How to Write the Perfect 12-Point SAT Essay, Even if You Suck at Writing (Part 2)

By | May 2, 2008

This post of is a continuation of my first post on the SAT Essay Section. If you’re preparing for the SAT Essay, you may want to first start there.

In my last post I talked a little bit about the Essay and some of the superficial things that matter. Basically what I wrote about yesterday is how to get an average essay – one that’ll pretty much assure you a score of 8. Today I want to talk a little bit about how to get your essay to the 10-12 score range. So what makes a good essay??

First Things First: Your Position

Let’s get some of the obvious out of the way first. The first thing you’re going to have to do is decide your position on the topic. Each topic has an inherent yes-side and a no-side. For example, turn to page 283 of the Official SAT Study Guide (the Big Blue Book). The essay prompt first brings up the debate as to whether or not technology has made our lives better. Then the assignment asks, “Do changes that make our lives easier not necessarily make our lives better?” So, for this prompt, you’re basically going to have to take a positions as to whether changes that make our lives easier (or more specifically advancements and technology) do or do not make our lives easier.

Whatever position you decide to take – the yes side or the no side – doesn’t really matter. It’ll be entirely up to you. This decision will be based mostly on which side your sources/evidence more naturally supports, but we’ll get a little more into this later.

The Most Important Part: The Motive

I know that in high school they teach you that the thesis is the most important part of an essay. However, when you get to college, most good expository writing classes will focus heavily on an essay’s motive.

So what is an essay’s motive? The motive of an essay is too complicated of a topic to cover entirely in this one post, but I can at least show you how to superficially produce a decent motive – since we know the superficial things matter on the SAT. While an essay’s thesis answers the question of “What,” its motive address the question, “why.” It’s what makes your essay significant, and any serious writer should address this question first.

The average high school student will jump into the essay with a thesis, something like “Technology makes our lives easier because…” This will make for a very bland and boring essay. Readers, especially SAT graders, want something interesting to read. They’ll have read thousands of essays that say the same thing before they even read yours. That’s why you need to first engage the reader by addressing why he or she should care in the first place, or why your essay is different. You can only do this by getting by the obvious. This is what the motive is all about.

Show the grader something more than the obvious (or at least pretend to).

You may be wondering, “How can I do this if I don’t know more about the topic than the average high school student?” Ah, this is where the superficial part comes in. Once, you’ve decided the position you’re going to take on the topic, you want to introduce a special word into your essay: ostensible. If you don’t know what ostensible, or ostensibly, means, look it up right now and add it to your vocabulary knowledge base. It’s a good SAT word to know anyway. Put simply, it means outwardly seeming or appearing to be. Applying this one word to your introduction will help for two reasons: first, it’ll show that you have a command of SAT vocabulary and second, it’ll make your essay appear more interesting because you’re offering something more than the obvious, meaning better than the average SAT essay.

So, again, here’s the average student’s introduction to the essay:

“Technology does (or does not) make our lives easier because…”

Notice, there’s no motive. Now here’s how you’ll apply a motive:

“While ostensibly technology makes our lives better, in reality technology only makes our lives more difficult.….

Which introduction appears to be a more interesting read?

Notice that not only does your sentence have a motive, but it also has an added level of structural sophistication with two different clauses and applies some SAT vocabulary. The best part is that it also leads naturally into a solid thesis. Your next sentence could now introduce the examples or sources you’re going to employ in the essay and reiterate your main point: “The climactic ending in the Great Gatsby, the protagonists anguish in the Catcher in the Rye, and the inevitable conclusion of the Bay of Pigs fiasco all attest to the fact that technology that promises to make our lives easier, do not necessarily make our lives better”….or something like that.

This method can be applied to any essay topic. Notice that there’s no flowery prose or unnecessary filler? It cuts straight to the point but does so in a more appealing way. It also guards against writer’s block because it provides a methodical way in which you develop your introduction without wasting time brainstorming.

