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How to Get a Perfect 8|8|8 SAT Essay Score

Posted by Laura Staffaroni | Feb 7, 2018 12:00:00 PM

SAT Writing ,

SAT Essay

 

feature_satessayperfect8.jpg

The SAT Essay is scored separately from the rest of the SAT now, thanks to the changes that went into effect in March 2016 .

While the essay is now optional (you don’t automatically have to take it every time you take the SAT), s ome colleges still require students to submit SAT essay scores with their applications . Learning how to consistently write a perfect SAT essay will be a huge boost to your application to these schools.

In this article, we’ll discuss what it takes to get a perfect 8/8/8 on the SAT essay and what you need to do to train yourself to get this top score.

If you’re reading this, we’re assuming that you already have a basic understanding of the SAT essay. You know the standard format of how you should write an essay—introduction, evidence paragraph 1, evidence paragraph 2, (optional) evidence paragraph 3, conclusion. You know that you should state your thesis in the introduction. All of this will get you a 5/8 as long as you develop your points enough.

If you aren’t fully aware of the SAT essay building blocks, take a spin through our 15 SAT Essay tips to raise your essay score .

But how do you push your essay to the next level, from “adequate” to “outstanding?” That’s what this article is about.

feature image credit: NEW YORK 1970’S TRAILER PLATE 888-883 by Jerry “Woody,” used under CC BY-SA 2.0 /Cropped from original.

 

The Big Secret

You’ll have to practice this. The perfect SAT essay is like a puzzle that happens to be in written form—it can be mastered, but to do it well and completely every time requires practice with a lot of sample topics. You need to learn the format of an effective essay and how to fill out a complete essay within 50 minutes.

 

What an SAT Essay Score of 8 Means

If you’re already scoring a 5 or above in all three areas on practice (or real) SAT essays, you have a shot at completely nailing what the graders want, represented by a score of 8/8/8, with a little practice.

But there’s something important to remember in your question for perfection: on the SAT essay, an 8 in all categories is not always achievable. We’ve got good news and bad news for those of you who are determined to score an 8/8/8 on the SAT essay.

 

body_goodnewsbadnews.jpg Good News and Bad News by Mike Licht, used under CC BY 2.0 /Cropped from original.

 

The Bad News

Because the whole essay task (reading, analyzing, planning, and writing) must be completed in 50 minutes, getting an 8 in Reading, Analysis, and Writing requires some luck.

You have to read the article and analyze the way the author builds her/his argument, pick out the most important components to the argument, find evidence to support your interpretation, and plan out your essay before you can even start writing.

A lot depends on how quickly you can come up with a thesis and relevant support for whatever the prompt happens to be—you might find some articles easier to read and analyze the argumentative structure of than others.

You’ll need to use precise language to show mastery of English writing. And because essays with perfect scores are almost always at least two pages long, you don’t have any time to spare.

If you trip up on your execution of any of these aspects, the graders might not give your SAT essay an 8/8/8.

 

The Good News

Because the essay is so formulaic, it’s always possible to get a 6 across the board. Sometimes you might find the author’s argument to analyze harder than others, or sometimes you might find the article more difficult to get through, but you will always be able to impress them enough to get a 6/6/6.

No college worth its salt is going to base your college admissions decision on getting those last two points on an essay you had 50 minutes to write (especially when the essay is optional). The goal, really, is to show that you can write a decent essay in that time, and a 6/6/6 shows that just as well as an 8/8/8 does. But you should aim as high as you can, so keep reading to find out what it really takes to get a perfect score on the SAT essay.

 

The Difference Between a 6 and an 8

If we asked the College Board what the difference is between a 6 and an 8 SAT essay, they would direct us to the scoring rubric that shows the criteria for a 1, 2, 3, and 4 in Reading, Analysis, and Writing. (SAT essays are scored by two graders who each rate your essay on a scale of 1-4 in Reading, Analysis, and Writing; the two graders’ scores are added together to get scores out of 8 for each domain.)

Below, we’ve excerpted the criteria for a 3 and a 4 in all three domains and described the differences between the 3 and 4 score levels for Reading, Analysis, and Writing. We’ve marked the differences between the 3 and 4 criteria in bold.

 

 

Proficient:

Score of 3 (6)

Advanced:

Score of 4 (8)

Major Differences

Reading

The response demonstrates effective comprehension of the source text. The response shows an understanding of the text’s central idea(s) and important details. The response is free of substantive errors of fact and interpretation with regard to the text. The response makes appropriate use of textual evidence (quotations, paraphrases, or both), demonstrating an understanding of the source text.

The response demonstrates thorough comprehension of the source text. The response shows an understanding of the text’s central idea(s) and of most important details and how they interrelate, demonstrating a comprehensive understanding of the text. The response is free of errors of fact or interpretation with regard to the text. The response makes skillful use of textual evidence (quotations, paraphrases, or both), demonstrating a complete understanding of the source text.

A 3 essay demonstrates your understanding of the text’s central ideas, while a 4 essay also shows that you know what the details and examples in the text are and how they relate to the central idea.

Analysis

The response offers an effective analysis of the source text and demonstrates an understanding of the analytical task. The response competently evaluates the author’s use of evidence, reasoning, and/or stylistic and persuasive elements, and/or feature(s) of the student’s own choosing. The response contains relevant and sufficient support for claim(s) or point(s) made. The response focuses primarily on those features of the text that are most relevant to addressing the task.

