Writing the Essay - How to Crack the Essay - Cracking the New SAT with 4 Practice Tests, 2016 Edition

Cracking the New SAT with 4 Practice Tests, 2016 Edition (2015)

Part V. How to Crack the Essay

Chapter 19. Writing the Essay

Alright! You’ve annotated, you’ve SOAPS’ed, you’ve made connections, and now you actually get to write the Essay! In this chapter, we’ll go through the basic parts of an effective essay and provide essay writing tips, two sample essays, and some feedback from our SAT experts.


According to ETS, your Writing score will be based on whether you:

•make use of a central claim

•use effective organization and progression of ideas

•use varied sentence structures

•employ precise word choice

•maintain consistent, appropriate style and tone

•show command of the conventions of standard written English

This is also where you show your grader that you have read, understood, and analyzed the text.

Writing for College

Essay writing isn’t important
only for the SAT; you
also need to know how
to write the kind of essay
that will appeal to the
admissions committee(s)
reading your college application.
For tips on writing
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Your introduction needs to do three things:

1.Describe the text. This is where you’ll bring in the SOAPS points. This can be done in one sentence.

2.Paraphrase the argument. This is where you’ll show your grader that you understand the text by concisely summing up the main points and the overall message of the text. The Reading score comes from your demonstration of comprehension of the text.

3.Introduce the examples you will be discussing in the body paragraphs. You will establish a framework in your introduction that you should then follow for the rest of the essay.

Body Paragraphs

The body paragraphs will focus on different appeals or style elements the author uses to effectively communicate the argument. Each body paragraph will need to do the following:

1.Name and explain the rhetorical device or appeal.

•Where is it in the text?

•Use short, relevant quotes to show you understand the text and the rhetorical device, but do not rely on long excerpts from the passage. In order to get a high score, you need to use your words to explain what’s going on.

2.Identify the effects of the author’s rhetorical choices.

•Explain the connection between the rhetorical device/appeal and the text, and your argument in general. Do not simply quote chunks of text and then briefly paraphrase. Your goal is to answer the question, “How does this contribute to the author’s argument?”

•For example, do not simply say, “This is an example of imagery.” Explain why the imagery is effective. Perhaps the author’s descriptions of the beautiful sunset effectively draw in the reader, creating an emotional connection between the author and her audience. This connection may make the audience more sympathetic to the author’s subsequent points because there is an emotional connection now.

•Explaining how the device or appeal works is how you show your grader your ability to analyze the text.


1.Restate the goal of the text and briefly paraphrase the elements you discussed in your essay.

2.Be concise and accurate.

SAT Essay Writing Tips

•Maintain formal style and objective tone. Avoid “I” and “you.” Do not use slang.

•Use varied sentence structure.

•Write neatly.

•Use clear transitions.

•Use short, relevant quotes from the text.

•Don’t worry about official terms for things. “Appeal to the emotions” is fine instead of specifically referencing “pathos,” and “comparison of two things” can be used instead of referring to a metaphor. If you do know the official terms, though, feel free to use them!

Essay Writing on
the SAT

Employing these techniques
in your essay will
help boost your score!


Let’s take a look at two final products for this prompt and where they rocked it and where they could use a little work. Be sure to notice what scores they received and why.


You can find blank essay
answer sheets in your online
tools that accompany
this book. Just register
your book (see “Register
Your Book Online!”) to unlock your
Student Tools, and then
download and print the
forms. (For good measure,
we’ve also included extra
bubble sheets.)

Sample Essay 1

In his eloquent speech at Rice Stadium, former-President Kennedy wields a vast array of oratory tools and constructs a case for investment in space exploration. Throughout his address, Kennedy makes use of evidence, reasoning, and stylistic elements that together form his argument for the decision that the United States should become a dominant force in the new field of space exploration, and attempt to reach the moon.

Kennedy begins his address with an analogy of space exploration as a “new sea,” which he effectively continues by referring to the possible future of space as “whether this new ocean will be a sea of peace,” and revisits in his final plea for divine blessing “as we set sail.” The ocean is not the only natural analogy utilized by Kennedy in his speech, for he also makes use of references to mountaineering through the rhetorical question “why climb the highest mountain,” as well as quoting George Mallory’s stated reason for the expedition up Mount Everest: “Because it is there,” and stating that “space is there, and we’re going to climb it.” Beyond natural analogies, Kennedy paints with colorful language, such as speaking of “the fires of war,” “reap the harvest,” the “infancy” of space exploration, and old Houston as “the furthest outpost on the old frontier.” Kennedy also appeals to the locality in which he speaks by asking “Why does Rice play Texas?” and referencing “your City of Houston.”

Kennedy’s address makes use not only of creative language, but also of pieces of evidence. The primary evidence with which he appeals is a list of beneficial economic results of space exploration. He specifies that the area of Houston will see “double the number of scientists and engineers,” bear an increase in “salaries and expenses to $60 million a year,” receive investments of “some $200 million in plant and laboratory facilities,” and be the source of funds “for new space efforts [of] over $1 billion.” In addition to economic gains, Kennedy mentions a long list of educational boons such as “new knowledge of our universe and environment,” “new techniques of learning and mapping and observation,” and “new tools and computers for industry, medicine, the home as well as the school.”

Mixed among the evidential and rhetorical components of Kennedy’s address are threads of reasoning, which display the thought process by which Kennedy supports his appeal for national movement towards the exploration of space. Kennedy provides many reasons for the decision, including the universal appeal of “new knowledge to be gained, and new rights to be won.” Some of the other explanations Kennedy provides for the decision include that “space science…has no conscience of its own,” that the “opportunity for peaceful cooperation may never come again,” and that space exploration is worth doing “because [it is] hard,” which—while apparently paradoxical— Kennedy explains as well-reasoned since “that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills.” He incorporates additional thoughtful elements as he discusses that while “we are behind,…we do not intend to stay behind, and in this decade we shall make up and move ahead.”

Through these variable forms of evocative language, supportive evidence, and sound logic, former President Kennedy forges an appeal to his audience that is well-rounded and subtly sculpted into an address that exemplifies the oratory skill for which he was well known.

Reading: 4
Analysis: 2
Writing: 4

SAT Experts Say: This essay contains a very impressive summary of the argument, but very little analysis. It is clear that this student can identify the stylistic elements, but he or she does not discuss their impact on the reader or why the author uses them.

Sample Essay 2

The powerful impact of President Kennedy’s speech at Rice Stadium on the controversial decision to direct money of the United States towards building a preeminent space program lies in the eloquence and universality with which he weaves his appeal. Through analogies as well as acknowledging and addressing the concerns of those dubious towards the idea of space exploration, Kennedy crafts a persuasive argument, solidified by references to prior explorations and details of economic incentives.

A Perfect Score

As you read this sample
essay, take note of how
the student applies the
writing tips from this page.

Perhaps the most necessary element which distinguishes a well-formulated argument from a mere exercise of rhetoric is the proper use of supportive evidence, of which President Kennedy’s address incorporates several examples. The first example he utilizes is subtle, but powerful. The United States had invested significantly in the development of nuclear technology, and part of the argument for that investment had been that nuclear technology could be used by the United States for its own benefit and protection, or against the United States by foreign nations who may intend harm. That argument translates clearly to space as well in Kennedy’s words that “Whether [space science becomes] a force for good or ill depends on man, and only if the United States occupies a position of pre-eminence can we help decide [the future of space].” A further piece of evidence Kennedy uses to support his argument is the example of flight across the Atlantic. President Kennedy reminds his audience of this event in order to reference a previous accomplishment that had also once been seen as prohibitively difficult, much as practical exploration of space was seen by many in 1962. In his address, Kennedy also utilizes another evidentiary category, filling the second half of his speech with a lot of specific economic benefits for the area surrounding Houston from the newly bolstered space program as it develops, designed to overwhelm the listener with this positive side of investment.

Kennedy’s mastery of persuasive rhetoric plays out not only in the evidence to which he refers, but also in the analogies woven through his address, which serve to evoke emotional responses in his listeners. The initial words of Kennedy’s address provide the first of these analogies. Rooted in the history of exploration, Kennedy states that “We set sail on this new sea.” A form of evidence in itself, this analogy serves to recall the listener’s mind to a frontier that was once seen as unfathomably expansive and beyond human mastery. Kennedy continues the sea analogy by saying that space may become “a sea of peace or a new terrifying theater of war,” calling to the listener’s mind the unpredictable nature of the sea itself to be calm or horrifyingly volatile, as he suggests that the position of the United States in space exploration may decide the nature of this new frontier. Kennedy also reaches further back into the historical commonality of his listeners as he analogously describes Houston as “once the furthest outpost on the old frontier of the West” in order to call the listener’s mind to the nature of change over time. The Houston in which Kennedy gave this speech looked essentially nothing like the Houston of the old West, and this analogy provokes the listener’s imagination to project the possibilities for a new Houston, built on a strong space program. A third analogy with which Kennedy appeals to his listeners’ emotions is the reference to their local sports team. As Kennedy asks “Why does Rice play Texas?” he seeks to raise the ubiquitous sense of pride many feel for their sports teams of preference, which he hopes may translate to a sense of national pride for the space program.

As most any well-crafted argument will do, Kennedy also acknowledges the arguments of those who may hold a counter perspective. By asking “But why, some say, the moon?” Kennedy introduces a potential counterargument that the goal of reaching the moon may be arbitrarily lofty. Rather than dismissing this point as irrelevant, Kennedy seeks to disarm it by embracing the lofty nature of reaching the moon and calling attention to other lofty goals deemed worthwhile, such as to “climb the highest mountain” and “fly the Atlantic.” He continues to acknowledge the nature of this potential objection by saying that the goal has been chosen “because [it is] hard,” and therefore will “serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills.” Another possible counterargument Kennedy addresses is that “we are behind…in manned flight.” Again, Kennedy could have easily attempted to dismiss this argument by protesting that the gap is small, but he instead chose again to affirm the objection by stating “we…will be behind for some time”. Having fully acknowledged the strength of this potential problem, Kennedy then proceeds to describe the precise means by which the United States “shall make up and move ahead” through “new knowledge,” “new techniques,” and “new tools,” which Kennedy seamlessly segues into economic benefits, as described above.

The difficulty of dissecting an address like that of President Kennedy at Rice Stadium is itself a final example of the persuasiveness of Kennedy’s rhetoric. The power of Kennedy’s address can be seen most clearly in the interwoven nature of all its elements. Through the marriage of these different elements, Kennedy’s speech encourages, calms, and inspires.

Reading: 4
Analysis: 4
Writing: 4

SAT Experts Say: This student shows a clear understanding of the text and writes a solid piece analyzing the author’s argument. He or she indicates what Kennedy does (ex: “fill[s] the second half of his speech with a lot of specific economic benefits”) and then tells us why Kennedy did it (“to overwhelm the listener with this positive side of investment.”) This is the analysis that was lacking in Sample Essay 1 which, combined with good comprehension and solid writing skills, earned this essay a perfect score.


○Writing, the third and final task of the SAT Essay, is about putting all your ideas together in a coherent, well-written essay.

○Unlike the old SAT, you will not be writing about a personal experience or your opinion on a certain topic. This essay is a technical analysis of an argument, not your opinion about that argument.

○In order to get a good score for this essay task, you should make a claim and be able to support it with evidence from the passage. You should also organize your thoughts in a coherent, logical way, and show command of standard written English by varying your word choice and sentence structure.

○Be sure that your essay has the three key parts: introduction, body paragraphs, and conclusion. Your introduction should describe the text and paraphrase the argument being made, as well as introduce the specific elements of the passage and argument that you will discuss in the essay. Your conclusion should restate the goal of the passage/argument and sum up the points you made.

○Keep analysis in mind as you write your essay. You should not merely describe a text, but explain how that text is written and structured to accomplish a certain goal. And remember: cite evidence!