SAT Essay: Analyzing Rhetorical Devices

The SAT Essay is not just about expressing your opinion; it also assesses your ability to analyze and critique the rhetorical elements of a written argument. To excel in this section, it's crucial to understand and identify rhetorical devices and effectively incorporate them into your essay. In this article, we'll explore strategies for analyzing rhetorical devices in the context of the SAT Essay.

 Understanding Rhetorical Devices

Rhetorical devices are persuasive techniques that authors use to convey their message and engage their audience. These devices can include:

- Ethos: 

Appeals to the author's credibility and trustworthiness.

- Pathos: 

Appeals to the reader's emotions, aiming to evoke sympathy, anger, or other emotional responses.

- Logos: 

Appeals to reason and logic, using evidence and sound reasoning to support the argument.

- Analogies: 

Comparing two things to make a point or illustrate an idea.

- Metaphors: 

Implied comparisons that go beyond a simple analogy, often using figurative language.

- Similes: 

Explicit comparisons using "like" or "as" to highlight similarities between two things.

- Repetition: 

Repeating words, phrases, or ideas for emphasis.

- Parallelism: 

Balancing and repeating syntactical structures to create a rhythmic and harmonious effect.

- Rhetorical Questions: 

Questions posed for persuasive effect, not necessarily requiring an answer.

- Hyperbole: 

Exaggerated statements used for emphasis.

- Irony: 

Expressing an idea through language that signifies the opposite for humorous, dramatic, or poignant effect.

- Imagery: 

Creating vivid mental pictures through sensory language.

 Analyzing Rhetorical Devices in the SAT Essay

When you encounter an SAT Essay passage, you should be prepared to identify and analyze the use of rhetorical devices. Here's how to do it effectively:

1. Read Actively: 

As you read the passage, be attentive to any use of rhetorical devices. Underline, highlight, or make marginal notes to identify where and how they are employed.

2. Determine the Author's Purpose: 

Consider why the author uses a specific rhetorical device. Is it to build credibility (ethos), evoke emotion (pathos), or make a logical argument (logos)?

3. Evaluate Effectiveness: 

Assess the impact of the rhetorical devices. How do they contribute to the author's argument or message? Do they enhance the overall persuasiveness of the passage?

4. Provide Specific Examples: 

When writing your essay, refer to specific instances of rhetorical devices from the passage. Quote or paraphrase these examples to support your analysis.

5. Explain the Significance: 

Don't just identify the device; explain its significance. How does it advance the author's argument or influence the reader's response?

6. Consider Counterarguments: 

Address the possibility that the author's use of rhetorical devices may have limitations or counterarguments. Analyze how the devices could be interpreted differently.

7. Use the Three Rhetorical Appeals: 

Incorporate ethos, pathos, and logos into your analysis when appropriate. Discuss how the author leverages these appeals to persuade the audience.

 Incorporating Rhetorical Analysis into Your Essay

In the SAT Essay, you are expected to incorporate your analysis of rhetorical devices into your essay. Here's how to do it effectively:

- Introduction: 

In your introduction, provide a brief overview of the passage and the author's argument. Mention that you will analyze the use of rhetorical devices to evaluate the author's persuasive techniques.

- Body Paragraphs: 

Dedicate a paragraph to each major rhetorical device you identify. Begin by presenting the device's context and purpose in the passage, then discuss its effectiveness. Support your analysis with direct quotations or paraphrases from the text.

- Conclusion: 

Summarize your analysis of the rhetorical devices and their impact on the author's argument. Conclude by reinforcing your evaluation of the overall effectiveness of the passage.

 Practice and Review

To hone your skills in analyzing rhetorical devices, practice with sample SAT Essay passages and analyze the devices used. Review sample essays that effectively incorporate rhetorical analysis, paying attention to how the analysis is structured and presented.


Analyzing rhetorical devices is a crucial skill for success on the SAT Essay. Understanding the various rhetorical techniques authors use and being able to evaluate their effectiveness is key to crafting a strong essay. By actively reading passages, identifying devices, explaining their significance, and skillfully incorporating rhetorical analysis into your essay, you can demonstrate your ability to critically assess written arguments and provide a well-rounded analysis.