The SAT essay tests your ability to write persuasively in a short amount of time.Many students seem to forget the persuasive part; they launch into an example and begin summarizing feverishly.
In late summer Napoleon’s army marched towards Russia, 500,000 strong.
By December, it arrived in Stalingrad, already decimated from a series of battles.
Find a starting point that sets the stage for the relevant action – Napoleon invading Stalingrad in winter.
That’s a great place to set the stage: a seemingly invincible general, clearly aware of his strengths. Perhaps, it’s the old hubris – he is overly confident, unaware of his own limitations.
Napoleon attacking Russia in winter becomes more protracted than the struggle itself.
By the end of the paragraph, all we know is that Napoleon made a bad decision invading in winter.
Below are a few tips to take you from slogging through the snow of your bad example to confidently moving through it until the final resounding sentence.
You do not want to begin the paragraph with “Napoleon’s army could not withstand the Russian winter, and many men died.” Nor do you want to start, “In 1769, on the Mediterranean island of Corsica, Napoleon Bonaparte emerged into the lightness of the world.” Besides sounding ridiculous, the latter example takes things back a wee too far.
To set up a counterfactual simply begin the sentence with, “Had xx…” The counterfactual describes something that could have happened but did not. Had Napoleon accepted that even his formidable army could not endure the harshness of Russian winter, he would have been able to attack at a more opportune time, altering the course of a war that he would go on to lose.
Again, at the end of each example you want to impress the reader. On the road of essay writing, make sure you choose the path marked ‘counterfactual Now let’s take a look at two examples written on the same prompt.