Better Essays for the New SAT, ACT, & SSAT: Pt. 1

While all three of the major exams for Colleges and Top Boarding schools will be optional after March of 2016 (and currently for the ACT & the SSAT), it’s still CRITICAL for students to write a strong and effective essay for their prospective schools.

One of the best methods of improving your writing skills is practicing the task of essay writing repeatedly before the exam.

In order to do that, however, many students use all formats of paper from blank to various lined paper that are different from the “standardized forms/paper” the test centers provide.

Students are unique.  They hand write their essays in very unique ways.  Some write with larger letters, others write in very small ones.  Basically, their writing on one format of paper might fill the entire set of papers, but on others, they may not.  As a result, we advocate practicing with the REAL and OFFICIAL Writing Paper they use on all 3 exams.

ACT Essay Writing PaperOfficial ACT Writing Paper

We took an official practice exam and pulled out the essay paper from it.  There were several versions, but the ACT gives students many sheets typically.  So, we are providing the longest set for you to practice on – it’s 4 pages and we recommend you write as much as you can.  The NYTimes reports that the SAT Essay Rewards Length, according to an MIT Professor.

Click here for ACT Writing Paper – 4 Pages.

For help with the ACT Exam, check out the #1 program for ACT Test Preparation in Asia

Old SAT Essay Paper - ThumbnailNew SAT Writing Paper

With the upcoming changes to the Essay (future “Edge Insights” on this coming), the question may be how long should one write their essay?  At this point, it appears it is approximately the same length as the past essay, if you want to score their highest possible set of marks: a 4 for Reading, a 4 for Analysis and a 4 for Writing.  If you click on the examples in the College Board’s “sample prompts”, you will see one example scoring the full marks.

New SAT Essay – Proper Length

One of our students volunteered to “write the ideal model” on the College Board’s website and we found it to be just slightly over 2 pages using the old SAT official paper.  However, with cleaner penmanship and possibly with smaller characters, we can see the length of their “ideal model” being exactly 2 pages on the old paper.

Frankly, a more important question should be: The College Board’s provided us with some practice examples and even has some resources online to guide on on how to write it, but…

What do you write the New SAT Essays on?  (for practice)

Until the New SAT comes out with actual exams and practice essay paper that correspond with them, we recommend using this Old SAT Essay Paper to write out your “practice essays” on the 4 different essays they provide currently.  Here they are:

*The interesting thing is that they provide “Practice Test Answer Sheets,” but they fail to provide anything for students to practice their essays.  I guess it can be good for students to practice the skill of transferring answers over to their scantron sheets, but we think it’s a bit more important to practice a more important skill: writing.

And while many Universities have gone “essay optional” or have simply “recommended” the essay instead given that it will be optional on the exam, we did find in our small survey that many “Top Universities” are still requiring it.

Top Universities Still REQUIRE the Essay in the New SAT

SAT Essay Policies
State College or University Essay Policy
CA California Institute of Technology Require
CA University of California: Berkeley Require
CA University of California: Los Angeles Require
MA Harvard College Require
CT Yale University Require

For help with the New SAT, learn more about the best programs in Hong Kong and Asia for the 2016 revamped SAT.  

Official SSAT Essay Writing Paper

For our precocious and engaging future leaders, we will also provide some paper for you to practice on the SSAT.  While the paper isn’t fully blank like the ACT or the New (Old) SAT Paper, it will give you a “real feel” as to what type of paper you will use in the exam.

Taking the SSAT’s Official Guide, we decided to pull out the essay sections of the two practice exams and share with you not only the prompts, but frankly, the paper you can use to practice writing before the day of the exam.

Bonus: Middle Level SSAT Writing Paper

20 Prompts for the SSAT Essay For Practice

While you can see the prompts within each of the documents above (after you download and print them out), we’ve decided to give you some additional ones to practice on as well:


  1. Which three literary figures would you invite to dinner and why? (Official Guide 2015 Practice 1)
  2. The silence is overwhelming.(Official Guide 2015 Practice 1)
  3. What is something that you think needs to be intervened and why?(Official Guide 2015 Practice 2)
  4. His hands shook as he tried to untie it.(Official Guide 2015 Practice 2)


  1. I didn’t expect anything new, but …(Official Guide 2015 Practice 1)
  2. I had fifteen minutes to solve the puzzle.(Official Guide 2015 Practice 1)
  3. I thought it was going to be another normal day, until …(Official Guide 2015 Practice 2)
  4. If only I could reach the key! (Official Guide 2015 Practice 2)
  5. All people are created equal.
  6. There is nothing new under the sun.
  7. No news is good news.
  8. If you want good advice, ask an old man.
  9. More is better.
  10. It is best to go with the flow – – accept things as they are.
  11. What you do not know cannot hurt you.
  12. Two heads are better than one.
  13. The best is yet to come.
  14. We must learn to walk before we can run.
  15. Ask no questions and you will hear no lies.
  16. The same word means different things to different people.

For even better prompts and support for your Hong Kong child’s SSAT needs, please visit our test prep centers or call us at: (+852) 2972 2555 in Causeway Bay (Hong Kong Island) or (+852) 2783 7100 for Kowloon and New Territories clients.  

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