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By Grant Hanada, Tutoring and Test Preparation Instructor, Prepped & Polished, LLC
You should know the essay on the SSAT test does not count toward your score at all. However, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t care about it. In fact, you should put just as much preparation and effort into your essay as you would for any of the scored sections on the test. All of the schools in which you are applying to will have access to your essay and will most likely use it towards their decision in your admittance. Here are some great tips to help you write the best possible essay:
1. Come prepared
Some people are born gifted writers and can produce masterpieces on the first try, but for the rest of us, we need to go through many drafts to get it right. In order to write a great essay on the actual test, you should practice writing great essays beforehand. So instead of writing a first draft on the test day, you are really writing a well-practiced final draft.
2. Write a great introduction
Think about anything you have ever tried reading: literature books, news articles, magazines, comic books, an e-mail, the back of a book, or even a long facebook wall post. I bet you could tell in the first 2 lines whether or not it was going to be interesting. Maybe you didn’t even finish reading it. That is the same mentality your admission readers will have. Focus on saying something interesting and unique right from the start. Don’t just repeat the question that the prompt asks you. Be creative! Introduce a quote or ask a question to entice the reader to pay attention. Writing a catchy introduction will set the tone for the rest of your essay.
3. Prepare good, flexible examples ahead of time
Almost all the essay prompts are very general and vague. They often ask you to agree or disagree with a statement. Don’t sit on the fence, pick a side! Figure out which side you can write a better argument for. It doesn’t matter whether or not you believe the side that you pick. It matters how well you can convey your points to the reader. Since the prompts are general, you can actually prepare ideas ahead of time. Make a list of important people, historical events, current events, or literature books that you know about. Try to choose subjects that are flexible and can viewed as both positive and negative. For instance, the value of the internet is a great subject. It can be talked about positively for all the information we get out of it or it can be viewed negatively when used in ways to hurt people. You can also write about a personal experience (even if you make something up), which is a great way to prove a point and add a personal touch. Having a pre-planned list of subjects will be an invaluable tool on the actual test.
4. Make clear connections
Now that you have come up with a bunch of potential subjects for your essay, practice connecting them to different prompts. It is important to do some research on your subjects and show that you know facts. Use important names and dates or significant events. After writing about the facts, it is just as important to say HOW they relate to the prompt. Be very clear in tying your subject back to the essay topic. Insert the same words that are stated in the prompt into your essay at the beginning and throughout each paragraph to really prove your point.
5. Organization and Neatness count
You should have 4-5 clearly defined paragraphs. You need to have 1 paragraph for the introduction and 1 paragraph for the conclusion. The body of your essay should be 2 or 3 paragraphs depending on how many subjects you decide to write about. Make sure you indent your paragraphs or leave a blank line between paragraphs to clearly show your organization. If you need to cross out a word, draw 1 straight line through the middle of the word. Even though you can’t lose points for not writing neatly, people can get slightly irritated when they have to struggle to read your essay. You don’t want to put your reader in a bad mood, so write as neatly as you can.
Grant Hanada has a Bachelor’s degree in Psychobiology from UCLA, and is currently pursuing his Masters degree in Electrical Engineering from Boston University.
Did you find these SSAT Essay tips helpful? Which tip affected you the most?
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