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Common SAT Essay Mistakes

While the SAT essay is no longer required, it’s great practice for college itself and can help out on the test itself.

Don’t let common SAT essay mistakes trip you up when you’re filling up the blank page with arguments and evidence.

Don’t forget to check out our various SAT prep course options to learn how we can help you today.


common sat essay mistakes

Forgetting Support Evidence

Remember that saying something isn’t enough; you have to prove it.

A major factor for success when writing the SAT Essay is including sufficient evidence to back up your arguments and central thesis. Without it, graders will see that you have a concept in mind, but you haven’t thought it through enough to be convincing.

When you make a point, make sure to:

  • Refer back to the passage itself.
  • clearly cite your evidence with specific details.

Show the grader exactly how you’ve justified your argument and where you found the information. It will show them:

  • You’ve logically processed the given information.
  • You conducted a clear analysis.

Ignoring Structure

Graders want clear, clean essays to grade.

They have thousands to get through after every test administration. To improve your score, your essay has to do the following: Easily present your argument, Cite key points, Provide supporting evidence.

Your structure then should have the suggested logical flow:

  • Clear thesis
  • 2-4 Supporting points
  • Evidence supporting each point
  • Conclusion

This will provide your writing with an easily digestible flow that graders can follow, and assess your argument quickly. Take the time when receiving the prompt to read it, figure out your argument, and find your key points.

Writing it will be much easier, and the grader will see that you’ve put thought into it rather than writing to fill space alone.


Presenting Too Many Arguments

Don’t bite off more than you can chew.

The new SAT essay format asks you to both analyze a given passage, and discuss how the author effectively argued their point. There will likely be multiple tactics used, which you can present arguments for, but that’s a trick.

It’s more important to:

  • Identify the most effective tactic(s).
  • Cite your evidence.
  • Present your argument with clear logic.

If you aren’t sure of which tactic works best at first, then find the sections that persuaded you easily and analyze why they did.

Not Practicing Beforehand

Don’t improvise on the SAT Essay.

While you won’t know what the final prompt is ahead of time, you can get your process down ahead of time. SAT prep courses often provide essay prompts from previous tests for students to practice on. You can use this material to:

  • Practice organizing your writing structure.
  • Test your argument logic.
  • Analyze written passages faster.
  • Check vocabulary and spelling mistakes.
  • Work on timing.

You should be at a point on test day where you’re ready for whatever prompt or passage is thrown your way. The methodology to write should be second nature.

Leaving Too Much Blank Space

The SAT provides space to clearly present your argument, so take advantage of it.

An SAT grader seeing more than half of a blank page where an argument should be will not be happy. Remember, there is enough space to clearly present:

  • An argument
  • Supporting evidence
  • Conclusion

Filling in space without those elements will count against you, so avoid repetition for the sake of it.

As long as you remember those points, you will write an essay that takes full advantage of the provided space and the grader will be more favorable to your effort.


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Dr. Shaan Patel MD MBA

Written by Dr. Shaan Patel MD MBA

Prep Expert Founder & CEO

Shark Tank Winner, Perfect SAT Scorer, Dermatologist, & #1 Bestselling Author
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