MIT's Perelman is a longtime critic of the SAT essay and how it is scored. He agrees with Milo and says length is the single most important determining factor in a student's score: the longer the essay, the higher the score.
But Perelman has also broken out several other factors he says contribute to a good score. Here then is Perelman's "Unauthorized Guide" to scoring well on the SAT essay:
Professor Perelman's SAT Essay Tips
No matter the topic, always pick a side. Never go gray.
Ignore the extra reading material that is supposed to help you understand the topic. Just read the question and pick a side.
Always use a five paragraph structure: Introductory paragraph, three supporting paragraphs, one concluding paragraph. Never vary from that structure.
Finish your first paragraph with a strong declarative sentence that states your position.
Come up with three examples to support your position. Ideally one is historical, one is literary and one is personal.
Don't worry about getting facts right. Just write as if you are always correct. Even in your historical example.
Memorize a few big words that can easily substitute for commonly used smaller words. For example, never use the word bad. Always choose something like "egregious." Instead of many, choose "plethora" or "myriad." You will increase your score by picking two to three and popping them into your essay somewhere. You can even do this when you are finished; go back over your essay and find the word "many" and switch it.
End with a quotation. It doesn't even have to be correct. Just quote somebody. It's best to memorize two or three famous quotes and just use one to end the concluding paragraph, even if it doesn't make sense. Even if you can't really remember the quote exactly, still quote the person with whatever you can remember.
Finally, fill up all the blank lines provided to you for writing.
As you can imagine, the College Board, creator and administrator of the SAT, disagrees with Perelman's analysis.
The College Board offers its own advice for scoring well on the SAT essay. Click HERE to read advice for preparing for the SAT essay from the College Board.