SAT / ACT Prep Online Guides and Tips

The Ultimate SAT Essay Study Guide: Tips and Review


We've written the best guide to the SAT essay available anywhere.

To craft this guide, we have carefully read all official material available on the SAT essay from the College Board and read the best SAT books we could find and extracted the most important things you need to know to succeed on the essay section. Based on this research, we're confident that this is the most complete and comprehensive resource available for the SAT essay.

This guide gets deep into every aspect of the SAT essay, from the rubric to prompts to the nuts and bolts of how to write a high-scoring essay. You'll learn the best tips and strategies to use to maximize the value of your SAT essay practice as well as how much time to devote to prepping for the essay.

If you're looking for a comprehensive guide to SAT essay and how to improve your SAT essay scores, this guide is invaluable. Rather than trying to put all the information we've distilled into one long article, we've created this multi-sectioned guide to serve as a table of contents to each of our more in-depth articles.

We'll start by taking a high-level look at the importance of the SAT essay to colleges and which schools care about your SAT essay score. The next section delves into more of the details of the SAT essay prompt and rubric and outlines step-by-step how to write a perfect-scoring SAT essay. Finally, the third part of this guide takes you through tips and strategies to use with the SAT essay.

We suggest reading through this guide in order your first time through, as you would any other test prep resource. Alternatively, if you're just looking for a refresher on certain areas, you can use this guide as a reference you can jump around in as needed.


UPDATE: SAT Essay No Longer Offered

In January 2021, the College Board announced that after June 2021, it would no longer offer the Essay portion of the SAT (except at schools who opt in during School Day Testing). It is now no longer possible to take the SAT Essay, unless your school is one of the small number who choose to offer it during SAT School Day Testing.

While most colleges had already made SAT Essay scores optional, this move by the College Board means no colleges now require the SAT Essay. It will also likely lead to additional college application changes such not looking at essay scores at all for the SAT or ACT, as well as potentially requiring additional writing samples for placement.

What does the end of the SAT Essay mean for your college applications? Check out our article on the College Board's SAT Essay decision for everything you need to know.


What Do Colleges Think About the SAT Essay?

Something that makes the SAT essay different from all the other sections of the SAT is its optional nature. The articles in this section will inform you about why colleges don't all require the SAT essay and whether or not it makes sense for you to take the SAT with the essay.


Does the SAT Essay Matter? Expert Guide

With the changes to the SAT essay, the importance of your SAT essay score to your college applications has grown somewhat murky. Read this article to find out why colleges still require the essay and what kind of effect it has on your college application.


Should I Take the SAT Essay? How to Decide

There are both positive and negative aspects of taking the SAT essay. This guide goes through different arguments for and against taking the SAT essay and helps you figure out which scenarios apply for you.


Which Colleges Require the SAT Essay? Complete List

Depending on which colleges you want to apply to, you may not need to take the SAT essay at all. Find out if the schools you're interested in require or recommend you take the SAT essay with this article.




Understanding SAT Essay Prompts and the SAT Essay Rubric

The next set of articles unpack the SAT essay prompt and the best way to fulfill the requirements of the essay task. You'll learn how to write consistently high-scoring SAT essays and how to preplan examples and explanations to use on the real SAT essay.


New SAT Essay Prompts: How Are They Changing?

If you're just starting your prep or are unfamiliar with the SAT essay, this article is a great introduction to the essay section. In it, we analyze the difference between the old SAT essay and the current essay for those who took the old SAT and want to see how the new essay differs. This article is also a good summary to come back to if you need a refresher on what the SAT essay asks you to do.


SAT Essay Prompts: The Complete List

One of the most important ways to improve at writing the SAT essay is to practice with official SAT essay prompts. In this article, you'll find all the free and publicly released official SAT prompts currently available, along with instructions on the best ways to use the prompts in your studying.


How to Get a Perfect 8|8|8 SAT Essay Score

Excelling on the SAT essay requires understanding the difference between an almost-perfect and a perfect-scoring essay. This article will take you through my complete analysis of a perfect-scoring SAT essay and how to improve your score. You'll learn what to be sure to do and what to avoid when writing and the key areas to focus on for maximal score increase.


How to Write an SAT Essay, Step by Step

Learn the ins and outs of writing a perfect-scoring SAT essay by following along as we go through the reading, analyzing and planning, writing, and revising stages of a sample essay. You'll get to see the whole process, from scribbled handwritten planning notes to the polished final product. At each step, you'll also discover strategies to enhance your SAT essay writing process.


SAT Essay Rubric: Full Analysis and Writing Strategies

Dive into the intricacies of SAT essay scoring with this item-by-item look at the SAT essay rubric. You'll learn about what you need to accomplish in your essay to achieve high Reading, Analysis, and Writing scores. Plus, you'll get tips on the best way to use the rubric as part of your SAT essay practice.


What's the Average SAT Essay Score?

Read this article to get a good idea of how scores are distributed on the SAT essay and how much your scores really matter.


The Most Reliable SAT Essay Template and Format

On the SAT essay, you'll always be asked to accomplish the same task (explain how the author makes their argument), which makes it possible to plan out your essay's structure ahead of time. This article teaches you how to create your own SAT essay templates for the new SAT.


6 SAT Essay Examples to Answer Every Prompt

Every SAT essay requires reading a passage and analyzing how the author constructs her argument. You can't prepare ahead of time by analyzing the exact passage that will be used, but you can familiarize yourself with techniques frequently used to add impact to argumentative essays.

Learn how to identify the six persuasive techniques most commonly found in SAT essay prompts and the effect each technique has on the reader with this guide.



SAT Essay Strategies and Tips

Now you've gotten both a basic understanding of what the SAT essay is and a good grasp of what's required to write the best SAT essay possible. Huge success!

The next step is to take that knowledge and understanding and apply it in the most effective ways. To help you with that, we've compiled our top strategies and tips for when to take the SAT essay and how to make your SAT essay practice as efficient as possible.


SAT Essay Tips: 15 Ways to Improve Your Score

Your time is a limited and valuable resource when it comes to the SAT essay, both in terms of how much time you have to spend prepping and the 50 minutes you get to analyze and write about the prompt on the real SAT. Read this article to find out what tweaks you can make to your essay writing process that will have a large positive impact on your essay score.


Does Messy Handwriting Hurt Your SAT Essay Score?

Essay graders are trained to read all sorts of handwriting, so it's not likely your essay will be completely thrown out because the graders can't read it. However, even occasionally illegible handwriting can still affect your essay score in negative ways. Find out how messy handwriting might negatively affect your essay score and how to fix the problem in this article.





What's Next?

There's a lot of information in this guide to digest, but your SAT essay practice shouldn't stop at reading this articles and strategy guides. The best way to prep for the SAT essay is to write timed essays in response to real SAT essay prompts.

Before you score your essay on the rubric, be sure to read through our guide to diagnosing your weaknesses and reviewing your mistakes. The article uses examples of multiple choice questions, but the strategies of honing in on your weak spots work equally well for the essay.

Above all, stay motivated! And if you liked this guide, don't forget to read our other ultimate SAT prep guides for SAT Reading, Writing and Language, and Math.



Have friends who also need help with test prep? Share this article!

author image
Laura Staffaroni
About the Author

Laura graduated magna cum laude from Wellesley College with a BA in Music and Psychology, and earned a Master's degree in Composition from the Longy School of Music of Bard College. She scored 99 percentile scores on the SAT and GRE and loves advising students on how to excel in high school.

Get Free Guides to Boost Your SAT/ACT
100% Privacy. No spam ever.

Ask a Question Below

Have any questions about this article or other topics? Ask below and we'll reply!