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SAT Essay Examples With Explanations and Recommendations

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Written by
Dr. Emily Norton
  • Icon Calendar 18 May 2024
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Joining an undergraduate program is a dream of many people, particularly high schoolers. Traditionally, colleges and universities require applicants to take SAT assessments to qualify for admission. In this case, SAT essays are one form of these assessments and need students to analyze an author’s argument. Then, a new SAT essay has three requirements: convince the reader of the accuracy of the author’s claim, be between 650 and 750 words, and a 50-minute completion timeline. Basically, the main features of the SAT essay include prompt, response, and grading. In turn, the SAT prompt requires students to consider the use of evidence in the text, the author’s reasoning in linking evidence with the central claim, and the author’s use of language in defending the primary claim. Hence, these SAT essay examples may help students to get higher scores.

General Aspects of SAT Essay Examples

Admission into a higher learning institution is the dream of every high schooler. Basically, formerly known as the Scholastic Aptitude Test, the Scholastic Assessment Test (SAT) is an academic exercise that assesses candidates for admission into undergraduate programs. As such, the SAT essay assesses individuals’ ability to analyze an author’s argument. In this case, good practice dictates that doing so requires students to analyze how the author utilizes evidence, reasoning, and language to make a convincing claim. Apart from the reading (the essay), SAT essay assessments take a similar structure in terms of prompt, response, and grading. In turn, the new SAT essay has three main characteristics: it tries to convince the reader of the accuracy of the author’s claim, has a word count of between 650 and 750, and should be analyzed within 50 minutes. Thus, these SAT essay examples are developed for students who want to learn more.

SAT essay examples

Elements of SAT Essay Examples

When attending to the SAT essay, a student should pay close attention to the prompt, which invites the reader to consider how the author incorporates evidence (facts and examples) to support their claim. Basically, the prompt also asks the reader to consider how the author uses reasoning to construct ideas and link claims and evidence. Also, it asks them to analyze the author’s use of language persuasively. Here, the reader should pay close attention to word choice or appeals to emotion and how the author employs this language to strengthen their main ideas. In this sense, a critical evaluation of the text is necessary if the student is to identify such language.

Example 1: SAT Essay Prompt

As you read the passage below, consider how Jimmy Carter 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.

Adapted from former US President Jimmy Carter, Foreword to Arctic National Wildlife Refuge: Seasons of Life and Land, A Photographic Journey by Subhankar Banerjee. ©2003 by Subhankar Banerjee.

Link: https://collegereadiness.collegeboard.org/pdf/sat-practice-test-1-essay.pdf for other SAT essay examples.

Example of the SAT Essay Response

In his foreword to the wildlife photography book, Arctic National Wildlife Refuge: Seasons of Life and Land, A Photographic Journey, former US President Jimmy Carter defends the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska vehemently. Through logical reasoning, emotional appeals, personal anecdotes, and specific references to evidence, Carter argues for the need for urgent action by wildlife enthusiasts to save endangered precious animals and plants. In the first paragraph, Carter describes the Arctic Refuge as a magnificent terrain, characterized by awesome animals that roam the scenic landscapes. This description captures the wildlife sanctuary’s vivid imagery, thus giving readers a memorable introduction into the text. In essence, it makes readers feel like they are roaming in the terrain, enjoying a spectacular view of the majestic landscapes and wildlife.

Author’s personal anecdote. In the second and third paragraphs, Carter continues his captivating description of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. He uses a personal anecdote when he narrates about a trip he took with his wife Rosalynn to the Refuge, about a decade before Subhankar Banerjee penned the book. The anecdote introduces the beauty of the terrain by describing the migration of caribou. By using evocative and descriptive language, Carter draws his readers into the story. He further makes readers interested in understanding the fates of the animals in the sanctuary through careful use of emotional appeals. In short, the author understands that the best and most effective way of getting his audience interested in the text is to make them part of the adventure. The details that he provides in his encounter with the natural habitat give readers this essential feeling.

