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  • 1. SAT Essay Scoring GuidelinesThis document will help you learn how to read, score, and comment on SAT essays so that you can effectivelyproctor. After reading and practicing here, you will read three sample essays, then submit your scores andcomments online. How the CollegeBoard Approaches the SAT EssayThe following is taken directly from the CollegeBoard’s instructions to students, both on the exam form and on theirwebsite.The SAT essay measures your ability to:  Develop a point of view on an issue presented in an excerpt  Support your point of view using reasoning and examples from your reading, studies, experience, or observations  Follow the conventions of standard written EnglishThe essay gives you an opportunity to show how effectively you can develop and express ideas. You should,therefore, take care to develop your point of view, present your ideas logically and clearly, and use languageprecisely.Your essay must be written on the lines provided on your answer sheet — you will receive no other paper on whichto write. You will have enough space if you write on every line, avoid wide margins, and keep your handwriting to areasonable size. Remember that people who are not familiar with your handwriting will read what you write. Try towrite or print so that what you are writing is legible to those readers.The essay is scored by experienced and trained high school and college teachers. Each essay is scored by twopeople who won’t know each other’s score. They wont know the student’s identity or school either. Each readergives the essay a score from 1 to 6 (6 is the highest score) based on the CollegeBoard’s SAT essay scoring guide;those two scores are added together for a composite of 2-12. If the two readers’ scores vary from each other bymore than a point, a third reader scores the essay.
  • 2. How Revolution Approaches the SAT EssayBased on everything you just read, you can understand that the essay might seem daunting to students. The truthis, it’s not that scary:  Students only have 25 minutes, which means they’re not expected to write a masterpiece  Each reader spends only 2-3 minutes on each essay  The reader bases his or her score on “overall impression”  There is no right or wrong answer, as long as students are clear and stick to the topicWith those points in mind, it’s essential that students learn how to deal with both the structure and the content ofthe essay, since both will lead them to a clear, logical, ordered piece of writing. Revolution Prep’s strategy teachesstudents how to prepare examples ahead of time, organize their thinking on test day, and then write.The following summarizes how Revolution Prep’s students are taught to prepare for the SAT essay.THE STRATEGYBefore you write anything, you must spend 2-3 minutes preparing. 1. Read the Assignment Question – This is the question you MUST address in your essay. If it is a yes/no question, make sure you CLEARLY take one side or the other that you will defend with SPECIFIC examples. 2. Read the Quotation – Use the quotation to help you put the question into context, but don’t worry too much about what it says. 3. Write an I-B-C – This is your brief outline. It need only make sense to you. I: Introduction – Jot down a phrase or two about how you plan to respond to the question. This is your THESIS. B: Body – This is the meat of your essay. Jot down one or two examples (from history, literature, current events, etc.) that clearly support your thesis, plus a few notes about HOW they support your thesis. C: Conclusion – A BRIEF wrap-up. Jot down a phrase that ties everything together. 4. Write Your Essay – Let your I-B-C notes be your guide. Follow traditional essay structure.Rule of Abraham LincolnThe essay topics are extremely general, so we have developed a rule that allows our students to prepare for theessay ahead of time! By knowing enough details about a few key historical or literary figures, students can answeralmost any SAT question they encounter. Abraham Lincoln embodies this rule. Example essay topics include: “Dopeople have to be highly competitive in order to succeed?” “Does adversity lead to self discovery?” “Whatmotivates people to change?” If a student knows enough about Abraham Lincoln – or Rosa Parks, Edison, Macbeth,or Galileo – he can effectively use him and his additional prepared examples to support answers to all three ofthese questions.
