Are your students ready to take the SAT or ACT? Are they worried about the writing tests?
Many students think big words will lead to a big score, but that isn’t true. Using words that make a student uncomfortable can lead to miscommunication. If your students want to impress SAT readers, they will need to express their ideas clearly.
Here are some tips you can share with your students.
SAT and ACT Dos and Don’ts
- Use a thesis. On the SAT, the last sentence or two of your first paragraph should make a claim about how effective the sample argument is. Did you find it convincing? Do you think it will convince other people? On the ACT, your thesis should clearly state your perspective on the topic and indicate how your perspective relates to the samples you read.
- Use specific examples. One example at a time.
- Reference specific ideas in the sample argument. Use paraphrase and direct quotes to point out especially significant ideas in the sample argument and respond directly to those ideas.
- Restate your thesis. Summarize your main points. You can wrap up with something clever or insightful, but don’t add new evidence.
- Leave time to edit. Readers know that this is a first draft, but saving five minutes to reread and revise your work is an essential part of putting your best foot forward.
- You do not need to restate the prompt. Your audience has the prompt in front of them.
- Don’t repeat yourself. Your points should be distinct. There should be a reason for every word on the page.
- No need to say, “I think,” “I believe,” “In my opinion,” etc. Just make your point. Your reader knows that your essay is written from your point of view. This is not to say you can’t include personal anecdotes. First person is acceptable, just don’t waste time/space with unnecessary statements.
- This is not the place for grammatical experimentation. If you know how to use a semicolon, then go for it. If you’re not sure, don’t try it here.
- You don’t need to pack your essay with big words to sounds smart. Words that seem like synonyms often have subtle differences in meaning, so only use words that you are completely comfortable with. Clearly communicating your ideas is much more impressive than using elevated language.
Kim Lifton, President of WOW Writing Workshop, is a former journalist who keeps her finger on the pulse of the college admissions industry. A national expert on the college application essay, Lifton blogs for WOW and industry trade publications; she speaks at schools and industry conferences throughout the U.S..