Preparing for the SAT Writing Section The Essay Mr. Neff S Question of the Day S What do you think? Today’s Plan S Facts, FAQ, and Tips for the SAT Essay S Overview of the Rubric: How You’ll Be Scored S Read and score sample essays (handout) S SAT Essay: Analyzing the Prompt S How to Write an Essay in 25 Minutes: Minute by Minute S 10 Minute Break S Reminders S Brainstorming Examples with Prompts (handout) S Show Time: 25 Minutes to Write Your Essay Facts about the SAT Essay (p. 319) S It will be the first section on your test. S You will receive a score from 0 to 12. S Two scorers each assign your essay a score from 1 to 6, with 6 being the highest possible score, and these scores are then combined. S You must write on the assigned topic. If you write on another topic, you will receive a score of zero. DO NOT WRITE ON ANOTHER TOPIC. S The essay will count for 30% of your total SAT Writing score. (The other 70% are M.C. questions on grammar, improving sentences, etc.). Excerpts from the FAQ (p. 320) S 1. Is it better to print or write in cursive? S Whatever is more legible; neatness counts. Write as neatly and clearly as you can. S 2. Should I skip lines, or should I write on every line? S Single space. You only have two pages on which to write your essay, so don’t risk running out of room. S 4. Will the length of my essay affect my score? S According to a 2005 analysis of a graded sample of SAT essays conducted by an MIT professor, the longer the essay, the higher the score. Granted, this is just a correlation; you must have strong, specific content, but write as much high quality content as you can. FAQ continued S 5. Should I write in pen or pencil? S S 6. Will the readers give me any credit for the outline and notes I write on page 2? S S No. You must write on the assigned topic. If you write off-topic, you will receive a score of zero. 8. Is it better to use personal examples, or examples from literature, history, etc.? S S No. The readers will read only what you’ve written within the lined pages of your student response sheet. 7. Should I prepare a standard essay in advance and tweak it to fit the topic? S S Pencil. You get no credit if you write in pen. Also, it must be a #2 “old school” pencil (no mechanical pencils). It doesn’t matter. The key is that your examples must support the position you take; if an example doesn’t further your argument, it is worthless. 9. Is it true that if I don’t take the SATs (and this class) seriously, I will be a failure in life? S Yes. Yes it is. The SAT Scoring Guide S See handout (Exhibit 9.1). S Pay attention to key descriptors from the rubric. For example: A Score of 6 S A 6 is “outstanding” and demonstrates “clear and consistent mastery.” A typical 6: S “effectively and insightfully develops a point of view…[and S S S S uses] clearly appropriate examples…and other evidence to support its position” [responds to prompt persuasively and provides specific supporting examples] “is well organized and clearly focused, demonstrating…smooth progression of ideas” [organized and uses transitions between sentences, paragraphs, and ideas] “[uses] a varied, accurate, and apt vocabulary” “meaningful variety in sentence structure” “free of most errors in grammar, usage, and mechanics A Score of 4 S A 4 is “competent” and demonstrates “adequate mastery.” A typical 4: S “develops a point of view on the issue” and uses “adequate S S S S examples, reasons, and other evidence to support its position” “is generally organized and focused” and demonstrates “some…progression of ideas” “exhibits adequate but inconsistent…use of language” and uses “generally appropriate vocabulary” “some variety of sentence structure” “some errors in grammar, usage, and mechanics” A Score of 2 S A 2 is “seriously limited” and demonstrates “little mastery”. Additionally, it’s flawed by ONE OR MORE of the following weaknesses: S S S S S “develops a point of view that is vague or seriously limited” and provides “inappropriate or insufficient examples…to support its position” “is poorly organized…or demonstrates serious problems with coherence or progression of ideas” Uses “very limited vocabulary or incorrect word choice” “frequent problems in sentence structure” “contains errors in grammar…so serious that meaning is somewhat obscured” Score Sample Essays S Read sample U, sample W, and sample Y. One of these is a 2, one is a 4, and one is a 6. Assign a score to each essay. Be able to explain why you assigned the score that you did. S Discuss scores. SAT Essay: The Prompt (p. 320) S You will be given a quote. S You’ll then be asked to answer a question about the quote. S To answer this question, you must state your position and then support this position with varied and specific examples. S Examples can come from your personal experience, literature, history, current events, and/or popular culture. SAT Essay: Sample Prompt (p. 321) S “If we rest, we rust.” This statement is certainly true; inactivity and lack of exertion over time can cause our skills to deteriorate through disuse. In fact, people who have ceased practicing an activity for a long period and who attempt to take it up again frequently are thwarted in doing so because of the decline of their skills. S Do you think that rest has a detrimental effect on us and that we must keep active to avoid losing our edge? Plan and write an essay in which you explain your position on this issue. You may use examples from history, literature, popular culture, current