The Essay
Our Scores and Scoring Rationale
Please note: for the purposes of this exercise, we gave scores from 1–6, rather than the 2–12 which combines the scores of two readers on the actual SAT.
Essay A
  • Your Score ____
  • Our Score 4
This student addresses the writing task with a mostly appropriate and fairly comprehensible response. This essay shows some organization but little in the way of advance planning. The first paragraph introduces the scene of the learning experience but does not prepare the reader for any of the lessons it produced. The middle of the essay recounts just one moment, though the writer draws two lessons from it. Because the focus is on the experience itself, however, the reader has to wait until the conclusion to understand the second lesson. The thesis statement is not easy to identify.
The writer shows an adequate understanding of the conventions of written English but makes several errors. In the first sentence of the second paragraph, the word misbehaving is misspelled, and the contraction they’re is written for the possessive pronoun their. In the seventh sentence of this paragraph, a word is omitted. While these kinds of mistakes make the comprehension more difficult for the reader, they do not obscure the writer’s meaning. Although sentences are generally short and simple, the writer shows the ability to use the comma correctly.
Essay B
  • Your Score ____
  • Our Score 1
This student addresses the writing task in only the most cursory and glancing manner. The response is disorganized, with sentences following each other in a way that suggests no sense of direction. There are no specific or detailed examples and therefore there is no meaningful development.
Sentences are poorly constructed, with no sense of advance planning, making the response difficult to understand. Words are included or repeated for no apparent reason, which adds to the reader’s confusion. Simple words are misspelled, and apostrophes and other punctuation points are omitted, suggesting that the student is not familiar with the conventions of written English.
Essay C
  • Your Score ____
  • Our Score 3
This student addresses the prompt with a haphazard and confused response. This essay shows no evidence of purposeful organization. The response is clumped together into one paragraph, even though many of the sentences do not follow logically from the ones that precede them. The writer never gives a specific example of a learning experience, instead simply citing situations that could lead to the acquisition of new knowledge, skills, or acquaintances. The idea that the writer is trying to convey is clear, but there is no real development of this idea beyond the form it takes at its introduction
The writer shows familiarity with some of the conventions of written English but makes frequent errors. Commas are omitted or misplaced, and words are misspelled and sometimes omitted. These errors, together with the lack of organization, make the response difficult to follow. Sentences all have the same length and structure, and word choice is predictable.
Essay D
  • Your Score ____
  • Our Score 5
This student addresses the writing task with a clear and relevant response. The essay is organized into paragraphs but does not show as much careful planning as an essay that would receive the top score. The introduction raises the topic of self-respect but does not mention any of the other lessons set forth later in the essay. The central two paragraphs contain useful information, but there are not as many examples as you would find in a top essay. The examples in this essay are not as well developed as they could be. The conclusion recaps the points made in the body of the essay, but does not develop the thesis beyond the form it took in the introduction.
Sentences vary in length and structure but occasionally stray from the standards of written English. There is some variety of vocabulary, but also some mistakes in this area. The fifth sentence of the third paragraph begins with a dangling modifier (“Screaming in pain, with blood running down his chin, I . . .”), and ends with incorrect word usage (“should of” instead of “should have”). Also, in the first sentence of the fourth paragraph, the student writes “alot” instead of “a lot.” These mistakes are noticeable but do not significantly interfere with the reader’s understanding of the ideas contained in the essay.
Essay E
  • Your Score ____
  • Our Score 6
This student addresses the writing task with an interesting and persuasive response. The essay is well organized and thoughtfully developed with several pieces of evidence. The introduction specifies that the writer learned about Japanese and American culture, the experience of teaching, and the challenge of working in an unfamiliar environment. These three lessons provide the subject matter for the essay’s three central paragraphs. In each paragraph, detailed evidence is given to support the writer’s thesis that this experience was very educational. In the conclusion, the writer restates the thesis but also develops it with the idea that the experience has made teaching a lifelong pursuit for him or her.
Sentences vary in length and structure, which makes the essay easy to follow. The writer makes no significant errors in grammar or spelling and generally seems at ease with standard written English. Vocabulary is varied and words are well chosen for their purposes in conveying the writer’s ideas.
Essay F
  • Your Score ____
  • Our Score 2
This student attempts to address the writing task but has trouble following the assignment. This response shows no attempt at organization. There is only one paragraph, and the conclusion comes in the seventh sentence; the last two sentences seem like afterthoughts added to lengthen an insufficiently detailed response. The evidence is not entirely appropriate, since it details a fictional character’s learning experience rather than one of the writer’s own, and the writer strays completely off-topic in the fifth, sixth, eighth, and ninth sentences.
Although some sentences are constructed properly, others, such as the fourth sentence, are so poorly structured and punctuated that the writer’s meaning is almost totally obscured. Otherwise, the writer seems familiar with the conventions of written English, although there are a few apostrophes omitted here and there. Word choice is sometimes imprecise and contributes to the difficulties with comprehension encountered by the reader.
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