Appeal to emotions, ethics, and logic. In the fourth paragraph, Carterzeroes in on his primary concern: the threat facing the Refuge, as developers seek to build pipelines and drill for oil. Here, the author makes an emotional appeal by using evocative and descriptive phrases and terms. This language compels readers to sense the urgency of the author’s primary concern. In paragraph five, Carter shifts from using emotional appeals to appealing to the logic and ethics of his readers. In emphasizing the Arctic Refuge’s uniqueness, he reminds his readers that both sides of the American political divide have acted in ways aimed at preserving the heritage of this natural habitat. In short, the author shifts from using evocative language to applying evidence in backing up his claims.

A shift in focus. In the sixth paragraph, Carter continues using facts, while at the same time appealing to the readers’ ethics. He explains that since he left the presidency, many attempts have been made to operationalize oil drilling in the Refuge, only to be resisted the Natives. These Indigenous Americans include the Gwich’in Athabascan Indians, whom he describes as a people dependent on the natural habitat for thousands of years. Ideally, Carter shifts the readers’ focus from concern for nature and animals to the fate of the Indigenous communities that depend on the Refuge. In doing so, he makes his case more than an environmental issue; it is also a human rights issue. This shift in focus is vital in winning the hearts of the audience, who now have to assume that the author’s arguments are valid and justified.

Logos, ethos, and pathos. In the seventh paragraph, the former US president addresses his concerns from the perspective of three-criterion of an argumentative essay: logos, ethos, and pathos.  Firstly, he breaks down the issue from a logical standpoint. Here, he uses data to support his claims, such as the percentage of oil that Americans consume each day. Such facts compel readers to evaluate the relative political, economic, and social insignificance of the Refuge.  Secondly, he appeals to readers’ ethics by stating that it is only by being mindful of the environment, through conservation, that America can make up for the gap. Lastly, he appeals to readers’ emotions by cautioning against hurting the “heart” of the Refuge. This reasoning indicates that the Refuge is like a human being, an aspect that helps the author to appeals to the emotions and ethics of his audience.

The urgency of the issue. In the last two shorter paragraphs, Carter summarizes his writing by reminding readers that the issue at hand requires urgent attention. By taking a stand on the matter vividly and clearly, he appeals to his readers’ emotions, ethics, and logic about environmental conservation. These two brief paragraphs are the author’s way of conveying his confidence in the position he has taken, reminding readers of his most salient arguments. Most importantly, the paragraphs bring to a close an educational journey that the author takes his readers through. This journey compels readers that Carter is concerned not only about the integrity of the natural habitat but also the lives of those who depend on it. In this sense, he maintains an objective mindset about the dilemma of the government and other stakeholders.

Grading an Example of the First SAT Essay

Reading (Score— 4)

This SAT essay example demonstrates that the reader had a thorough understanding of the writing, including the interrelation between the author’s central idea and essential supporting details. Basically, the reader provides an accurate paraphrase of the central focus of Carter’s text. In this case, the reader’s response provides many details to emphasize the author’s focus, including Carter’s personal anecdote that vividly describes the terrain. Also, given that the response is free of errors of fact or interpretation, it demonstrates the reader’s ability to read and comprehend is advanced.

Analysis (Score— 4)

The essay example of the SAT test demonstrates the reader’s useful review of Carter’s text, reflecting a good understanding of the analytical task. In analyzing Carter’s use of a personal anecdote, the reader goes a step further to show how this strategy exemplifies the Refuge’s marvels Basically, he not only makes assertions about the analytical elements in Carter’s text but also discusses how these elements advance the author’s argument. For example, in mentioning the Gwich’in Athabascan Indians, he shows his readers that his concern is not only about the landscape and the animals in the Refuge, but also about the people who depend on the environment. In turn, the use of insightful analysis throughout the response indicates an advanced analytical skill on the part of the reader.