The response offers an insightful analysis of the source text and demonstrates a sophisticated understanding of the analytical task. The response offers a thorough, well-considered evaluation of the author’s use of evidence, reasoning, and/or stylistic and persuasive elements, and/or feature(s) of the student’s own choosing. The response contains relevant, sufficient, and strategically chosen support for claim(s) or point(s) made. The response focuses consistently on those features of the text that are most relevant to addressing the task.

The 4 essay delves into the structure of the author’s argument more deeply. The writer not only states the techniques used in the text, but also thoroughly explains their impact on the reader. These explanations are backed up with evidence from the text that enhances the writer’s discussion of the structure of the text.

Writing

The response is mostly cohesive and demonstrates effective use and control of language. The response includes a central claim or implicit controlling idea. The response includes an effective introduction and conclusion. The response demonstrates a clear progression of ideas both within paragraphs and throughout the essay. The response has variety in sentence structures. The response demonstrates some precise word choice. The response maintains a formal style and objective tone. The response shows a good control of the conventions of standard written English and is free of significant errors that detract from the quality of writing.

The response is cohesive and demonstrates a highly effective use and command of language. The response includes a precise central claim. The response includes a skillful introduction and conclusion. The response demonstrates a deliberate and highly effective progression of ideas both within paragraphs and throughout the essay. The response has a wide variety in sentence structures. The response demonstrates a consistent use of precise word choice. The response maintains a formal style and objective tone. The response shows a strong command of the conventions of standard written English and is free or virtually free of errors.

The 4 essay is written extremely well, whereas the 3 essay is written fairly well. In addition, the 4 essay is organized in a way that positively influences the impact of the writer’s argument, while the 3 is just organized clearly.

 

Let’s condense the information above. A perfect 4 essay:

  • is extremely clear
  • is consistent, smooth, and easy to read
  • has few errors
  • is not repetitive in content or language
  • is sufficiently detailed (using evidence from the text) to fully support the writer’s thesis
  • demonstrates that you understand the text and the author’s claim(s)

In other words, you need to excel in every one of these aspects to get a perfect score.

 

A Sample Essay

Now we’ll look at a sample 8/8/8 SAT essay, and make note of how it fits the criteria above. The prompt (taken from The Official SAT Study Guide ) for the sample essay is as follows:

Write an essay in which you explain how Peter S. Goodman builds an argument to persuade his audience that news organizations should increase the amount of professional foreign news coverage provided to people in the United States. In your essay, analyze how Goodman uses one or more of the features listed in the box above (or features of your own choice) to strengthen the logic and persuasiveness of his argument. Be sure that your analysis focuses on the most relevant features of the passage.

The passage to which this prompt refers appears on pp. 183-185 of The Official SAT Study Guide (March 2016 & Beyond), or on slightly different pages in later editions. You’ll need the passage to follow along with the sample essay below.

Here’s the essay. Read it first, and we’ll have annotations below.

     In the article “Foreign News at a Crisis Point,” Peter S. Goodman eloquently argues the ‘point’ that news organizations should increase the amount of professional foreign news coverage provided to people in the United States. Goodman builds his argument by using facts and evidence, addressing the counterarguments, and couching it all in persuasive and compelling language.

     Goodman begins the article by bombarding the reader with facts and statistics. He states that, according to a census conducted by the American Journalism Review, the number of full-time foreign news correspondents in the United States dropped from 307 in 2003 to 234 in 2011. In addition, the AJR survey also discovered that “the space devoted to foreign news [in American papers] had shrunk by 53 percent” in the last 25 years.

     Beginning the article with all of these facts and figures has a couple of strengtheing effects on Goodman’s argument. First, by starting out with hard evidence, Goodman lays the groundwork of his own credibility. He’s not just writing an opinion piece—his opinion is backed by the truth. This will bring the readers onboard and make them more likely to trust everything else he says. Second, because Goodman presents these facts without much explaining/interpreting, the reader is forced to do the math herself. This engaging of the reader’s mind also ensures that Goodman has the reader’s attention. When the reader does the math to find a drop of 73 full-time foreign news correspondents employed by US papers in just 8 short years, she will find herself predisposed to agree with Goodman’s call for more professional foreign news reporting.

     In addition to employing facts to his argument’s advantage, Goodman also cunningly discusses the counterargument to his position. By writing about how social media and man-on-the-ground reporting has had some positive impact on the state of foreign news reporting, Goodman heads off naysayers at the pass. It would have been very easy for Goodman to elide over the whole issue of citizen reporting, but the resultant one-sided argument would have been much less convincing. Instead, Goodman acknowledges things like “the force of social media during the Arab Spring, as activists convened and reacted to changing circumstances.” As a result, when he partially refutes this counterargument, stating the “unease” many longtime profession correspondents feel over the trend of ‘citizen journalism’ feel, the reader is much more likely to believe him. After all, Goodman acknowledges that social media does have some power. Knowing that Goodman takes the power of social media seriously will make the reader more inclined, in turn, to take Goodman’s concern about the limits of social media seriously.

     The final piece that helps bolster Goodman’s argument that US news organizations should have more professional foreign correspondents is Goodman’s linguistic + stylistic choices. Goodman uses contrasts to draw the reader deeper into his mindset. By setting up the contrast between professional reporters as “informational filters” that discriminate good from bad and amateur, man-on-the-spot reporters as undiscriminating “funnels,” Goodman forces the reader to view the two in opposition and admit that professional filters are to be preferred over funnels that add “speculatio, propaganda, and other white noise” to their reporting. In addition, Goodman drives the reader along toward agreeing with his conclusion in the penultimate paragraph of the article with the repetition of the phrase “We need.” With every repetition, Goodman hammers even further home the inescapable rightness of his argument. The use of “We” more generally through the article serves to make the readers feel sympathetic towards Goodman and identify with him.

