Study for Writing on the SAT

Schools don’t teach you how to engage big ideas, or write grammatically.

But don’t schools drill the basics of essay-writing?

Yes, but the instruction rarely goes beyond a simple thesis-support structure.  For this test, you need more.

The SAT Writing tests your ability to wrestle with a philosophical question and quickly give an intelligent-sounding opinion.  For example, the prompt might read:

“Is there always more than one right answer?”

The great news: you can respond however you’d like. You can be imaginative, methodical, or hilarious.  You can even be outlandish: Defend Vlad the Impaler!  Attack Abraham Lincoln!

The bad news:  Almost everyone gives lame, dreary responses – when they manage to actually state a side at all.  For example, a student might vomit forth something as plodding as:

“There are always more than one right answer.  Through literature, art, and history, we can see that there are many answers.”

Blah – you can do much better than that!

How can students improve their writing?

I teach you to quickly brainstorm ideas using topics you already know a lot about (kayaking, World War II, Harry Potter fanfiction – whatever).  Once you’re on familiar grounds, I train you in the basic moves of argument so you can engage intelligently with an idea.  So, for example:

“To be sure, most problems have many possible solutions.  But these solutions are ultimately just many ways of achieving the same ultimate goal.  The most pressing problems – such as defeating dictators like Voldemort and Benito Mussolini – ultimately have obvious, simple solutions, and pretending otherwise is dangerous.”

What about grammar?  Isn’t that a majority of the SAT Writing score?

Yes, and it’s the easiest aspect of the SAT to improve.  First, you’ll be grounded in sentence diagramming, so you can slice phrases apart.  Then, you’ll master the unmistakable signs of the various grammar errors.  You won’t have to hunt for the right answers: the wrong answers will jump out and bite you.

Could I see an example?

Sure: first, try to find the error in each sentence.

If I wasn’t such a grammar snob, the president’s speech wouldn’t drive me so crazy.

Who were you flirting with yesterday at the party?  I didn’t catch their name.

Drawing on the work of cognitive psychology, I’ll train you to automatically spot those errors:

Whenever you see if, look for were:  it should read “If I weren’t such a grammar snob” (Subjunctive Mood)

Whenever you see they or their, make sure you mean 2+ people: it should read “I didn’t catch his or her name.”  (Pronoun-Antecedent.  Of course, this still sounds awkward – his or her is wordy – but at least it’s not wrong.  English has issues.)

Interested?  Have questions?  Contact me for a free consultation, where I can demonstrate and explain these skills in person.

Have a Specific Question?

I’d love to meet you in a free, 1-hour consultation.  I can answer your questions, & give you a sense of what I can help you accomplish.

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