Tips from an Anaheim SAT Tutor: Easy SAT Essay Tip: Vocabulary


 Though not a required section of the current SAT, the essay portion is a significant section that you can use to impress colleges and stand out by doing well.  The problem is that there isn’t much time to read and analyze the prompt, organize your thoughts and observations, and write and proofread your essay.  And since part of your grade is based on your writing skills, it can be stressful and difficult to execute a well-constructed and high-quality essay in only fifty minutes – our Anaheim SAT tutors are the most experienced in SoCal.

The solution to this problem is to practice writing many essays and mastering your process.  Every essay you write will be different, because every SAT prompt is different.  (for some advice about mastering the analysis of the prompt, click here.  However, there are a few tips that you can incorporate into your writing to help you boost your writing score every time, regardless of the prompt.

The SAT is a standardized test and is administered at a massive scale, so graders must be very objective in their evaluations of your writing.  This keeps grading consistent across various graders and various students across the country.

One of the criteria that graders are judging your essay on is your writing.  In the writing rubric, the highest score includes writing that “demonstrates a highly effective use and command of language” as well as “a consistent use of precise word choice.”  See College Board’s page on essay scores for more information.

This means that graders are looking at your vocabulary and word choice and want to see appropriate uses of more advanced words.  This also means that you should not just be tossing big words into your essay without knowing what they mean.

We can use this grading criteria to help boost our essay score in a similar way that we can think about sentence variety to boost our score (see SAT essay sentence complexity).  By researching a few choice vocabulary words and mastering them, you can more consistently find more impressive words to fit correctly into your essay.

There are many places to find good lists of vocabulary lists, but let’s look at as our source.  This list was made for when vocabulary was more specifically tested on the SAT back before 2016.  Students today don’t benefit as much from memorizing hundreds of new words, but the list still can help us find a few we want to remember for our essay.

Look through the list and find words you already know.  They shouldn’t be new words, but they also shouldn’t be words you use regularly.  Words that you wouldn’t typically say or write, but that you understand how they should be used.  These are the words that you want to incorporate into your essay because you are less likely to use them incorrectly.

Make a list of no more than around ten words and write them down.  When you do your next practice essay, have the list with you and check it to find a place to use two or three of your words.  Don’t force yourself to use the words, but chances are that if you have a list of around ten words that at least a couple will fit your prompt.

Do this a few more times until you are used to these vocabulary words.  This way, on test day, it will be second nature to include this more advanced vocabulary and hopefully boost your writing score.

Sign up for our private Anaheim SAT tutoring today.

Michael C. is currently a private math, science, and standardized test tutor with TutorNerds in Irvine and Anaheim.

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