The SAT essay does not test your ability to write. There, I said it. Of all of the sections of the test, the essay, in my opinion, is the least accurate at gauging genuine academic and intellectual abilities. I’ve seen terrible writers score 11s and 12s and several outstanding writers score 8s. And this isn’t just anecdotal evidence either. Numerous studies have examined what qualities lead to high essay scores. The most important: length. Regardless of content, essays that are a full two pages score better than those that aren’t. It’s plainly obvious that the score does not reflect quality of writing, but instead adherence to arbitrary algorithm.
The essay portion of the SAT is completely daunting. Not only do you have to read a verbose prompt about a surprise topic, but you also have to plan and write a response to it all within twenty-five minutes. To top it all off, it is the first section of the SAT every time. If your confidence is shaken after the essay, you probably won’t score as well on the entire rest of the test.
Some colleges don’t look at the writing section of the SAT, but many do. And for those that do, the essay can be worth +/- 250 points in the total writing score. It is absolutely critical to ace your essay if you want to earn a high score on your SAT.
Now unfortunately I cannot take credit for developing the 10 Days to a 12 method. It is one of the few really fantastic pieces of information from College Confidential. The evidence supporting this method is anecdotal but I went from an 8 to an 11 using this method and the students I tutor for the SATs have gone from earning 4s to earning 11s. A high score, even for the weakest of writers, is absolutely in reach!