     By employing the rhetorical techniques of presenting facts, acknowledging the other side, and using persuasive language, Goodman convinces the reader of his claim.

 

Here are our notes on what stands out in this essay (general comments are in purple, spelling/grammar errors are highlighted in yellow):

 

body_satessayannotated_1.png
body_satessayannotated_2.png
body_SATessayannotated_3-1.png

 

Note that not every 8/8/8 essay needs to have exactly the same items in here, nor do you need to argue in exactly the same way. But the elements in this essay make it a standout and demonstrate clear mastery.

And now for the million-dollar question:

 

What Makes This SAT Essay an 8 Rather Than a 6?

Maybe you get the theory behind what makes an essay an 8/8/8, but how can you tell the difference between a 6 and an 8 in practice? Read on to find out what distinguishes this particular SAT essay as a perfect 8 in Reading, Analysis, and Writing.

 

Precise Language

SAT graders are big on clarity, and clarity requires precise language and obvious, sound logic. In this essay, vivid language is used effectively and appropriately:

  • Goodman is described as bombarding the reader with facts and figures
  • The writer describes Goodman as arguing his point using not just language but persuasive and compelling language:
  • The effect of Goodman’s argument is not just that it convinces the reader, but that “the reader…will find herself predisposed to agree with Goodman’s call for more professional foreign news reporting.

All of this clear and precise language helps support and explain the author’s point (just as Goodman’s language supports his point in the text!).

 

Effective Analysis and Organization

The writer’s clarity extends to her logic as well. Sufficient background is given to make it clear the writer read and understood the text. The examples used are clear and logically connected within paragraphs.

The writer also makes sure to identify the what/why/what of the author’s argumentative devices:

  • What are the techniques the author used to persuade the reader of his claim?
  • Why did the author use them?
  • What effect does their use have on the reader?

The organization of the essay follows the organization set out in the introduction: the writer first discusses facts and evidence, then the presentation and refutation of a counterargument, then compelling language. Organization in the essay is aided by transitions between all paragraphs, which create a smooth, consistent argument that is easy to follow.

 

Consistency Throughout

The clarity of the argument and the lack of errors remain consistent from start to finish. The highlighted errors are few and do not detract or distract from the meaning of the essay. The wording of the thesis statement in the introduction and the conclusion is similar but not identical, and the description of how Goodman builds his argument is the same.

 

body_building-1.jpg Dos piezas by Raúl Hernández González, used under CC BY 2.0 /Cropped from original.

 

Variety

The author uses a variety of words (marked in blue) and sentence structures to convey similar ideas in different ways throughout the essay. For instance, social media, man-on-the-ground (or man-on-the-spot) reporting, citizen journalism, and amateur reporting are all different words and phrases used to describe the same phenomenon of non-professional foreign news correspondents.

In paragraph 4, there’s also a good example of a skillfully executed variation in sentence structure. “Knowing that Goodman takes the power of social media seriously will make the reader more inclined…” could easily be the simpler “Goodman takes the power of social media seriously, which makes the reader more likely to agree…” This kind of linguistic “flourish” can be found in most top-scoring SAT Essays.

Note that all of the varied usage described above is effective as well as varied. SAT vocab words and differening sentence structures aren’t thrown into the essay haphazardly—it’s clear, effective writing like what you might read in the New York Times.

 

Detailed Support and Length

The essay is long enough to detail three complex examples (discussing Goodman’s use of facts and evidence, a counterargument, and vivid language) and include introductory and concluding paragraphs.

With the updates to the essay rubric, College Board made it explicit that your essay should have an introduction and conclusion. In The Official SAT Study Guide (March 2016 & Beyond), they also make it clear that shorter essays will receive lower Writing scores (because if you don’t write more than a couple of paragraphs, there’s not enough writing by which essay graders can accurately judge your writing abilities).

But length means nothing if there isn’t valuable information filling the space, so long SAT essays also need to be detailed—this author uses the space to give lots of context for her examples.

 

Dos and Don’ts for an 8/8/8 SAT Essay

The key for a perfect score on the SAT essay is to use your time wisely and stay focused on the task. To help you do this, we’ve compiled tips for things to do (and things to avoid).

 

Do spend time:

  • Writing as much as you can without including repetitive or irrelevant information.
  • Revising the first and last paragraphs (they stand out in readers’ minds).
  • Making sure you have effective transitions for a seamless essay.
  • Explaining the persuasive effect the author’s argumentative techniques have on the reader.

 

Don’t spend time:

  • Thinking of “smart-sounding” evidence—analysis of how the author used a personal anecdote is just as viable as a discussion of the author’s use of logos and other rhetorical strategies.
  • Trying to correct every single error—the grammar and the spelling do not have to be perfect to score an 8 in Writing. This doesn’t mean that you should just leave sentence fragments all over the place, but it does mean that accidentally leaving off the last letter of a word or making a small subject/verb agreement error won’t be the end of the world (or of your perfect SAT essay score). Spend the extra time trying to write more and develop your points.
  • Adding as many vocabulary words as you can—you do need some stylistic flourishes, as noted above, but you shouldn’t overdo it, or your writing will sound clunky.

