Timed Writings

Tips for completing Timed Writings successfully:

  • Bring a watch or note (jot down) the time when the session begins.  This strategy will remove the concern about “how much time is left.” Pay attention to the time.
  • Spend about 3 or 4 minutes reading the prompt and planning your points.  Save 2 or 3 minutes at the end to give the essay a final “once over.”  Spend the bulk of your time on the body paragraphs.
  • Use an attention-getter in the introduction, but be sure to link it with a sentence or two to the idea of the thesis.   You want to impress the reader with your ability to be organized and coherent.
  • Your thesis will be stronger if you adopt the Although/Despite/In spite of //actually/in fact — structure.  In addition, be certain your thesis addresses the prompt and expresses a clear point of view.
  • Plan to provide at least two pieces of support for your assertion.  Using figures from history or literature, especially strong examples from credible sources, will strengthen your essay.  Writing several paragraphs about a single example is a weak approach and allows your reader to assume that you have limited critical thinking ability.
  • Until you feel proficient with five or more, opt for four paragraphs with two different examples for support.  This decision will leave you with time to conclude appropriately and proofread your essay.
  • After planning your approach, get right to the point. Avoid fluff and wordiness.
  • Avoid generalizing or pontificating about the state of man, life, the universe, and so forth.  You may be wicked intelligent, but support and evidence from history and literature will trump your “off the cuff” insights every time.  Your word does not necessarily constitute credible evidence.  Remember, the goal  is to earn a “6” if possible, so use established evidence to prove your thesis assertion.
  • Transition from paragraph to paragraph.  Transition words and phrases are the “connective tissue” of your essay and are critical to a well-organized, coherent piece of writing.
  • Remember that each paragraph must have a topic sentence about a single idea that relates to your thesis.  Each topic must be supported with evidence, and that evidence must be analyzed for how it proves your assertion.
  • Topic sentences must be arguments that relate to the thesis.

Now that you have considered the really BIG stuff, pay some attention to the following:

  • Attend to pronoun agreement
  • Do not make up words — “misfortunate” (unfortunately) makes you sound like a recent resident of the Oval Office.
  • Avoid cliches “like the plague” — you know, those cute sayings that everyone knows?  They have no place in your essay.  Don’t let silly verbiage substitute for thinking.  It will cost you points.
  • For goodness sake, PUNCTUATE TITLES PROPERLY.  By now, you have absolutely no excuses, folks.
  • Pay attention to word choice.
  • Vary sentence structure.  Take control of how you express your ideas.
  • Avoid using 2nd person, or risk singlehandedly prolonging the current global recession. One does not use 2nd person pronouns in a well-written essay, timed or otherwise.
  • Legibility matters!!!

SAT Essay scoring and rubric

Sample SAT Essays with scoring explanation from CollegeBoard

More sample SAT essays

Even though this source is SparkNotes – material best avoided – this essay information is useful.