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Lucas Fink

SAT Essay Body Paragraph Structure

The body of your SAT essay is where the bulk of your argument will lie (and remember that you are making an argument), and it’s probably the piece that students are most comfortable with. Even if your nerves are fried from SAT anxiety, once you’re halfway through the essay, it’s a bit easier to think of what to say than it is when introducing the thing. After all, a lot of us have had the experience of staring blankly down at a paper that stares blankly back..

But even if you’re tearing it up, scribbling furiously through the details of some fantastic example in your body paragraph, you still might not be doing what you need to for that perfect essay score. Since the body paragraphs are when we’re most comfortable writing, we tend to make careless mistakes in them. And I don’t mean just grammar or spelling mistakes—although those can definitely hold back otherwise fantastic essays—but also structural problems.

It’s easy to lose sight of your point in those body paragraphs. Be careful to follow some amount of structure… it doesn’t have to be exactly the same as the structure I give you here, but this isn’t a bad way to go.


The essay prompt and intro

I’m going to use the same prompt and introduction from my example intro post. So here’s that, condensed:

“Is it more important for students to pursue their studies individually or to work under the guidance of a teacher?”

Education is a complex process.Over the course of students’ studies, they’ll inevitably spend time working both alone and with their teachers. Guided learning is helpful, but it only needs to play a relatively minor role in the process. Rather than devoting excessive time to working with teachers, students have to take education into their own hands and work alone as much as possible. Doing so fosters creativity and cements the skills in students’ minds.


Transitioning into your first point

The first sentences of your body paragraph should be relatively broad in its scope. You want to move smoothly from your intro, so don’t just throw an example in here.

That creative thought is an integral facet of education, and there’s no better way to develop it than to have students explore their own ideas. When we’re not given direct instruction, we’re free to create unique, personalized ways to solve problems.

Each body paragraph should have a mini-thesis like this. Notice I’m not just repeating my main thesis that students need time alone; I’m arguing that time alone is good because of something.

Make sure that reason why is clear. Then, move on to the example.


Give some specifics to back it up

Remember that examples can come from just about anywhere. The one I’ll use is historical, but you can use your own experiences or make stuff up.

The ideas of Leonardo da Vinci, for example, were hatched largely in solitude. Da Vinci’s education was limited to art, but he was an incredibly innovative engineer, and that’s most likely because he followed nobody’s rules but his own.

It’s important that you use a phrase like “for example,” or “for instance,” in this part of the paragraph. If you don’t, those specifics will feel disconnected from the rest of the essay.


Explain why the example proves your point

Ideally, any examples you give will be relevant enough to your argument that you won’t really need to explain them for your reader to get the message. But that’s not saying you shouldn’t explain. In reality, analyzing that example is one of the most important parts—that’s what makes the link between your ideas and the real world.

If he had instead followed the regular instruction of teachers who obeyed the standards of the day, he may not have created the sketches of machines that were so far ahead of his time. Independent thinking can have spectacular, unexpected results.

And now you’re nicely set up to transition into your next reason.


Rinse and repeat

Your next body paragraph could follow the same basic structure. Start of with a linking sentence (Self-directed learning gives more than just an opportunity to think for oneself, though), then give an abstract reason, a specific example, and an analysis.

Follow a system like this, and you’ll minimize the number of flaws your essay might have. Argument structure helps clarify your message, so make sure you get it down pat before the day of your SAT.


About Lucas Fink

Lucas is the teacher behind Magoosh TOEFL. He’s been teaching TOEFL preparation and more general English since 2009, and the SAT since 2008. Between his time at Bard College and teaching abroad, he has studied Japanese, Czech, and Korean. None of them come in handy, nowadays.

3 Responses to “SAT Essay Body Paragraph Structure”

  1. mel says:

    A big help!!!!

    thank you so very much!!!

  2. josh hernandez says:

    is there something you recommend for the
    college placement test?

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