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How to write a perfect thesis for the old SAT essay

UPDATE: SAT Essay is No Longer Offered

When writing a thesis statement for the SAT you want to make sure it answers the question: How does the author convince the reader of his/her argument. By answering this question you will always answer the given prompt. You want to make sure to stray away from merely summarizing the author’s claim; instead, you want to make a claim of your own. A thesis should be a statement that someone could argue or disagree with. Meaning, your thesis should be your own opinion on how the author convinces the reader of their argument. Furthermore, the thesis statement should be the last sentence of your first paragraph in order to introduce your body paragraphs. Each part of the thesis statement (2, 3, 4) should correlate with a body paragraph as noted below.

Thesis Statement Outline

The author convinces the reader that __________1____________ by ______2_______, ______3_______, and ______4_______.

1. This is the author’s argument. This can be taken directly from the prompt.

2. Pick one category from below. This topic will be your first body paragraph.

3. Pick one category from below. This topic will be your second body paragraph.

4. Pick one category from below. This topic will be your third body paragraph.

Example: The author convinces the reader that we need to save the environment by providing facts, using vivid language, and appealing to the reader’s emotions.

Topics for Body Paragraphs

Each topic below adds credibility to the authors claim.

1. Anecdote: A short and amusing or interesting story about a real incident or person.

Example: “It was my second day on call at the Volunteer Ambulance Corp. I wrapped the blood pressure cuff on the lady’s right arm, placed the earpieces in my ears, and positioned the diaphragm superficial to her brachial artery. I quickly began to apply pressure to the inflation bulb, reaching the gauge to about 200. Now the tough part. With the chatter in the ambulance I knew it would be nearly impossible to hear her blood pressure sounds, especially since it was my first time taking blood pressure in a real-life situation. But, I honed in all my attention and carefully listened while releasing the air pressure. I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to hear it, but then, at 126, I heard lub dub lub dub. What a relief. I continued to release the air pressure as the sound faded away around 88. With a sense of accomplishment I turned to my partner and said ‘BP 126 over 88.'” This story helps prove the authors claim considering it puts the reader in the author’s shoes. By being in the author’s shoes the reader can easily adapt to the author’s perspective causing the reader to agree with the claim. For example, if the author is trying to prove that alcohol is bad for you, by explaining a situation where alcohol hindered his abilities, it will allow the reader put themselves in the perspective of the reader which will help you see his point of view causing you to agree with the author.

2. Word Choice/Diction: The authors vocabulary choices and style of expression.

Example: “My bros hung out at my crib last night, yo”. This sentence is a rather relaxed and informal dictation providing less credibility. It could make the reader become less confident in the author’s point of view. On the contrary, if the author writes in intelligent and sophisticated words, it may provide more credibility. Therefore, if the author is using medical terms, is providing facts, or has a vivid way of explaining a concept, this may help the reader understand the author’s point of view, causing the reader to be persuaded.

3. Facts/Data/Figures/Evidence/Statistics

Example: “The median household income is $51,939”. By providing a statistic the author is adding valid, concrete evidence in order to help prove his/her case. Thus, this statistic can help the author prove his point because it holds credibility and allows the reader to form their own opinion based of statistics rather than subjective opinions.

4. Tone/Rhetoric/Syntax: How the author speaks to the reader and their attitude towards the subject or audience.

Example: “Ok. Great! That’s what I expected.” This response indicates sarcasm. Additionally, using contractions could denote informality in the author’s tone. Also, a response with exclamation points can indicate excitement and enthusiasm. This could persuade the reader because the reader may be able to connect with the author’s passion or attitude towards the given subject.

5. Rhetorical Questions: A rhetorical question does not expect a response.

Example: “What do I look like? A fool…” The point of this rhetorical question is not to actually elicit a direct response but to entice the reader to think about the question in order to prove a point more effectively. When the reader thinks about the question, it allows them to dig deeper and understand the issue or problem at hand.

6. Appeal to Audience 

a. Appeal to Ethics (Ethos)

Example: “Doctors all over the world would recommend this treatment”. Many times people look up to doctors and believe their opinions are credible. Therefore, the author is using this statement to appeal to your ethical side and agree with the doctors opinion in that it is the right treatment.

b. Appeal to Emotion/Passion (Pathos)

Example: “She sat at the bedside as her grandmother slowly passed away due to the life threatening tumor”. This sentences elicits a feeling of sadness within the reader. By appealing to the readers emotions, the reader builds a connection with the author. When there is a rapport built, the reader may be more inclined to agree with the authors point of view.

c. Appeal to Reasoning/Logic (Logos)

Example: “All men are mortal. Socrates is a man. Therefore, Socrates is mortal.” This sentence is using the laws of logic in order to prove a valid argument that Socrates is moral. By stating an argument in this logical format, it allows the reader to easily understand and therefore be persuaded easier.

7. Counterargument: Explaining and refuting an argument for your opposing viewpoint.

Example: “On the contrary, some may say that students should not be allowed to eat in class because they lack the responsibly. However, this is not true because ….”This statement shows that the author acknowledges both sides of the argument, which further proves his/her own claim. Acknowledging both sides of the argument is beneficial considering the reader knows that the author weighed the pros and cons for both sides, rather than having a biased opinion toward one side of the argument.

8. Additional Literary Devices

a. alliteration 

b. allusion

c. assonance

d. caricature

e. cliche

f. epiphany

g. foreshadowing

h. hyperbole

i. idiom

j. imagery

k. irony

l. metaphor

m. motif

n. onomatopoeia

o. oxymoron

p. paradox

q. personification

r. pun

s. sarcasm

t. simile

u. symbol

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