Score Some Summer Free Stuff with the SAT Essay

SAT Prep

One last SAT-free blog before July dawns and we must all start thinking about the October SAT. Drive Thru Today’s topic? How to write an SAT Essay in real life.
I think the state of fast food restaurant service is in fast decline. Maybe it’s just where I live, but it’s impossible to go through a drive-through these days and get my order exactly as I ordered it. I let my boys have fast food once a week, usually on Saturdays after our trip to the beach, and week after week, we are either missing something or given the wrong items. This might not seem so stressful to the average teenager, but telling two tired four-year-olds that there are no chicken nuggets today is like telling your dad that you didn’t see the stop sign when you hand over the keys to his mangled new Porsche.


So I’ve decided to write a complaint letter to the owner of the local establishment that has now cheated me out of $28.16 worth of food. I’m bringing you along, so you can see how writing an essay on The-Test-That-Must-Not-Be-Named has value in real life situations. Let us begin.

Dear Sir or Madam,
(1) As a frequent customer of your restaurant, I feel I must write to express my disappointment in the decline of professionalism of your employees. (2) I believe that this poor service is costing you customers and potential profits.
(3) The most heinous offense committed by your workers is enough to run off any customer: erroneously filling an order. (4) In the last month, I’ve visited your drive-thru window four times. (5) And all four times I’ve either been missing an item I ordered or I’ve received the entirely wrong order. (6) These mistakes are not just minor errors, either. (7) If I received ketchup instead of mustard, I assure you I would not feel the need to contact you. (8) But as an example, just this weekend I ordered chicken nuggets, a large French fry, two cheeseburgers, two milks, and a large diet soda. (9) I also asked for an extra honey mustard dipping sauce. (10) So you can imagine my surprise when I got home and found a small French fry, two chicken sandwiches, one orange juice, a large water, and a single barbeque dipping sauce. (11) The chicken nuggets were completely missing, much to the dismay of my children. (12) We all complained loudly to any friends and family members willing to listen, many of whom said they will not frequent your establishment any time soon given our recent problems. (13) If you had staff who could competently take an order and fill it, our complaints would turn to compliments and your customer base would grow. (14) If you are unable to retrain your employees or hire skilled workers, then you should really consider a third drive-thru window, where we can return all of the mistakes in our order.
(15) I’m afraid a solution to the second problem—your employees’ poor attitudes—may not be so easy. (16) They are continually rude and disrespectful to customers in both the restaurant and at the drive-thru. (17) While they may think it is cute to call customers “babe” and “dog,” it is unprofessional and impertinent. (18) And the poor customer who actually returns the wrong order! (19) While visiting your restaurant earlier this month, an elderly woman brought back her sandwich explaining that it had mayonnaise on it and she specifically asked for no mayonnaise given her allergy to the condiment. (20) The clerk berated her in front of the entire restaurant, saying “You want fine dining? Try the place down the road with all the other blue hairs.” (21) I was appalled, and you should be, too. (22) I am certain that the woman will not return to your restaurant, nor will her friends. (23) Had your employee gone out of his way to apologize, correct the error, and provide her with complimentary desserts, she would have overlooked the error and raved about your customer service to the other residents of her assisted-living facility, ensuring new and continued customers.
(24) I think it’s easy to see why I—and countless others—will not be returning to your restaurant. (25) Incompetent and rude employees may seem like a minor inconvenience, but their continual errors and disrespectful comments are a major cost to your business. 
Vicki Wood

Now let’s look at the features of the essay that would contribute to my high score on the SAT:


  • Thesis: Sentence 2 clearly states my opinion.


  • Topic Sentence:  Sentence 3 provides a transition from the introduction (from “poor service” to “the most heinous offense…”) and provides a reason the thesis is true (“erroneously filling an order”).
  • Evidence: Sentences 4 through 12 explain and support Sentence 3.
  • Counterpoint: Sentence 13 explains how things would be different if the opposite were true. This is an easy way to prove that my example supports my thesis.


  • Topic Sentence:  Sentence 15 provides a transition from the previous paragraph (from providing a solution to the first problem to “a solution to the second problem…may not be so easy”) and provides a reason for thesis is true (“employees’ poor attitudes”).
  • Evidence: Sentences 17 through 22 explain and support Sentence 15.
  • Counterpoint: Sentence 23 explains how things would be different if the opposite were true. This is an easy way to prove that your example supports your thesis.


  • Sentence 25 restates the thesis.


  • Unrelated Facts: Notice that I never mention that the owner has actually profited by $28.16 because of his employees. This would weaken my argument, so I do not bring it up.
  • Word Choice: I’ve scattered a few higher-level vocabulary words throughout the letter (heinous, erroneously, competently, impertinent, appalled). This will impress both the owner of the restaurant and the English teachers reading my essay in SAT-land.
  • Sentence Length: The sentence length is varied throughout the letter. Compare Sentence 22 (short and simple) to Sentence 23 (long and complex). Good writers use variety in their essays.
  • Transitions: Aside from the transitions in each topic sentence, transitions occur within paragraphs, between sentences. For example, look at the start of Sentence 10. “So” connects the list in Sentence 10 to the actual order in Sentence 9.

See, the SAT Essay really is relevant in the real world! Riiiight. But if this letter gets me a couple of coupons for free hamburgers, I’ll be happy. At least until I get home and find that the drive-thru guy forgot to put the hamburgers in the bag.

Next week we return to some serious SAT prep. Monday, July 6th is 13 weeks and 5 days before the next SAT, so it’s a perfect time to start thinking about developing an SAT Study Plan.

Photo: "Drive Thru" courtesy of Ian Muttoo