Writing (Score— 4)

This example of the SAT essay is cohesive in its entirely and demonstrates the reader’s effective use and command of the English language. Basically, the response captures Carter’s primary claim. In this case, the body paragraphs focus on justifying this claim by appealing to emotions, ethics, and logic. Moreover, the effective use of the conventions of written English indicates the reader’s advanced proficiency in writing.

Sample 2: SAT Essay Prompt

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.

Adapted from Dana Gioia, “Why Literature Matters” ©2005 by The New York Times Company. Originally published April 10, 2005.

Link: https://collegereadiness.collegeboard.org/sample-questions/essay/2 for other SAT essay examples.

Example of the SAT Essay

The article “Why Literature Matters” by Dana Gioia argues that young Americans’ level of interest in the disciplines of art and language has declined during the last 25 years. From the start, the reader recognizes that the author intends to analyze a social phenomenon that affects the American youth. His concern is that young Americans are no longer interested in the arts. In supporting this claim, he cites compelling polls and reports and also quotes a prominent author. The author’s primary purpose is to highlight shortcomings in the American arts industry, with Millenials being his primary concern.

The problem. In the introductory paragraph, Gioia contrasts Americans’ involvement with arts with several positive changes, including improved college attendance and income levels. In essence, the author uses this element to emphasize his primary point, which he highlights as a negative trend in the American context. One can argue that by inviting his readers to consider the positive changes (improved income and college attendance and increased access to information), Gioia seeks to justify his claim. This claim involves the strange thing that has happened in America in the last 25 years: the diminished interest in the arts by young Americans.

The citation of facts. In the second paragraph, the author cements his assertions by citing a study commissioned by the National Endowment for the Arts, which established the truth of the “strange” thing that the author mentions in his first sentence in the introduction. Therefore, after arousing his readers’ interest in the first paragraph, Gioia shifts their attention to evidence. This strategy is meant to make readers convinced of the legitimacy of his central argument. In the third paragraph, he appeals to the readers’ emotions by suggesting that ignoring arts and literature is problematic to America, a progressive nation. In other words, the author builds a case for his reasoning by making readers aware that he recognizes engaging with literature has its ups and downs.

Comparison of evidence. In the fifth paragraph, the author refers to two separate information sources to advance his claim. The first involves a citation of author Daniel Pinks’ quote that suggests the talents individuals require to succeed in the 21st century enable individuals to create beauty through art and emotion, to identify and exploit opportunities. Here, Gioia uses the thinking of a respected scholar to build a salient argument. To strengthen this argument, the author provides evidence of what the industry seeks: imagination, innovation, and critical thinking. He suggests that these are the qualities that guarantee success in management. By capturing two sets of claims from two separate sources, the author sensitizes his audience that immersion in the arts fosters vital skill sets that enable one to succeed in the modern workplace.

Factual support. In the sixth paragraph, the author furthers an argument from the fifth paragraph by providing a negative example of the consequences of diminished interest in the arts. Focusing on literacy, he cites a 2001 poll on the National Association of American Manufactures that established poor reading skills ranked second among employees’ skill deficiencies. Thirty-eight percent of respondents believed local schools teach reading comprehension inadequately. Using a numerical statistic based on a survey, which indicates the effects of diminished experience in art and literature, enables Gioia to make his argument logical. This strategy gives his readers an accurate depiction of the “strange thing” that has happened in America during the past 25 years.

A summary of the author’s claims. Overall, the text indicates Gioia’s strong logical argument that exemplifies the danger of disconnecting with the arts. Throughout the text, he uses descriptions and evidence that suggest this trend is troubling for America. The effective logical connections between the central claim and proof, establish Gioia’s claim as a real-world trend. To convince the audience that his claim is legitimate, the author traces the origin of the current trend- almost 25 years back. This fact arouses the readers’ interest as they want to know what happened in those years. One can argue that this element of the text gives readers a reason to believe that the author is not merely complaining about a social trend, but has conducted research that warrants their attention.

