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SAT and ACT essays can seem like the hardest part of your test. After all, there is no way you can narrow down the right answer by counting out wrong answers. You can't even make a guess and hope you get it right that way!
Even the best writers can feel unsure about the essay part of these tests. But it doesn't have to be that way.
The best writers know that the keys to really great writing are editing and rewriting. You only have half an hour (or less) to complete your essay. If you want your writing to be the best it can be, you'll need to squeeze a lot of editing into a little bit of time.
Edit in Sweeps
Don't try and do it all at once! It's just not possible to do everything at once; trying to will only cause you to “lock up.” There are several things going on with any piece of writing at any one time. You need to make several passes over your essay to make sure it's good.
Start with basic spelling and grammar on your first run. Then look for things like run-on sentences and incompletes. Finally, go back and look to make sure your verb tense is consistent within sentences and, where need be, paragraphs.
Plan on Revising—and Practice It
You should go into your test already planning to edit your work. This will put you in the right frame of mind on your test day. You'll help yourself even more if you practice before the test day.
Practicing your writing and editing will also help you feel more confident during the test. Anxiety is a bigger problem than lack of ability for most students here.
While stress can slow you down on reading, math, or science reasoning, it can lock up your writing ability completely. So do yourself a favor and practice your writing—and your editing—before you take the test!
When In Doubt, Be Direct
Got a long, complex sentence that you're not sure if you should break into two simpler sentences? If you're not sure, it's better to keep it simple.
That doesn't mean that every sentence in your essay should be short, or use the simplest words possible. You want to showcase your broader writing skills by including a good rhythm of both. That's why you should go back over your essay and change anything that sounds overly long or complicated. Once you're done, you should still have a good mix of long and short sentences that will provide your writing with a good rhythm.
Of course, knowing how to edit on-the-spot isn't the only thing you need to know in order to do well on your test. The most important thing of all is to get plenty of practice before you take your ACT or SAT. Then, your actual test day will feel like a piece of cake.
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