 

How to Train to Improve Your SAT Essay Score

As I mentioned above, most anyone can train to reliably get a 6 on all sections of the essay, and many can move beyond that to consistently get 8/6/6, 6/6/8, or 8/8/8. Here’s a framework for how to do this:

  • Read through our complete list of SAT essay prompts .
  • Memorize a list of persuasive techniques that you can find in most essay prompt articles.
  • Start by practicing with extended time (80 minutes) so you can feel what it takes to get a top-scoring essay. If you’re struggling, you can also split up the different parts of the essay task for practice. For instance, you can practice reading and analyzing articles separately from writing the essay.
  • Find a way to grade your essay . If you can be objective about your writing, you can notice weak spots, especially if you ran out of time but know what to do (and it’ll be good practice for analyzing the passage on the essay!). Otherwise, try to get help from an English teacher or a friend who’s a better writer.
  • Start narrowing your essay time down to 50 minutes to mirror the actual test.

 

What’s Next?

Ready to get started with practice essays? Check out our thorough analysis of the SAT essay prompt and our complete list of prompts to practice with .

Use our 15 tips to improve your SAT essay score .

Follow along as I take you through how to write a top-scoring SAT essay, step by step .

Took the old SAT essay and want to know what’s changed? Read our complete guide to the March 2016 SAT essay here .

Looking for a great way to prep? Check out PrepScholar’s online prep program. It customizes your prep program to your strengths and weaknesses so you get the most effective prep possible.

Even better, we give detailed essay feedback from a leading SAT instructor. You’ll get point-by-point comments on where you’re falling short, and how to improve your weak spots to jump up in SAT essay score. Click below to sign up for our 5-day free trial.

Improve Your SAT Score by 160+ Points, Guaranteed

 

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Laura Staffaroni

About the Author

Laura graduated magna cum laude from Wellesley College with a BA in Music and Psychology, and earned a Master’s degree in Composition from the Longy School of Music of Bard College. She scored 99 percentile scores on the SAT and GRE and loves advising students on how to excel in high school.

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    Essay

    From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    Jump to navigation
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    This article needs additional citations for verification . Please help improve this article by adding citations to reliable sources . Unsourced material may be challenged and removed. (October 2017) ( Learn how and when to remove this template message )

    For other uses, see Essay (disambiguation) .
    For a description of essays as used by Wikipedia editors, see Wikipedia:Essays .
    “Essai” redirects here. For other uses, see Essai (disambiguation) .

    Essays of Michel de Montaigne

    An essay is, generally, a piece of writing that gives the author’s own argument — but the definition is vague, overlapping with those of a paper , an article , a pamphlet , and a short story . Essays have traditionally been sub-classified as formal and informal. Formal essays are characterized by “serious purpose, dignity, logical organization, length,” whereas the informal essay is characterized by “the personal element (self-revelation, individual tastes and experiences, confidential manner), humor, graceful style, rambling structure, unconventionality or novelty of theme,” etc. [1]

    Essays are commonly used as literary criticism , political manifestos , learned arguments , observations of daily life, recollections, and reflections of the author. Almost all modern essays are written in prose , but works in verse have been dubbed essays (e.g., Alexander Pope ‘s An Essay on Criticism and An Essay on Man ). While brevity usually defines an essay, voluminous works like John Locke ‘s An Essay Concerning Human Understanding and Thomas Malthus ‘s An Essay on the Principle of Population are counterexamples.

    In some countries (e.g., the United States and Canada), essays have become a major part of formal education . Secondary students are taught structured essay formats to improve their writing skills; admission essays are often used by universities in selecting applicants, and in the humanities and social sciences essays are often used as a way of assessing the performance of students during final exams.

    The concept of an “essay” has been extended to other media beyond writing. A film essay is a movie that often incorporates documentary filmmaking styles and focuses more on the evolution of a theme or idea. A photographic essay covers a topic with a linked series of photographs that may have accompanying text or captions .

    Contents

    • 1 Definitions
    • 2 History
      • 2.1 Europe
      • 2.2 Japan
    • 3 Forms and styles
      • 3.1 Cause and effect
      • 3.2 Classification and division
      • 3.3 Compare and contrast
      • 3.4 Descriptive
      • 3.5 Dialectic
      • 3.6 Exemplification
      • 3.7 Familiar
      • 3.8 History (thesis)
      • 3.9 Narrative
      • 3.10 Argumentative
      • 3.11 Economic
      • 3.12 Reflective
      • 3.13 Other logical structures
    • 4 Academic
    • 5 Magazine or newspaper
    • 6 Employment
    • 7 Non-literary types
      • 7.1 Film
      • 7.2 Music
      • 7.3 Photography
      • 7.4 Visual arts
    • 8 See also
    • 9 References
    • 10 Further reading
    • 11 External links

    Definitions

    John Locke ‘s 1690 An Essay Concerning Human Understanding .

    An essay has been defined in a variety of ways. One definition is a “prose composition with a focused subject of discussion” or a “long, systematic discourse”. [2]
    It is difficult to define the genre into which essays fall. Aldous Huxley , a leading essayist, gives guidance on the subject. [3] He notes that “the essay is a literary device for saying almost everything about almost anything”, and adds that “by tradition, almost by definition, the essay is a short piece”. Furthermore, Huxley argues that “essays belong to a literary species whose extreme variability can be studied most effectively within a three-poled frame of reference”.
    These three poles (or worlds in which the essay may exist) are:

    • The personal and the autobiographical: The essayists that feel most comfortable in this pole “write fragments of reflective autobiography and look at the world through the keyhole of anecdote and description”.
    • The objective, the factual, and the concrete particular: The essayists that write from this pole “do not speak directly of themselves, but turn their attention outward to some literary or scientific or political theme. Their art consists of setting forth, passing judgment upon, and drawing general conclusions from the relevant data”.
    • The abstract-universal: In this pole “we find those essayists who do their work in the world of high abstractions”, who are never personal and who seldom mention the particular facts of experience.

