Compass Education Group

SAT Essay Scores Explained

On january 19th, 2021, college board announced that they will no longer administer the sat subject tests in the u.s. and that the essay would be retired. read our blog post  to understand what this means in the near term and what the college board has in store for students down the road., our articles on subject tests and the sat essay will remain on our site for reference purposes as colleges and students transition to a revised testing landscape..

is 17 on sat essay good

Why are there no percentiles for the essay on an SAT score report?

No percentiles or norms are provided in student reports. Even colleges do not receive any summary statistics. Given Compass’ concerns about the inaccuracy of essay scoring and the notable failures of the ACT on that front, the de-emphasis of norms would seem to be a good thing. The problem is that 10% of colleges are sticking with the SAT Essay as an admission requirement . While those colleges will not receive score distribution reports from the College Board, it is not difficult for them to construct their own statistics—officially or unofficially—based on thousands of applicants. Colleges can determine a “good score,” but students cannot. This asymmetry of information is harmful to students, as they are left to speculate how well they have performed and how their scores will be interpreted. Through our analysis, Compass hopes to provide students and parents more context for evaluating SAT Essay scores.

How has scoring changed? Is it still part of a student’s Total Score?

On the old SAT, the essay was a required component of the Writing section and made up approximately one-third of a student’s 200–800 score. The essay score itself was simply the sum (2–12) of two readers’ 1–6 scores. Readers were expected to grade holistically and not to focus on individual components of the writing. The SAT essay came under a great deal of criticism for being too loosely structured. Factual accuracy was not required; it was not that difficult to make pre-fabricated material fit the prompt; many colleges found the 2–12 essay scores of little use; and the conflation of the essay and “Writing” was, in some cases, blocking the use of the SAT Writing score—which included grammar and usage—entirely.

With the 2016 overhaul of the SAT came an attempt to make the essay more academically defensible while also making it optional (as the ACT essay had long been). The essay score is not a part of the 400–1600 score. Instead, a student opting to take the SAT Essay receives 2–8 scores in three dimensions: reading, analysis, and writing. No equating or fancy lookup table is involved. The scores are simply the sum of two readers’ 1–4 ratings in each dimension. There is no official totaling or averaging of scores, although colleges may choose to do so.

Readers avoid extremes

What is almost universally true about grading of standardized test essays is that readers gravitate to the middle of the scale. The default instinct is to nudge a score above or below a perceived cutoff or midpoint rather than to evenly distribute scores. When the only options are 1, 2, 3, or 4, the consequence is predictable—readers give out a lot of 2s and 3s and very few 1s and 4s. In fact, our analysis shows that 80% of all reader scores are 2s or 3s. This, in turn, means that most of the dimension scores (the sum of the two readers) range from 4 to 6. Analysis scores are outliers. A third of readers give essays a 1 in Analysis. Below is the distribution of reader scores across all dimensions.

What is a good SAT Essay score?

By combining multiple data sources—including extensive College Board scoring information—Compass has estimated the mean and mode (most common) essay scores for students at various score levels. We also found that the reading and writing dimensions were similar, while analysis scores lagged by a point across all sub-groups. These figures should not be viewed as cutoffs for “good” scores. The loose correlation of essay score to Total Score and the high standard deviation of essay scores means that students at all levels see wide variation of scores. The average essay-taking student scores a 1,080 on the SAT and receives just under a 5/4/5.

is 17 on sat essay good

College Board recently released essay results for the class of 2017, so score distributions are now available. From these, percentiles can also be calculated. We provide these figures with mixed feelings. On the one hand, percentile scores on such an imperfect measure can be highly misleading. On the other hand, we feel that students should understand the full workings of essay scores.

The role of luck

What is frustrating to many students on the SAT and ACT is that they can score 98th percentile in most areas and then get a “middling” score on the essay. This result is actually quite predictable. Whereas math and verbal scores are the result of dozens of objective questions, the essay is a single question graded subjectively. To replace statistical concepts with a colloquial one—far more “luck” is involved than on the multiple-choice sections. What text is used in the essay stimulus? How well will the student respond to the style and subject matter? Which of the hundreds of readers were assigned to grade the student’s essay? What other essays has the reader recently scored?

Even good writers run into the unpredictability involved and the fact that essay readers give so few high scores. A 5 means that the Readers A and B gave the essay a 2 and a 3, respectively. Which reader was “right?” If the essay had encountered two readers like Reader A, it would have received a 4. If the essay had been given two readers like Reader B, it would have received a 6. That swing makes a large difference if we judge scores exclusively by percentiles, but essay scores are simply too blurry to make such cut-and-dry distinctions. More than 80% of students receive one of three scores—4, 5, or 6 on the reading and writing dimensions and 3, 4, or 5 on analysis.

What do colleges expect?

It’s unlikely that many colleges will release a breakdown of essay scores for admitted students—especially since so few are requiring it. What we know from experience with the ACT , though, is that even at the most competitive schools in the country, the 25th–75th percentile scores of admitted students were 8–10 on the ACT’s old 2–12 score range. We expect that things will play out similarly for the SAT and that most students admitted to highly selective colleges will have domain scores in the 5–7 range (possibly closer to 4–6 for analysis). It’s even less likely for students to average a high score across all three areas than it is to obtain a single high mark. We estimate that only a fraction of a percent of students will average an 8—for example [8/8/8, 7/8/8, 8/7/8, or 8,8,7].

Update as of October 2017. The University of California system has published the 25th–75th percentile ranges for enrolled students. It has chosen to work with total scores. The highest ranges—including those at UCLA and Berkeley—are 17–20. Those scores are inline with our estimates above.

How will colleges use the domain scores?

Colleges have been given no guidance by College Board on how to use essay scores for admission. Will they sum the scores? Will they average them? Will they value certain areas over others? Chances are that if you are worrying too much about those questions, then you are likely losing sight of the bigger picture. We know of no cases where admission committees will make formulaic use of essay scores. The scores are a very small, very error-prone part of a student’s testing portfolio.

How low is too low?

Are 3s and 4s, then, low enough that an otherwise high-scoring student should retest? There is no one-size-fits-all answer to that question. In general, it is a mistake to retest solely to improve an essay score unless a student is confident that the SAT Total Score can be maintained or improved. A student with a 1340 PSAT and 1280 SAT may feel that it is worthwhile to bring up low essay scores because she has previously shown that she can do better on the Evidence-based Reading and Writing and Math, as well. A student with a 1400 PSAT and 1540 SAT should think long and hard before committing to a retest. Admission results from the class of 2017 may give us some added insight into the use of SAT Essay scores.

Will colleges continue to require the SAT Essay?

For the class of 2017, Compass has prepared a list of the SAT Essay and ACT Writing policies for 360 of the top colleges . Several of the largest and most prestigious public university systems—California, Michigan, and Texas, for example, still require the essay, and a number of highly competitive private colleges do the same—for example, Dartmouth, Harvard, Princeton, and Stanford.

The number of excellent colleges not requiring the SAT Essay, though, is long and getting longer. Compass expects even more colleges to drop the essay requirement for the classes of 2018 and 2019. Policies are typically finalized in late spring or during the summer.

Should I skip the essay entirely?

A common question regarding SAT scores is whether the whole mess can be avoided by skipping the essay. After all, if only about 10% of colleges are requiring the section, is it really that important? Despite serious misgivings about the test and the ways scores are interpreted, Compass still recommends that most students take the essay unless they are certain that they will not be applying to any of the colleges requiring or recommending it. Nationally, about 70% of students choose to take the essay on at least one SAT administration. When looking at higher scoring segments, that quickly rises to 85–90%. Almost all Compass students take the SAT Essay at least once to insure that they do not miss out on educational opportunities.

Should I prepare for the SAT Essay?

Most Compass students decide to do some preparation for the essay, because taking any part of a test “cold” can be an unpleasant experience, and students want to avoid feeling like a retake is necessary. In addition to practicing exercises and tests, most students can perform well enough on the SAT Essay after 1–2 hours of tutoring. Students taking a Compass practice SAT will also receive a scored essay. Students interested in essay writing tips for the SAT can refer to Compass blog posts on the difference between the ACT and SAT tasks  and the use of first person on the essays .

Will I be able to see my essay?

Yes. ACT makes it difficult to obtain a copy of your Writing essay, but College Board includes it as part of your online report.

Will colleges have access to my essay? Even if they don’t require it?

Yes, colleges are provided with student essays. We know of very few circumstances where SAT Essay reading is regularly conducted. Colleges that do not require the SAT Essay fall into the “consider” and “do not consider” camps. Schools do not always list this policy on their website or in their application materials, so it is hard to have a comprehensive list. We recommend contacting colleges for more information. In general, the essay will have little to no impact at colleges that do not require or recommend it.

Is the SAT Essay a reason to take the ACT instead?

Almost all colleges that require the SAT Essay require Writing for ACT-takers. The essays are very different on the two tests, but neither can be said to be universally “easier” or “harder.” Compass recommends that the primary sections of the tests determine your planning. Compass’ content experts have also written a piece on how to attack the ACT essay .

