Sat Essay Prompt Is The World Changing For The Better Quote

New SAT Essay Prompts

Below, we’ve compiled a list of OFFICIAL new SAT essay prompts that have been released by the College Board.

Redesigned SAT essay prompts ask students to read and analyze a provided passage that is about the same length as one of the SAT Reading test passages. To help you out, we’ve added links to those readings below the related prompts so that you can use these prompts to write practice essays.

New SAT Essay Template

All of the new SAT essay prompts are customized slightly to include a reference to the author and the author’s main idea, but here’s the basic template prompt that you will see on every SAT exam:

    As you read the passage below, consider how [the author] uses:
  • evidence, such as facts or examples, to support claims.
  • reasoning to develop ideas and to connect claims and evidence.
  • stylistic or persuasive elements, such as word choice or appeals to emotion, to add power to the ideas expressed.
  • [Passage appears here.]

    Write an essay in which you explain how [the author] builds an argument to persuade [his/her] audience that [author’s claim]. In your essay, analyze how [the author] uses one or more of the features listed above (or features of your own choice) to strengthen the logic and persuasiveness of [his/her] argument. Be sure that your analysis focuses on the most relevant features of the passage.

    Your essay should not explain whether you agree with [the author’s] claims, but rather explain how the author builds an argument to persuade [his/her] audience.

Whoa, that’s a long question. That’s why you should memorize it before you sit down for the SAT essay. This way you know in advance some of the categories you can use to support your opinions (the bulleted list in the top box) and that you are NOT supposed to write about your own opinions (the warning in the bottom box).

If you know the basic prompt in advance, then when you open your test booklet to the essay section, the only part you need to concentrate on is the [author’s claim] part. This part tells you the exact argument the author is trying to make . That’s right, the prompt will actually give you the main idea straight up! So check this first, so that you don’t misread the passage and think it’s something else entirely.

Scroll below for practice essay prompts and passages to practice with. Many of the links also include same student essays (bonus!) that I highly suggest you read so that you can see which essays get which scores.

Redesigned SAT Essay Prompt Examples

SAT Essay Prompt 1

Write an essay in which you explain how Paul Bogard builds an argument to persuade his audience that natural darkness should be preserved. In your essay, analyze how Bogard uses one or more of the features in the directions that precede the passage (or features of your own choice) to strengthen the logic and persuasiveness of his argument. Be sure that your analysis focuses on the most relevant features of the passage.

Your essay should not explain whether you agree with Bogard’s claims, but rather explain how Bogard builds an argument to persuade his audience.

Click here for the passage for this question.

SAT Prompt 2

Write an essay in which you explain how Dana Gioia builds an argument to persuade his audience that the decline of reading in America will have a negative effect on society. In your essay, analyze how Gioia uses one or more of the features in the directions that precede the passage (or features of your own choice) to strengthen the logic and persuasiveness of his argument. Be sure that your analysis focuses on the most relevant features of the passage.

Your essay should not explain whether you agree with Gioia’s claims, but rather explain how Gioia builds an argument to persuade his audience.

Click here for the passage for this question.

SAT Prompt 3

Write an essay in which you explain how Jimmy Carter builds an argument to persuade his audience that the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge should not be developed for industry. In your essay, analyze how Carter uses one or more of the features listed in the box above (or features of your own choice) to strengthen the logic and persuasiveness of his argument. Be sure that your analysis focuses on the most relevant features of the passage.

Your essay should not explain whether you agree with Carter’s claims, but rather explain how Carter builds an argument to persuade his audience.

Click here for the passage for this question.

SAT Prompt 4

Write an essay in which you explain how Martin Luther King Jr. builds an argument to persuade his audience that American involvement in the Vietnam War is unjust. In your essay, analyze how King uses one or more of the features listed in the box above (or features of your own choice) to strengthen the logic and persuasiveness of his argument. Be sure that your analysis focuses on the most relevant features of the passage.

Your essay should not explain whether you agree with King’s claims, but rather explain how King builds an argument to persuade his audience.

Click here for the passage for this question.

SAT Prompt 5

Write an essay in which you explain how Eliana Dockterman builds an argument to persuade her audience that there are benefits to early exposure to technology. In your essay, analyze how Dockterman uses one or more of the features listed in the box above (or features of your own choice) to strengthen the logic and persuasiveness of her argument. Be sure that your analysis focuses on the most relevant features of the passage.

Your essay should not explain whether you agree with Dockterman’s claims, but rather explain how Dockterman builds an argument to persuade her audience.

Click here for the passage for this question.

