SAT Writing: How the Essay is scored


Many parents I speak to ask me about the SAT essay, its weight in the total scoring, its role in admissions decisions and more importantly how to improve scores. Parents and students often are confused by the requirements of the SAT essay and how it differs from those most common to High School English classes. Many of you might have even heard test prep “experts” speak to strategies for improving SAT essay scores that seemed off the wall and far-fetched. I thought I’d shed some light on the issue.

First, here is what the College Board says:

How SAT essays are scored

SAT essays are scored in a holistic manner by qualified educators. Each essay is considered as a total work, the whole of which is greater than the sum of its parts. Rather than judge a work on its separate traits, a qualified reader evaluates the total impression the essay creates.

Readers take into account such aspects of essay analysis as:

  • Complexity of thought
  • Substantiality of development
  • Facility with language

Essay scoring procedures

Each SAT essay is scored:

  • Independently by two qualified readers
  • On a scale of 1 to 6 by each reader, with the combined score for both readers ranging from 2 to 12 (Essays not written on the essay assignment receive a score of 0.)

If the two readers’ scores differ by more than one point, a third reader scores the essay. Fewer than 5 percent of all scored essays call for a third reader.

What this translates to is that College Board and ETS readers give each essay a quick “looksee” and then make a snap decision. Got it? Great. Here is an essay I challenge you to grade. Click the essay to make the image bigger.

jr-may-2010-1

Next, here is your chance to be an SAT essay grader (after voting come back hover here to see the score):

What score would you give this essay?

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Tune in next time for the strategies given to this test-taker that got his essay score up significantly.

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