Key links in this post:

ACT and SAT essay requirements ACT Writing scores explained Comparing ACT and SAT essay tasks The use of first person in ACT and SAT essays Understanding the “audience and purpose” of the ACT essay Compass proctored practice testing for the ACT, SAT, and Subject Tests

Art Sawyer

About Art Sawyer

Art graduated magna cum laude from Harvard University, where he was the top-ranked liberal arts student in his class. Art pioneered the one-on-one approach to test prep in California in 1989 and co-founded Compass Education Group in 2004 in order to bring the best ideas and tutors into students' homes and computers. Although he has attained perfect scores on all flavors of the SAT and ACT, he is routinely beaten in backgammon.


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Hi! I’m a high school junior who took the October and November SATs. I got a 1500 on October and then retook it to get a 1590 in November. I’m very happy with my score, but my essays are troubling me. I got a 6-4-6 in October and thought I would improve in November, but I got a 6-3-6. I really cannot improve my actual SAT score, but I don’t understand the essay. I’ve always been a good writer and have consistently been praised for it in English class and outside of class. Is this essay score indicative of my writing skill? And will this essay hurt my chances at Ivy League and other top tier schools? None of the schools I plan on applying to require it, but, since I have to submit it, will it hurt my chances? Thank you so much.

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Maya, The essay is becoming increasingly irrelevant. Honestly, a 6-4-6 is a fine score and will not hurt your chances for admission. It’s something of an odd writing task, so I wouldn’t worry that it doesn’t match your writing skills elsewhere.

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What is a Good Score on the SAT Essay?

by Christian | Dec 24, 2017 | SAT Prep | 0 comments

What is a good SAT Essay Score?

Get a higher SAT Essay score - fast - with our instant-download complete course.

Are you getting ready to take the SAT test and wondering “what is a good SAT essay score?” Well, you’re in exactly the right place to study the SAT Essay with a perfect-scoring veteran SAT tutor! Let’s get into it…

What is a Good SAT Essay Score?

So, this article is chock-full of useful info, but let’s get the original question out of the way first. What is a good SAT Essay score?

Well. you have to understand the SAT Essay scoring system to fully understand the question (more details on that below). But for now, let’s just say a pretty “good” SAT Essay score is anything above about a 19 (out of a maximum of 24 points).

Now let me be clear - an 19 would be on the lowest-possible end for what I’d consider basically a “good” SAT Essay score. That’s definitely not a  great SAT Essay score. But it does put you somewhere around the top 20% of students.

If you can get above 22 out of 24,  now you’re looking at an excellent SAT essay score. Of course, shooting for a perfect 24 on your essay is the ideal goal!

But wait a second - let’s back up a bit. What exactly  is the SAT Essay, anyway?

What is the SAT Essay?

Ok, so now you have some idea what a good SAT Essay score is. But what  is the SAT Essay?

Good question. Well, the SAT Essay is an “optional” 50-minute writing assignment , given at the end of the SAT test. Each SAT Essay assignment includes a unique reading passage. But, although the reading passage will change for each test, the prompt and essay task itself is always the same.

In essence, you must provide a “ rhetorical analysis ” of the reading passage. Instead of  responding to the author’s arguments, you are meant to  analyze those arguments and judge their effectiveness at convincing the author’s audience.

You’ll be graded in three key areas:

  • Reading (Do you demonstrate an understanding of the passage?)
  • Analysis (Do you successfully complete the analytical task you’ve been given?)
  • Writing (Is your own essay well-written on every level?)

Now’s not the right time to get into deep strategies or rules for better SAT Essay scores. Luckily, we’ve produced an entire SAT Essay course that will teach you everything you need to know - fast. Click here to get access to download the course from anywhere in the world.

How is Your SAT Essay Scored?

So, how will your SAT Essay be scored? Well, it’s actually kind of interesting, and it’s important to know if you want a great score.

The SAT Essay is the  only section of the test that is graded by humans (that’s also why there’s a small additional charge to register for the SAT Essay).

Each of the two essay graders will quickly read your essay. They’ll follow a specific grading rubric to give you a subscore in each of the three subcategories: Reading, Analysis, and Writing.

These subscores range from a “1” at the lowest to a “4” at the top. With three subscores, that means each grader can give you anywhere from a “3” to a “12” at the highest. Both graders will give you their own set of subscores, which puts your final score between a “6” at the very lowest, and a “24” for a perfect SAT Essay.

There’s a lot more you need to know about the SAT Essay to excel, but this should at least give you an idea how your writing will be graded.

What is an Average SAT Essay Score?

How about if you’re a student who’s not looking for a  great SAT Essay score, but just an “average” score? What is an average SAT Essay score, anyway?

Well, there will always be a little bit of flex from test to test, but the typical “average” SAT Essay score is a 14 out of 24. Mathematically, the average “should” be a 15 out of 24, which is right in the middle. But, in real life, the overall average actually comes out at 14.

Where does that missing point disappear to? It turns out that many high schoolers struggle with the “Analysis” subscore of the SAT Essay. Probably that’s because they don’t prepare enough for this very specific writing assignment. Then, on test day, the “average” student doesn’t know  exactly what they must do for the Analysis subscore and they lose points. Make sure that’s not you!

What is a Bad SAT Essay Score?

This brings us to a question that’s not exactly fun: “What is a bad SAT Essay score?”

Personally, I dislike negativity - even the worst SAT Essay score is simply a chance to study, practice, and improve!

Still, it’s definitely possible to get a “bad” SAT Essay score. Since you’re using this score as part of your competition to get accepted into college , a bad SAT Essay score is simply any score that keeps you out of your favorite college.

Therefore, we definitely don’t want to be down in the bottom half of SAT Essay scores (a 15 or below).

Even worse would be dropping to a 12 or below. That means you’re only getting “2’s” on your subscores from both graders - definitely not where you want your score to be if you’re looking seriously at most decent colleges (at least the ones that require SAT Essay scores).

Wait up a second - did I just say “the colleges that require SAT Essay scores”? Does that mean that  not all students need to take the SAT Essay? Read on to find out…

Is the SAT Essay Section Required?

So, considering that the SAT Essay will add some extra stress, time, and work to your testing day, is the essay even considered a mandatory section of the SAT test?

Well, the truth is that the SAT Essay is an “optional” section. You can select to register for the test with or without the essay section. It’s an easy choice during the official SAT registration process. There’s a small additional fee to take the SAT test with the Essay, but as a pro tutor it’s something I consider important for most students.

While it’s true that not every student needs to take the SAT Essay, it’s usually better to be safe than sorry. After all, if you realize later that you  did need an SAT Essay score for your college applications, you’ll have to take the  entire SAT test again, just for a single chance at the essay at the end of the test!

This leads right into the next question about the SAT Essay….

Does Your SAT Essay Score Even Matter?

Now, here’s the million-dollar question: does your SAT Essay score even matter, in the big scheme of things?

Well, I wish I could give you a short answer to that. But the truth is, it depends on your priorities in life .

If you’re applying to Harvard for a Creative Writing degree, then a bad SAT Essay score is really going to hurt your chances.

But, if you’re applying to one of the many schools that does  not look at your SAT Essay score, then of course your essay scores won’t matter a single bit - even if they’re perfect.

Most students will fall somewhere in-between. For example, some of the colleges you apply to will “require” you to submit some SAT Essay scores, but they won’t  really look to hard at your essay scores.

In other words, many colleges do consider your SAT Essay, but few schools put a tremendous weight on the significance of your Essay score.

Your SAT Essay score tends to matter more and more for each of the points below:

  • Applying to “elite” colleges and universities.
  • Applying for writing or literary degrees.
  • Applying to many schools that require an SAT Essay score.

How Do You Get a Good Score on Your SAT Essay?

First things first - to cut to the chase for a much higher score on your SAT essay, click here and get our complete SAT Essay course . It’s our premier course on the SAT and ACT Essay from a perfect-scoring veteran tutor, and it’s available for instant download anywhere in the world.

Here are the keys to a higher SAT Essay score:

  • Knowing of the SAT essay scoring system.
  • Using a clear and dependable essay-writing strategy.
  • Writing multiple practice SAT essays on different prompts.
  • Focusing hard and using every available minute on test day.

Each of these bullet points (and much more) are covered in deep strategic detail in our SAT Essay course . So get it today - it will help, trust me. Best of all, the course is covered with a 100% money-back guarantee, so you really can’t go wrong.

If you’re looking for more free info on the SAT Essay, start with this article . Our free blog articles won’t be quite as well-organized or thorough as our complete essay course, but we’ve still published plenty of useful info to keep you busy!

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What Is a Good SAT Essay Score?

is 17 on sat essay good

To Get a Good SAT Essay Score, Get the Purpose of the Essay

When the new SAT was released a few years ago, the essay became an optional element of the test. Many colleges don’t require it for admissions, as it’s unclear if the essay measures something meaningful to a student’s application.

Nevertheless, if a school requires the SAT essay, you need to know how it’s scored and what the scorers are looking for.

The SAT essay has departed from asking students to take a stance on a topic or weigh in on a perspective. In other words, the SAT essay is not at all about what you, the student, think: the purpose of the essay is to see if you can write without inserting personal opinion.

