A high school boy arrived at a recent Score on the SAT essay writing test workshop concerned he would flop on any writing test. He liked science and history, and he excelled in math; writing was another matter. No way could he do it, he assured us.“Of course you can write,” we told him. “Writing is a process just like math. This assignment is a thinking test as much as it is a writing test. Organize it like it is a science experiment. Then PRACTICE!”
Something clicked. “Oh, the thesis is like a hypothesis?”
He got it. We explained that students can and should prepare for these writing tests. The only way to do it is to practice. The SAT essay is mandatory; the ACT essay is part of an optional ACT Plus Writing test. Some schools pay more attention to the ACT Plus Writing optional test than others, so do your homework before you say yes or no.
Still a bit uncertain, the boy sat at his desk listening intently while we offered tips about evaluating a prompt, writing a thesis statement, creating an outline, defending the thesis and writing the essay. We explained that time is of the essence, and students must use their time wisely. We even broke down the task in minutes, suggesting students use just a few minutes for each part of the task so they have enough time to write and review before they finish.
We did the first essay together, step-by-step. A few of the students read aloud. Next, we wanted them to see what it feels like to have time to do the task, and we read them another prompt. The instructions were clear: follow the steps we did together and complete the writing assignment. Write clearly, and write neatly. Make sure the thesis makes one point, and one point only. Use specific examples to defend your thesis, and write more than one paragraph.
Each student finished the 25-minute SAT writing task in less than 22 minutes — leaving three minutes to proof read the copy. There were lots of smiles in the room; students left the class far more confident than when the walked in a few hours earlier. We collected the essays and took them with us to grade so they can practice before the real test.
On his way out, the boy looked at us and said, “You know, I really didn’t think I could do it. But the second test was easier because I listened to what you said and used your process as a guide. It wasn’t so bad.”
And the real test won’t be so bad, so long as he — and all of you — practice. You can get practice SAT essay test prompts from the College Board and information to help you prepare for the ACT essay writing test here.
Wow Writing Workshop is here to help if you need additional coaching. Or call 248.895.4935.