Now I’ll briefly talk about your body paragraphs and sources…

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Topics: The ESSAY | 40 Comments »

40 Responses to “How to Write the Perfect 12-Point SAT Essay, Even if You Suck at Writing (Part 2)”


  1. Feed Says:
    May 9th, 2008 at 3:40 am

    I wish I had read this earlier…
    Great advice.
    I’m going to check out your whole site in a couple of weeks. Thanks, really.
    🙂

  2. Jonathan Brennecke Says:
    June 6th, 2008 at 11:32 pm

    Hey thanks man,

    Just in time for the “big test”! This is great stuff.

  3. omg Says:
    June 29th, 2008 at 12:48 pm

    wow great advice!!
    thank you!!

    Now I’ll briefly talk about your body paragraphs and sources…

    where are the body paras!! haah
    ill be looking forward to the body!
    thank you! 🙂

  4. Jai Says:
    July 15th, 2008 at 12:08 pm

    Absolutely brilliant post. Thanks for the tips – I’ll definitely be using them when I take the test.

  5. Christina Says:
    July 28th, 2008 at 6:37 pm

    Please post a Part 3!!
    This is some invaluable information for normally excellent writers who just can’t perfom as well under a time limit and pressure, like me.

  6. Jessica Says:
    August 6th, 2008 at 5:23 am

    thanks! 🙂
    it really helped.

  7. Ana Says:
    September 1st, 2008 at 10:41 am

    Do you still visit this blog? Any further posts about the essay would really help.

  8. Faust Says:
    November 28th, 2008 at 12:32 pm

    Now I’ll briefly talk about your body paragraphs and sources… ?

    Can you do that now, please? :p

  9. Grace Says:
    November 30th, 2008 at 3:53 am

    Hello, Do you have a part 3?

  10. Grace Says:
    November 30th, 2008 at 4:19 am

    Oh, and I want to thank you so much for all this advice you’ve posted up for us!
    Can you provide any tips for sentence variety and more of what the graders are looking for in the essay?

  11. GrammarNazi Says:
    January 3rd, 2009 at 8:21 am

    Thank you! This is really great!

  12. Avin Says:
    August 17th, 2009 at 7:08 pm

    Awesome, I was just thinking about this same idea. I was wondering if you know how to make an essay sophisticated without just the use of vocab. Thanks, so much more helpful than all the test prep.

  13. Eunwhui Says:
    February 27th, 2010 at 1:04 pm

    ah you are the besttt
    thanks so muchhhhh

  14. How to Write the Perfect 12-Point SAT ESSAY, Even if You Suck at Writing (Part 1) | SAT Ninja: SAT Strategy Expert Says:
    May 8th, 2010 at 6:36 pm

    […] Click here to continue on to How to Write the Perfect 12-Point Essay (Part 2) Share and Enjoy: These icons link to social bookmarking sites where readers can share and discover new web pages. […]

  15. Lei Says:
    May 23rd, 2010 at 4:14 pm

    Wow this stuff is truely amazing.
    THANK YOU SO MUCH!!!

  16. karrr Says:
    June 29th, 2010 at 6:27 pm

    yo i got a perfect on that essay. my thesis was advanced and my examples were: one abt real life, another abt a book (of mice and men, which is a great book to use i always got 10+ on essays and i used this every time), and another abt my personal experience and my friend. also, i filled up to the last line, like the whole thing was filled and my handwriting was small.

  17. kariqcha Says:
    July 17th, 2010 at 11:58 pm

    i need to write a essay for my class (it is reposition test) so i need a lot of help cuz i really suck!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! can anybody give me an example????? please?????

  18. lettuce mix Says:
    November 26th, 2010 at 4:52 am

    thank you so much for this! >_<

  19. edd Says:
    November 28th, 2010 at 12:41 am

    Can you please do part 3 with the body and conclusion? That would be great!

  20. IrrelpSpoogue Says:
    November 30th, 2010 at 2:44 am

    Very nicce!

