Cracking the SAT | Tips and Application Process

SAT Essay Writing Guide


The SAT, as daunting as it seems, isn’t all that hard once you’ve figured out the tricks to crack it. And the lengthiest portion of the SAT exam, the essay, is no different.

Is the SAT essay compulsory?

No, the SAT essay is optional for students, but highly recommend by all international universities. All the top colleges in the US require the SAT essay score too as part of the admission. In Pakistan, very few universities accept students based on SAT 1, but the two main universities, LUMS and IBA, which accept the SAT 1 as an admission criterion, require the essay section to be attempted too. To play it safe, it is highly preferred that students attempt the essay section as well while appearing for the SAT.

How is the SAT essay marked?

  • The marking for the SAT essay is divided into 3 components: reading, analysis, and writing
  • Two different people read and score the essay
  • Each scorer awards 1-4 points for each dimension: reading, analysis, and writing
  • The two scores for each dimension are added
  • Score for each dimension are received individually, ranging from 2-8 points.
  • There is NO composite SAT essay score (the three scores are not added together) and there are no percentiles
Below I have written snippets of the scoring guide for all three sections to achieve a score of 4 in each


  • Demonstrates thorough comprehension of the source text.
  • Shows an understanding of the text’s central idea(s) and of most important details and how they interrelate, demonstrating a comprehensive understanding of the text.
  • Is free of errors of fact or interpretation with regard to the text.
  • Makes skillful use of textual evidence (quotations, paraphrases, or both), demonstrating a complete understanding of the source text.


  • Offers an insightful analysis of the source text and demonstrates a sophisticated understanding of the analytical task.
  • Offers a thorough, well-considered evaluation of the author’s use of evidence, reasoning, and/or stylistic and persuasive elements, and/or feature(s) of the student’s own choosing.
  • Contains relevant, sufficient, and strategically chosen support for claim(s) or point(s) made.
  • Focuses consistently on those features of the text that are most relevant to addressing the task.


  • Is cohesive and demonstrates a highly effective use and command of language.
  • Includes a precise central claim.
  • Includes a skillful introduction and conclusion. The response demonstrates a deliberate and highly effective progression of ideas both within paragraphs and throughout the essay.
  • Has a wide variety in sentence structures. The response demonstrates a consistent use of precise word choice. The response maintains a formal style and objective tone.
  • Shows a strong command of the conventions of standard written English and is free or virtually free of errors.

What is an acceptable score on the SAT essay?

A cumulative 18/24 is an excellent score to have in the SAT. But top universities like the IVY league universities and IBA require a minimum score of 6 in each INDIVIDUAL component. So a 6,6,6 is preferred to a 7,8,3.

What is the structure of the essay?

  • You have 50 minutes to complete the essay.
  • Read a passage.
  • Explain how the author builds an argument to persuade an audience.
  • Support your explanation with evidence from the passage.

How should you attempt the essay?

Write an essay in which you explain how [the author] builds an argument to persuade [his/her] audience that [author’s claim]. In your essay, analyze how [the author] uses one or more of the features listed above (or features of your own choice) to strengthen the logic and persuasiveness of [his/her] argument. Be sure that your analysis focuses on the most relevant features of the passage. Your essay should not explain whether you agree with [the author’s] claims, but rather explain how the author builds an argument to persuade [his/her] audience.