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SAT Essay Prep

Download FileEarning a high score on the SAT is the goal of all who take the test. Using content from NOW programs along with our supplemental practice activities, students can broaden their knowledge base and practice the organizational and writing skills necessary to score well on this portion of the exam. 

This lesson should be done multiple times in the weeks before the exam date to develop a comfort level with both developing and conveying ideas.

In addition to completing the activities in this lesson, we encourage students to access the NOW Persuasive Writing: Taking a Stand activity to practice persuasive writing skills.

See SAT Successful Scoring Tips

Learning Activity:

1.  When it comes to taking the SAT, many students are apprehensive about completing the essay section because of the broad range of topic possibilities and the time constraints of the test.  Explain to students that they will be learning about specific strategies they can use to practice these skills while interacting with programming that will also broaden their general knowledge base. 

2.  Distribute the SAT Essay Prep Guidelines handout to students. It will provide them with background information about the SAT Essay and strategies for completing the essay successfully.     

3.  Introduce students to the NOW home page at http://www.pbs.org/now/  and look briefly at the current content found in the “This Week’s Show”, “Weekly Poll”, “Recent Reports”, and “NOW on the News” features.  Point out to students that a number of these topics encourage readers to form opinions about specific current events topics.  Next, direct students to the “Topic Search” feature at http://www.pbs.org/now/topic_search/index.html and explain that this part of the site offers students the ability to access programming about a wide range of topics and use what they have learned to form opinions that could be used for practice essays.
  • Distribute the SAT Essay Practice Activities handout. Utilize the specific NOW content referenced on the handout to complete the activities.  See the annotated teacher’s version of the handout for direction on taking students through the practice activities.
  • Once students have completed their work in small groups, conduct a short class discussion about the practice activities.  Ask students to discuss items that were particularly challenging and provide students the opportunity to share their strategies for success with classmates
Performance Task:

6.  Direct students back to the NOW website at http://www.pbs.org/now/ and encourage them to use an article/program from the home page or from the “Topic Search” feature as the basis for an in-class SAT Essay practice activity.  You may alternatively pre-select programs for them. Students should do the following:
  • Read the transcript/view the video they have chosen.
  • In pairs, take ten minutes to explain to the partner what was learned from the program and the point of the program.
  • With the partner’s help, develop a thesis statement for the program chosen – a one line statement that illustrates the program’s point (i.e. “Americans should invest more in biofuels”)
NOTE:  Once students have selected a topic and read what is available at NOW they can also access additional points of view using resources such as those available at the Public Agenda website.  Their list of related searchable topics can be found at http://www.publicagenda.org/issues/issuehome.cfm.

7.  Provide students with 25 minutes of class time to construct an essay that advocates for the singular point of view inspired by the thesis statement. Allow students to keep a copy of the earlier practice activities and essay prep guidelines on their desktop to remind them of the steps necessary to complete the essay successfully.

8.  When time expires, collect essays and score them using the SAT Essay Scoring Guide.

9.  Encourage students to perform this activity multiple times before the exam. Also, encourage them to watch multiple programs the day before the exam to create an accessible knowledge base they can use for the purposes of illustrative examples. NOW programs are of an ideal size for this use, and NOW themes represent a wide range of relatable topics. The more programs seen, the more likely one or more of them will be recalled for citation in the essay.






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