Evaluation of the Second SAT Essay Example

Reading (Score— 4)

This SAT essay example demonstrates the reader’s comprehensive understanding of Gioia’s text, illustrating the connection between the central idea and evidence. Concerning the introductory paragraph, the reader paraphrases Gioia’s main argument. Basically, the reader also exhibits an understanding of evidence in the text, including compelling polls and reports, and quotes a prominent author. In turn, the reader connects this evidence with the text’s central argument that exemplifies the diminishing interest in the arts by young Americans during the last 25 years. With no identifiable errors of fact or interpretation, the response is an example of advanced reading comprehension.

Analysis (Score— 4)

The essay example of the SAT test demonstrates that the reader has a good grasp of the analytical task, judging by how effectively they analyze Gioia’s text. Beyond assertions that reflect the analytical elements in Gioia’s text, the response discusses the contribution that these elements make in supporting and strengthening Gioia’s main argument. For example, the response indicates the use of the element of contrast to help the reader understand the seriousness of the author’s assertion. Here, the response shows that the author uses this element to emphasize his central argument and highlight it as a negative development. In turn, the reader’s insightful analysis of the text shows advanced analytical skills.

Writing (Score— 4)

The example of the SAT essay indicates that the reader uses and commands language effectively. In introducing their response, the reader captures Gioia’s central claim precisely, which he justifies through evidence from surveys, reports, and other author’s sentiments. Basically, the use of a sophisticated sentence structure, notable vocabulary, and correct word choice demonstrates sufficient analytical work. In this regard, the response conveys to the audience the importance of the arts, thus compelling readers to conclude that diminished involvement in the arts by Millenials foreshadows troubling results. Overall, the response shows the reader’s advanced writing ability. 

Example of the SAT Essay Prompt 3

As you read the passage below, consider how Eliana Dockterman 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.

Adapted from Eliana Dockterman, “The Digital Parent Trap.” ©2013 by Time Inc. Originally published August 19, 2013.

Link: https://collegereadiness.collegeboard.org/pdf/sat-practice-test-3-essay.pdf for other SAT essay examples.

Sample SAT Essay Response

In “The Digital Parent Trap,” Eliana Dockterman responds to the skepticism among parents about their children’s early exposure to technology. In his multifaceted argument, the author attempts to dispel the misunderstandings surrounding technology and its relevance in education. In demonstrating the psychological barriers to technology and education, the author uses facts and statistics to cement her argument. Despite the negativity that her claim exemplifies – the obstacles to technology-based learning for young students – Dockterman is optimistic that parents’ cooperation can facilitate the adoption of technology for educational purposes.

The use of evidence. In the introduction, the author discusses how the new generation of children is proficient in using technology than previous generations. Here, she cites evidence, in the form of statistics, to show readers the increasing technology use among children. Rather than seeing it as harmful or grounds for a moral decline, the author perceives this development as a sign of progress. It is for this reason that her argument proposes the need for parents to adopt a new mindset regarding technology use in education. In essence, she says that parents must cease seeing the use of technology in a negative light- a distraction and poor replacement for traditional learning. Instead, she refers to evidence showing the increasing adoption of technology in education. By indicating that many schools are planning to adopt technology use, Dockterman convinces his audience that technology can play a facilitative role in learning.

Logos, ethos, and pathos. Dockterman uses ethos and logos to persuade her audience, relying on facts to establish and cement her claims. At various points, she uses pathos to induce her words with influencing power. For example, her initial words indicate the singularity of her objective- to establish the potential of technology in facilitating adolescent education. Throughout the text, she spells out the dilemma facing parents and children in a world where technology is increasingly becoming a game-changer. On the one hand, she shows that while children and schools may be eager to adopt technology, evidence shows that a good proportion of parents are not convinced that this change is necessary. Ideally, these parents are unwilling to let go of the status quo because they see technology as an addiction. They would rather spend resources to keep their children away from digital gadgets.