SAT Prompt 6

Write an essay in which you explain how Peter S. Goodman builds an argument to persuade his audience that news organizations should increase the amount of professional foreign news coverage provided to people in the United States. In your essay, analyze how Dockterman uses one or more of the features listed in the box above (or features of your own choice) to strengthen the logic and persuasiveness of her argument. Be sure that your analysis focuses on the most relevant features of the passage.

Your essay should not explain whether you agree with Goodman’s claims, but rather explain how Goodman builds an argument to persuade her audience.

Click here for the passage for this question.
 

SAT Essay Prompt List from the Old SAT (Pre-March 2016)

Below is a list of official SAT prompts from the College Board Website and Official SAT Study Guide for the “old SAT”.

We’ve divided them up by sub-topic to give a better sense of the types of questions they ask in general. For help writing about each individual theme, take a look at our 10 post series on SAT Essay Themes.

SAT Essay Themes

Success and Goals

  • When some people win, must others lose, or are there situations in which everyone wins?
  • Can success be disastrous?
  • Is moderation an obstacle to achievement and success?
  • Do people succeed by emphasizing their differences from other people?
  • Is solitude—spending time alone—necessary for people to achieve their most important goals?
  • Is real success achieved only by people who accomplish goals and solve problems on their own?
  • Do people have to pay attention to mistakes in order to make progress?
  • Are optimistic, confident people more likely than others to make changes in their lives?
  • Do idealists contribute more to the world than realists do?
  • Are people likely to succeed by repeating actions that worked for them in the past?
  • Are people more likely to achieve their goals by being flexible or by refusing to compromise?
  • Is it better to aim for small accomplishments instead of great achievements?
  • Are people likely to be dissatisfied rather than content once they have achieved their goals?

Happiness and Work Ethic

  • If people worked less, would they be more creative and active during their free time?
  • Do rules and limitations contribute to a person’s happiness?
  • Does society put too much emphasis on working hard?
  • Do people need discipline to achieve freedom?
  • Do people benefit more from having many choices or few choices?

Heroes & Role Models

  • Do we benefit from learning about the flaws of people we admire and respect?
  • Should heroes be defined as people who say what they think when we ourselves lack the courage to say it?
  • Should leaders of a country or group be judged by different standards?
  • Should ordinary people be considered heroes, or should the term “hero” be reserved for extraordinary people?
  • Is it wrong to use the word “courage” to describe behaviors that are ordinary or self-interested?

Relationships

  • Do we need other people in order to understand ourselves?
  • Is talking the most effective and satisfying way of communicating with others?
  • Do people tend to get along better with people who are very different from them or with those who are like them?
  • Are people better off if they do not listen to criticism?
  • Is it wise to be suspicious of the motives or honesty of other people, even those who appear to be trustworthy?
  • Is it wrong or harmful to motivate people to learn or achieve something by offering them rewards?
  • Should people respect and tolerate everyone’s opinions, or should people take a stand against opinions they consider to be wrong?
  • Does familiarity prevent people from developing or maintaining respect for others?
  • Is it better for people to agree with others, even if doing so means being insincere?

The Changing World

  • Do changes that make our lives easier not necessarily make them better?
  • Is the world changing for the better?
  •  Does improvement or progress usually involve a significant drawback or problem of some kind?
  • Does progress reduce the number of problems in the world, or does solving old problems just lead to new ones?

Morality

  • Is conscience a more powerful motivator than money, fame, or power?
  • Is deception ever justified?
  • Should individuals take responsibility for issues and problems that do not affect them directly?
  • Is it often difficult for people to determine what is the right thing to do?
  • Are the consequences of people’s actions more important than the motives behind the actions?
  • Does every individual have an obligation to think seriously about important matters, even when doing so may be difficult?

Challenges

  • Is it best for people to accept who they are and what they have, or should people always strive to better themselves?
  • Do you think that ease does not challenge us and that we need adversity to help us discover who we are?
  • Does every achievement bring with it new challenges?

Knowledge

  • Can common sense be trusted and accepted, or should it be questioned?
  • Can knowledge be a burden rather than a benefit?
  • Is there always another explanation or another point of view?

Groups and Society

  • Should the government be responsible for making sure that people lead healthy lives?
  • Should people take more responsibility for solving problems that affect their communities or the nation in general?
  • Does accepting the values of a group allow people to avoid taking responsibility for their own thoughts and actions?
  • Do groups that encourage nonconformity and disagreement function better than those that discourage it?
  •  Is it always harmful for an individual to think and live as other people do?
  • Can a small group of concerned individuals have a significant impact on the world?
  • Do people put too much trust in the guidance of experts and authorities?
  • Does tradition prevent people from doing things in new or more sensible ways?
  • Are people too willing to agree with those in charge?

