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How is the SAT Essay Scored?

how is the sat essay scored


How is the SAT Essay Scored?


Even though the essay in the new SAT is optional, I highly recommend having your child take it. Many colleges require or suggest the SAT essay.

Here is what the College Board has to say about the scoring of the SAT essay:
"SAT Essay responses are scored using a carefully designed process:

Two different people will read and score your essay.
Each scorer awards 1–4 points for each dimension: reading, analysis, and writing.
The two scores for each dimension are added.
You’ll receive three scores for the SAT Essay — one for each dimension — ranging from 2–8 points."

Here is the scoring guide. A perfect score has these characteristics:
"Reading: A successful essay shows that you understood the passage, including the interplay of central ideas and important details. It also shows an effective use of textual evidence.

Analysis: A successful essay shows your understanding of how the author builds an argument by:
Examining the author’s use of evidence, reasoning, and other stylistic and persuasive techniques
Supporting and developing claims with well-chosen evidence from the passage

Writing: A successful essay is focused, organized, and precise, with an appropriate style and tone that varies sentence structure and follows the conventions of standard written English."

It makes sense that an essay with good use of evidence, reasoning, structure, and style will necessarily be longer than a essay that does NOT include those things.  I think it's too simplistic to say the essay is ONLY about length, but I also think it will have to be a fairly long, well written essay to earn a good score using these criteria. Even though the college board denies that it's about length, in order to meet their objective criteria the essay will have to be quite long. To learn more about writing such a long essay in such a short period of time, check out Writing the SAT Essay.

Are you worried about SAT essay length? Let me know in the comments!

 



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Please note: This post was originally published in July 2008 and has been revamped and updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.
Writing the SAT Essay
What is a Good Score on the SAT?
 

Comments 6

Guest - Robin E. on Saturday, 26 July 2008 20:49

Thank you, Lee. That does help. Still, 25 minutes to write a well organized, well articulated essay that is also rather long... It just goes against everything I know to be needed for good writing. You know, things like brainstorming, outlining, revisions, and editing. I'm a bit irked that I have to "teach to the test" in this situation, because without practice at writing a lot quickly a kid simply won't do well on it.

Thank you, Lee. That does help. Still, 25 minutes to write a well organized, well articulated essay that is also rather long... It just goes against everything I know to be needed for good writing. You know, things like brainstorming, outlining, revisions, and editing. I'm a bit irked that I have to "teach to the test" in this situation, because without practice at writing a lot quickly a kid simply won't do well on it.
Guest - Lee (website) on Sunday, 27 July 2008 18:02

Hi Robin,
Excellent question! I wrote a pretty long response, but then decided maybe it would help others. I'll be using it as a blog post tomorrow.

Blessings,
Lee

Hi Robin, Excellent question! I wrote a pretty long response, but then decided maybe it would help others. I'll be using it as a blog post tomorrow. Blessings, Lee
Guest - Todd on Wednesday, 30 July 2008 22:42

Hi,
Here's a thought about SAT essays that I picked up from someone who has scored them. It's not possible to receive a high score without doing in-depth analysis of the prompt. A superior thinker and writer will be able to provide well chosen, thoughtfully expressed examples and reasoning more quickly than someone who is average or less. The superior essayist will also be able to provide more of that content in an equivalent amount of time. Thought of in this way, it's sort of a bad news bad news situation. Not only do you have to provide superior content, you have to do more of it. Again, it's what I picked up from someone who scored the essays.
Thanks for all the great insights~
Todd

Hi, Here's a thought about SAT essays that I picked up from someone who has scored them. It's not possible to receive a high score without doing in-depth analysis of the prompt. A superior thinker and writer will be able to provide well chosen, thoughtfully expressed examples and reasoning more quickly than someone who is average or less. The superior essayist will also be able to provide more of that content in an equivalent amount of time. Thought of in this way, it's sort of a bad news bad news situation. Not only do you have to provide superior content, you have to do more of it. Again, it's what I picked up from someone who scored the essays. Thanks for all the great insights~ Todd
Guest - Lee (website) on Thursday, 31 July 2008 04:51

Dear Todd,
Thank you SO much for your input! That was very valuable information, and I appreciate you speaking up.
Blessings,
Lee

Dear Todd, Thank you SO much for your input! That was very valuable information, and I appreciate you speaking up. Blessings, Lee
Guest - Renee (website) on Friday, 09 July 2010 18:49

Hi Lee,
Before my son went to take the SAT we did the practice test and studied the essay examples that college board provided. I tried to stress to him the importance of having a well rounded, at least 5 paragraph essay. He took his SAT and said he felt confident that he did well on his essay but he knew that alot of the other students took longer on their essays than he did.

When he got his SAT back he only scored a 4 out of 6. He was disappointed and when we were able to review his actual essay I saw the problem right away. Instead of writing a well rounded, 5 paragraph essay it turned out to be only 3 paragraphs. The next time he takes his SAT he will remember to make it alittle longer and take more time to review it.

Thanks for your advice, it really does help.

Renee

Hi Lee, Before my son went to take the SAT we did the practice test and studied the essay examples that college board provided. I tried to stress to him the importance of having a well rounded, at least 5 paragraph essay. He took his SAT and said he felt confident that he did well on his essay but he knew that alot of the other students took longer on their essays than he did. When he got his SAT back he only scored a 4 out of 6. He was disappointed and when we were able to review his actual essay I saw the problem right away. Instead of writing a well rounded, 5 paragraph essay it turned out to be only 3 paragraphs. The next time he takes his SAT he will remember to make it alittle longer and take more time to review it. Thanks for your advice, it really does help. Renee
Guest - Ingrid on Wednesday, 22 August 2012 02:28

Length does matter a great deal. On average, essays that score a 10 or above (that is, two 5s from two separate graders), are ~400 words in length. Sure, the essay has to be well articulated with great examples, but it also has to meet a certain length or your child won't get the higher scores. Look at How to Write a Killer SAT Essay for more info.

Length does matter a great deal. On average, essays that score a 10 or above (that is, two 5s from two separate graders), are ~400 words in length. Sure, the essay has to be well articulated with great examples, but it also has to meet a certain length or your child won't get the higher scores. Look at How to Write a Killer SAT Essay for more info.
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