SAT Essay Transitions


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The use of good transitions is one key to a well-flowing, organized, and clear SAT essay.

If your essay transitions are not refined and clear, then it will be difficult to follow the logic of your argument.

When your transitions are poor or non-existent, the SAT essay grader will constantly have to read ahead to figure out “where are they going with this,” and then go back a couple of sentences now that they understand the context, and this will cost you points on the SAT.

However, you can use transitions to provide context from the very beginning, and this makes your argument much more clear.

Consider the following bad example of essay transitions:

My brother likes to play baseball. He quit playing when a baseball hit him in the face and gave him a black eye. He practiced until he fell asleep on the field. He’s a champion!

Now revised with better essay transitions:

My brother likes to play baseball. However, he once quit playing when a baseball hit him in the face and gave him a black eye. Sometime later, though, his passion for the sport returned and he practiced until he fell asleep on the field. Now, after many years of practice and hard work, he’s a champion!

Comparing the two styles of transition:

The problem with the “bad” example is that the logic is obscure. A reader has a difficult time understanding exactly why one sentence follows another; the train of thought is unclear, especially between sentences two and three – he quit playing, but he practiced until he fell asleep on the field? It doesn’t really compute.

The “good” example uses words like “however,” “sometime later,” and “now, after many years.” These words, placed between the sentences, provide logical links between the various ideas in the paragraph, and as a result, the argument is stronger.

Other good transition words include “although,” “therefore,” “because of this,” “consequently,” “instead of,” “in addition,” etc. These make sentences flow into each other more clearly.

Don’t just link sentences – link paragraphs:

Don’t forget about linking paragraph to paragraph, either. The main places I see poor transitions is not so much sentence-to-sentence within  a paragraph, but rather from paragraph to paragraph, especially when moving from one body paragraph to another. Find some kind of connection or contrast between the SAT essay evidence you’re using and make that connection clear.

Many students display a great deal of logic and organization inside each paragraph, but the three body paragraphs seem to jump aimlessly from topic to topic.

Where do transitions occur in the SAT Essay?

Luckily, with the standard four- or five-paragraph SAT essay, transitions mainly happen in the same place each time.

  • From the SAT essay intro paragraph to the first body paragraph: usually no special transition is needed. Wrap up your intro paragraph cleanly, then use your first body paragraph to introduce your first evidence and show how it supports the thesis.
  • From first body paragraph to second body paragraph: You do need a transition at the start of the second body paragraph. Use a word like “likewise,” “another example is,” “More proof can be found,” etc.
  • Same thing goes for the second to the third body paragraph.
  • Use the first sentence of the second and third body paragraphs to connect to the previous paragraph. Then start explaining your evidence and how it connects to your thesis.
  • You don’t usually need a special transition from third body paragraph to conclusion.

Again, the main places where students neglect good transitions are between the SAT essay body paragraphs. It doesn’t need much – just a word like “Also,” or “However,” that makes it clear from the very start that you are either adding support to your previous point, or going off in a new direction.

How to improve your transitions:

Bottom line: Don’t make the SAT essay grader do the work of figuring out where you’re headed in each paragraph. Make it super-clear from the first sentence by using transition words immediately.

If you’re really serious about improving your transitions and all other aspects of your SAT essay, and you consider yourself a committed student that wants to go to a great college and have a bright future, you should buy my Guide to the SAT Essay, which contains all the important information that I give to my SAT prep students.

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