What Is The Grading Rubric For The SAT Essay?

When you take the SAT, the last section you will see is the optional Essay. For this part of the test, you will have 50 minutes to read a selected passage, analyze the author’s ability to make a persuasive argument, and write an essay detailing your analysis.

 

While many colleges and universities do not require applicants to take the SAT with Essay, I always recommend that students give it a shot. If you do well on this section of the SAT, you will show admissions officers that you are prepared to handle college-level writing, which can boost your chances of admission.

How do you do well on the SAT Essay?

Your essay will be scored by two graders who will give you a score between 1 and 4 in three areas: Reading, Analysis, and Writing. Their scores will be combined, and this will give you a total score out of 8 for each of these three areas.
But isn’t writing subjective? Are graders just going to award scores based on their own personal opinions of your essay?

Not exactly.

Like all of the other sections of the SAT, there are specific guidelines for grading the SAT Essay. If you take note of these guidelines and use them to prepare for this part of the SAT, you will be more likely to do well on the SAT Essay section.


Here is a breakdown of the SAT Essay rubric according to The College Board:

Reading Scoring Rubric

 

SCORE ESSAY
1
  • Demonstrates little or no comprehension of the source text.
  • Fails to show an understanding of the text’s central idea(s), and may include only details without reference to central idea(s).
  • May contain numerous errors of fact and/or interpretation with regard to the text.
  • Makes little or no use of textual evidence (quotations, paraphrases, or both), demonstrating little or no understanding of the source text.
2
  • Demonstrates some comprehension of the source text.
  • Shows an understanding of the text’s central idea(s) but not of important details.
  • May contain errors of fact and/or interpretation with regard to the text.
  • Makes limited and/or haphazard use of textual evidence (quotations, paraphrases, or both), demonstrating some understanding of the source text.
3
  • Demonstrates effective comprehension of the source text.
  • Shows an understanding of the text’s central idea(s) and important details.
  • Is free of substantive errors of fact and interpretation with regard to the text.
  • Makes appropriate use of textual evidence (quotations, paraphrases, or both), demonstrating an understanding of the source text.
4
  • Demonstrates thorough comprehension of the source text.
  • Shows an understanding of the text’s central idea(s) and of most important details and how they interrelate, demonstrating a comprehensive understanding of the text.
  • Is free of errors of fact or interpretation with regard to the text.
  • Makes skillful use of textual evidence (quotations, paraphrases, or both), demonstrating a complete understanding of the source text.

 

Analysis Scoring Rubric

 

SCORE ESSAY
1
  • Offers little or no analysis or ineffective analysis of the source text and demonstrates little or no understanding of the analytic task.
  • Identifies without explanation some aspects of the author’s use of evidence, reasoning, and/or stylistic and persuasive elements, and/or feature(s) of the student’s choosing.
  • Or numerous aspects of the response’s analysis are unwarranted based on the text.
  • Contains little or no support for claim(s) or point(s) made, or support is largely irrelevant.
  • May not focus on features of the text that are relevant to addressing the task.
  • Or the response offers no discernible analysis (e.g., is largely or exclusively summary).
2
  • Offers limited analysis of the source text and demonstrates only partial understanding of the analytical task.
  • Identifies and attempts to describe the author’s use of evidence, reasoning, and/or stylistic and persuasive elements, and/or feature(s) of the student’s own choosing, but merely asserts rather than explains their importance, or one or more aspects of the response’s analysis are unwarranted based on the text.
  • Contains little or no support for claim(s) or point(s) made.
  • May lack a clear focus on those features of the text that are most relevant to addressing the task.
3
  • Offers an effective analysis of the source text and demonstrates an understanding of the analytical task.
  • Competently evaluates the author’s use of evidence, reasoning, and/or stylistic and persuasive elements, and/or feature(s) of the student’s own choosing.
  • Contains relevant and sufficient support for claim(s) or point(s) made.
  • Focuses primarily on those features of the text that are most relevant to addressing the task.
4
  • Offers an insightful analysis of the source text and demonstrates a sophisticated understanding of the analytical task.
  • Offers a thorough, well-considered evaluation of the author’s use of evidence, reasoning, and/or stylistic and persuasive elements, and/or feature(s) of the student’s own choosing.
  • Contains relevant, sufficient, and strategically chosen support for claim(s) or point(s) made.
  • Focuses consistently on those features of the text that are most relevant to addressing the task.