Now, the essay is a formal analysis of someone else’s argument. This is brilliant, if you ask me, because the College Board has finally created an assessment that more closely mimics the kind of writing students actually need to do in college. Notably, the new essay style is also a lot more like one of the writing tasks on the GRE; in other words, this is real academic writing.

Table of Contents

Academic Writing Is Objective

The SAT essay had to become more objective as students’ writing became more fanciful and, due to cultural trends, more opinion-based.

The A-number-one most important thing you can do to earn a good SAT essay score is to leave your opinions out of the essay.

A Good SAT Score Isn’t an Absolute Number

The SAT Essay is scored on a scale just like the SAT multiple choice tests are. Rather than scoring from 200 to 800, though, the three SAT essay subscores are rated on a scale of 2 to 8. They mimic the 200 to 800 scale in that an 8 is a top score and a 2 is a low score.

Because the SAT essay score is guided by a rubric used by two people, your score is the sum of the scores given to you by those two graders. Your graders individually give you a 1, 2, 3, or 4 on each of the three scoring dimensions identified by the College Board.  

That means that a good SAT essay score is a 6, 7, or 8 on each of the scoring dimensions if we use the logic that a 6 is the sum of two scores of 3 from your graders, and those 3s reflect that both graders thought you adequately accomplished that objectives of that dimension.

Because your SAT essay score is a list of three numbers, (like a possible SAT essay score might be 7, 5, 7), a good SAT essay score is a little less definitive.

One way to consider whether your SAT essay score is good is to take the average of your subscores and then translate them to the 200 to 800 scale. For example, if your SAT essay score were 7, 5, 7, you could average them (add and divide by 3)  to find 6.3, which loosely translates to a 630. It’s easier to sense then, then, that 7, 5, 7 is a pretty good SAT essay score, but probably not as high as you would need for an extremely competitive college that requires the SAT essay section to begin with.

In order to help you maximize your SAT essay score, let’s look at the SAT essay scoring dimensions one by one.

The College Board offers a detailed rubric so that you can dive deeply into SAT Essay scoring. I expand on some of those ideas in my post, How to Write the SAT Essay. Let’s look at some of the highlights here.

Dimension One: Earning a Good SAT Essay Reading Subscore

It might seem odd to see “Reading” as the first dimension on a writing test, but it makes sense: you show how well you read by accurately identifying and articulating precisely what the author of the passage is saying.

Can you identify the author’s argument? Can you cite specific supporting details that she/he uses to make that case?

  • You’re more likely to get a good score here if in your introduction you say that [the author] argues that [what the author wants her audience to believe]. The more specific you are, the better.
  • Take quotes from the passage that support your evidence. These should be short quotes, not two hundred words to stretch out your essay length.
  • Again, leave your opinion out of it. Don’t reinterpret what the author is saying, don’t add in more (like “the author might also think X, Y, and Z” when those things aren’t listed in the argument.

Dimension Two: Earning a Good SAT Essay Analysis Subscore

A good SAT Essay score in the Analysis department shows off that you’re able to trace how an author builds an argument. You’re probably familiar with building an argument, even if you don’t realize it yet:

Imagine you want to convince one of your parents to let you stay out three hours after curfew because you’re going to a concert two hours away. You wouldn’t just ask if you could stay out late; obviously, the answer would be an outright “No.”

Instead, you’d formulate a plan: you’d think of all the logical reasons it’s safe to stay out late, you’d appeal to your parent’s sense of adventure, or maybe his/her sense of pity. Maybe you’d bargain.

Every author on the SAT sample passage that you’ll analyze is creating an argument in similar ways, albeit more formal ones. The Analysis subscore shows that you see how the author is being convincing, not just what the author wants.

Dimension Three: Earning a Good SAT Essay Writing Subscore

Of course, the whole essay element is a “writing” test, but you’ll earn a good SAT essay score on the writing segment when you show off your structural and syntactic prowess.

This is the score that reflects the strength of your writing sample itself, even if you totally misunderstood the author’s argument. Incidentally, preparing for the Writing and Grammar multiple choice section and learning the rules it tests can be a great exercise for the essay section. Use the rules you know for that section to edit your own essay after the fact.

  • Focus on structure when you write the SAT essay–or any essay, for that matter. Think carefully about why each paragraph exists and always loop its last sentence back to your thesis.
  • Vary your sentence structure to keep things interesting. Whether you realize it or not, a subordinate clause at the start of a sentence can draw your reader further into your writing.
  • Show off proper punctuation and how to employ colons, semi-colons, and dashes correctly.
  • If you don’t know how to spell a word, try to avoid using it. This is extra difficult now that we have spell check on every device we use. Poor spelling is distracting to people who read high school English essays and standardized tests essay professionally.

Practice Makes Perfect

Do not take the SAT Essay section without writing several sample essays ahead of time. A time crunch puts pressure on even the best writers; practicing by hand and getting feedback from a trusted teacher or tutor is your best bet. Investing in some SAT prep books wouldn’t be a bad idea either.

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By submitting my email address. i certify that i am 13 years of age or older, agree to recieve marketing email messages from the princeton review, and agree to terms of use., 5 sat essay tips for a great score.

Thinking about tackling the SAT Essay? Here's what you need to know: you'll be asked to read a text (typically a speech or editorial of some sort) and discuss how the author effectively builds an argument. This might be a familiar task if you’ve done it in school, but if not, don’t worry. The format is straightforward, and with some practice, you can learn how to write a great SAT essay.

What is the SAT essay?

The SAT essay is optional and costs an additional fee of $17.00. Currently, only 25 colleges and universities require the SAT essay. You can find a searchable list of school requirements for the essay here . If there is any chance that you might apply to one of those schools, you should sign up for the essay. If you are not sure where you will apply, you should strongly consider signing up for the essay. Your essay score will appear on every score report you send to colleges, regardless of whether or not the school requires an essay. 

Here are 5 tips for writing a killer SAT essay, should you decide to add on that section:

SAT essay tips

1. Stay Objective

The thing to remember here is that ETS (the company that writes the test) is not asking you for your opinion on a topic or a text. So be sure to maintain formal style and an objective tone. Tip: Avoid “I” and “you.

2. Keep It Tidy

Handwriting is becoming a lost art. Unfortunately, this is one occasion where your skill with a pencil matters. Graders read tons of essays each day. If they cannot decipher your script, they will lower your score. Do yourself a favor and write legibly.

3. (Indented) Paragraphs Are Your Friend

Remember the basic essay structure you learned in school: introductory paragraph, body paragraphs and a conclusion? The SAT essay graders love it! Your introduction should describe the text and paraphrase the argument being made, as well as introduce the specific elements of the passage and argument that you will discuss in the essay. Your conclusion should restate the goal of the passage/argument and sum up the points you made.

Read More: SAT Tips and Strategies

4. For Example…

Use your body paragraphs to back up your thesis statement by citing specific examples. Use short, relevant quotes from the text to support your points.

5. Don't Worry About the Exact Terms for Things

Blanking on terminology? When describing how the author builds his or her argument, “appeal to the emotions” is fine instead of specifically referencing “pathos.” And “comparison of two things” can be used instead of referring to a metaphor. If you do know the official terms, though, feel free to use them!

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is 17 on sat essay good

Ultimate Guide to the New SAT Essay

is 17 on sat essay good

Is your SAT score enough to get you into your dream school?

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The essay portion of the SAT has a somewhat lengthy and tumultuous history. After all, the very first College Board standardized tests delivered in 1900 were entirely essay-based, but the SAT had dropped all essays from its format by the 1920s and did not reappear again until 2005.

When another redesign of the SAT was announced in 2014, many wondered if the essay, as the most recent addition, would make the cut. The College Board, considering whether to keep it or not, reportedly sought feedback from hundreds of members in admissions and enrollment . Advocates of the essay felt it gave candidates more dimension. Critics believed that the essay was not indicative of college readiness. A review of assessment validity confirmed that the Evidence-Based Reading and Writing section of the SAT “is deeply predictive of college success,” whereas the essay is much less so.

Ultimately, the decision was made to make the essay an optional part of the SAT. This was an innovative move, signaling the first time that the College Board had made any component of the SAT optional.

Furthermore, the essay format has changed as well. Instead of arguing a specific side of a debate or topic presented in the prompt, you will now be asked to analyze a passage for writing style. This prompt is more aligned with the types of critical writing pieces that you can expect to be assigned in college.

As with all things new, the new SAT has taken some getting used to. Students, parents, teachers, and tutors alike have had to adjust to some significant changes in format and content. But the good news is that the new SAT is no longer an unknown variable. The essay in particular is now a well-known and understood piece of the puzzle, with the prompt remaining the same on each administration of the test. The only thing that has changed is the passage to be analyzed.

To learn more about the most significant changes on the SAT, read CollegeVine’s A Guide to the New SAT or review Khan Academy’s video overview of Content Changes to the New SAT .

Do I have to take the SAT with Essay?

As mentioned above, the essay is technically an optional section on the SAT — so no, you are not required to take it. That being said, some colleges or universities do require applicants to submit SAT with Essay scores. If you choose not to take the essay portion of the test, you will not be an eligible applicant for any of these schools. To find the essay policy at schools you’re interested in, use the College Board’s College Essay Policies search feature.

Should I take the optional SAT Essay?

