Inserting Evidence into Your SAT Essay - dummies

Inserting Evidence into Your SAT Essay

By Geraldine Woods, Ron Woldoff

The redesigned SAT permits you to write an essay (nice of them, right?) for 50 minutes, after you’ve already bubbled in multiple-choice answers for three whole hours. If you’re going to put in that sort of effort, you should reap a large reward. To do so, you have to know how to insert evidence into your essay, because that skill rates high on the graders’ priority list. Here’s what you need to know:

  • Stay with the passage the SAT provides. Your own life experience and opinions matter in most real situations, but not for the SAT essay. All the evidence you need — and the only evidence you’re allowed to use — is in the passage.

  • The basic prompt (question) is always the same. You have to relate meaning to style. In other words, you must figure out what the author says and how the author says it.

  • Check the prompt for the main idea. It’s always present. Underline the idea and keep it in focus. Everything you say should relate to that idea.

  • Look for significant statements that form part of the author’s argument. Underline those statements. The ideas they contain may appear in your essay. If you grasp the subtler points the author is making, your reading score rises. You can restate these points in your own words, or you can work in some quotations. Quotations are better when you think the specific words the author chose may sway the reader’s opinion. For example, don’t bother quoting a general statement that dark nights are good. Instead, quote the phrase “velvet darkness” to show the comfort dark skies can provide.

  • Look at the underlined material. Check sentence structure. If the arrangement of words or ideas adds power, consider quoting. Don’t reproduce an entire paragraph. Choose a sentence that illustrates the point you’re making, and mention that the sentence pattern appears throughout the paragraph or passage.

  • If you’re analyzing figures of speech (imaginative comparisons), quote them. You can’t explain that “the stern stare of Day” turns daytime into a forbidding authority figure unless you include that quotation in your essay.

  • If the passage includes statistics, determine what those statistics prove. State the connection between the statistics and the author’s argument in your essay.

  • Don’t label evidence. If a quotation works, it works. It doesn’t become more powerful if you say that “this shows that the author sees darkness as kind.”

No matter what, be sure that you back up your ideas with evidence: specific references to the text and well-chosen quotations.