    Huxley adds that the most satisfying essays “…make the best not of one, not of two, but of all the three worlds in which it is possible for the essay to exist.”

    The word essay derives from the French infinitive essayer, “to try” or “to attempt”. In English essay first meant “a trial” or “an attempt”, and this is still an alternative meaning. The Frenchman Michel de Montaigne (1533–1592) was the first author to describe his work as essays; he used the term to characterize these as “attempts” to put his thoughts into writing, and his essays grew out of his commonplacing . [4] Inspired in particular by the works of Plutarch , a translation of whose Œuvres Morales (Moral works) into French had just been published by Jacques Amyot , Montaigne began to compose his essays in 1572; the first edition, entitled Essais , was published in two volumes in 1580. For the rest of his life, he continued revising previously published essays and composing new ones. Francis Bacon ‘s essays , published in book form in 1597, 1612, and 1625, were the first works in English that described themselves as essays. Ben Jonson first used the word essayist in English in 1609, according to the Oxford English Dictionary .

    History

    Globe icon.
    The examples and perspective in this article may not represent a worldwide view of the subject. You may improve this article , discuss the issue on the talk page , or create a new article , as appropriate. (January 2011) ( Learn how and when to remove this template message )

    Europe

    English essayists included Robert Burton (1577–1641) and Sir Thomas Browne (1605–1682). In France, Michel de Montaigne ‘s three volume Essais in the mid 1500s contain over 100 examples widely regarded as the predecessor of the modern essay. In Italy, Baldassare Castiglione wrote about courtly manners in his essay Il Cortigiano. In the 17th century, the Jesuit Baltasar Gracián wrote about the theme of wisdom. [5] During the Age of Enlightenment , essays were a favored tool of polemicists who aimed at convincing readers of their position; they also featured heavily in the rise of periodical literature , as seen in the works of Joseph Addison , Richard Steele and Samuel Johnson . In the 18th and 19th centuries, Edmund Burke and Samuel Taylor Coleridge wrote essays for the general public. The early 19th century, in particular, saw a proliferation of great essayists in English – William Hazlitt , Charles Lamb , Leigh Hunt and Thomas de Quincey all penned numerous essays on diverse subjects. In the 20th century, a number of essayists tried to explain the new movements in art and culture by using essays (e.g., T.S. Eliot ). Whereas some essayists used essays for strident political themes, Robert Louis Stevenson and Willa Cather wrote lighter essays. Virginia Woolf , Edmund Wilson , and Charles du Bos wrote literary criticism essays. [5]

    Japan

    Main article: Zuihitsu

    As with the novel , essays existed in Japan several centuries before they developed in Europe with a genre of essays known as zuihitsu — loosely connected essays and fragmented ideas. Zuihitsu have existed since almost the beginnings of Japanese literature. Many of the most noted early works of Japanese literature are in this genre. Notable examples include The Pillow Book (c. 1000), by court lady Sei Shōnagon , and Tsurezuregusa (1330), by particularly renowned Japanese Buddhist monk Yoshida Kenkō . Kenkō described his short writings similarly to Montaigne, referring to them as “nonsensical thoughts” written in “idle hours”. Another noteworthy difference from Europe is that women have traditionally written in Japan, though the more formal, Chinese-influenced writings of male writers were more prized at the time.

    Forms and styles

    This section describes the different forms and styles of essay writing. These forms and styles are used by an array of authors, including university students and professional essayists .

    Cause and effect

    The defining features of a “cause and effect” essay are causal chains that connect from a cause to an effect, careful language, and chronological or emphatic order. A writer using this rhetorical method must consider the subject , determine the purpose , consider the audience , think critically about different causes or consequences, consider a thesis statement, arrange the parts, consider the language , and decide on a conclusion. [6]

    Classification and division

    Classification is the categorization of objects into a larger whole while division is the breaking of a larger whole into smaller parts. [7]

    Compare and contrast

    Compare and contrast essays are characterized by a basis for comparison, points of comparison, and analogies. It is grouped by the object (chunking) or by point (sequential). The comparison highlights the similarities between two or more similar objects while contrasting highlights the differences between two or more objects. When writing a compare/contrast essay, writers need to determine their purpose, consider their audience, consider the basis and points of comparison, consider their thesis statement, arrange and develop the comparison, and reach a conclusion. Compare and contrast is arranged emphatically. [8]

    Descriptive

    Descriptive writing is characterized by sensory details, which appeal to the physical senses, and details that appeal to a reader’s emotional, physical, or intellectual sensibilities. Determining the purpose, considering the audience, creating a dominant impression, using descriptive language, and organizing the description are the rhetorical choices to consider when using a description. A description is usually arranged spatially but can also be chronological or emphatic. The focus of a description is the scene. Description uses tools such as denotative language, connotative language, figurative language , metaphor , and simile to arrive at a dominant impression. [9] One university essay guide states that “descriptive writing says what happened or what another author has discussed; it provides an account of the topic”. [10]
    Lyric essays are an important form of descriptive essays.