events, or personal experience to support your position. How to Write an Essay in 25 Minutes (p. 321-326) S The following slides will take you through what you should be doing during each minute of the 25 you’re allotted to write the SAT Essay. Minute One: Analyze the Prompt S “If we rest, we rust.” This statement is certainly true; inactivity and lack of exertion over time can cause our skills to deteriorate through disuse. In fact, people who have ceased practicing an activity for a long period and who attempt to take it up again frequently are thwarted in doing so because of the decline of their skills. S Do you think that rest has a detrimental effect on us and that we must keep active to avoid losing our edge? Plan and write an essay in which you explain your position on this issue. You may use examples from history, literature, popular culture, current events, or personal experience to support your position. S Ask yourself: what exactly is this prompt asking me to do? Underline the question(s) and given task(s): Do you think that rest has a detrimental effect on us and that we must keep active to avoid losing our edge? Plan and write an essay in which you explain your position on this issue. S Minute Two: Brainstorm Brainstorm potential examples you could use that are connected to the prompt: Do you think that rest has a detrimental effect on us and that we must keep active to avoid losing our edge? S Personal experience: example #1: rest is necessary to avoid injury: stay active with running, swimming, etc. but rest is necessary to improve and to avoid injury (overtrained for half marathon: injured) [opposes prompt]; example #2: rest is necessary to avoid mental “burnout” as well: took graduate classes for 6 years in a row, and although I did well, the classes became more about the credits and less about actual learning. Similarly, consider “senioritis” with students, and how ready they are for a break from schooling. [opposes prompt] Brainstorming continued S Current events: S Literature: S History: S Sports and activities: even professional athletes—the most well-conditioned human beings in the world—require rest to avoid injury, and they still get hurt. Consider the short professional life of an NFL runningback for example, and how few games are played in an NFL season (in fact, current event: players opposing the proposal of adding games to the season). [opposes prompt] S The arts: S Science and technology: consider current society and its rapid technological growth; the concept of the “singularity” where technological growth has become exponential, increasing at an increasing rate. Ray Kurzweil’s theory that we’ll reach a point in only a few decades where technological advancement is so significant that it changes the way our society functions. [favors prompt] Minute Three: Take a Stand (Write your Thesis) S Look at your evidence and decide what position you are going to take in response to the prompt; will you support it or oppose it? Keep in mind that what you personally believe is much less important than what your strongest and most specific evidence supports. Choose the position that will allow you to write the best essay. S Write your thesis: respond to the prompt’s question by stating your position clearly and succinctly; the entirety of your essay should then support this statement. S Avoid “I believe that” phrasing…if this is the way you think of your thesis, simply take that beginning phrase out before you write the final version. Minute Three: Take a Stand (Write your Thesis) S [supports prompt] “If we rest, we rust”: inactivity and lack of exertion lead to loss of vitality and to decay. S [opposes prompt] If we rest, we do not rust: our times of rest enable us to restore our mental and physical energy and to gain perspective on our lives. S [opposes prompt] Staying mentally and physically active is crucial to our health, but rest does not cause us to “rust”; in fact, calculated rest can allow us to achieve at our greatest potential, avoid injury and “burnout,” and thus give us an edge over those who would avoid rest. Minute Four: Outline S Your goal is to produce a four or five paragraph essay that includes a brief introduction with a clear thesis, two or three body paragraphs that support the thesis with specific examples, and a conclusion that restates your thesis. S Your most important job in this essay is to prove your writing competence, not to demonstrate your original literary style; show the readers that you know how to write an introduction with a clear thesis, at least two body paragraphs with supporting examples, and a conclusion. Minute Four: Outline cont’d S I. INTRODUCTION: State your overall thesis S S If we rest, we rust: inactivity and lack of exertion get in the way of progress and lead to the loss of vitality and to decay. II. BODY PARAGRAPH #1 S S S Topic Sentence: State the supporting point of your first body paragraph: We have to keep moving to keep up with others and to avoid falling behind. This is as true for industries as for individuals. Examples: Provide specific examples that support your argument. Be as detailed and specific as possible; give names, places, events. A. U.S. auto industry’s decline: GM vs. Honda; B. Outmoded technology: pay phones, cassettes S III. BODY #2 (rinse and repeat) S IV. BODY #3: Write a third Body ONLY if you have time to write your Conclusion. S IV. CONCLUSION S S Recap: Summarize your argument, restating your main