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
    (1964-1969)
  • Stanford University
    (1969-1984)
  • Princeton University
    (1988-2003)

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
    (1966-1977)
    Asst. Dean of Admission
    (1977-1987)
    International Office Director
    (1987-2002)

SAT Essay Rubric – Development of Position

Essay  SAT  Videos  Writing
Karl Schellscheidt

eprep test prep videoThis entry is the first of 5 video posts dedicated to explaining the 5 different categories of the SAT essay grading rubric – or scoring guide. Find out how “they” determine your final essay score!

SAT Essay Rubric – Development of Position (Transcript)

This is the first of five videos in which I discuss the essay grading rubric.

A lot of kids don’t know it, but the people that are paid to grade SAT essays are given a rubric to help guide them through the scoring process and that the rubric has 5 different categories. The first category, and the one I want to discuss right now, is called Development of Position.

During the SAT you are given an assigned topic. It might be something like “Can hard work be disastrous?” The first thing I want to point out is there is no right answer and there is no wrong answer; there is no good position and there is no bad position. You just have to pick one. You might say, “I believe that hard work CAN be disastrous.” In other words, your gut may tell you that that’s the way you want to argue.

So, after you’ve picked your position, what you want to do is ask yourself WHY. Why do I feel that way? Why do I hold that position? And the answer to that question is what I would call a REASON. And remember, you’re going to want to support your position with reasoning and examples. So the reasons are the “whys” behind your position. I feel that if you work too hard and stay too focused you may neglect important things in life and that will lead to a disaster. Because if you neglect important things in life you’re going to lose things that are important and you’re going to find yourself in a disastrous situation. That’s my reason.

In an essay I would clearly state my position in the introduction – in the first sentence. I would say that I believe that hard work can be disastrous. I would then state my reason for that: If you work too hard and you focus on something, you’ll neglect important things in life and you may lose those important things and that will in turn lead to disaster. What you then want to do is come up with examples that support your position and that are consistent with your reasoning. This is where a lot of kids mess up. They don’t really understand what an example is and so they start their second paragraph – which is the 1st body paragraph – just giving more opinion and more reasoning. Don’t do this. You must come up with one reason, 2 reasons tops, and then give examples that are consistent with those reasons and again that support your position.

What you want to do in the 2nd paragrapgh is to describe a situation from a book, your real life, from your studies or from history of somebody living through something – an experience – that bears out your position. You want to describe somebody like an uncle who worked so hard and was so focused that he neglected his family and by the time he achieved financial success, his wife had left him his kids didn’t want anything to do with him and he found himself in a miserable situation – a complete disaster. That’s what an example is. It’s an illustration of somebody living through an experience that bears out your position.

Come up with 2 examples like that and then come up with a conclusion. The conclusion should look a lot like the introduction. I always tell kids that if they’re not concluding what they introduced, they’ve in a sense failed the assignment. So make sure that you re-read your introduction before you write your conclusion. Those two paragraphs should look a lot alike.

One last thing, a lot of kids feel that they need to appear balanced in their essay, otherwise the reader is going to think that they are an opinionated, obnoxious person who deserves a low score. It’s not going to work that way. You’re asked to take a position. You do not need to acknowledge the other side. You do not need to argue the other side. You only have 25 minutes. You only have two pages and that only enough time and enough space to argue one side of an argument. And, again, you do not need to acknowledge the other side. Trust me, you will not come across as one sided – you’re supposed to be one sided. So pick a position, come up with some reasons, come up with some examples that support your position and are consistent wit your reasons, and you’ll nail it. And if you do that, you’ll score very high in the Development of Position category.

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