    Dialectic

    In the dialectic form of the essay, which is commonly used in philosophy , the writer makes a thesis and argument, then objects to their own argument (with a counterargument), but then counters the counterargument with a final and novel argument. This form benefits from presenting a broader perspective while countering a possible flaw that some may present. This type is sometimes called an ethics paper. [11]

    Exemplification

    An exemplification essay is characterized by a generalization and relevant, representative, and believable examples including anecdotes . Writers need to consider their subject, determine their purpose, consider their audience, decide on specific examples, and arrange all the parts together when writing an exemplification essay. [12]

    Malthus’ Essay on the Principle of Population

    Familiar

    An essayist writes a familiar essay if speaking to a single reader, writing about both themselves, and about particular subjects. Anne Fadiman notes that “the genre’s heyday was the early nineteenth century,” and that its greatest exponent was Charles Lamb . [13] She also suggests that while critical essays have more brain than the heart, and personal essays have more heart than brain, familiar essays have equal measures of both. [14]

    History (thesis)

    A history essay sometimes referred to as a thesis essay describes an argument or claim about one or more historical events and supports that claim with evidence, arguments, and references. The text makes it clear to the reader why the argument or claim is as such. [15]

    Narrative

    A narrative uses tools such as flashbacks , flash-forwards , and transitions that often build to a climax. The focus of a narrative is the plot . When creating a narrative, authors must determine their purpose, consider their audience, establish their point of view, use dialogue, and organize the narrative. A narrative is usually arranged chronologically. [16]

    Argumentative

    An argumentative essay is a critical piece of writing, aimed at presenting objective analysis of the subject matter, narrowed down to a single topic. The main idea of all the criticism is to provide an opinion either of positive or negative implication. As such, a critical essay requires research and analysis, strong internal logic and sharp structure. Its structure normally builds around introduction with a topic’s relevance and a thesis statement , body paragraphs with arguments linking back to the main thesis, and conclusion. In addition, an argumentative essay may include a refutation section where conflicting ideas are acknowledged, described, and criticized. Each argument of argumentative essay should be supported with sufficient evidence, relevant to the point.

    Economic

    An economic essay can start with a thesis, or it can start with a theme. It can take a narrative course and a descriptive course. It can even become an argumentative essay if the author feels the need. After the introduction, the author has to do his/her best to expose the economic matter at hand, to analyze it, evaluate it, and draw a conclusion. If the essay takes more of a narrative form then the author has to expose each aspect of the economic puzzle in a way that makes it clear and understandable for the reader

    Reflective

    A reflective essay is an analytical piece of writing in which the writer describes a real or imaginary scene, event, interaction, passing thought, memory, or form — adding a personal reflection on the meaning of the topic in the author’s life. Thus, the focus is not merely descriptive. The writer doesn’t just describe the situation, but revisits the scene with more detail and emotion to examine what went well, or reveal a need for additional learning — and may relate what transpired to the rest of the author’s life.

    Other logical structures

    The logical progression and organizational structure of an essay can take many forms. Understanding how the movement of thought is managed through an essay has a profound impact on its overall cogency and ability to impress. A number of alternative logical structures for essays have been visualized as diagrams, making them easy to implement or adapt in the construction of an argument. [17]

    Academic

    University students , like these students doing research at a university library, are often assigned essays as a way to get them to analyze what they have read.

    Main article: Free response

    In countries like the United States and the United Kingdom , essays have become a major part of a formal education in the form of free response questions. Secondary students in these countries are taught structured essay formats to improve their writing skills, and essays are often used by universities in these countries in selecting applicants (see admissions essay ). In both secondary and tertiary education, essays are used to judge the mastery and comprehension of the material. Students are asked to explain, comment on, or assess a topic of study in the form of an essay. In some courses, university students must complete one or more essays over several weeks or months. In addition, in fields such as the humanities and social sciences,[ citation needed ] mid-term and end of term examinations often require students to write a short essay in two or three hours.

    In these countries, so-called academic essays also called papers, are usually more formal than literary ones.[ citation needed ] They may still allow the presentation of the writer’s own views, but this is done in a logical and factual manner, with the use of the first person often discouraged. Longer academic essays (often with a word limit of between 2,000 and 5,000 words)[ citation needed ] are often more discursive. They sometimes begin with a short summary analysis of what has previously been written on a topic, which is often called a literature review .[ citation needed ]

    Longer essays may also contain an introductory page that defines words and phrases of the essay’s topic. Most academic institutions require that all substantial facts, quotations, and other supporting material in an essay be referenced in a bibliography or works cited page at the end of the text. This scholarly convention helps others (whether teachers or fellow scholars) to understand the basis of facts and quotations the author uses to support the essay’s argument and helps readers evaluate to what extent the argument is supported by evidence, and to evaluate the quality of that evidence. The academic essay tests the student’s ability to present their thoughts in an organized way and is designed to test their intellectual capabilities.

    One of the challenges facing universities is that in some cases, students may submit essays purchased from an essay mill (or “paper mill”) as their own work. An “essay mill” is a ghostwriting service that sells pre-written essays to university and college students. Since plagiarism is a form of academic dishonesty or academic fraud , universities and colleges may investigate papers they suspect are from an essay mill by using plagiarism detection software, which compares essays against a database of known mill essays and by orally testing students on the contents of their papers. [18]

    Magazine or newspaper

    Main article: Long-form journalism

    Essays often appear in magazines, especially magazines with an intellectual bent, such as The Atlantic and Harpers . Magazine and newspaper essays use many of the essay types described in the section on forms and styles (e.g., descriptive essays, narrative essays, etc.). Some newspapers also print essays in the op-ed section.

