The only way to become a better writer is to practice—to write often and to solicit feedback about one’s writing from experienced writers. Our course is not just a starting point for you to sharpen skills through practice; you can get a great SAT writing score after this course. Basically, this course encourages students
- to reflect on the SAT essay evaluation criteria,
- to analyze successful, high-scoring SAT essays,
- to practice organizing and developing their ideas, and
- to review sentence- and word-level skills essential for good writing.
Understanding the structure of successful SAT essays: The standard five-paragraph essay template that many students are taught to use in high school may not always be the best strategy for the SAT essay. Using samples published by the College Board, we will analyze the structure of successful essays.
Exhibiting strong critical thinking skills: The scoring rubrics and descriptions of strong essays stress the importance of critical thinking skills. These include logic and complexity of thought. As we dissect both strong and weak SAT essays, we will examine ways in which successful writing takes the reader beyond superficial treatment of a topic.
Generating ideas: With only twenty-five minutes to write the SAT essay, students must brainstorm efficiently in order to leave time for writing and editing. We will discuss strategies for generating supporting evidence for the main ideas in their essays, and they will practice using these strategies by engaging in several timed exercises.
Varying sentence structure: Conversations about syntax will help students prepare for both the essay and the multiple-choice writing section. Despite the fact that very few students have a strong background in syntax (due to a misguided de-emphasis of English grammar during the past thirty years), the College Board values sophisticated and varied sentence patterns. We will discuss how sentences are constructed and review a variety of sentence patterns.
Avoiding common mistakes in English grammar, mechanics, and usage: Part of the course will focus on word- and sentence-level issues that will be important both in writing the essay and in answering the multiple-choice questions. Prior to registering for this course, students are asked to complete two practice SAT multiple choice writing tests. We will use the results of these practice tests to determine the topics of our discussion during our third session. These topics are likely to include common errors such as word confusion (e.g., lay/lie, who/whom, which/that), punctuation issues (e.g., semicolons, colons, and commas), mechanics (e.g., apostrophes, quotation marks), parallelism, dangling and misplaced modifiers, faulty comparisons, and verb endings.
Students will write numerous practice essays. Essays completed during the classes will receive detailed, written feedback.
In addition, we will use the students' essays as models for class discussions about both strengths and weaknesses. (Note: Although we will not reveal the authors of the essays we discuss in class, students need to be comfortable having their work critiqued openly, honestly, and respectfully.)