Other

  • Do small decisions often have major consequences?
  • Are people overly influenced by unrealistic claims and misleading images?
  • Is it best to forget about past mistakes as soon as possible?
  • Are people too serious?
  • Is it a disadvantage to pay attention to details?

Remember: hen preparing for the SAT essay, be sure that you’re only using SAT essay prompts that relate to the redesigned SAT. The SAT essay has changed significantly, and old essay prompts won’t help prepare you for this new challenge. 🙂

About Kristin Fracchia

Kristin makes sure Magoosh's sites are full of awesome, free resources that can be found by students prepping for standardized tests. With a PhD from UC Irvine and degrees in Education and English, she’s been working in education since 2004 and has helped students prepare for standardized tests, as well as college and graduate school admissions, since 2007. She enjoys the agony and bliss of trail running, backpacking, hot yoga, and esoteric knowledge.


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The CollegeBoard has once again completely revamped the SAT — the changes debuted in March 2016 (tests can have debuts right? Right). We have an overview about all of the changes that have been made, but how do the changes apply to the SAT essay questions in particular? Read on to find out more about the new SAT Writing prompts.

feature image credit: RAFFAELLO SANZIO The Sistine Madonna (detail) 1513-14 by carulmare, used under CC BY 2.0/Resized and cropped from original.

 

What’s Different About The New SAT Essay Prompts?

To start off with, let's compare an old SAT prompt with a new one. Here's an old SAT essay prompt:

Think carefully about the issue presented in the following excerpt and the assignment below.

"We don't really learn anything properly until there is a problem, until we make a mistake, until something fails to go as we had hoped. When everything is working well, with no problems or failures, what incentives to we have to try something new? We are only motivated to learn when we experience difficulties."

Adapted from Alain de Botton, How Proust Can Change Your Life: Not a Novel

Assignment: Does true learning only occur when we experience difficulties? Plan and write an essay in which you develop your point of view on this issue. Support your position with reasoning and examples taken from your reading, studies, experience, or observations.

 

And here's an example of a new SAT essay prompt from the College Board:

As you read the passage below, consider how Dana Gioia uses

  • evidence, such as facts or examples, to support claims.
  • reasoning to develop ideas and to connect claims and evidence.
  • stylistic or persuasive elements, such as word choice or appeals to emotion, to add power to the ideas expressed.

Write an essay in which you explain how Dana Gioia builds an argument to persuade his audience that the decline of reading in America will have a negative effect on society. In your essay, analyze how Gioia uses one or more of the features in the directions that precede the passage (or features of your own choice) to strengthen the logic and persuasiveness of his argument. Be sure that your analysis focuses on the most relevant features of the passage.

Your essay should not explain whether you agree with Gioia’s claims, but rather explain how Gioia builds an argument to persuade his audience.

 

At a quick glance, the most obvious difference between the two kinds of prompts is that the old prompt asked you about your opinion on a topic, using specific examples to support your reasoning, while the new prompt asks you to explain how author builds an argument, using specific elements from the text to support your reasoning. On the new SAT essay, your thesis does not require your stating an opinion on a topic, but instead involves identifying WHAT the author’s argument is and HOW she/he supports it.

What does this look like in action? Take a look at this sample thesis for an essay on the above prompt:

In this passage, Gioia argues that young Americans are less engaged with the arts (particularly literature) than in the past, which has a dire effect on multiple aspects of society. Gioia uses statistics and surveys, diction, and the organization of the article to support his conclusion that “As more Americans lose [the] capability [to engage with the arts and literature], our nation becomes less informed, active, and independent-minded.”

 

The new prompt also requires students to read a passage and then analyze it, rather than coming up with their own opinion on a topic and having to support it with examples they come up with. This means that there will be no more discussing of World War II or Animal Farm on the essay (unless, of course, the author of the passage in the essay prompt discusses those things); instead, all students will draw their examples from the same primary source.

The other major change with the new SAT essay is the amount of time you have to write the essay: instead of a paltry 25 minutes to read the prompt, think of examples to support your argument, and write the essay, you now have 50 minutes to read and analyze the prompt and write your essay.

 

What’s Still The Same With The New SAT Essay Prompts?

Although you no longer will be able to prepare ahead of time for the essay by gathering examples from literature, history, or your own life to use as support for your thesis, in the new SAT essay you still need to use specific examples to support your logic and reasoning. Even though the evidence you'll be using to support your analysis of the author's argument will be coming directly from the text included in the essay question, you still need to be specific.