If you are at all unsure of which colleges you’ll be applying to, or you know that at least one of the schools you’re interested in requires the SAT with Essay, you should go ahead and take the essay portion of the test. If you don’t register for the SAT with Essay at first, you can add it later through your online College Board account. Registration for the SAT with Essay costs $57 as opposed to the $45 for the SAT without the optional essay section.

What is the format of the new SAT Essay?

The new SAT Essay is a lot like a typical college or upper-level high school writing assignment in which you’re asked to analyze a text. You’ll be provided a passage between 650 and 750 words, and you will be asked to explain how the author builds an argument to persuade his or her audience. You will need to use evidence from the text to support your explanation. Unlike on past SATs, you will not be asked to agree or disagree with a position on a topic, and you will not be asked to write about your personal experiences.

You will have 50 minutes to read the passage, plan your work, and write your essay. Although this seems like an extremely limited amount of time, it is actually double the time allowed on the SAT Essay prior to March 2016.

The instructions and prompt on the SAT Essay, beginning in March 2016, are always the same. They read:

As you read the passage below, consider how [the author] uses:

  • Evidence, such as facts or examples, to support claims
  • Reasoning to develop ideas and to connect claims and evidence
  • Stylistic or persuasive elements, such as word choice or appeals to emotion, to add power to the ideas expressed

These instructions will be followed by the passage that you’re intended to analyze. After the passage, you will see the prompt:

Write an essay in which you explain how [the author] builds an argument to persuade [his/her] audience of [author’s claim]. In your essay, analyze how [the author] uses one or more of the features listed above (or features of your own choice) to strengthen the logic and persuasiveness of [his/her] argument. Be sure that your analysis focuses on the most relevant features of the passage.

Your essay should not explain whether you agree with [the author’s] claims, but rather explain how the author builds an argument to persuade [his/her] audience.

Although you can expect the passages to be different, they will all share some common characteristics. You can expect the SAT Essay to be based on passages that are written for a broad audience, argue a point, express subtle views on complex subjects, and use logical reasoning and evidence to support claims. These passages examine ideas, debates, or trends in the arts and sciences; or civic, cultural, or political life; and they are always taken from published works.

How will my essay be assessed?

Your essay will be assessed in three scoring categories, each of which will be included on your score report. Two people will read your essay and score it independently. These scorers will each award between one and four points in each scoring category. If the scores you receive in a single category vary by more than one point, an SAT expert scorer will review your essay.   

The scoring categories are:

A successful essay shows that you understood the passage, including the interplay of central ideas and important details. It also shows an effective use of textual evidence.

A successful essay shows your understanding of how the author builds an argument by:

  • Examining the author’s use of evidence, reasoning, and other stylistic and persuasive techniques
  • Supporting and developing claims with well-chosen evidence from the passage

A successful essay is focused, organized, and precise, with an appropriate style and tone that varies sentence structure and follows the conventions of standard written English.

Scores on the SAT Essay range from six to 24. To review a more specific breakdown for each scoring category, see the College Board SAT Essay Scoring Rubric .

Is my essay score always included on my score report sent to colleges?

Yes, your essay scores will always be reported with your other test scores from that day. There is no option to report only specific sections of your score. Even if you use Score Choice to choose which day’s scores you send to colleges, you can never send only some scores from a certain test day. For example, you cannot select to send Math scores but not Writing and Language or Essay scores.

What are the key strategies for the new SAT Essay test?

Remember the prompt.

On test day you will have only 50 minutes to read the passage, plan your analysis, and write your essay. Every minute will count. Because the prompt is the same on each SAT, you can save yourself some very valuable time by remembering exactly what the prompt asks you to do. That way, you won’t have to bother reading it on the day of your test.

Also remember that the prompt is asking only for your analysis. It is not asking you to summarize the passage or state your own opinion of it. Instead, while reading and creating a rough outline, you should focus on restating the main point that the author is arguing and analyzing how that point is made. Use only evidence taken directly from the passage and focus on how the author uses this evidence, reasoning, and other rhetorical techniques to build a convincing argument.

In short, when you begin your essay on test day, you should be able to skip reading the actual prompt and get straight to examining the author’s choices in presenting the argument. You should not waste any time summarizing the content of the passage or stating your own opinion of it.

Create a Rough Outline

When you’re under pressure to create a well-written essay in a limited amount of time, it can be tempting to skip the outline. Don’t fall into this thinking. While an outline may take some time to create, it will ultimately save you time and effort during the actual writing process.

The bulk of the outline you create should focus on the body paragraphs of your essay. You should have three main points you want to highlight, each being a specific method that the author uses to argue his or her point. These could include the use of logic, an appeal to emotions, or the style of diction or tone. As you read, identify the primary ways in which the author supports his or her argument. List the three most relevant methods in your outline, and then briefly cite examples of each underneath.

This very rough outline will shape the bulk of your essay and can ultimately save you the time it would take to remember these details during the actual writing process. 

is 17 on sat essay good

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Stick to the Standard 5-Paragraph Essay Format

By this point in your high school career, you should have some experience writing a five-paragraph essay. The format is probably already familiar to you. As a refresher, a five-paragraph essay is generally structured like this:

I. Introductory Paragraph

  • Give some very basic background about the topic (for example, why the author is writing this piece)
  • Restate the author’s argument clearly
  • Write a concise thesis statement summarizing three ways in which the author proves his or her point

II. Body Paragraphs

  • One body paragraph per method used by the author
  • Include two to three specific examples directly from the passage
  • Analyze how effective these are

III. Conclusion

  • Restate your thesis
  • Briefly summarize the effectiveness of the author’s argument

While you may feel that 50 minutes is not enough time to plan and write an entire five-paragraph essay, you are best off keeping each paragraph brief and to the point rather than writing a more detailed essay in a shorter format. Each body paragraph should be only five or six sentences, while your introduction and conclusion can be even shorter if you write them effectively.

Practice Reading and Critiquing Opinion Pieces

The best way to prepare for the type of thinking and analysis required by the SAT Essay is to immerse yourself in reading and critiquing similar opinion pieces. The passage for the SAT Essay will always argue one side of a debate or topic, so other opinion pieces, editorials, and persuasive essays are all similar in content.

Read lots of these to become familiar with the style of writing. As you read, make mental notes of the methods that the authors use to make their points. Recognize patterns in these methods across pieces. For example, you might notice that casual diction is used to create a feeling of communal cause. These are points that you could also use in your analysis on the SAT Essay if they apply to the particular passage you receive.

Be An Active Reader

This will take you right back to your early high school and even junior high years. To be efficient on the SAT Essay, you will need to read closely and carefully in a limited amount of time. Staying engaged in the passage and making effective notations that will aid your analysis are critical.

You are probably familiar with some active reading strategies, and if that’s the case, stick with whatever notation you usually use. There’s no right way to do it, as long as your markings keep you actively engaged in the text and make your writing process easier.

This could include circling or bracketing off the thesis statement as you read. You might underline supporting details or come up with a system to mark for different literary devices (for example, a heart in the margin to denote an emotional appeal). If part of the argument seems unclear, put a question mark in the margin so that you can review it later.

Keep These Key Questions in Mind

It’s easy to get off track when you’re under pressure and rushing to complete a task. These are some good questions to keep in mind to ensure your essay stays on track:

Does the author use facts or logic to support claims? How does he or she do so? Is this effective? Could it be more effective? How so?

Discussing the author’s use of logic — often called an appeal to logos — speaks directly to an audience’s sense of reason. This is a very effective method of persuasion since it will just “make sense” to most readers.

What stylistic rhetorical devices does the author use to support claims?

Another common strategy used by authors involves the style and flow of their words. Does he or she make use of analogies, word repetition, or alliteration? These are all rhetorical devices about which you could write.

How does specific word choice contribute to the overall effectiveness of the piece?

Words are powerful. They can elicit emotions; they can create a sense of common cause; and they can use precision to draw pictures in your mind. What word choices are particularly powerful in the passage? Are there any patterns worth mentioning?

Of course, these are just a few of the many ideas you can use to get started with shaping and organizing your analysis. It’s a good idea to have a handful of possible questions to consider while reading. This will guide your thinking and can definitely help you out if you suddenly draw a blank.  

Study the Glossary

This is the most straightforward way to guide you as you prepare for the SAT Essay. Khan Academy has compiled an official Essay Glossary of key terms for the essay, and having a solid grasp of this vocabulary will allow you to use the correct words to describe the literary devices you discuss. And beyond that, the glossary can help give you some ideas for possible features in analyzing in your writing.

Where can I find free study materials for the SAT Essay?

Because the new SAT Essay was just rolled out in March 2016, there are not tons of resources yet for preparation. Many of the SAT Essay resources were designed before the new test, rendering them obsolete now. As you look for study materials, make sure that anything you use was created after March 2016 to ensure you are getting relevant information.

Some great resources are:

Sample passages and scored essays from the College Board are available for your review. These will give you an accurate idea of the types of passages you can expect to read and how your response will be assessed. These include examples of high-, medium-, and low-scoring student responses to help you gauge the quality of work that is expected.

Khan Academy tutorials are also available to help you prepare specifically for the SAT Essay. These include video overviews and a message board where students share and discuss strategies.

