The Essay
Creating a Strong Written Argument
You’ve seen several key terms in the essay prompt and assignment, as well as in the scoring rubric. Here they are: reasons, examples, appropriate evidence, organization, support, point of view, position, focus, coherence, development, flow.
These are all features of a strong written argument. A strong argument has a recognizable structure—especially for a timed essay like the SAT’s. The following chart presents this structure and relates it to these key terms that the SAT clearly emphasizes. Some of the correspondences are obvious; others aren’t. This is the structure you should follow for your SAT essay:
Essay Structure What It Means
Thesis Statement This is a one-sentence statement of your point of view. It’s the position on the issue that you’ll defend and support.
Reason I Example 1 Each reason should support your thesis statement.

Examples are evidence. Each example should appropriately support its reason.
Example 2
Example 3
Reason II Example 4
Example 5
Example 6
Reason III Example 7
Example 8
Example 9
Conclusion Recaps your thesis statement and applies your position more broadly.
Looks a lot like an outline, doesn’t it? Very perceptive of you—we’ll return to that in Essential Strategies. For now, let’s define and flesh out some terms not on the chart.
  • Organization. Your essay needs to be organized; using the essay structure above will give you this organization.
  • Focus. Note that there is a hierarchical structure to writing an essay. The thesis is supported by three reasons; each reason is supported by three examples. The conclusion restates the thesis. There is no room for wandering.
  • Coherence. In a coherent essay, all the parts relate to one another clearly and naturally. This, too, flows naturally from the essay structure described above.
  • Development. In terms of writing, development means stating a point of view and then supporting it with well-chosen reasons and evidence or examples. A good essay takes the reader by the hand and walks him or her along the path of the writer’s argument without allowing the reader to stumble.
  • Flow. Well-written essays need to go somewhere. The reasons should follow in a logical and natural way. Most writing has a beginning, a middle, and an end. Your essay should as well: that’s the primary way to determine flow.
We’ve built this argument structure into our step method, as you’ll see in Essential Strategies. Everything about it grows naturally out of the essay prompt and scoring rubric. The essay is primarily concerned with the structure of your writing. If you construct and support a clear and strong argument, you will be well on your way to a high score.
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