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SAT Essay Formats

Following a format
gives you the confidence that you can finish in the time limit
ensures you cover the topic adequately
gives a sensible structure to your essay

FORMAT I - The one-example essay

Select one suitable illustrative example from your personal experience, or your reading, or knowledge of current affairs, history, science etc. and use this as the basis for a discussion of the topic. The example should be specific and ‘real’ rather than invented. It is best to avoid religion or politics or anything controversial.

There is no word limit but a limited space is provided. The space you have to fill is approximately one and a half sides of A4 paper. The space is sufficient to write a five-paragraph essay. You will have to write in pencil.

Paragraph 1: Introduction

Try to create interest in the topic.
The introduction can be general but must include a thesis statement to point the reader in the right direction.

Paragraph 2: Part I of the example

Describe the situation and cover about half the “example” here.

Paragraph 3: Part II of the example

Finish the “example”.

Paragraph 4: Discussion/analysis

Explain what your example shows. Extract the conclusions/moral lessons to show how it supports your thesis.

Paragraph 5: General conclusion

Show how the example leads to more general conclusions about the topic. (If possible, relate to material from the introduction to round the essay off.)

Sample essay

SAT Sample essay 1 is an essay that uses this format

FORMAT II - The two-example essay

Paragraph 1: Introduction

Explain, in your own words, what the issue is. Include a thesis statement, which is a clear statement of your point of view.

Paragraph 2: Point one in support of your thesis

Explain the point you are making with the aid of a specific example.

Paragraph 3: Point two in support of your thesis

Explain the point you are making with the aid of a specific example

Paragraph 4: Qualification

Explain that, under certain circumstances, the opposite point of view might be correct. (This is to show that you are aware of all aspects of the issue, even though you are 80-90% convinced of your thesis.) [Sometimes this paragraph is replaced by another point and/or further discussion or reasoning.]

Paragraph 5: Reinforcement of thesis

Show how your viewpoint, despite the qualification you have just made, is more persuasive under the present circumstances.

Sample essay

SAT Sample Essay 2 is an essay that uses this format

Next steps

Choose an option below to learn about our essay formats. You will also find an essay evaluation grid, a list of SAT essay topics for you to practice on and two sample essays.

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