Literary elements. Dockterman uses imagery to make her text exciting and engaging. She questions parents’ and counselors’ wisdom to keep a child, who has spent much of their growing up with technology, away from gadgets. She argues that the average American family still does not understand value technology as a tool for education; it only doubts its potential and sees it as a distraction to children. She wonders who’s right between the mother who protects her children from the dangers of new technology and the father who coaches them on how to use it. This question reflects the dilemma of American families in today’s digital age. The author uses real-world statistics showing that few people embrace technology despite notable technological change happening to strengthen her claim.

The gist of the author’s argument. In short, her argument indicates that the limited adoption of technology is based on people’s limited awareness of technology and its potential in education. People seem to be more conversant with the drawbacks of technology and not with the power it holds as a facilitator of children’s learning. In his subtle indication of parents’ skepticism, the author blames their traditional mindset as the obstacle, claiming that it does not allow them to move beyond convenient answers. In other words, many parents it is convenient to blame technology for their lack of understanding of its positive influences. Beyond highlighting parents’ ignorance, Dockterman uses a compare and contrast approach to introduce her audience to the advantages and disadvantages, if there are any, of technology use in education.

Scores of the Third SAT Essay Example

Reading (Score— 4)

This SAT essay example demonstrates the reader’s thorough comprehension of Dockterman’s text and illustrates their firm understanding of the connection between the central idea and evidence. Basically, the response captures an accurate paraphrase of Dockterman’s central idea, with evidence playing a key role in establishing and cementing the claim. Reading through the response, it is evident the reader comprehends the main focus of Dockterman’s text. In this case, the paragraphs show a progressive understanding of the author’s line of thought. For example, the response shows the connection between the argument in the fifth and sixth paragraphs, with the latter advancing the former. Without notable errors of fact or interpretation, the response indicates advanced reading comprehension.

Analysis (Score— 3)

The essay example of the SAT test demonstrates a good understanding of the analytical task by offering a compelling analysis of Dockterman’s text. In particular, the response utilizes quotes and evidence to establish and strengthen the author’s central claim. For example, the use of facts and statistics exemplifies the psychological barriers related to the relation between technology and education. In this case, such evidence helps the author cement her argument about the misplacement of parental concern about children’s involvement with technology. Moreover, the response highlights the author’s effort to dispel the confusion and misunderstanding that parents exhibit concerning the essence of technology in children’s development. In turn, the insightful analysis evident in the response indicates an advanced analytical skill.

Writing (Score— 4)

The example of the SAT essay demonstrates effective use and command of the English language. Basically, the response begins with a concise paraphrase of Dockterman’s central claim. Throughout the response, the reader demonstrates a skillful structure of the argument. For example, the response utilizes imagery and questions to convey the primary concerns in Dockterman’s text. In this case, the use of a compare and contrast approach exemplifies the reader’s understanding of language elements that create a compelling, objective, and logical arguments. Overall, the response indicates an advanced writing ability.

Summing Up on SAT Essay Examples

Joining an undergraduate program is the dream of many students, suggesting the importance of learning about SAT prompts. Regarding SAT essay examples, students must note expectations. Although these essays may differ in content, they tend to assume a similar structure in terms of the prompt, response, and grading. To excel in the SAT essay, a student must read the prompt and understand what it requires. Typically, the requirement is to consider the use of evidence (facts and examples) in the text and how it supports the author’s central claim. Moroever, it requires students to consider how reasoning helps the author construct ideas and show an interrelation between the central claim and evidence. Finally, SAT essay examples require applicants to analyze the persuasive use of language by the author, such as word choice or appeals to emotion, to strengthen the main ideas.

In essence, SAT essay examples entail the following details:

  • a response with a plausible claim that convinces the reader of the accuracy of the author’s claim;
  • a response with a word count of between 650 and 750 words;
  • a time allocation of about 50 minutes, within which the student must thoroughly analyze and respond to the text;
  • a grading criterion that addresses three dimensions: reading, analysis, and writing.

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