  • 3. Please read the following scoring guide thoroughly. It summarizes each score and its rationale, and will provide theguidelines you use as you learn to score essays for Revolution Prep’s students. A one-page quick reference guidefollows this extensive rubric.Scoring GuideScore of 6An essay in this category demonstrates clear and consistent mastery, although it may have a few minor errors. Atypical essay:  Effectively and insightfully develops a point of view on the issue and demonstrates outstanding critical thinking, using clearly appropriate examples, reasons and other evidence to support its position  Is well organized and clearly focused, demonstrating clear coherence and smooth progression of ideas  Exhibits skillful use of language, using a varied, accurate and apt vocabulary  Demonstrates meaningful variety in sentence structure  Is free of most errors in grammar, usage and mechanicsScore of 5An essay in this category demonstrates reasonably consistent mastery, although it has occasional errors or lapsesin quality. A typical essay:  Effectively develops a point of view on the issue and demonstrates strong critical thinking, generally using appropriate examples, reasons and other evidence to support its position  Is well organized and focused, demonstrating coherence and progression of ideas  Exhibits facility in the use of language, using appropriate vocabulary  Demonstrates variety in sentence structure  Is generally free of most errors in grammar, usage and mechanicsScore of 4An essay in this category demonstrates adequate mastery, although it has lapses in quality. A typical essay:  Develops a point of view on the issue and demonstrates competent critical thinking, using adequate examples, reasons and other evidence to support its position  Is generally organized and focused, demonstrating some coherence and progression of ideas  Exhibits adequate but inconsistent facility in the use of language, using generally appropriate vocabulary  Demonstrates some variety in sentence structure  Has some errors in grammar, usage and mechanics
  • 4. Score of 3An essay in this category demonstrates developing mastery, and is marked by ONE OR MORE of the followingweaknesses:  Develops a point of view on the issue, demonstrating some critical thinking, but may do so inconsistently or use inadequate examples, reasons or other evidence to support its position  Is limited in its organization or focus, or may demonstrate some lapses in coherence or progression of ideas  Displays developing facility in the use of language, but sometimes uses weak vocabulary or inappropriate word choice  Lacks variety or demonstrates problems in sentence structure  Contains an accumulation of errors in grammar, usage and mechanicsScore of 2An essay in this category demonstrates little mastery, and is flawed by ONE OR MORE of the following weaknesses:  Develops a point of view on the issue that is vague or seriously limited, and demonstrates weak critical thinking, providing inappropriate or insufficient examples, reasons or other evidence to support its position  Is poorly organized and/or focused, or demonstrates serious problems with coherence or progression of ideas  Displays very little facility in the use of language, using very limited vocabulary or incorrect word choice  Demonstrates frequent problems in sentence structure  Contains errors in grammar, usage and mechanics so serious that meaning is somewhat obscuredScore of 1An essay in this category demonstrates very little or no mastery, and is severely flawed by ONE OR MORE of thefollowing weaknesses:  Develops no viable point of view on the issue, or provides little or no evidence to support its position  Is disorganized or unfocused, resulting in a disjointed or incoherent essay  Displays fundamental errors in vocabulary  Demonstrates severe flaws in sentence structure  Contains pervasive errors in grammar, usage or mechanics that persistently interfere with meaningScore of 0Essays not written on the essay assignment will receive a score of zero
  • 5. Essay Scoring Quick Reference Guide1 2 3 4 5 6 Development of Point ofNo clear thesis or Vague/weak Thesis, but Clear thesis; Clear thesis; Clear thesis;no examples to thesis with example(s) is/are one well- two good two goodsupport thesis insufficient weak (repetitive, developed examples that examples that example don’t support example or two clearly support the View thesis) not-so-detailed support the thesis ones thesisOR OR OR AND AND ANDNo semblance of Bad structure Okay structure Good structure Good StrongI-B-C structure; (some I-B-C (most I-B-C (I-B-C); logical structure (I-B- structure (I-B-aimless babbling elements, but elements), but flow from idea C); clear flfow C); clear, jumbled) or jerky flow to idea and build from concise flow Organization unclear flow of between or idea to idea within and ideas within paragraphs between paragraphsOR OR OR BUT BUT ANDBasic vocab or Frequent Limited vocab or Okay command Some good Good, variedgrammar errors problems with sentence of grammar, vocab and vocab andfrequent enough sentence structure, or vocab, and sentence sentenceto obscure the structure or noticeable varied sentence style, but still structure; few Grammar/Styleauthor’s points grammar grammar errors structure a few errors errors
  • 6. In addition to scoring each essay from 1-6, Revolution Prep’s graders provide at least two written comments tostudents on every essay. As you grade essays, you will write these directly on the students’ work so that they canreview your comments, analyze your feedback, and strengthen their essays. Remember that your commentsshould always be…  Specific. “Good thesis!” is a nice compliment, but it might not help a student understand how to write another good thesis in the future. A better comment might be, “Your thesis takes a clear stand on the issue. I can tell exactly which side you’ll be arguing, and what evidence you’re going to use as support.”  Direct. Students will improve with feedback that clearly addresses their strengths and weaknesses without being rude or condescending. While a student’s writing might be difficult to understand, “This is weak,” won’t help that student improve. Always consider – is my comment easy to understand? Could a student act on my feedback without additional explanation? If so, you’ve written a good, direct comment.  Grammatically correct. Your comments should be written in complete sentences, and should be free from spelling and grammar errors. You are modeling good writing practices for your students.  Impactful. You will be tempted to critique every element of a student’s essay. Restrain yourself – remember that you only have a few minutes per essay, and you don’t want to overwhelm the students. Write comments about the elements of the essay that will have the most major impact on the student’s score and that will help him/her improve most effectively.