  21. Papal Says:
    January 28th, 2011 at 12:49 pm

    Pleaseeeeee finish this…greatttt advice!!! Big day coming soon!

  22. aparajita Says:
    July 1st, 2011 at 7:49 am

    hey these tips are great.Please publish a part 3.pleaseeeeeee……..

  23. Sara Says:
    September 12th, 2011 at 9:34 pm

    Awesome man !

  24. Method Man Says:
    September 26th, 2011 at 5:52 pm

    PART 3!!!!!!!

    October SAT’s are coming up!

  25. sha Says:
    January 26th, 2012 at 2:45 pm

    do you still visit this website ??
    can you please continue this or post part 3 ,, i really need it .
    thanks .

  26. Sarah Says:
    January 26th, 2012 at 4:05 pm

    These tips are amazing and surprising simple!
    Don’t want to annoy you but like everyone else is saying,
    when is part 3 coming?

    Also I noticed your page reference for the technology essay prompt should be p575 not 283.

    Thanks so much for this, I have a feeling it’s seriously going to improve my essay score <3

  27. tyrgan Says:
    January 28th, 2012 at 1:59 am

    test tommorow. time to go to sleep :\….

  28. Kelly Nguyen Says:
    April 1st, 2012 at 7:39 pm

    Your website sat ninja.com, really reduces the stress and anxiety that i have for the essay portion of the SAT. Thanks really much for this. Your website is very helpful.However, I wish you can update this website so that others can see that your website is very good. I wish that I can follow your example and get a 6 on the essay and a score of a 12 by two readers. Furthermore, explain more that how you can do that. Overall, your website is very good and comprehensive. I am looking forward to visiting satninja.com again! 🙂

  29. Chandra Has Says:
    May 31st, 2012 at 8:18 am

    The way you used the Fact that the readers read the First paragraph quite seriously is appreciable.It helped me a lot.Keep up the good work folks.

  30. Chandra Has Says:
    May 31st, 2012 at 8:20 am

    Where is the continuation man?

  31. Nicole Says:
    October 6th, 2012 at 2:52 am

    Im a little confused. It seems to me the sentence would make more sense written as: “While technology ostensibly makes our lives easier, in reality it…”

  32. Michael Says:
    October 19th, 2012 at 5:20 pm

    Great articles!! Exactly what I’m looking for

  33. Eric Jang Says:
    October 25th, 2012 at 8:19 pm

    This is such an awesome posting ! Nothing else could distract my concentration while I was reading this. It is not only plausible but also seems true that superficial things like lennth matter in SAT. I regret not finding your writings until now, and from now on I’ll practice writing with your advice.

  34. Sydney Says:
    April 16th, 2013 at 12:48 am

    I had a teacher who said some similar things, that as an AP grader he’s delighted to see the occasional essay that sticks out. He also stressed adding anecdotes and personal experiences for the reader to relate to. Sure hope he’s right! Great advice to review, thanks!

  35. Abhijeet Says:
    June 28th, 2013 at 6:53 pm

    thankyou mam….. its really great…….

  36. Abhijeet Says:
    June 28th, 2013 at 6:57 pm

    thankyou mam….. its really great……. but where is the 3rd part… the continuation of this…?????? i want to read more……

  37. Yara Says:
    November 28th, 2013 at 5:14 am

    Where is part 3?

  38. Hamza Says:
    December 8th, 2013 at 5:01 pm

    Hey! can you please post a part 3, it’s been 4 years.

  39. Aju Says:
    November 7th, 2014 at 2:44 am

    This is so helpful and much appreciated, thankyou. 🙂 I wish I’d found this site earlier considering that I’m taking the SAT tomorrow. 😛 But it was nevertheless tremendously useful. Cant wait for part 3. Any chance you’ll release it in the next 6 hours? 😛

  40. Shanaya Says:
    July 22nd, 2015 at 3:00 pm

    Awesome man.. Thanx..looking forward for yr 3rd post

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