There are three different types of SAT essay writers: The first starts writing immediately after reading the prompt. The second watches the clock, twirls a pen, and gnaws the insides of their cheeks until they’re confident enough to start writing. But the third, our role model, does something glaringly obvious but regrettably rare—they plan.
But why use up time planning when you only have twenty-five minutes? It’s true that longer SAT essays tend to score higher, so we should spend that time putting words on the page, right? In reality, spending two or three minutes planning the essay will quite likely give you a longer and more coherent piece of writing.
Can’t I just start writing?
That first type, the gung-ho diver—let’s call him Phelps—is setting himself up for a trap. He’ll find himself up against a wall, having used up all his ideas. Phelps does not live up to his name, here, and he ends up slowing down, using precious time searching for his next example, erasing his previous sentence and writing a new transition. He tends to spend a lot of time erasing.
How does planning for the essay help?
The third type, the architect, knows that having solid blueprints ahead of time will not only make the finished product stronger in structure, but will also free up time to spend on the details. If you already know your two or three examples and have them written down for reference, you’ll be able to be flesh out each one with high-level vocab and smooth transitions with your full attention. In contrast, Phelps will constantly be planning where to go next and using some of his attention to do so. As a result, there’s also a good chance that he’ll lose sight of his argument, which is a surefire way to score lower than you should. Having blueprints gives you the opportunity to both focus on the sentence at hand and keep from straying too far from your point.
So don’t skip it!