  • 7. Before you practice scoring essays on your own, you will read and review three sample essays, their scores, and therationale for each score. As you read these, consider:  What score would I give this essay and why?  What two comments would I leave for this student?The three sample essays are all responses to the following prompt:Think carefully about the issue presented in the following excerpt and the assignment below.Many persons believe that to move up the ladder of success and achievement, they must forget the past, repress it,and relinquish it. But others have just the opposite view. They see old memories as a chance to reckon with the pastand integrate past and present.Adapted from Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot, Ive Known Rivers: Lives of Loss and LiberationAssignment: Do memories hinder or help people in their effort to learn from the past and succeed in the present?Plan and write an essay in which you develop your point of view on this issue. Support your position with reasoningand examples taken from your reading, studies, experience, or observations.
  • 8. Sample Essay #1Memories can be helpful to some and hinder others. I believe that memories from different aspects of ones lifehave different consequences. One memory may be bad and it may be best forgotten about, when trying tosucceed. Though some memories may give on strength to suceed in achieving a higher status in life.When a person completes a task they have done once before, it trigers a memory and lets the reader reflect onthat particular time in life. For example, a sporting team at the local high school makes it to the statechampionships, but severly loses to their opponent, the next time they get to the state championships they maythink about the past and how they lost before, and it may hinder there feelings and they may once again lose. Thisdemonstrates how a memory can ruin a certain activity for ever. On the other hand a memory can also helpsomeone to move up the ladder of success. As an example if a person has cancer and is given treatment thendiagnosed in remission they feel like they have beat the cancer.When the patient in remission is later told that the cancer has grown back, the patient might feel that they can killthe cancer again because when looking at the past they see they have beat it once why not beat it again. Thisdemonstrates how a memory can be helpful to a person. In this case it did not help the person climb the ladder ofsuccess though it helped the to continue climbing the ladder of life to the extent that they were able to climb.Those two short examples just go to demonstrate how memories of the past can both help and hinder a person intheir path of not only success but also in the path of life.Your score: _____Your comments:1.2.
  • 9. Why this Essay Received a Score of 3This essay develops a point of view ("Memories can be helpful to some and hinder others") and shows some criticalthinking by providing examples of the positive and negative effects of memories. However, the examples arelimited in focus, featuring some lapses in coherence and progression of ideas, and are thus inadequate to supportthe position. The essay also demonstrates occasional problems in sentence structure and mechanics. To achieve ahigher score, this writer needs to use critical thinking to clarify and expand each example by adding additionalfocused reasoning and details. The writer also needs to avoid using run-on sentences (". . . when looking at the pastthey see they have beat it once why not beat it again"). The essay demonstrates developing mastery and earns a 3.