Finally, don’t skip the Khan Academy Essay Glossary as discussed above. Memorizing key terms from this resource will legitimize your response and help shape your thinking.

If you still have questions about the new SAT Writing and Language Test or you are interested in our full-service, customized SAT tutoring, head over to CollegeVine’s SAT Tutoring Program , where the brightest and most qualified tutors in the industry guide students to an average score increase of 140 points.

To learn more about the SAT, check out these CollegeVine posts:

  • ACT vs SAT/SAT Subject Tests
  • Are PSAT Scores Related to SAT Scores?
  • What Should I Bring to My SAT?
  • A Guide to the New SAT
  • The CollegeVine Guide to SAT Scores: All Your Questions Answered
  • How to Register For Your SATs

Want to know how your SAT score impacts your chances of acceptance to your dream schools? Our free Chancing Engine will not only help you predict your odds, but also let you know how you stack up against other applicants, and which aspects of your profile to improve. Sign up for your free CollegeVine account today to gain access to our Chancing Engine and get a jumpstart on your college strategy!

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is 17 on sat essay good

What's a Good SAT Score?

The best SAT score for college applicants depends on their target schools and other factors, experts say.

What's a Good SAT Score?

Closeup shot of a man writing

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Even as many schools move away from requiring standardized test scores, experts say a strong score can still help you stand out as an applicant. Expectations vary by institution.

When they are considered, SAT scores are just a piece of the college admissions process. Schools also review students' GPAs , course rigor, extracurricular activities, essays and letters of recommendation.

Although colleges have historically used standardized test scores to determine "college readiness," some observers say that a student's transcript gives a fuller picture.

"A three-hour test on a Saturday morning is a very brief snapshot into a student's abilities," says Connie Livingston, head of college counselors at college admissions consulting firm Empowerly. "Whereas a transcript really shows how students have grown, improved or maintained their academic excellence throughout the years and how they have maximized those opportunities at their schools."

More than 1,900 four-year colleges have announced plans to go test-optional or test-blind for fall 2024, according to the National Center for Fair and Open Testing, a nonprofit advocacy group.

But even as many schools move away from requiring standardized test scores, experts say a strong score can help an applicant stand out.

That's especially true given evidence that grade inflation has been on the rise. High school GPAs, on average, increased from 3.17 in 2010 to 3.36 in 2021, according to a 2022 report from ACT . At the same time, the highest grade inflation – a term used to describe an increase in students’ grades that doesn't necessarily correlate with an increase in their academic achievement – occurred between 2018 and 2021, an increase of 0.1 grade points, the most recent data show.

"The whole point of a standardized test was for there to be a standardized metric, because a 97 (grade percentage) at one school is not the same thing as a 97 at another high school," says Pranoy Mohapatra, director of New Jersey-based PM Tutoring.

Livingston advises students to take either the SAT or ACT at least once, as long as there are no logistical or financial barriers. From there, students applying to a test-optional school can decide whether it's beneficial to submit their scores.

"If they score well, not only is it another metric or data point for the school to use to evaluate their candidacy, but it could also open up merit aid opportunities," she says.

A Good SAT Score for College Admissions

A strong score is subjective, as expectations vary by institution and sometimes by major .

"If you were applying to an engineering program at a college that is going to admit you from a pool of students who are (also) applying for engineering, the question is not, 'Is your SAT score good?'" And the question is not, 'Is a 1470 a good score?' Because it is a good score," says Evelyn Jerome-Alexander, a certified educational planner and founder of Magellan College Counseling. "But if the 1470 were a 770 on English and a 700 on math, the chances are very high that at a school that has an engineering college, the math score for an engineering applicant or a business applicant will be higher than the critical reading score."

The average SAT score for the high school class of 2022 was 1050, down by 10 points from the class of 2021, according to a report from the College Board, which administers the SAT. That score falls within the range of many schools, like Liberty University in Virginia, where half of the admitted applicants had an SAT score between 1020 and 1220, according to the school's website .

Many other colleges, such as Indiana University—Bloomington , have an average SAT score over 1200 for incoming freshmen. Ivy Leagues and other top universities, like the University of Chicago and Johns Hopkins University in Maryland, prefer even higher scores – generally over 1500 – their school websites indicate.

Experts suggest students do their research and look up the "middle 50" – the range of scores between the 25th percentile and 75th percentile for the last admitted class – on each college's website to see if their score falls within or above that range. Students should set their target score to either meet or exceed those ranges. They can also aim to reach a school's minimum score requirement for merit aid .

Here's a look at the 25th and 75th SAT percentiles in math and reading combined for newly enrolled students in fall 2022 at the top 10 National Universities , as ranked by U.S. News. California Institute of Technology did not report SAT or ACT scores and through 2025 will not consider them during admissions.

Not only is a good score relative to each college, but also to each student. The strength of the score can depend on an individual's GPA, the rigor of the high school courses they take and where they attend high school, says Amy Seeley, founder and president of Seeley Test Pros, LLC, an Ohio-based tutoring company.

"Students are often judged in comparison to their peers," she says. "So what is the kind of level of work that's happening with other students? If a student is at a school where there are no honors or AP courses , then of course they're not going to be judged as much. But they are going to need a score that sets them apart from the other students at that school."

SAT Percentiles

A score in the 50th percentile means a student scored equal to or higher than 50% of other test-takers. The higher the percentile rank, the better.

The table below shows a breakdown of SAT composite scores by percentile based on exam results, per the most recent College Board data . It shows nationally representative sample percentiles, which are based on a study of juniors and seniors, and are weighted to represent all U.S. students in those grades regardless of whether they take the test.

Recommendations to Improve Your SAT Score

Retaking the SAT can be time-consuming and costly, so figure out what your bandwidth is. Consider your home responsibilities, after-school activities and homework load.

"It plays a role in how much time students can spend on test prep and perhaps limit their ability to improve," Mohapatra says.

Some families hire test prep tutors or coaches, but studying for the SAT does not have to cost hundreds of dollars. Students can work independently and use free online test prep resources, like Khan Academy , a College Board partner.

"Our tool gives you insights on the areas where you are already really strong – i.e., don't bother spending more practice time in those areas – and the areas where you are relatively weaker," says Priscilla Rodriguez, senior vice president for college readiness assessments at the College Board.

If a college superscores, a student's highest scores from each section on all test attempts are combined to create a new composite score. In these cases, "you can minimize or reduce your preparation because you may only need to focus on one particular section," Seeley says.

Some schools, however, require applicants to submit all of their test scores from each sitting.

In that case, "I think there is some disagreement within the industry as to whether (retaking the test multiple times) hurts a student or not," Seeley says. "But I've always said that for the most part, a college is going to take your best scores and use that to create their acceptance profile."

Practice is key to improving your scores, but don't overdo it, experts warn. Livingston advises students not to take the SAT more than three times, as their score may start to plateau.

"Test prep should not come at the expense of creating a balanced college list and putting real significant effort into articulating why you are a good fit for each college on your list and why they are a good fit for you," Jerome-Alexander says. "Because colleges look at the transcript primarily and they look heavily at teacher and counselor recommendation letters. But they're looking a lot at essays these days. They really want to hear students' stories. Stories are more valuable than test scores, and if you present yourself in a way that makes yourself memorable and likable, colleges will want you in their class."

Searching for a college? Get our  complete rankings  of Best Colleges.

13 Test Prep Tips for SAT and ACT Takers

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The SAT Essay: Should You Take It?

Should you take the sat essay in 2021.

NOTE: The SAT Essay no longer exists as of 2024. The SAT has transitioned into a new digital format, which is radically different. For an updated guide to the new digital SAT, follow the link here.

The SAT Essay is optional. Students do not have to sit for it. In fact, they must elect to take the Essay when registering for the SAT. This costs an additional $15 .

Plenty of U.S. universities and colleges do not require the SAT Essay, including Harvard, Princeton, Yale, Stanford, Dartmouth, and Brown. But in the context of college admissions, “optional” often takes on a whole new meaning. 

What’s more, the CollegeBoard will now be discontinuing the SAT Essay following the June 2021 SAT administration .

Should you take the SAT essay between now and 2021? Or should you pass on it and spend those 50 minutes elsewhere?

In this article, we answer these questions and more.

Here’s what we cover:

The SAT Essay: The Basics

  • How We’ve Approached the Essay Until Now (2021)
  • Should You Take the Essay Between Now and June 2021?

If they’ve registered for it, students take the SAT essay after they have completed the first 4 sections of the test. The Essay portion is 50 minutes long (as opposed to the old SAT’s 25-minute essay section) and is hand-written.

The Purpose of the SAT Essay

According to the College Board, the SAT essay is “about the real world.”

The SAT Essay is a lot like a typical college writing assignment in which you’re asked to analyze a text. Take the SAT with Essay and show colleges that you’re ready to come to campus and write.

Yes, students must write analytically after nearly three hours of testing, when their brains are significantly fatigued! Nonetheless, the SAT essay is designed to showcase a student’s writing capabilities in the context of college preparedness .

Should I take the SAT Essay?

Source : College Board

Notice how students are not asked whether or not they agree with the author’s argument. Nor are they asked to assess its logical soundness.

