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Many students get too hung-up on how to begin their SAT essay – what should they write down first?

Honestly, the body paragraphs should be the more important concern – this is where you’ll make your main points and convince the reader that you know your stuff.

Really, the intro paragraph only needs to smoothly introduce your essay, but a perfect intro is not the be-all end-all of a good SAT essay.

Beginning an SAT essay isn’t all that tough. You should find a simple formula that works and stick with it!

Your first paragraph only needs to restate the topic, provide a thesis for your essay, and introduce your SAT essay evidence. It’s also a great time to include a cool vocab word or two – they’ll definitely be noticed quickly in your introduction.

Then you can move on to the rest of the essay, which is a little more important.

Here’s how you do just that:

Step 1. Restate the prompt and pick a side

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Rewording the SAT essay prompt is a good move that will make the grader happy with your essay from the beginning. This helps them remember what exactly we’re talking about here!

Restating the essay prompt will also subconsciously encourage you to stay on topic as you write your essay, which is one of the key requirements of a high score on the SAT essay, according to the grading rubric.

The easiest thing to do is use this formula to reword the essay question while immediately taking a side with a clear thesis:

  •  If you are agreeing with the prompt, say “It is true that [restate prompt but change the wording], as some have said.”
  •  If you are disagreeing with the prompt, do this: “Some have said,” then rewrite the prompt with a few words changed. Continue with: “However, examples from [something],[something], and [something else] prove otherwise.

Don’t believe that it could be that simple? It is!

Again, more students spend too long thinking about the beginning of their SAT essay that spend not enough time thinking. Since you only have 25 minutes, I’m in favor of working quickly!

Here’s an real-life demonstration of this SAT essay introduction formula in action, with the real SAT question “Is it important to question the ideas and decisions of people in authority?”

  • If your thesis is “yes,” you would write: “It is true that we should openly question the decisions of people in positions of power, as some have said.”
  •  If your thesis is “no,” you would write: “Some have said that it is fundamentally important to second-guess the decisions of our leaders. However, examples from history, literature, and my personal life prove otherwise.”

See? It might not be Shakespeare, but it really does work, and it only takes a few seconds. It’s an easy formula to get the beginning of SAT essay written by restating the prompt and taking a side for your thesis. I’ve used this method several times and usually get a 12 on the SAT essay with it. I’ve never scored less than a 10 using this method.

Step 2. We still need to provide our examples that support our thesis!

I like to give each piece of evidence (you should have at least two examples per essay) its own sentence. We don’t want to give away our entire argument yet, just give a preview of what’s to come.

Name your evidence, give a few words of description, and make the first connection between your evidence and your thesis – provide an idea of why you picked this specific evidence to answer the prompt. Include some cool vocab words if you’re able to think of any on the spot!

We also want to take up space with this part of the intro paragraph, since longer SAT essays usually receive higher scores.. It’s a good place to write a bunch of stuff without having to think too hard, and it looks intelligent, even if it really doesn’t require much thought.

Here’s an example of a good evidence introduction on the SAT essay:

For the essay question above, I might say:

“Gandhi, a peaceful leader of the Indian people, openly questioned authority and helped liberate his nation from oppression. Likewise, female aviatrix Amelia Earhart refused to capitulate to male authority in an era when air travel was new, dangerous, and exclusively for male pilots. Furthermore, wouldn’t even be here today if the legendary explorer, Christopher Columbus, had not been convinced in the success of his planned route despite the common wisdom of the ‘authorities’ of his time, who prophesied that his voyage would fail.”

Now you can move on to writing your first great body paragraph!

Be sure to order my e-books on SAT essay evidence and SAT essay strategy!

Further Reading:
What is the SAT Essay?
How to Write a Great 5-Paragraph SAT Essay

What is the Best SAT Essay Length?
Top 10 Tips for the SAT Essay
Four (more) tips for a better SAT Essay

Additional Resources:
Write the Best SAT Essay of Your Life! (e-Book)
Top 30 Examples to Use as SAT Essay Evidence (e-Book)
Conquer SAT Vocabulary (Video Course)

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