  • 10. Sample Essay #2I agree with Ms. Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot in saying that some people "see old memories as a chance to reckon withthe past and integrate past and present." Many people are so troubled by things that happened in their past thatthey are not able to focus on the present. For example, in the book Ceremony, by Leslie Marmon Silko, Tayo, themain character, can not concentrate on the present because he constantly hounds himself over things thathappened during World War II and his troubled childhood. However, past memories can help people to succeed inthe present. An historical example of people learning from the past would be the Marshall Plan. After theconclusion of World War II there were many countries around the world in need of economical assistence to helprebuild their war torn countries, and the United States would have to be the one to provide that assistence. ManyAmerican politicians thought it was foolish for the US government to spend money abroad on countries that wouldnot be able to repay the loan for a long time. However, George Marshall, a former general and later Secretary ofState under President Truman, remembered how the exact same argument of "why should we spend money onwar torn nations that really owe us reparations?" had been used after World War I towards Germany. The lack ofassistance towards Germany after World War I had caused a gigantic economic depression in Germany that hadmade the Mark (German money) virtually worthless. The German people became so desperate that they startedsupporting an extreme German nationalist named Adolf Hitler, who eventually started World War II. Marshall knewthat if the US did not help war torn Germany and, especially, Japan, we could eventually have a World War III onour hands.Your score: _____Your comments:1.2.
  • 11. Why this Essay Received a Score of 5This focused essay effectively develops its point of view and demonstrates strong critical thinking ("Many peopleare so troubled by things that happened in their past that they are not able to focus on the present. . . . However,past memories can help people to succeed in the present"). The essay uses appropriate reasoning and examplesand demonstrates coherence and progression of ideas ("Many American politicians thought it was foolish for theUS government to spend money abroad on countries that would not be able to repay the loan for a long time.However, George Marshall . . . remembered how the exact same argument . . . had been used after World War Itowards Germany"). The essay also exhibits facility in the use of language. To earn a score of 6, the writer needs toachieve clearer coherence and smoother progression of ideas by integrating the example of Ceremony moreeffectively into the overall essay, perhaps through an extended comparison of Tayos and Marshalls experiences ofWorld War II. The essay demonstrates reasonably consistent mastery and is scored a 5.
  • 12. Sample Essay #3The point of making mistakes is to learn from them. If you dont learn from what you do wrong, then makingmistakes has no silver lining, it is purely bad. I have come to believe this through personal experience and watchingothers.When climbing the "ladder of success," each step gets you closer to the top. Therefore each step is a mistake thatyou learned from, a good decision, or even a stroke of luck. How could a person climb that ladder without each andevery wooden rung to help them? I am human, therefor, far from perfect, I make mistakes all of the time and I ama better person because of that. You could almost say that the more mistakes a person makes, the stronger aperson they are, assuming of course that they learn from them.As a child I stole cookies from the cookie jar, lied to my parents (still happens every once in awhile), and playedtricks on my brothers. I, in turn, got in trouble with my parents and was punished. After that I learned that thosethings arent okay. Now I tend to make different mistakes, such as, going to places that arent safe for me, andgiving up when things get hard. Life is a huge cycle of making mistakes and learning from them. That is why peoplecan become so wise and strong in what they do, they make good out of the bad.I also see people close to me using problems and mistakes to make a good situation out of a bad one. My parents,my brothers, and my closest friends are all slowly building up the knowledge to be successful. How can a person bemore successful by forgetting what they have already learned? That doesnt push you forward it just holds a personback. Even if a person wanted to forget their past, they couldnt. Its like forgetting that if a stove is turned on andyou touch it, it will burn you.Your score: _____Your comments:1.2.
  • 13. Why this Essay Received a Score of 4This essay develops a point of view ("Life is a huge cycle of making mistakes and learning from them") withadequate reasons and examples, thus demonstrating competent critical thinking. Generally organized and focusedaround the notion that remembering past learning experiences is crucial for success, the essay is marked bycoherence and progression of ideas ("As a child I stole cookies from the cookiejar, lied to my parents . . . , andplayed tricks on my brothers. I, in turn, got in trouble with my parents and was punished. After that I learned thatthose things arent okay. Now I tend to make different mistakes"). The essay also exhibits adequate facility in theuse of language, despite some errors ("I am human, therefor, far from perfect, I make mistakes all of the time and Iam a better person because of that"). To attain a higher score, the writer needs to support and extend the essaysargument with additional focused examples of people learning, or not learning, from their experiences. The essaydemonstrates adequate mastery and is scored a 4.