They must simply identify the tools or “rhetorical devices” the author uses to make his/her argument persuasive.

Passages will be similar in length and style to those on the Evidence-Based Reading test of the SAT, although notably more argumentative in nature. Many essay passages are speeches or editorials. These can be from any century.

SAT Essay Scoring

Two separate readers will assess students’ essays and score these in three categories:

  • and Writing

They will award 1-4 points for each category. The SAT test graders then add the two scores for each category. Here’s an example:

A student’s SAT essay scores do not impact their SAT composite score or Verbal section score. Essay scores appear separately on the score report itself. These do not include a composite score or percentiles.

Our Historic Approach to the SAT Essay (pre-2021)

Before the CollegeBoard announced that it would be discontinuing the SAT Essay in June 2021, these were our thoughts on this optional section of the test.

First things first, plenty of institutions have dropped their requirement of the SAT or ACT essays due to the financial obstacle it may pose to some students. As we’ve already mentioned, the SAT essay requires $15 on top of the exam’s registration fee of $49.50. ( Fee waivers do exist.)

Yet some colleges have sometimes filled the SAT essay gap with something else, such as supplemental writing materials .  Despite not requiring it, a dwindling number of institutions have “recommended” that students take the essay if they have the means to do so.

College Application Requirements 

In the past, the CollegeBoard has been quick to emphasize that taking the SAT Essay enables students to apply to schools that “recommend or require it.” 

Indeed, some of the colleges on students’ lists may have different policies and/or requirements when it comes to the SAT Essay. 

SAT Essay Policies

If you do use this tool, be sure to confirm essay policies with what colleges specify on their websites.  

Essay Alternatives

Some colleges have requested an alternative to the SAT essay in past admission cycles.

While Princeton University has not historically required the SAT or ACT essay, it does request a graded academic writing sample from all applicants. This is designed to “ assess the student’s written expression in an academic setting” and “further the holistic understanding of the student’s application.”

Other universities, such as Harvard , permit applicants to supplement their applications with academic papers, research projects, and other scholarly documents of which they are the sole author. 

In other words, colleges are keen to assess students’ writing capacities, SAT/ACT essay aside.

SAT Test Prep

The essay does incorporate much of what both SAT verbal sections already test: expression of ideas, logical organization, critical analysis of a text, and author’s intent.

Students who prepare for both SAT verbal sections will thus already be poised for success on the essay!  In this sense, studying for the SAT essay nicely complements any SAT test prep timeline and curriculum. 

AP English students may also be at an advantage for the SAT essay. The prompt’s focus on argument and rhetorical devices frequently aligns with AP English curriculum, making essay prep more straightforward. 

Taking the SAT Essay in 2021

The CollegeBoard will no longer offer the SAT Essay after the June administration of the SAT.

In the past, we’ve encouraged students to take the Essay to keep their options open, especially those applying to more selective colleges. We haven’t advised  spending too much time preparing for the Essay, however.

Now what? S hould you even consider signing up for the SAT Essay since it’s going away in six months?

In general, plan on taking the SAT Essay if:

  • You have already significantly prepared for the essay at this point in your SAT test prep
  • You’ve taken the SAT essay once and plan on taking the SAT at least one more time before or on June 2021
  • You plan on taking the SAT at least twice by June 2021  (this allows for SuperScoring with Essay)
  • You desperately wish to showcase your writing skills and/or
  • You have substantial extra prep time (i.e., preparing for the Essay won’t compromise your prep for other more valuable sections)

We recommend that you skip the essay if:

  • You are just starting your test prep journey now
  • You plan on taking the SAT after the June administration, at least one time
  • At least one college on your list requires an essay alternative (such as an academic paper)
  • You’ve already taken the essay at least twice and/or
  • Your time is better spent preparing for the required sections of the SAT (Math, Reading, Writing & Language)

At the end of the day, colleges are likely to still be interested in applicants’ ability to write well and think critically.

That’s why we encourage students to spend time honing their personal statements , in-class academic papers, and supplemental essay responses , regardless of their history with the SAT Essay.

Kate is a graduate of Princeton University. Over the last decade, Kate has successfully mentored hundreds of students in all aspects of the college admissions process, including the SAT, ACT, and college application essay.


is 17 on sat essay good

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What does scoring on the SAT look like? The SAT is scored on a range of 400-1600. This composite score consists of a Verbal sectional score and a Math sectional score. But much more goes into SAT scoring than most students realize!

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Taking official practice tests is one of the best ways to prepare for the ACT. Here you will find detailed instructions for how to take your own practice ACT test.

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Your chance of acceptance, your chancing factors, extracurriculars, is a 17 on the act a good score.

I just got my ACT scores and scored a 17. I'm not sure what to think of it. Is this considered a good score for college admissions? Any advice would be appreciated!

A 17 on the ACT is considered below average when it comes to college admissions. The national average for the ACT is around a 20-21, and more selective colleges will be seeking scores in the mid-to-high 20s or even 30s. However, your ACT score is just one factor in the college application process, and different schools have different score requirements.

To determine if your score is a good fit for the colleges you're interested in, you'll want to research the average ACT scores for admitted students at those institutions. This information can often be found on college websites or in their Common Data Sets. If you find that your score is significantly below the average for a school, you may want to consider retaking the test to see if you can improve.

It's important to remember that some schools and programs place varying levels of emphasis on test scores. While more selective institutions often rely heavily on standardized test scores, others may prioritize other factors in your application, such as your GPA, extracurricular activities, or essays.

There are also test-optional colleges that do not require you to submit SAT or ACT scores for admission, so it's worth considering these schools if you feel that your ACT score might not accurately represent your academic potential.

If you decide to retake the ACT to try to improve your score, consider utilizing test prep resources and strategies, such as those provided by CollegeVine,, or local community resources like tutoring centers or high school programs.

Finally, keep in mind that the college application process is holistic, and your ACT score is just one factor among many that admissions officers consider. It's important to focus on other aspects of your application, like your GPA, extracurricular involvement, and essays, to demonstrate your abilities and interests.

About CollegeVine’s Expert FAQ

CollegeVine’s Q&A seeks to offer informed perspectives on commonly asked admissions questions. Every answer is refined and validated by our team of admissions experts to ensure it resonates with trusted knowledge in the field.

'A good soul, a good heart': Longtime colleague reflects on Maury County tornado victim

by Kylie Walker, Sydney Keller

Longtime colleague Rose Thornton reflects on time with Maury County tornado victim. (Photo: FOX 17 News)

MAURY COUNTY, Tenn. (WZTV) — Colleagues of the Maury County tornado victim are sharing kinds words for their late friend.

Cheryl Lovett, the woman who died Wednesday in an EF-3 tornado , was a loving mother and grandmother, a GoFundMe says . She was also a dedicated worker, all the way to the end.

FOX 17 News spoke to people who knew and worked alongside Cheryl at Stan's Restaurant in Columbia, Tennessee. Rose Thornton, who had known Cheryl for six years, says she worked at the restaurant for 41 years.

Thornton said through tears that Wednesday was going to be Cheryl's last day on the job, adding she was ready to retire and spend time with family.

"She was a family person," Thornton said. "She was so excited...she retired years ago when I first started, but you couldn't hold her down. She loved to work. So, she came back to help us out, and Wednesday was gonna be her last day. She was ready to go home and spend time with her grandkids and family, like she was so excited."

Thornton last worked with Cheryl on Tuesday, saying she was ready to be done working and spend the rest of her days with family.

"She was just good spirits, different than usual," Thornton said. "She was so full of life that day. I just knew that she was at peace, that she was finally get to rest because, you know, she done had her years here. She was ready to go home and be with the family, and she's an amazing lady.

Christian Owens had been employed at Stan's Restaurant three years. He said Cheryl was a great coworker who always came in with a positive attitude.

"We couldn't ask for nothing better, restaurant side," Owens said. "Great person. Walks in that door every morning at 5 o'clock, smiling."

Thornton said Cheryl was overall a good person with great generosity.

"She was like the best person ever," Thornton said. She had a good soul, a good heart. If we were going through something, my mom passed away a couple weeks ago and she gave me this pretty flower out of her garden, and it's the small things she would do for you that would just mean the world."

A GoFundMe for Cheryl's family says she had a daughter and an 18-year-old granddaughter who is graduating next week. FOX 17 News also learned Cheryl recently had a set of two twin grandkids.

Download the FREE FOX 17 Code Red Weather App for your iPhone, iPad or Android .

is 17 on sat essay good

The northern lights danced across the US last night. It could happen again Saturday.

Amazing auroras sparked by a massive solar storm — the strongest in decades — set the world abuzz Friday night as colorful glowing light radiated into the skies as far south as Florida and the Bahamas, to the surprising delight of many who waited up and kept watch.

And good news for anyone who missed it: You may get another chance Saturday night or Sunday.

"Overnight, aurora were visible across much of the United States. Weather permitting, they may be visible again tonight," the Space Weather Prediction Center said in a Saturday morning update . A later update suggests the possibility of widespread viewing in the U.S. on Sunday too.

(A word of caution, experts have previously told USA TODAY that forecasting space weather is difficult . Researchers must rely on observations of the 93-million-miles-away sun to make their predictions.)

Northern lights are only visible at night time, and experts say it's best to view them away from the hustle and bustle of city life to get the best show. Still, Americans in cities said they could see the lights overnight, including in metro Detroit .

Wisconsinites got to see the lights dance across the sky in green and purple hues. Even residents of downtown Milwaukee caught a glimpse despite the bright city lights obstructing the view.

See photos: Northern lights on full display across US, Europe on Friday

Will the aurora be visible this weekend?

It could be.

The Space Weather Prediction Center offers an experimental forecast map that showed on Saturday the aurora may be visible Saturday in a wide swath of the U.S., possibly in states including Oregon, Nebraska, Indiana, Pennsylvania and New York. But visibility will depend on shifting factors that include weather.

For Sunday, space weather forecasters said the aurora could become visible again over the northern half of the country, with sights extending as far south as Alabama and northern California. The effects of that storm are expected to arrive Sunday morning ET.

What is the cloud forecast Saturday night? Will clouds block the northern lights?

If you missed the aurora borealis Friday night, you might still catch a glimpse on Saturday or Sunday, depending on where you live. But not if clouds get in the way.

The cloud forecast for Saturday night is generally good for most of America, but some of the people who missed their chance last night due to clouds may have a similar problem Saturday, said AccuWeather senior meteorologist Tom Kines. Areas that are likely to be cloudy include New England and Mid-Atlantic regions, as well as parts of the Southern Plains, including Oklahoma, Kansas and Colorado.

“Even just a few breaks in the clouds will allow the aurora to be visible,” Kines said. “There’s always hope.”

Peak visibility time Saturday night will be between 9 p.m. and midnight, with some chance until 2 a.m., Kines said. The best views will be in dark areas away from the light pollution of cities, he said, though some reported seeing the auroras Friday night from metro areas like Milwaukee and Detroit.

Sunday night, if there is any aurora to see, those in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic can rejoice, because Kines said the skies should be clearer.

What is causing the northern lights this weekend?

The spectacle is being caused by geomagnetic storm that erupted from a sunspot cluster on the sun.

The storm was unusually strong — classified as "extreme" (or a G5) storm, the highest level, the  Space Weather Prediction Center  said Friday evening. It's the first G5 storm to hit our planet since 2003.

The geomagnetic storm's effects (which aren't all as pretty as the northern lights) are likely to linger through the weekend. The  Space Weather Prediction Center  said the storm is likely to continue through Sunday.

"There have been reports of power grid irregularities and degradation to high-frequency communications and GPS," the Space Weather Prediction Center said in a Saturday morning update.

Where were the northern lights seen on Friday night?

Across much of the United States and Europe where skies were clear — as far south as Florida, Oklahoma, Texas and Arizona.

To the great disappointment of many in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions, cloud cover dimmed or obstructed the stunning display altogether.

Although it's unusual, auroras have been seen in the far southern United States in the past. This happens when a particularly large coronal mass ejection arrives in the Earth's outer atmosphere, triggering a geomagnetic storm, NOAA reports.

On the night of Nov. 5-6, 2001 , aurora displays were seen in Texas and Arizona.

What causes the aurora?

NASA describes an aurora as an "intricate dance of particles and magnetism between the Sun and the Earth."

The Sun's activity creates strong electrical currents known as geomagnetic storms.

These eruptions are mostly happening at a large, complex sunspot cluster, NOAA'S Space Weather Prediction Center said. Sunspots, which increase and decrease on a 11-year cycle, are areas where the magnetic field is about 2,500 times stronger than Earth's.

The reason the auroras move is because of how the Sun's ionized gases interact with the Earth's magnetic field.

If you took a great photo, NASA wants to know

In a collaboration with the National Science Foundation and the New Mexico Consortium aurora sightings and photos are being collected at the Aurorasaurus web page.

Why was the aurora borealis so red on Friday?

Mike Theiss, an extreme nature photographer and hurricane storm chaser, who lives in Florida was shocked to see posts Friday night about how far south people were seeing the auroras. To his amazement, he was able to step out of his front door in Key Largo in the Florida Keys and see and photograph the aurora. Hours later he was still incredulous, and surprised at the colors in the aurora.

"I’ve documented the Northern Lights in Iceland, North Dakota, Arctic Circle in Canada but never this red color," Theiss said. "This is the first time I’ve seen red."

The multiple colors seen in auroras are related to the types of gas being bombarded at various levels above the Earth. Auroras occur within one of Earth's upper atmosphere layers, the thermosphere, according to the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research.

Solar particles trapped there interact with various gas molecules, such as nitrogen and oxygen, according to the research corporation's website. Oxygen gives off green and red lights, while nitrogen glows blue and reddish purple. For example, nitrogen gas glows blue at 75 to 110 miles altitude.

The less common red auroras form from interacting with higher altitude oxygen molecules, the website explains.

'Two incredible spectacles of the universe': Northern lights come about a month after eclipse

Seeing the aurora amazed Antonella Fruscione, an astrophysicist at Harvard University. She sent photos of the sight as well as the April total solar eclipse to her friends in Italy.

"And I sent them the picture that I took at the solar eclipse and I said, 'Can you imagine how fortunate I was this year, one month apart, I see these two incredible spectacles of the universe,'" she recalled telling them.

The phenomena seen Friday and possibly Saturday night is unusual, she said.

"It's a very rare occurrence, especially because last night it was really visible," Fruscione said.

What was the Halloween storm in October 2003?

Over two decades ago in late October 2003, three massive sunspot groups appeared on the sun's surface with little warning, accompanied by 17 major solar flares, according to the National Centers for Environmental Information.

Satellites, radio and GPS systems went on the fritz around the world, causing some major disruptions. But it also offered a stunning view of the auroras as far south as California and Florida. People in Australia and Mediterranean countries even caught a glimpse.

Contributing: Doyle Rice and Krystal Nurse , USA TODAY

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Choose Your Test

Sat / act prep online guides and tips, which colleges require the sat essay complete list.

SAT Logistics , SAT Essay


Planning to take the SAT? Before you sign up, you need to decide whether you're going to take the test with or without the optional Essay . How should you pick? Well, some colleges require that you apply with the SAT with Essay; others don't care whether you submit an SAT score with or without the Essay.

In this article, I'll provide you with a complete list of colleges that require or recommend taking the SAT with the Essay .

UPDATE: SAT Essay No Longer Offered

In January 2021, the College Board announced that after June 2021, it would no longer offer the Essay portion of the SAT (except at schools who opt in during School Day Testing). It is now no longer possible to take the SAT Essay, unless your school is one of the small number who choose to offer it during SAT School Day Testing.

While most colleges had already made SAT Essay scores optional, this move by the College Board means no colleges now require the SAT Essay. It will also likely lead to additional college application changes such not looking at essay scores at all for the SAT or ACT, as well as potentially requiring additional writing samples for placement.

What does the end of the SAT Essay mean for your college applications? Check out our article on the College Board's SAT Essay decision for everything you need to know.

What Is the Optional SAT Essay?

The redesigned SAT debuted in March 2016 with a now-optional Essay section. For the Essay, you have 50 minutes to read a passage (similar to those you see on the Reading section ) and write an essay dissecting how the author made the argument . Did the author use evidence to support the main claim? Appeals to emotion? Specific word choice?

If you take the SAT without Essay, the test length is three hours . However, if you take the SAT with Essay, the optional Essay adds 50 minutes . It also costs more to take the SAT with Essay : $64.50 vs $49.50 without the Essay.

Don't automatically assume you must take the Essay. Whether it's important for you depends on which schools (and scholarships) you're applying to and what the rest of your application looks like. I'll go into more depth later about how to decide which version of the SAT to take.


List of Schools That Require the SAT With Essay

Below, I've compiled a list of colleges that require or recommend taking the SAT with Essay. All data comes from the College Board and some individual schools we consulted separately.

Note: This list is subject to change, so make sure to double-check with each school you're applying to.

Surprisingly (and in contrast to how it's been in the past), top schools mostly do not require the SAT essay . Currently, no Ivy League School requires students to take the SAT with Essay; the same is true for Stanford, Caltech, Duke, Georgetown, Johns Hopkins, MIT, Northwestern, NYU, and UChicago. Many of these schools no longer even recommend students to take the SAT with Essay, which is a huge turnaround from just a couple of years ago.

Similarly, most liberal arts colleges do not require or recommend the SAT with Essay ; however, there are some exceptions, such as Soka University, which does require it.

In general, most state schools also do not require the SAT with Essay, though there's still a significant portion that do. There tends to be some weird variance even within states. For example, all University of California schools require the SAT with Essay, but most of the California State University schools do not.

Regardless of the types of schools you're applying to, don't assume that they all ask for the SAT with Essay . Check with every school to make sure you understand their testing requirements.


How to Decide Whether to Take the SAT Essay: 4 Questions

When making your decision about whether to take the SAT with Essay or the SAT without Essay, you'll need to consider the following four questions.

#1: Do Any Schools I Want to Apply to Require the SAT Essay?