Writing Scoring Rubric

 

SCORE ESSAY
1
  • Demonstrates little or no cohesion and inadequate skill in the use and control of language.
  • May lack a clear central claim or controlling idea.
  • Lacks a recognizable introduction and conclusion. The response does not have a discernible progression of ideas.
  • Lacks variety in sentence structures; sentence structures may be repetitive. The response demonstrates general and vague word choice; word choice may be poor or inaccurate. The response may lack a formal style and objective tone.
  • Shows a weak control of the conventions of standard written English and may contain numerous errors that undermine the quality of writing.
2
  • Demonstrates little or no cohesion and limited skill in the use and control of language.
  • May lack a clear central claim or controlling idea or may deviate from the claim or idea over the course of the response.
  • May include an ineffective introduction and/or conclusion. The response may demonstrate some progression of ideas within paragraphs but not throughout the response.
  • Has limited variety in sentence structures; sentence structures may be repetitive.
  • Demonstrates general or vague word choice; word choice may be repetitive. The response may deviate noticeably from a formal style and objective tone.
  • Shows a limited control of the conventions of standard written English and contains errors that detract from the quality of writing and may impede understanding.
3
  • Is mostly cohesive and demonstrates effective use and control of language.
  • Includes a central claim or implicit controlling idea.
  • Includes an effective introduction and conclusion. The response demonstrates a clear progression of ideas both within paragraphs and throughout the essay.
  • Has variety in sentence structures. The response demonstrates some precise word choice. The response maintains a formal style and objective tone.
  • Shows a good control of the conventions of standard written English and is free of significant errors that detract from the quality of writing.
4
  • Is cohesive and demonstrates a highly effective use and command of language.
  • Includes a precise central claim.
  • Includes a skillful introduction and conclusion. The response demonstrates a deliberate and highly effective progression of ideas both within paragraphs and throughout the essay.
  • Has a wide variety in sentence structures. The response demonstrates a consistent use of precise word choice. The response maintains a formal style and objective tone.
  • Shows a strong command of the conventions of standard written English and is free or virtually free of errors.

Tips for SAT Essay success

If you want to score highly on each of the categories above, there are some key factors that you need to keep in mind:

Stay true to the text

When you write, make sure that you are accurately and adequately representing the author’s ideas and quotes in your essay. If the ideas you mention are not supported by the passage or you shift the quotes you use to better fit your analysis, it will be a good sign that you didn’t fully comprehend what you read.

Think critically

When you look at the rubrics above, you will see that you need to do more than just surface-level writing that summarizes and regurgitates the author’s ideas. Make sure that you think critically and provide analysis.

Stay organized

Your readers do not want to see you jump from idea to idea with no rhyme or reason. Come up with a main claim to provide direction for your essay and show that your ideas are progressing through the use of an organized layout with an introduction, body paragraphs, and a conclusion.

Use strong vocabulary

While you definitely do not want to misuse words you do not know, it is always a good idea to try and step up your word choice and diction for your SAT Essay. Try not to repeat the same words over and over and (when appropriate) throw in an SAT vocab word from your flashcards.

Switch up your sentence structure

If your essay is entirely comprised of simple sentences, you will probably get a low score on the writing section. Switch between simple, compound, and complex sentences so that you demonstrate strong control of your writing.

 

For more tips and strategies to help you conquer the SAT Essay section, check out our SAT prep courses at Prep Expert.