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Your chance of acceptance
Duke University
Duke University
Your chancing factors
Unweighted GPA: 3.7
SAT: 720 math
| 800 verbal


Low accuracy (4 of 18 factors)

How to Get a Perfect Score on the SAT Essay

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When the SAT was revamped in 2016, the SAT Essay underwent significant changes. For one, the essay became optional. Many colleges still require students to submit an SAT Essay score, however, so this change is not as major as those that occurred to the essay’s structure and purpose. The old SAT essay consisted of a question for debate, and students were to present a clear argument for one side. The new essay is now meant to test both reading comprehension and writing abilities; it is composed of three persuasive responses to a passage and prompts. Students must read a passage, form three cohesive arguments and prompts, and write clearly, all in 50 minutes.


This is no easy task, but with these tips from CollegeVine, you should be one step closer to achieving a perfect score on the SAT Essay.


How is the SAT Essay Scored? What Is a Perfect Score?


When you complete an SAT essay, two graders from CollegeBoard will score it, and they will give your essay a score from 1-4. Then, those two scores are added together to create your cumulative score, which can range anywhere from 2-8. If you receive a score of 8, that is a perfect score.


When you are graded on your essay, you are graded on three main categories: Reading, Analysis, and Writing. Here are some highlights of what the graders are looking for in each category:


  • Reading: The student’s essay should include sufficient textual evidence in their essay to prove that they comprehended the material. The evidence provided in the text should be accurate–no fact-checking necessary! Most importantly, a strong essay should be able to synthesize the major points of the text and show how they interrelate.


  • Analysis: Not only should the student be able to fully comprehend the text and use it as evidence, but the student’s essay should take it one step further and be able to make educated, persuasive claims about the central points of the text. It should include a thorough evaluation of the text and its elements and provide enough supporting evidence for its claims.


  • Writing: This section is all about how the student presents their argument. The essay should be structured appropriately, with a proper thesis, introduction, and conclusion. The essay should have varied sentence structures so as to show a mastery of language. Of course, there should be few grammatical or spelling errors. 

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How To Structure an SAT Essay to Get A Perfect Score


Thankfully, in terms of structure, an SAT essay is similar to any persuasive or analytical essay you may be asked to write in class. The basic parts are as follows:


    • Introduction
    • Thesis Statement
    • Supporting paragraph 1
    • Supporting paragraph 2
    • Supporting paragraph 3 (if time)
    • Conclusion


A few words about each section:


  • Introduction: Make sure to keep this brief. Your introduction doesn’t add many points to your final score, so 2-3 sentences are usually plenty.


  • Thesis Statement: This is the most important part of your essay, and it is the central argument that you are going to keep coming back to during the entire essay. It’s worth it to take the time to craft a strong thesis statement.


  • Supporting Paragraphs: One supporting paragraph is required, two is recommended to gain a perfect score, and three is great, but optional. Your supporting paragraphs should have a topics sentence, evidence, and a concluding sentence that ties the paragraph back to your thesis statement.


  • Conclusion: Again, keep this short. You don’t need to bring up any new arguments here. Simply summarize your argument in a concise manner.


How To Allocate Your Time To Get A Perfect Score


You only really get 50 minutes for the SAT essay. This means that you have to read a passage, read the prompts, plan each essay, and write three perfect essays, all in under an hour. This is no easy task, and it is certainly going to take some practice. However, here is how we recommend you allocate those 50 minutes:


    • Read The Prompts First: 1 minute
    • Reading the Passage, annotating along the way: 15 minutes
    • Outlining: 5 minutes
    • Writing: 29 minutes


We recommend reading the prompts first because it will give you an appropriate lens with which to read the passage. When you read it, you should be looking for the answers to the prompts and supporting evidence that you can use in your essay.


This is not a hard and fast rule for how you should spend your time. It is just a suggestion. With practice, you will find a time allocation system that works for you. Just keep it under 50 minutes!

Other Tips + Resources


1. Practice, Practice, Practice: Here are some helpful resources that could help you get some good practice on the SAT essay:


2. Outline: Graders can usually tell when a student hasn’t structured and planned out their argument beforehand. Take those extra few minutes to plan out a good thesis and sketch a rough outline of your argument. This will help you plan your essay out, and it will do wonders for the organization of your essay.


3. Make Time For Edits: When students are in a time crunch, they tend to make simple grammatical errors that could lower their score. If you can, make sure you go back and read through your essay to correct for any such errors. Also, make sure that your essay makes sense and is communicating your intended argument effectively.


For More Information


Need more help on the SAT essay? Check out these blog posts:


Ultimate Guide To The New SAT Essay

Choosing Between SAT Essay and ACT Writing: How To Decide

What’s the Difference Between the New SAT Essay and the New SAT Writing Section?


Preparing for the SAT? Download our free guide with our top 8 tips for mastering the SAT.


Want to know how your SAT score impacts your chances of acceptance to your dream schools? Our free Chancing Engine will not only help you predict your odds, but also let you know how you stack up against other applicants, and which aspects of your profile to improve. Sign up for your free CollegeVine account today to gain access to our Chancing Engine and get a jumpstart on your college strategy!


Sadhvi Mathur
Senior Blogger

Short Bio
Sadhvi is a recent graduate from the University of California, Berkeley, where she double majored in Economics and Media Studies. Having applied to over 8 universities, each with different application platforms and requirements, she is eager to share her knowledge now that her application process is over. Other than writing, Sadhvi's interests include dancing, playing the piano, and trying not to burn her apartment down when she cooks!