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Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Let's talk about the SAT Writing section essay

The other day (or maybe it was today), someone asked about how we use the essay that many of you had to write for the SAT people as part of the Writing section.

First of all, back when the writing section appeared on the SAT, the process for looking up the scanned essays was tedious. Along with our normal electronic score delivery came a massive file containing PDFs of the essays written by every student in the score batch. The order of the essays wasn't evident at the time (I don't recall them being in alpha order). So, if we wanted to look at an essay, we had to scroll through pages and pages of poor quality scans, some with handwriting that looked like chicken scratch, to find the right page. That's way too elaborate a process to find an essay that was scribbled out in 30 minutes. Which brings me to my next point...

Your applications provide us with three writing samples. Hopefully, those essays have been written with care and thoughtfulness. They should be accurate examples of your very best writing skills. I would much rather read essays that you crafted over time than one you hastily dashed off with an eye on the clock and a rumble in your tummy.

As for the essays scores, there isn't enough deviation in the scores to use them all that much. The SAT essay is read by two readers who each award up to six points. Now, the three digit writing section score is of interest...just as we used to like to see the old SAT II in Writing in addition to the old, two section SAT.

In a nutshell, we're interested in the essays you provided us on your application. We aren't interested in looking up the scan of the SAT essay.

Does that help? Do you think your application essays are better indicators of your writing skills than the SAT essay?