Point Of View Essay Prompts For Sat

The SAT Essay has changed drastically from what it looked like from March 2005-January 2016. On the plus side, you’ll now be asked to do the same task every time: read an argument meant to persuade a broad audience and discuss how well the author argues his or her point. On the minus side, you have to do reading and analysis in addition to writing a coherent and organized essay.

In this article, we’ve compiled a list of the 11 real SAT essay prompts that the CollegeBoard has released (either in The Official SAT Study Guide or separately online) for the new SAT. This is the most comprehensive set of new SAT essay prompts online today.

At the end of this article, we'll also guide you through how to get the most out of these prompts and link to our expert resources on acing the SAT essay. I’ll discuss how the SAT essay prompts are valuable not just because they give you a chance to write a practice essay, but because of what they reveal about the essay task itself.

 

Overview

SAT essay prompts have always kept to the same basic format. With the new essay, however, not only is the prompt format consistent from test to test, but what you’re actually asked to do (discuss how an author builds an argument) also remains the same across different test administrations.

The College Board’s predictability with SAT essay helps students focus on preparing for the actual analytical task, rather than having to think up stuff on their feet. Every time, before the passage, you’ll see the following:

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.

And after the passage, you’ll see this:

“Write an essay in which you explain how [the author] builds an argument to persuade [her/his] audience that [whatever the author is trying to argue for]. In your essay, analyze how [the author] 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 [the author]’s claims, but rather explain how [the author] builds an argument to persuade [her/his] audience.”

Now that you know the format, let’s look at the SAT essay prompts list.

 

11 Official SAT Essay Prompts

The College Board has released a limited number of prompts to help students prep for the essay. We've gathered them for you here, all in one place. We’ll be sure to update this article as more prompts are released for practice and/or as more tests are released.

SPOILER ALERT: Since these are the only essay prompts that have been released so far, you may want to be cautious about spoiling them for yourself, particularly if you are planning on taking practice tests under real conditions. This is why I’ve organized the prompts by the ones that are in the practice tests (so you can avoid them if need be), the one that is available online as a "sample prompt," and the ones that are in the Official SAT Study Guide (Redesigned SAT), all online for free.

 

Practice Test Prompts

These eight prompts are taken from the practice tests that the College Board has released.

Practice Test 1:

"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."

 

Practice Test 2:

"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."

 

Practice Test 3:

"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."

 

Practice Test 4:

"Write an essay in which you explain how Paul Bogard builds an argument to persuade his audience that natural darkness should be preserved."

 

Practice Test 5:

"Write an essay in which you explain how Eric Klinenberg builds an argument to persuade his audience that Americans need to greatly reduce their reliance on air-conditioning."

 

Practice Test 6:

"Write an essay in which you explain how Christopher Hitchens builds an argument to persuade his audience that the original Parthenon sculptures should be returned to Greece."

 

Practice Test 7:

"Write an essay in which you explain how Zadie Smith builds an argument to persuade her audience that public libraries are important and should remain open"

 

Practice Test 8:

"Write an essay in which you explain how Bobby Braun builds an argument to persuade his audience that the US government must continue to invest in NASA."

 

Special note: The prompt for Practice Test 4 is replicated as the first sample essay on the College Board’s site for the new SAT. If you’ve written a sample essay for practice test 4 and want to see what essays of different score levels look like for that particular prompt, you can go here and look at eight real student essays.

 

within darkness by jason jenkins, used under CC BY-SA 2.0/Resized from original.

 

Free Online Practice

This prompt comes from the CollegeBoard website for the new SAT.

“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.”

 

The Official SAT Study Guide (for March 2016 and beyond)

The Official SAT Study Guide (editions published in 2015 and later, available online for free) contains all eight of the previously mentioned practice tests at the end of the book. In the section about the new SAT essay, however, there are two additional sample essay prompts.

 

Sample Prompt 1:

“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.”

The College Board modified this article for the essay prompt passage in the book. The original passage (1528 words, vs the 733 it is on the SAT) to which this prompt refers can also be found online (for free) here.

 

Sample Prompt 2:

“Write an essay in which you explain how Adam B. Summers builds an argument to persuade his audience that plastic shopping bags should not be banned.”

There are still a couple of minor differences between the article as it appears in The Official SAT Study Guide as an essay prompt compared to its original form, but it’s far less changed than the previous prompt. The original passage to which this prompt refers (764 words, vs the 743 in The Official SAT Study Guide) can also be found online (for free) here.

 

hey thanks by Jonathan Youngblood, used under CC BY 2.0/Cropped and resized from original.

 

How Do You Get the Most Out of These Prompts?

Now that you have all the prompts released by the College Board, it’s important to know the best way to use them. Make sure you have a good balance between quality and quantity, and don’t burn through all 11 of the real prompts in a row – take the time to learn from your experiences writing the practice essays.

 

Step By Step Guide on How to Practice Using the Article

1. Understandhow the SAT essay is graded.

2. Watch as we write a high-scoring SAT essay, step by step.

3. Pre-plan a set of features you’ll look for in the SAT essay readings and practice writing about them fluidly. This doesn't just mean identifying a technique, like asking a rhetorical question, but explaining why it is persuasive and what effect it has on the reader in the context of a particular topic. We have more information on this step in our article about 6 SAT persuasive devices you can use.

4. Choose a prompt at random from above, or choose a topic that you think is going to be hard for you to detach from (because you’ll want to write about the topic, rather than the argument) set timer to 50 minutes and write the essay. No extra time allowed!

5. Grade the essay, using the essay rubric to give yourself a score out of 8 in the reading, analysis, and writing sections (article coming soon!).

6. Repeat steps 4 and 5. Choose the prompts you think will be the hardest for you so that you can so that you’re prepared for the worst when the test day comes

7. If you run out of official prompts to practice with, use the official prompts as models to find examples of other articles you could write about. How? Start by looking for op-ed articles in online news publications like The New York Times, The Atlantic, LA Times, and so on. For instance, the passage about the plastic bag ban in California (sample essay prompt 2, above) has a counterpoint here - you could try analyzing and writing about that article as well.

Any additional articles you use for practice on the SAT essay must match the following criteria:

  • ideally 650-750 words, although it’ll be difficult to find an op-ed piece that’s naturally that short. Try to aim for nothing longer than 2000 words, though, or the scope of the article is likely to be too wide for what you’ll encounter on the SAT.
  • always argumentative/persuasive. The author (or authors) is trying to get readers to agree with a claim or idea being put forward.
  • always intended for a wide audience. All the information you need to deconstruct the persuasiveness of the argument is in the passage. This means that articles with a lot of technical jargon that's not explained in the article are not realistic passage to practice with.

 

What’s Next?

We’ve written a ton of helpful resources on the SAT essay. Make sure you check them out!

15 SAT Essay Tips.

How to Write an SAT Essay, Step by Step.

How to Get a 12 on the SAT Essay.

SAT Essay Rubric, Analyzed and Explained.

--

Want to improve your SAT score by 160 points? 

Check out our best-in-class online SAT prep program. We guarantee your money back if you don't improve your SAT score by 160 points or more.

Our program is entirely online, and it customizes your prep program to your strengths and weaknesses. We also have expert instructors who can grade every one of your practice SAT essays, giving feedback on how to improve your score.

Check out our 5-day free trial:

 

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.

  

Want to get serious about improving your SAT score? We have the leading online SAT prep program that will raise your score by 160+ points, guaranteed.

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.

Check out our 5-day free trial and sign up for free:

Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *