Panel of Experts

Karl Schellscheidt

SAT Prep Expert

  • BSE, Princeton University '90
  • M.A., Secondary Education Seton Hall University '93
  • J.D., University of Pennsylvania Law School '00

Fred Hargadon

Dean of Admission

  • Swarthmore College
  • Stanford University
  • Princeton University

Don Betterton

Financial Aid Expert

  • Director of Financial Aid, Princeton University (1973-2006)
  • Certified College Planner
  • Principal, Betterton College Planning

Seamus Malin

Admission Expert

  • Harvard University
    Dir. of Financial Aid
    Asst. Dean of Admission
    International Office Director

Driving the SAT Essay Like a Bus

Karl Schellscheidt

free sat test videoIn this prepcast video, I tackle the SAT essay section and focus on the fundamental do’s and don’ts to maximize your score. How is the SAT essay like being a good or bad bus driver? What is the SAT essay rubric (or how the College Board scores your SAT essay)? Watch and find out….

I’d like to briefly share my thoughts with you on the essay portion of the SAT. The first thing I want you to know is this, the people who review the essay are not looking for the next great American writer. Their just looking for somebody who’s mature enough to execute on their assignment. The assignment is to pick a position on a given topic and to support your opinion, your position with some examples that are on target and powerful if possible.

Think about a legal brief in the world of law. A legal brief is something you submit to a judge. And when the judge looks at the legal brief it has to be in a certain form. If you want to make creative arguments as an attorney you need to make those creative arguments within a specific form. You can’t go outside the form; if you go outside the form the judge will throw it away. There is a very particular form you need to work within, you need to clearly state your position in an introduction. You then will have body paragraphs that support your position and you want to have a clearly defined conclusion. Before you write your conclusion you should always quickly take a look at your introduction because if you not concluding what you introduced in the beginning you have in a sense failed the essay. Your conclusion always has to match your position which is found in your introduction.

I want you to think about something. This is a question I often ask my students, “What do you think is easier to notice, a good bus driver or a bad bus driver?” It may sound like a silly question but think about it for a second. What is easier to notice a good bus driver or a bad bus driver? The answer is a bad bus driver. If you get on a bus and you have a bad bus driver your going to notice the person because they are jamming on the brakes or making sharp turns and you realize what is this person doing. Where did they get their driver license from; what is the matter with the bus driver. If you get on to a bus and you have a good bus driver you can forget that you’re even on a bus. The ride is smooth; you can read you can fall sleep you forget you’re on a bus.

When you think about the essay, this is what I want you to think about. Try to avoid the mistakes like the bad driver makes. If you want to use the word ecstatic in your essay but then you think to yourself I’m not sure if I know how to spell ecstatic don’t take the chance. Write very happy instead. If you spell ecstatic wrong your going to be like the bad bus driver you’re going to be noticed by the reader. If you write very happy the reader is going to read very happy and move on and you not going to be noticed in a negative way.

You want to write and you want to be organized you want to have indentations in your paragraphs. You want when the person holds your essay up that they see paragraphs. You want to write legibly; there’s nothing more frustrating than reading an essay that is poorly written and is just all chicken scratch. You’re going to frustrate the reader if you don’t write legibly. Be organized in paragraph form, write legibly, try to keep your sentences short avoid run on sentences. If you can vary the structure of your sentences that’s a big positive.

But this I think the biggest short coming of kids. They start off with a clearly stated position and they make one of two mistakes. They give examples that are really close to the topic but not on topic. It’s not nailing the point that they’re trying to make. So be very clear about what the topic is, what you’re trying to argue and make sure your examples are right on the money. The other mistake I see kids make is this; they try to acknowledge the other side of the argument. Your not suppose to acknowledge the other side of the argument. You’re like a lawyer; you’re going in to defend your client and all your going to do is talk about what a great person your client is. You’re not going to acknowledge the other side. You’re not going to give away anything. So pick your position and argue it don’t feel you have to acknowledge the other side of the argument which might have a lot of valid arguments for it.

The last thing is this, I think a lot of kids when they get to the end of the essay they really start to digress and they start throwing out advice out to the reader like “You shouldn’t smoke because it will kill you one day or you shouldn’t neglect the people who you love because if you do they won’t be around for you when you really need them.” Let that part go. When you get to your conclusion you’re going to pretty much conclude exactly what you set out to argue and your position and be done with it. They don’t need advice, you don’t need to be overly creative you just need to be on the money and you need to execute on the assignment. If you keep that in mind you’ll have an easy time on the essay and you will maximize your score.

Karl Schellscheidt

Copyright 2006 — All Rights Reserved, ePrep, Inc.

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