    An 1895 cover of Harpers , a US magazine that prints a number of essays per issue.

    Employment

    Employment essays detailing experience in a certain occupational field are required when applying for some jobs, especially government jobs in the United States. Essays known as Knowledge Skills and Executive Core Qualifications are required when applying to certain US federal government positions.

    A KSA, or “Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities,” is a series of narrative statements that are required when applying to Federal government job openings in the United States. KSAs are used along with resumes to determine who the best applicants are when several candidates qualify for a job. The knowledge, skills, and abilities necessary for the successful performance of a position are contained on each job vacancy announcement. KSAs are brief and focused essays about one’s career and educational background that presumably qualify one to perform the duties of the position being applied for.

    An Executive Core Qualification, or ECQ, is a narrative statement that is required when applying to Senior Executive Service positions within the US Federal government. Like the KSAs, ECQs are used along with resumes to determine who the best applicants are when several candidates qualify for a job. The Office of Personnel Management has established five executive core qualifications that all applicants seeking to enter the Senior Executive Service must demonstrate.

    Non-literary types

    Film

    A film essay (or “cinematic essay”) consists of the evolution of a theme or an idea rather than a plot per se, or the film literally being a cinematic accompaniment to a narrator reading an essay.[ citation needed ] From another perspective, an essay film could be defined as a documentary film visual basis combined with a form of commentary that contains elements of self-portrait (rather than autobiography), where the signature (rather than the life story) of the filmmaker is apparent. The cinematic essay often blends documentary , fiction , and experimental film making using tones and editing styles. [19]

    The genre is not well-defined but might include propaganda works of early Soviet parliamentarians like Dziga Vertov , present-day filmmakers including Chris Marker , [20] Michael Moore ( Roger & Me (1989), Bowling for Columbine (2002) and Fahrenheit 9/11 (2004)), Errol Morris ( The Thin Blue Line (1988)), Morgan Spurlock ( Supersize Me: A Film of Epic Portions ) and Agnès Varda . Jean-Luc Godard describes his recent work as “film-essays”. [21] Two filmmakers whose work was the antecedent to the cinematic essay include Georges Méliès and Bertolt Brecht . Méliès made a short film ( The Coronation of Edward VII (1902)) about the 1902 coronation of King Edward VII , which mixes actual footage with shots of a recreation of the event. Brecht was a playwright who experimented with film and incorporated film projections into some of his plays. [19] Orson Welles made an essay film in his own pioneering style, released in 1974, called F for Fake , which dealt specifically with art forger Elmyr de Hory and with the themes of deception, “fakery,” and authenticity in general. These are often published online on video hosting services . [22] [23]

    David Winks Gray’s article “The essay film in action” states that the “essay film became an identifiable form of filmmaking in the 1950s and ’60s”. He states that since that time, essay films have tended to be “on the margins” of the filmmaking the world. Essay films have a “peculiar searching, questioning tone … between documentary and fiction” but without “fitting comfortably” into either genre. Gray notes that just like written essays, essay films “tend to marry the personal voice of a guiding narrator (often the director) with a wide swath of other voices”. [24] The University of Wisconsin Cinematheque website echoes some of Gray’s comments; it calls a film essay an “intimate and allusive” genre that “catches filmmakers in a pensive mood, ruminating on the margins between fiction and documentary” in a manner that is “refreshingly inventive, playful, and idiosyncratic”. [25]

    Music

    In the realm of music , composer Samuel Barber wrote a set of “Essays for Orchestra,” relying on the form and content of the music to guide the listener’s ear, rather than any extra-musical plot or story .

    Photography

    “After School Play Interrupted by the Catch and Release of a Stingray” is a simple time-sequence photo essay .

    A photographic essay strives to cover a topic with a linked series of photographs . Photo essays range from purely photographic works to photographs with captions or small notes to full-text essays with a few or many accompanying photographs. Photo essays can be sequential in nature, intended to be viewed in a particular order — or they may consist of non-ordered photographs viewed all at once or in an order that the viewer chooses. All photo essays are collections of photographs, but not all collections of photographs are photo essays. Photo essays often address a certain issue or attempt to capture the character of places and events.

    Visual arts

    In the visual arts , an essay is a preliminary drawing or sketch that forms a basis for a final painting or sculpture, made as a test of the work’s composition (this meaning of the term, like several of those following, comes from the word essayJA’s meaning of “attempt” or “trial”).

    See also

    • Abstract (summary)
    • Admissions essay
    • Body (writing)
    • Book report
    • Thesis
    • Essay thesis
    • Five paragraph essay
    • Introduction
    • List of essayists
    • Plagiarism
    • SAT Essay
    • Schaffer paragraph
    • Treatise
    • Writing

