas you need to work on. Note that your best resource for all practice materials can be found at the official College Board website.
You’ve heard this one before, but it’s worth repeating and remembering. Reading everything in the test booklet will help you improve your comprehension speed and writing. The better you are at reading and understanding, the easier it will be to analyze details that will make your essay stand out. This will especially come in handy if you are currently enrolled in an AP English course. While you are preparing for AP testing, you can also be preparing for the SAT at the same time. Two birds, one stone. If you’re not a voracious reader, try asking a teacher for materials that aren’t too advanced so you can begin to work your way up.
Not feeling confident in what you’re doing is going to be the biggest obstacle you face during test-taking and preparation. To calm your nerves, prepare to the best of your ability, take a deep breath, and make sure that you don’t neglect self-care along the way. Taking out the necessary time to better your skills will ensure that you’re ready and rested for the essays on the SATs and AP exams!