The Importance of Execution
Time is limited. MAKING A STRONG IMPRESSION in this limited amount of time is a key ingredient to success.
The best way to make a strong impression is to prove that you can write well.
The way you prove that you write well is through the use of proper grammar, spelling and punctuation.
No matter how brilliant your ideas are, if you do not know how to write a PROPERLY PUNCTUATED essay that USES CORRECT GRAMMAR and is ALMOST ENTIRELY FREE OF SPELLING ERRORS, you will not earn an excellent score.
And the truth is, you do not deserve one, either. These are the basic tools of the writer’s trade… KNOW THEM!!!
A student does NOT have to be perfect to earn an excellent score.
- Small mistakes such as misplaced commas will not ruin you.
- Too many simple errors will definitely hurt your score.
But Spelling, Punctuation and Grammar Count!
Simple Tools to Ensure a Higher Score
Proofread Your Work.
- It always amazes me to watch students who finishes their essay with 2 minutes to spare and fold their paper over and stare into space as if they have nothing to do.
- What they NEED to do is PROOFREAD their work!
- On timed tests when students are working quickly and efficiently, test takers often forget a word in a sentence, omit a period or question mark and misspell easy words they know how to spell. Finding even one of these small mistakes might be the last little thing you need to inch your score up a notch and move you into a higher echelon in the Test Grader’s eyes.
- PROOFREAD!!! If you have the time and you really care about earning the best score you can, there will not be a wasted moment of time on the SAT Essay writing section. Students who have the time but do not bother to check over their work are not students who traditionally perform excellently well on the test. Proofread! It matters.
- Pay attention to details.
- Make it a point to do away with sloppiness.
- If you practice NOT BEING SLOPPY during your practice essays, you will find that your performance will tend not to be sloppy as well.
- Students will NOT be marked down for their handwriting HOWEVER, without being legible, scores might suffer. (If I can’t read it, I can’t evaluate it.)
Remember, the Essay is Graded Holistically
Students get one score (on a scale from 1-6).
- Simple, proper execution can raise scores.
- A lack of simple execution can lower them.
Excellently Execute your Essay: Use Proper Grammar
I’ll say it again, these are the basic tools of the writer’s trade and this is the foundation for what your score will be based upon. KNOW THIS MATERIAL!!!
All subjects and verbs need to agree.
- Writing things like, “They is going to the store” is the same as begging for a low score.
- Basic subject/verb agreement is a fifth grade Language Arts skill strong essay writers need to have mastered.
Make sure you properly use commas where they are needed.
- One or two misplaced commas will not kill you.
- An entire essay riddled with misplaced commas will definitely hurt.
- If you are not sure how to properly use a comma, seek help.
Possessives, contractions, plurals – hey, they need apostrophes (sometimes).
- Proper apostrophe use is a fairly simple skill to know.
- Students who forget apostrophes are sending a secret signal to the Test Grader that they are really not a solid, competent writer.
- Forgotten apostrophes are usually due to sloppiness, laziness or a lack of attention to detail. REMEMBER THEM!
Parallel Sentence Structure
Smooth, clear writing has parallel sentence structure.
- Use the same grammatical form to express equal, or parallel ideas.
- Pair a noun with a noun.
- Pair a phrase with a phrase.
- Pair a clause with a clause.
- Pair an infinitive with an infinitive.
- A Pronoun by itself has no definite meaning.
- A Pronoun is only clear when the reader knows what the pronoun refers to.
- Be sure that the references you utilize pronouns for are clear.
Colons and Semicolons
In general, I recommend students AVOID USING COLONS AND SEMICOLONS.
- Students do not gain extra points for using colons and semicolons properly.
- Students can lose points for using colons and semicolons improperly.
- If there is really nothing to be gained but something to be lost, why bother getting involved in the first place?
NOTE: Many students love to try and impress the Test Graders by showing off their vast use of sophisticated punctuation when they really do not have an excellent grasp of how to use the punctuation properly.
This is NOT necessary – avoid doing it yourself. You’re only creating potential potholes on the road you’ll be travelling.
- All proper nouns must begin with a capital letter.
- All sentences must begin with a capital letter.
- Capitalization is easy – try not to shoot yourself in the foot.
Indent your paragraphs
- You will be writing 4 paragraphs.
- Indent all 4 Paragraphs.
- Again, this is very simple stuff that low scoring students do not do.
Use Proper Spelling
- If you are not sure how to spell a word, use a different word. The English language is very flexible.
- Remember, synonyms you do know how to spell are better than enriched vocabulary words you do not know how to spell.
- Test score do not rely on any one word so do not feel the need to force things.
NOTE: Do NOT use vocabulary words with which you are not familiar to impress test graders. It’s a BAD IDEA.
- Trying to impress Test Graders by using 14 letter vocabulary words that you are not sure about how to use properly is a sure sign of an amateur test taker. Remember, using words incorrectly can do more harm than good.
Use Proper Punctuation
All sentences require punctuation. Use it properly. Keep it simple.
- The period.
- It’s a silly mistake to forget these at the end of sentences.
- The question mark.
- It’s a silly mistake to forget these at the end of questions.
- The exclamation point.
- A great tool – but not if used every other sentence. Be judicial!
- Quotation marks.
- Knowing how to use them correctly impresses Test Graders.
The Rule on Slang
This is a test to see how well you use formal, written English – so use formal, written English. In general, AVOID SLANG!!!
- However, slang can be effectively used to make a point – particularly inside a line of dialogue a student might be quoting.
- For Example: If you are telling a story to make a certain point about how crime is rampant in your own neighborhood, you might make reference to the time when a guy crept up behind you, put a weapon in your lower back and said in a very menacing tone, “Dude, gimme your wallet.”
- This would be an acceptable use of slang.
- However, when writing an essay about how rampant crime is in your neighborhood, you should not write a sentence that reads, “There are a multitude of dudes who only want me to give ‘em my wallet which I ain’t gonna do.”
- This is a poor use of slang. Know the difference!
THE BASIC 4 PARAGRAPH FORMULA FOR AN EXCELLENT SAT ESSAY
Yes, this is a formula – a formula for success on the SAT. With only 25 minutes to complete a well-written essay, students need a strategy to succeed. This is it.
Achieve this and you will have done well.
Paragraph 1: Main Idea
- Includes a Thesis Statement
Paragraph 2 : Topic Sentence – Point A
- Supported by Vivid Details and/or a Personal example
Paragraph 3: Topic Sentence – Point B – Opposite/Different Perspective from Point A
- Supported by: Vivid Details and/or a Personal example
Paragraph 4: Strong Conclusion
- Connects back to the Thesis Statement
Plus, you have…
- Addressed what the question has asked you to address.
- Used a uniquely personal example from your own life to illustrate an idea.
- Used vivid language and specific sensory details.
- Made simple, strong and straightforward points.
- Shown a clear Point of View in your essay.
- Avoided B.S.
- Properly punctuated your essay.
- Used proper grammar throughout your essay.
- Done a solid job of spelling almost all words correctly.
- Capitalized and Indented.
- Tried to write legibly.
- Avoided slang.
- Proofread your work.