SAT Essay Scores: How To Get A Perfect Score

Matt Larriva
Dec 21, 2020

Many students ask me about SAT essay scores and request an example of an SAT essay with a perfect score.

I will share my response below and explain why this SAT essay example fulfills all the scoring requirements. There are four simple tips you can apply when completing the essay portion of the SAT that will allow you to replicate a perfect score on the SAT essay, which we will cover below!

How Are SAT Essays Scored?

student practicing sat essay

According to the College Board, SAT essays are scored using a specific process. Additionally, the College Board states that every official scorer is trained to ensure all students are held to the same exacting standards listed below.

  1. Every essay will be read and scored by two different scorers.
  2. Each scorer will award 1 to 4 points for each of the following dimensions:
    • reading
    • analysis
    • writing
  3. The scores for each dimension from both scorers are added together
  4. You will receive three separate scores—one for each of the dimensions listed above—that range from 2 to 8 points
  5. The SAT Essay score will not be a composite score in which all of the scores are added together, nor are there percentiles

What Is A Perfect SAT Essay Score

Based on the criteria from above, a perfect score on the SAT essay would be three scores of 8.

In other words, you will need to score a 4 from each scorer in each dimension.

Here’s what a perfect score on the SAT essay will look like:

Reading ScoreAnalysis ScoreWriting Score
Scorer #1444
Scorer #2444
Total reading score: 8Total analysis score: 8Total writing score: 8
You will get three different scores, one for each dimension, for the SAT essay.

SAT Essay Example Assignment & Answer

Now that we know how SAT essays are scored, let’s take a look at the example I promised to share with you earlier. Then we’ll discuss how you can earn a perfect score on your SAT essay.

Example SAT Essay Assignment:

“Is it wise to be suspicious of the motives or honesty of other people, even those who appear to be trustworthy? Plan and write an essay in which you develop your point of view on this issue. Support your position with reasoning and examples taken from your reading, studies, experience, or observations.”

Example of a Perfect Scoring SAT Essay Answer:

The quagmire of whether to trust categorically or to bring skepticism into all interactions is one that has plagued mankind since inception. From one perspective, to trust is to engage in humanity; however, from another angle, humans are a self-promoting species who will advance themselves while thwarting the less shrewd, if allowed. In the end, the answer is clear and evident: as proven through examples in history, literature, and current events, it is obvious that it is always better to enter interactions with a sense of cynicism toward all others.

Historically, Abraham Lincoln was an exemplar proving that it is always best to be skeptical of the motives of others. When he called upon the know how of General William Tecumseh Sherman, he was not without his doubts as to the motives of the once-radical general.

(Filler…………..Filler……………Filler……………Doesn’t matter what you write here because the introduction and the first two sentences the second paragraph were so strong……..Filler…………Filler……….Filler)*

Hence, Lincoln was a superlative leader not only because of his political acumen, but because of his persistent doubt of the morals and morays of other people.

Even in current times, the collapse of the housing market is a supreme example outlining the necessity of doubting the motives of others. Loan officers in the late ’90s encouraged homeowners to purchase with 100% loan-to-value ration, and because homeowners were not skeptical of this proposition, they found themselves upside down owing more than their house was worth

(………..Filler………………………)*

The literature of Dostoevsky confirms what history and current events have suggested: it is always better to be skeptical of others as demonstrated by the character  Ivan Fyodorovich in The Brothers  Karamazov. Vanka never lets down his guard in dealing with others, and resultantly is the only truly successful and fulfilled character in the novel

(………..Filler………………………)*

The debate of whether to trust everyone until he or she errs, or to be guarded against the motives of others is not lost in history, literature, or current events. Each tells us that it is far better and even necessary to doubt the motives of our cohort

(………..Filler………………………)*

(*Note: when you read “Filler…” in the SAT essay example, I just mean to write pretty much anything that is on topic—it doesn’t matter.)

And….. done.

4 Things You Need To Do For A Perfect SAT Essay Score

Were you able to identify any of the four characteristics that make the example assignment answer earn a perfect SAT essay score?

They might be more obvious than you think!

What Earns A Perfect SAT Essay Score?

In a nutshell…

  1. A lot of writing
  2. Big words
  3. Very high-level examples
  4. Clean, easy to follow logic

That’s all it takes.

That wasn’t so difficult, right?

SAT Essay Scoring FAQ

What is the most important thing to do when writing an ACT and SAT essay? Is it development, mechanics, originality or something else?

In this order:
◾ You have to write legibly. If they can’t read it, you’re going to do very poorly.
◾ You have to abide by the standard conventions of English. If you do not use complete sentences, if you avoid punctuation, or if you abuse capitalization or paragraph rules, you will do very poorly.
◾ You must address the question. Immaculate writing that is off-topic will receive a very low score.
◾ Clearly identify your points.
◾ Develop your points
◾ Use strong varied language
◾Use unique arguments
◾ Be original

How Can I Cheat on the SAT?

I am assuming your intentions are to explore the question as an intellectual experiment, and not to actually cheat on the SAT. With that in mind, the way most people are able to cheat on the SAT is mostly through one of the following methods:
◾ identity fraud
◾ access to the material early (either by accident or intentionally)
◾ communication during the test
I suggest reading my article, How Can I Cheat on the SAT?, for more insight on this controversial topic.

When should my student take the SAT?

Unfortunately, there is no one single answer to this question. It depends on many factors including where your student is starting out from, which school they hope to get into, and how much prep time they will need. I wrote a comprehensive guide on when to take the SAT which includes many helpful and actionable tips to help you formulate the perfect plan for SAT test prep and when the best time for your student is to take the SAT. Read When To Take The SAT: Ideal Timeline and The Easiest Test Date for the SAT and ACT to learn more.

Can you get a good score on the SAT if you’re taking it for the first time and studied for only a month?

That depends on what your starting score is and on what you consider “good.” There are too many factors to be able to answer this with any sense of certainty.
What I can tell you is how to make sure you have the highest likelihood of the largest improvement in the time you have. The tips and test prep techniques I outline in this article will show you how to do just that.

Does “Test Optional” mean optional for me?

We are all familiar with the difference between “optional” (it makes no difference whether you do or don’t) and “optional” (technically you can choose this, but you probably shouldn’t). Just because a school touts a “testing optional” policy does not mean that they want all their applicants to forgo tests. However, the answer to this question depends on some specifics that will vary among students.
Read this article to help you understand what “testing optional” really means for students like you.

Boost Your SAT Score 100 Points Or More

sat essay scoring expert advice

Remember, the SAT essay score is only one portion of the SAT test. (Not to mention the SAT essay is technically optional.) Many of the Ivy League schools don’t require the essay portion of the test, although I do recommend that students still complete the essay.

While the tips we’ve just covered will help you earn higher marks on the essay, it’s even more important to study and prep for the main sections of the SAT.

Here’s why:

Getting accepted to a top-tier college or university is more competitive than ever—and along with GPA and extracurricular activities, your child’s SAT score is one of the most important factors for gaining acceptance to the Ivy Leagues or other elite schools. It’s also the only factor that can be substantially improved in a short period of time.

At Powerful Prep, we have a proven test prep method that does just that.

The numbers don’t lie…

  • Powerful Prep students gain an average increase of 15 points per tutor session
  • On average, Powerful Prep students improve their SAT score by 150 points
  • Some star pupils have increased their SAT scores by as much as 300 points
  • Minimum point gain guarantee: 100*
    (*For students with official proctored baseline scores below 1300 (SAT) or 30 (ACT); who complete 12 tutoring sessions, complete all homework, and attend one proctored practice test per month.)