SAT Suite

What Is the SAT Essay?

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 career—and the scores you’ll get back will give you insight into your strengths in these areas as well as indications of any areas that you may still need to work on.

The Essay section is only available in certain states where it’s required as part of SAT School Day administrations. If you’re going to be taking the SAT during school, ask your counselor if it will include the Essay section. If it’s included, the Essay section will come after the Reading and Writing and Math sections and will add an additional 50 minutes.


What You’ll Do

  • Read a passage between 650 and 750 words in length.
  • Explain how the author builds an argument to persuade an audience.
  • Support your explanation with evidence from the passage.

You won’t be asked to agree or disagree with a position on a topic or to write about your personal experience.

The Essay section shows how well you understand the passage and are able to use it as the basis for a well-written, thought-out discussion. Your score will be based on three categories.

Reading: 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.

Analysis: 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

Writing: 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.

Learn more about how the SAT Essay is scored.


Try It Out

Want to practice? Log in to the Bluebook™ testing application, go to the Practice and Prepare section, and choose full-length practice test. There are 3 practice Essay tests. Once you submit your response, go to, where you’ll see your essay, a scoring guide and rubric so that you can score yourself, and student samples for various scores to compare your self-score with a student at the same level.


After the Test

You’ll get your Essay score the same way you’ll get your scores for the Reading and Writing and Math sections. If you choose to send your SAT scores to colleges, your Essay score will be reported along with your other section scores from that test day. Even though Score Choice™ allows you to choose which day’s scores you send to colleges, you can never send only some scores from a certain test day. For instance, you can’t choose to send Math scores but not SAT Essay scores.

Until 2021, the SAT Essay was also an optional section when taking the SAT on a weekend. That section was discontinued in 2021.

If you don’t have the opportunity to take the SAT Essay section as part of the SAT, don’t worry. There are other ways to show your writing skills as part of the work you’re already doing on your path to college. The SAT can help you stand out on college applications, as it continues to measure the writing and analytical skills that are essential to college and career readiness. And, if you want to demonstrate your writing skills even more, you can also consider taking an AP English course.