Tip #1: More is Better than Less
The SAT essay graders are just like the girl in the commercial: they want more, they want more. You get two pages, and you have to fill as much of those two pages as you can in 25 minutes. To accomplish that without sounding repetitive and disorganized takes knowing a few simple tips and a little practice.
Tip #2: Prepare Good Examples Ahead of Time
What’s better, the Gettysburg Address or the speech you wrote when you ran for class treasurer? There’s a reason Spielberg made a movie about Abraham Lincoln and not about you. It’s not complicated.
And neither is the SAT essay. Most students use a personal experience (such as their experience giving a speech) to support their position. Using a personal experience as an example should actually be your last resort because in general it’s the least impressive type of example.
The first step to writing a great essay in 25 minutes is to come up with examples beforehand. Your examples are like tools in a tool chest. Just like you wouldn’t go to a repair job without a set of tools, you shouldn’t go to write an essay without a set of examples. By the way, not knowing the prompt ahead of time isn’t a problem because the topics on the SAT are broad.
So what are good examples? The directions say, “Support your position with reasoning and examples taken from your reading, studies, experience, or observations.” In other words, you can use essentially anything. But for breadth and sophistication, I recommend preparing two examples from history, literature and current events, and if you’re knowledgeable about an elective, art for example, you can throw that in as well. Pick examples you find interesting or already know a lot about. Memorize some important names and dates associated with each example so you can include specifics in your essay and sound erudite.
A word of caution: You might be tempted to change your examples on the fly after you see a prompt because you thought of the perfect example for the prompt. Don’t do it. Stick to your pre-prepared examples. If you try to use an example you haven’t prepared, you’ll find that you will quickly run out of things to say.