Take the sample SAT essay question from earlier:

Write an essay in which you explain how Dana Gioia builds an argument to persuade his audience that the decline of reading in America will have a negative effect on society. In your essay, analyze how Gioia uses one or more of the features in the directions that precede the passage (or features of your own choice) to strengthen the logic and persuasiveness of his argument. Be sure that your analysis focuses on the most relevant features of the passage.

Your essay should not explain whether you agree with Gioia’s claims, but rather explain how Gioia builds an argument to persuade his audience.

Let's say that one of your points is that Gioia uses statistics and survey data to support his argument for the importance of literature. In order to support your point, you will need to cite specific instances of where Gioia does this in the text. It wouldn't be enough to simply say "Gioia discusses surveys, which makes his point seem stronger" or "Gioia starts out by being general before getting more specific." You would need to go into more detail, like so:

Gioia's discussion of the findings of the 2002 Survey of Public Participation in the Arts serves to provide context for his argument. By stating that "arts participation by Americans has declined for eight of the nine major forms that are measured" before going on to present the specific information about "the declining percentage of Americans, especially young adults, reading literature," Gioia draws the reader in from the general to the specific.

You'll also still have to write well and in an organized fashion. Using varied sentence structures and correct grammar, spelling, and punctuation is a must for a high essay score, as is making sure that your thesis is clear and your ideas are presented in an orderly way. Just as on the old SAT essay, keeping to one example or piece of supporting evidence per paragraph will make it easier for your essay's graders to follow your lines of reasoning.

Finally, in order to get a 2+ score (out of 4) in each of the three essay scoring categories (Reading, Analysis, and Writing), you should plan to write more than one page. You'll need at least that much space to write even a middle-scoring essay that articulates your central claim about how the author supports her argument, analyzes the text using specific examples, and shows your comprehension of the material.

 

Cartoon artist sketch by Evan, used under CC BY 2.0/Cropped and resized from original.

 

Main Strategies for the New SAT Writing Prompts

I've taken advice from our guides on the old SAT essay and altered it to apply to the new essay.

 

Old strategy: Think up examples beforehand that you'll be able to use on the test. If you're having trouble coming up with any, we have a list of 6 examples that can be used for most current SAT essay prompts.

New strategy: Think up categories of examples beforehand and practice writing about them. Start out by considering the suggestions provided in the standard prompt (evidence, reasoning, and stylistic or persuasive elements), then come up with some ways that authors might build an argument on your own (like citing statistics or quoting experts). Read other persuasive passages and see if you can explain in words how the author is building his/her argument.

 

Old strategy: Make up examples out of thin air for any prompt. Because the SAT essay graders do not have time to fact check, they have to take any "facts" you present in your essay at face value (as long as they support your argument. For example, you could claim that the horses end up killing the pigs over accounting error at the end of Animal Farm, and as long as this supports your thesis, the graders cannot take off points.

New strategy: ABANDON MADE-UP EVIDENCE for the most part. You MUST use proof from the passage to back up your thesis. The only exception to this rule would be if, for example, you were able to make up a study showing that sentences that include the word “intellectual” are inherently more persuasive, and so the author's constant use of the word "intellectual" adds to the persuasive impact of the essay (or something like that).

 

Old strategy: Ignore the quote in the essay prompt and skip straight to the "assignment" part.

New strategy: Do not ignore! You MUST read the passage, and read it closely (so that you can thoroughly analyze the way the author builds his/her argument). Luckily, you now have twice as much time, so use it well.

 

Old strategy: Go into the SAT prepared to get the essay out of the way at the beginning.

New strategy: Now that the essay is at the end of the SAT, you'll need to make sure you save energy so that you're not completely delirious by the time you get to your essay. On the other hand, because the new SAT essay will be optional and scored separately from the rest of your SAT Reading/Writing score, you can opt not to take the essay on a particular test without it affecting your overall SAT score. Make sure to check with the colleges you plan on applying to for their policies on accepting the new SAT essay - you may not even need to take it!

 

What’s Next?

Want to dive deeper into the details of this change? Our complete guide to the new 2016 SAT contains an entire section on the new SAT essay.

Not sure whether or not you need to take the essay? Read up on which schools require or recommend the SAT essay here.

In need of some good examples of persuasive argumentative techniques? Then be sure to check out our article describing different types of examples to use in your SAT essay.

  

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Exclusive to our program, we have an expert SAT instructor grade each of your SAT essays and give you customized feedback on how to improve your score. This can mean an instant jump of 80 points on the Writing section alone.

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