Simple Ways to Add Points to Your SAT & ACT Essays


Add Points

By Scott Sullivan
President and Founder, Sullivan Tutoring

and Becky Squibb
Director of English, Sullivan Tutoring

You don’t need to memorize the dictionary or write a twenty-page thesis that’s ready to be published. Adding a few extra points to your essay is actually fairly simple. Check out these easy, essay point-boosters:


Use powerful vocabulary words.

Sometimes the difference between a high-scoring essay and an average-scoring essay is only a matter of a few words—vocabulary words, that is. Before test day, brainstorm or search online for some powerful vocabulary words that can be used in a multitude of essays. For instance, the word “cogent” means “convincing/persuasive”, so it can be used in almost any essay since it is not topic specific. “The author presents a cogent argument…” sounds slightly more advanced than “The author presents a strong argument…”  Show off that impressive vernacular.


Vary sentence lengths and include semicolons.

An essay comprised of mostly short, choppy sentences is quite dry and does not show the full-extent of your writing skills. Vary your sentence lengths by including some longer, complex sentences. You can also “link” sentences by using a semicolon; simply replace a period with a semicolon, which will connect the two sentences and add variety to your sentence structure.


Keep writing.

Use every spare minute to write. Longer essays typically score better. Why? A longer essay most likely means that you supported your claims, elaborated on key points, and responded to all of the prompt components. Of course, a long essay does not guarantee that you did all of the aforementioned things, but it certainly would allow for the possibility of doing so more than a short essay would. Aim for two pages of writing and make sure to keep your introduction and conclusion brief—big points are awarded for well-developed body paragraphs.


Add a counterargument and refutation for the ACT essay.

This may sound fancy, but it is actually fairly simple. Add in a body paragraph that presents any possible attacks on your thesis. Then, simply explain why those “attacks” (counterarguments) are invalid. By disproving—or refuting—any of these counterarguments, you are supporting your thesis in a new way.


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