The Best SAT Essay Ever

Objective Correlatives. Steamed fish. SAT essays. Ethan Sawyer, the College Essay Guy, explains how objective correlatives, such as steamed fish, can help you write the best SAT essay ever. 

Ethan Sawyer, Writing for
6-minute read
Episode #466

How do you do this?

Step 2: Show the objective correlative in a new context

In Toy Story, once Buzz Lightyear enters the scene and Woody is demoted to Toy #2, the filmmakers need only show Woody looking at “ANDY” scrawled on the bottom of Woody’s shoe to let us know that Woody is now sad. But not just sad. Jealous, angry, and perhaps even this complex cocktail of emotions that can’t quite be put into words. (But it can be put into an object!)

What’s great about this technique? At least three things:

i.           By simply showing the object, the writer allows room for the viewer or reader to project his or her own feelings into the experience. In the Toy Story example, for instance, when we see Woody looking at “ANDY” scrawled on the bottom of his shoe and we know Woody is no longer Andy’s #1 toy, we’re reminded of the time we felt replaced or forgotten. (And all the writer had to do was show Woody looking at his shoe! Amazing.) Why else is this great?

ii.        This draws us more deeply into the story because now we’re feeling with Woody. (Sorry, that sounds weird.) And finally,

iii.      It shows us the character has grown or changed. (You will see this in the example below.)

Okay, so.

Heres how all this can help you write an amazing SAT essay.

First, read my favorite SAT essay ever, which I call the “grandma’s steamed fish” essay. Then we will talk about the writer’s use of the objective correlative.

Fun fact: this student had no idea what an “objective correlative” was and didn’t know he was employing these principles. He was, as he told me later, “just trying to write a good essay.”

The Prompt:

I wonder if were not breeding a society that lacks self-esteem. I dont think we pat people on the back enough, letting them know that being able to fix a sink is just as much skill as being able to score a touchdown or hit a home run. And more worthwhile, if you were to ask me. People must be made to feel their value.

Adapted from Bill Lee

Assignment: Should we give people more praise in order to build up their self-esteem? Write an essay that explains your views on this issue. Be sure to support your position with logical reasons and examples. You may use examples from history, contemporary events, art, science, literature, or personal experience and observation.