points (1 sentence). Expand your position: apply your argument on a broader, universal level. “So what?” How does this apply to everyone? Minutes Five to 17: Write! S Remember: write neatly but efficiently since your time is limited. If you need to delete something, you can cross it out rather than taking the time to erase it, without penalty. Minute 18: Reality Check S You should have been writing for 12 minutes straight, and you only have seven left. If you’re barely through your first body paragraph, then you should abandon the idea of writing three body paragraphs. Instead, go for your intro, two body, and a conclusion. Minute 19 to 22: Wrap It Up S Finish whichever body paragraph you’ve been working on (should be second or third body), and bring your essay to a close. Minute 23: Read and React S Although you can’t read your essay out loud, read it to yourself (this is one of those times when it’s okay to listen to that voice in your head). S Do the ideas and the sentences flow into the next? If they don’t, add transition words (therefore, however, nevertheless, similarly). S Is a key example missing? Add it. S Does any sentence or word seem out of place? Delete it. S Do recognize, however, that if your outline was good, your content should be good. Don’t try to do too much here. Minute 24: Proofread S Think of yourself as an editor. Look over your essay for any run-ons, other grammatical issues, or spelling errors. Correct them. Remember that you can cross things out that you want deleted, rather than erasing them. Minute 25: Reword, Reread, Relax. S Look over your word choices: are there any verbs that could be made stronger or more active? Any adjectives that could be made stronger or more precise? Any vague words for which you can come up with more precise synonyms? For example: S Instead of “keep our skills from going bad” we could say “keep our skills from deteriorating” S Instead of “not important” we could say “insignificant” S Again, don’t do too much; simply replace a few words with stronger, more precise, or higher level vocabulary. And DO NOT attempt to use a word whose meaning you do not know. S Relax and breathe for the 10 to 15 seconds that you have left. 10 Minute Break S This is the easy part. Reminders (p. 328-329) S (1) Keep careful track of your time. S (2) Pace yourself: keep to your essay-writing plan. S S (3) Write as much as you can within the allotted time. S S The most important key here is content development. (4) Don’t forget to state your conclusion. S S Allow yourself 3 to 4 minutes for prewriting. Come up with your position and create a brief outline, then devote the remaining time to write your essay, with 2 or 3 minutes at the end to clean it up. The other most important key is to show that you know how to structure an essay. (5) You don’t have to write a perfect essay to earn a high score. S They’re looking for a well-structured draft with content development, not the next Hunger Games. Reminders S (6) Write clearly. S S (7) Follow Traditional Essay-Writing Conventions S S Only change those things you have good reason to do so (and you should probably look up the word “capriciously” if you don’t know what it means). (9) Upgrade your vocabulary judiciously. S S Indent paragraphs. Use transitions between ideas and paragraphs. (8) Don’t alter your essay capriciously. S S Print or cursive: it doesn’t matter, as long as you can write quickly and clearly. Readers like when you use big, college-level words, but only if you use them correctly. Don’t try to bluff or the joke will be on you. (And yeah—you should probably look up “judiciously”). (10) Don’t Second-Guess Yourself. S Give the essay your best effort, your best organization, and your best support, and then move on; you have plenty of test left after this section. Brainstorming Examples S See handout: “Brainstorming Examples with Prompt” S Teacher Model (ignore prompt): S Literature: Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men S S George and Lennie: subject of American Dream: is it really available to all people, regardless of race or class?; Curley and Curley’s wife: racism/ignorance/rejection of “otherness”; Euthanasia: “mercy killing” moral or immoral? Sports and activities: Superbowl XLI (41 in 2006) S S S S S Bears (Lovie Smith) vs Colts (Tony Dungy) First time both teams led by African American coaches. Brings race to the forefront of discussion. Begs question: why so few African American coaches? Sports as a source of equality/unity among fans. Fans of a single team comprised of all different races, social classes, professions, other interests, etc. Sports as entertainment and billion dollar business. Professional football as celebration of violence. S Try your own (flashcards) and share Websites for Practice Quotes S www.brainyquote.com/quotes/topics.html S http://www.saidwhat.co.uk/research S www.quotationspage.com/qotd.html S http://www.bartleby.com/quotations Showtime! S Turn to page 31/32 in your book. Write your name at the top of page 31. Remember that you have only these two pages on which to write your essay. You may jot down notes/outline on a separate piece of paper. S You’ll have 25 minutes to respond to the prompt that I give you (Agree or disagree with the position presented by the quote. Remember to take one side and support it with specific evidence). I will remind you what you should be doing, minute by minute. When you’re finished, turn your paper in to me. S Hand out prompts S Begin!