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

The SAT Essay: What Not To Do . . . Unless You “Want” a Zero

Essay  SAT  Videos  Writing
Karl Schellscheidt

eprep test prep video

To avoid a dreaded zero, be sure to avoid three specific mistakes when writing your SATessay. In this video, I discuss the three ways to secure a zero.

Oh yeah, in this video I also discuss the characteristics of essays that received the “perfect” score of six.

The SAT Essay: What Not To Do (Unless You *Want* a Zero) (Transcript)

I want to talk a minute about Essay Scoring. There are 3 different ways to earn a score of zero. You can get a zero if you fail to write an essay. If you just leave those 2 pages blank – you don’t write the essay – you will get a zero. That kind of makes sense, don’t you think? Another way to get a zero is if you write so illegibly that the reader cannot read your handwriting. You could also get a zero for that. A third way to get a zero is if you write on a topic other than the one assigned. So if you have this pre-canned essay that you think you are going to write and wow the reader with, but it has nothing to do with the topic assigned, you will get a zero for that.

The next thing I want to do is talk about the Score of Six. Two people are going to grade your essay. They will each score you from zero to six. You are going to get a zero, one, two, three, four, five or six from each of the two graders. Six is the highest score you can get from any one grader.

But what does a six mean? A six does not mean that you have written a perfect essay. You are not being judged as if what you wrote is an essay, You are being judged as if what you wrote is the first draft of an essay. So a six is actually a perfect first draft of an essay.

Why am I saying this? I am saying this because I think there are some kids out there who think that in order to get a six you need to write a perfect essay. You don’t have to write a perfect essay, you can make some mistakes; everybody will have some mistakes and things that they can improve upon in a first draft.

Don’t put pressure on yourself to get everything perfect. You can make a few minor mistakes and still get a six, because again, you are being graded as if what you’ve written is a first draft. So a six is a perfect first draft, keep that in mind and I think you can find a way to cruise through the essay and get the high score that you want.

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