    References

    1. ^ Holman, William (2003). A Handbook to Literature (9 ed.). New Jersey: Prentice Hall. p. 193. 
    2. ^ Gale – Free Resources – Glossary – DE Archived 2010-04-25 at the Wayback Machine .. Gale.cengage.com. Retrieved March 23, 2011.
    3. ^ Aldous Huxley, Collected Essays, “Preface”.
    4. ^ “Book Use Book Theory: 1500–1700: Commonplace Thinking” . Lib.uchicago.edu. Archived from the original on 2013-08-01. Retrieved 2013-08-10. 
    5. ^ a b essay (literature) – Britannica Online Encyclopedia Archived 2009-12-04 at the Wayback Machine .. Britannica.com. Retrieved March 22, 2011.
    6. ^ Chapter 7: Cause and Effect in Glenn, Cheryl. Making Sense: A Real-World Rhetorical Reader. Ed. Denise B. Wydra, et al. Second ed. Boston, MA: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2005.
    7. ^ Chapter 5: Classification and Division in Glenn, Cheryl. Making Sense: A Real-World Rhetorical Reader. Ed. Denise B. Wydra, et al. Second ed. Boston, MA: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2005.
    8. ^ Chapter 6: Comparison and Contrast in Glenn, Cheryl. Making Sense: A Real-World Rhetorical Reader. Ed. Denise B. Wydra, et al. Second ed. Boston, MA: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2005.
    9. ^ Chapter 2: Description in Glenn, Cheryl. Making Sense: A Real-World Rhetorical Reader. Ed. Denise B. Wydra, et al. Second ed. Boston, MA: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2005.
    10. ^ Section 2.1 of the Simon Fraser University CNS Essay Handbook. Available online at: sfu.ca
    11. ^ “How to Write an Ethics Paper (with Pictures) – wikiHow” . Archived from the original on 2016-08-28. Retrieved 2016-07-01. 
    12. ^ Chapter 4: Exemplification in Glenn, Cheryl. Making Sense: A Real-World Rhetorical Reader. Ed. Denise B. Wydra, et al. Second ed. Boston, MA: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2005.
    13. ^ Fadiman, Anne . At Large and At Small: Familiar Essays. p. x. 
    14. ^ Fadiman, At Large and At Small, xi.
    15. ^ History Essay Format & Thesis Statement, (February 2010)
    16. ^ Chapter 3 Narration in Glenn, Cheryl. Making Sense: A Real-World Rhetorical Reader. Ed. Denise B. Wydra, et al. Second ed. Boston, MA: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2005.
    17. ^ Mission Possible’ by Dr. Mario Petrucci” (PDF). Archived from the original on 2014-10-26. Retrieved 2014-10-25. 
    18. ^ Khomami, Nadia (20 February 2017). “Plan to crack down on websites selling essays to students announced” . The Guardian. Archived from the original on 27 April 2017. 
    19. ^ a b Cinematic Essay Film Genre Archived 2007-08-08 at the Wayback Machine .. chicagomediaworks.com. Retrieved March 22, 2011.
    20. ^ ( registration required ) Lim, Dennis (July 31, 2012). “Chris Marker, 91, Pioneer of the Essay Film” Archived 2012-08-03 at the Wayback Machine .. The New York Times . Retrieved July 31, 2012.
    21. ^ Discussion of film essays Archived 2007-08-08 at the Wayback Machine .. Chicago Media Works.
    22. ^ Kaye, Jeremy (2016-01-17). “5 filmmakers that have mastered the art of the Video Essay” . Medium. Archived from the original on 2017-08-30. Retrieved 2017-07-05. 
    23. ^ Liptak, Andrew (2016-08-01). “This filmmaker deep-dives into what makes your favorite cartoons tick” . The Verge. Archived from the original on 2017-08-30. Retrieved 2017-07-05. 
    24. ^ Gray, David Winks (January 30, 2009). “The essay film in action” . San Francisco Film Society . Archived from the original on March 15, 2009. 
    25. ^ “Talking Pictures: The Art of the Essay Film” . Cinema.wisc.edu. Retrieved March 22, 2011.

    Further reading

    • Theodor W. Adorno , “The Essay as Form” in: Theodor W. Adorno, The Adorno Reader, Blackwell Publishers 2000.
    • Beaujour, Michel. Miroirs d’encre: Rhétorique de l’autoportrait’. Paris: Seuil, 1980. [Poetics of the Literary Self-Portrait. Trans. Yara Milos. New York: NYU Press, 1991].
    • Bensmaïa, Reda. The Barthes Effect: The Essay as Reflective Text. Trans. Pat Fedkiew. Minneapolis: Univ. of Minnesota Press, 1987.
    • D’Agata, John (Editor), The Lost Origins of the Essay. St Paul: Graywolf Press, 2009.
    • Giamatti, Louis. “The Cinematic Essay”, in Godard and the Others: Essays in Cinematic Form. London, Tantivy Press, 1975.
    • Lopate, Phillip. “In Search of the Centaur: The Essay-Film”, in Beyond Document: Essays on Nonfiction Film. Edited by Charles Warren, Wesleyan University Press, 1998. pp. 243–270.
    • Warburton, Nigel . The basics of essay writing. Routledge, 2006. ISBN   0-415-24000-X , ISBN   978-0-415-24000-0

    External links

    This article’s use of external links may not follow Wikipedia’s policies or guidelines. Please improve this article by removing excessive or inappropriate external links, and converting useful links where appropriate into footnote references . (February 2015) ( Learn how and when to remove this template message )
    Wikibooks has a book on the topic of: How to write an essay
    Wikimedia Commons has media related to Essays .
    • Essay writing category on EnglishGrammar.org
    • What is an Essay? from Wikidot
    • Essay eTexts at Project Gutenberg
    • The Dialectical Essay: A detailed writing guide  – Sewanee University
    • In Praise of the Undergraduate Essay by Dan Edelstein, Stanford University
    • The Age of the Essay  – Criticism of the modern essay, by Paul Graham
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