The last administration of the SAT II Writing was on 1/22/05. Beginning 3/12/05, parts of the SAT II Writing test will be included in the New SAT. You should be studying the New SAT book. Go there!
The directions for the essay section have two parts: The Topic, which is the essay subject given to you by the test, and the Standard Directions, which are the standard “how-to” directions for the section. The Topic is different on every test. The Standard Directions never change.
The Standard Directions
Get a firm grasp on the Standard Directions. Don’t waste time reading these directions on the day of the test. Twenty minutes is not a very long time in which to write an essay, and there is no reason to waste time reading directions that never change.
These directions bring us to the crucial issue of . . .
Heavens, but these people are concerned with handwriting. Cast your mind back to that final paragraph of the directions—handwriting is mentioned no less than three times. This compulsive obsession with handwriting may sound superficial, but have some pity for the poor essay readers, cramped in their horrible essay-reading rooms, surrounded by thousands and thousands of test booklets. When they see an essay that looks like it was written by a drugged cockatoo, they will not bother to pore over each scribble. They will read as much as they can easily decipher and slap on a grade—a grade that probably does not fairly reflect the content of the essay.
So write neatly.
And Remember, WHEN THEY USE ALL CAPITAL LETTERS . . .
They mean it. When they say, “DO NOT WRITE ON ANOTHER TOPIC. AN ESSAY ON ANOTHER TOPIC IS NOT ACCEPTABLE,” they want you to sit up and take notice. So (obvious point alert) don’t write on another topic. Also, be sure you’re writing an essay. Do not try to charm the readers by writing something unique. No short stories. No epic poems. No masques in the style of Milton. Your creativity must find its outlet within the confines of the SAT II essay format.
A Note on Length
The directions would have you believe that length matters not a whit in comparison to content. Don’t believe the directions. Length is important. You need to prove to the readers that you didn’t spend fifteen minutes picking your cuticles and writing an invitation list for your toga party, and five minutes writing two skimpy paragraphs.
So how long does the essay have to be? Four paragraphs. Five paragraphs if you have the time. You need an introductory paragraph, two or three paragraphs that use examples to prove your point (more on examples later in the chapter), and a concluding paragraph.
The essay directions will present you with a broad statement about morality or values and ask you to take a stance on the topic and back up that stance with examples. The statement will be something like “good people are those who help the weak” or “in times of war, conventional morals should no longer apply.”
You don’t get to choose between different topics. ETS gives you one topic, and that’s the one you must write on. The Topic will be presented in one of three different ways:
1. The Two-Statement Topic
2. The Single-Statement Topic
3. The Fill-in-the-Blank Topic
You should approach each of the three Topic formats in a slightly different way. However, a few basic rules apply to all three formats. We’ll talk about the basic scheme first, and then get into the more Topic-specific tips.
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