If you're applying to any school that requires the Essay, then you must take the SAT with Essay . If you take the SAT without Essay, your application will be incomplete and you won't get admitted. By contrast, if you apply to any schools that don't require the SAT Essay, you can still take the SAT with Essay since these schools will accept both types of SAT scores (with or without Essay).

To reiterate, colleges that require the SAT Essay won't consider your score if you took the SAT without the Essay . The last thing you want to do is take the SAT without the Essay and get a good score—but then find out that one of your target schools requires you to take the SAT with Essay.

Remember that some colleges change their application policies from year to year, so make sure to double-check the testing policies of the schools you're applying to .

#2: Do Any Schools I Want to Apply to Recommend the SAT Essay?

If you're not applying to any schools that require the SAT Essay section but are applying to some that recommend it, then I'd still suggest taking it . This gives you another dimension schools can use to evaluate your application; however, there are some cases in which you shouldn't take the SAT with Essay.

If, for some reason, you do not qualify for SAT fee waivers and paying the extra cost to take the SAT with Essay would be a financial burden to you , then please don't feel as if you have to take it. In this case, it's fine to take the SAT without Essay instead.

In addition, if you really struggle to write essays under time constraints (due to anxiety), you might want to opt out of the Essay . That said, I only recommend this for students who normally have strong English and writing skills but struggle to write coherent essays when there's the added pressure of a time constraint.

For example, do you get As on essays you can work on at home but Cs on in-class essays because you get easily nervous? If that's the case, taking the SAT with Essay might not be a good idea.

#3: Am I Applying to Any Scholarships That Require an SAT With Essay Score?

Many scholarships (such as National Merit ) require you to submit SAT scores , and some specifically want SAT with Essay scores.

Therefore, be sure to check the requirements of each scholarship you're planning on applying for . While scholarships that don't require or recommend the SAT Essay should still accept your SAT with Essay score, scholarships that require the Essay section will not consider your SAT score if you took the no-essay version .

#4: Will the SAT Essay Enhance My Application in Other Ways?

Generally speaking, taking the SAT Essay if it's not required won't add a lot to your application. In truth, colleges that don't recommend or require the Essay really don't pay much attention to it.

Nevertheless, the Essay might be helpful for international students who want to prove they have strong English skills and who think they'll do especially well on it. If you fall into this category and feel confident you'll get a high score on it ( after doing practice essays , for example), definitely consider taking the SAT with Essay.

On the other hand, if you don't think you'll do well on the Essay, I recommend against taking it.

What's Next?

Need help preparing for the SAT? Read our ultimate study guide to get expert tips on prep and access to the best free online resources. If you're taking the test soon, learn how to cram for the SAT .

Want to learn more about the SAT Essay? Check out our step-by-step guide to writing a great essay .

Not sure where you want to go to college? Learn how to do college research right and figure out your SAT target score .

Ready to go beyond just reading about the SAT? Then you'll love the free five-day trial for our SAT Complete Prep program . Designed and written by PrepScholar SAT experts , our SAT program customizes to your skill level in over 40 subskills so that you can focus your studying on what will get you the biggest score gains.

Click on the button below to try it out!

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As an SAT/ACT tutor, Dora has guided many students to test prep success. She loves watching students succeed and is committed to helping you get there. Dora received a full-tuition merit based scholarship to University of Southern California. She graduated magna cum laude and scored in the 99th percentile on the ACT. She is also passionate about acting, writing, and photography.

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  1. What is a Good SAT Essay Score?

    In 2019, the mean score on the Reading and Writing for the SAT Essay was a 5. For the Analysis section, the mean score was a little lower at 3, simply because Analysis is a skill that high school students spend less time honing than Reading or Writing. For a detailed breakdown of how 2019's test takers performed, here are a few score ...

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    The average SAT essay score for students graduating high school in 2020 was 5 out of 8 for Reading, 3 out of 8 for Analysis, and 5 out of 8 for Writing (source: CollegeBoard 2020 Total Group Report). To get a better idea of how frequently different essay scores were assigned, I created several different SAT essay score distribution charts that ...

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    But for now, let's just say a pretty "good" SAT Essay score is anything above about a 19 (out of a maximum of 24 points). Now let me be clear - an 19 would be on the lowest-possible end for what I'd consider basically a "good" SAT Essay score. That's definitely not a great SAT Essay score. But it does put you somewhere around the ...

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    Here are 5 tips for writing a killer SAT essay, should you decide to add on that section: 1. Stay Objective. The thing to remember here is that ETS (the company that writes the test) is not asking you for your opinion on a topic or a text. So be sure to maintain formal style and an objective tone.

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    The SAT Essay section is a lot like a typical writing assignment in which you're asked to read and analyze a passage and then produce an essay in response to a single prompt about that passage. It gives you the opportunity to demonstrate your reading, analysis, and writing skills—which are critical to readiness for success in college and ...

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    You have 50 minutes to read the passage and write an essay in response to the prompt provided inside this booklet. CD . 0 . REMINDERS • Do not write your essay in this booklet. Only what you write on the lined pages of your answer sheet will be evaluated. • An off-topic essay will not be evaluated. STANDARD TIME . Essay: 50 . minutes . This ...

  14. What Is a Good SAT Score?

    Note that the percentile rankings for scores may change slightly from year to year. Your SAT score, which ranges from 400-1600, is the sum of your two section scores: Math and Reading and Writing. Each section uses a scale of 200-800 in 10-point increments. A good score on Math or Reading and Writing, then, would be around 600.

  15. What's a Good SAT Score?

    High school GPAs, on average, increased from 3.17 in 2010 to 3.36 in 2021, according to a 2022 report from ACT. At the same time, the highest grade inflation - a term used to describe an ...

  16. SAT Scores

    K-12 Educators: SAT Scores. Learn how to access educator score reports, review the score release schedule, help your students interpret their scores, and more. Access your SAT scores, view detailed score reports, find score release dates, and learn what your scores mean.

  17. The SAT Essay: Should You Take It?

    The SAT Essay is optional. Students do not have to sit for it. In fact, they must elect to take the Essay when registering for the SAT. This costs an additional $15. Plenty of U.S. universities and colleges do not require the SAT Essay, including Harvard, Princeton, Yale, Stanford, Dartmouth, and Brown. But in the context of college admissions ...

  18. Should I Take the SAT Essay? How to Decide

    Taking the SAT with the essay will also cost you a bit more money. Taking the SAT without the essay costs $46, but if you choose to take the essay, it costs $14 extra, raising the total cost of the SAT to $60. However, if you're eligible for an SAT fee waiver, the waiver also applies to this section of the exam, so you still won't have to pay ...

  19. Is a 17 on the ACT a good score?

    A 17 on the ACT is considered below average when it comes to college admissions. The national average for the ACT is around a 20-21, and more selective colleges will be seeking scores in the mid-to-high 20s or even 30s. However, your ACT score is just one factor in the college application process, and different schools have different score ...

  20. 'A good soul, a good heart': Longtime colleague reflects on ...

    Sat, 11 May 2024 16:30:11 GMT (1715445011319) ... "She was just good spirits, different than usual," Thornton said. ... Download the FREE FOX 17 Code Red Weather App for your iPhone, iPad or ...

  21. Northern lights forecast: Where will they be visible Saturday?

    Peak visibility time Saturday night will be between 9 p.m. and midnight, with some chance until 2 a.m., Kines said. The best views will be in dark areas away from the light pollution of cities, he ...

  22. Home

    Learn about the SAT Suite of Assessments, which includes the SAT, PSAT/NMSQT, PSAT 10, and PSAT 8/9. ... MAY 17, 2024. May SAT Score Release Add to Calendar ... and available to all students. With personalized plans, practice tests and more, Khan Academy is good preparation for any test in the SAT Suite. Go to Khan Academy Preparing for the SAT ...

  23. SAT Essay Prompts: The Complete List

    No extra time allowed! #5: Grade the essay, using the official essay rubric to give yourself a score out of 8 in the reading, analysis, and writing sections. #6: Repeat steps 4 and 5. Choose the prompts you think will be the hardest for you so that you can so that you're prepared for the worst when the test day comes.

  24. Stormy Daniels Takes the Stand

    On today's episode. Jonah E. Bromwich, who covers criminal justice in New York for The New York Times. Stormy Daniels leaving court on Thursday, after a second day of cross-examination in the ...

  25. 6 SAT Essay Examples to Answer Every Prompt

    Here are a couple of examples of statistics from an official SAT essay prompt, "Let There Be Dark" by Paul Bogard: Example: 8 of 10 children born in the United States will never know a sky dark enough for the Milky Way. Example: In the United States and Western Europe, the amount of light in the sky increases an average of about 6% every year.

  26. How To Watch Aurora Borealis: Northern Lights could be visible ...

    NOAA says optimal viewing time for the aurora is generally within an hour or two of midnight—so between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m. local time. The agency recommends getting away from city lights and ...

  27. Which Colleges Require the SAT Essay? Complete List

    Surprisingly (and in contrast to how it's been in the past), top schools mostly do not require the SAT essay.Currently, no Ivy League School requires students to take the SAT with Essay; the same is true for Stanford, Caltech, Duke, Georgetown, Johns Hopkins, MIT, Northwestern, NYU, and UChicago. Many of these schools no longer even recommend students to take the SAT with Essay, which is a ...