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A few practice SAT essays

  1. Jan 25, 2007 #1
    I wrote some practice SAT essays. You can just read one and comment on it, I'd be more than happy. If you do, please briefly state what do you see as good points and bad points.

    Essay 1

    Assignment: Have technologies that made our lives easier necessarily made our lives better?

    7:00 Am. Thank goodness my alarm woke me up – I might have been lost in eternal sleep there! It was easy and quick: before I went to bed I set the alarm with two clicks, and done. We all know people who condemn new technologies for being noisome to our society. The most common ground for these people has to be the critic of the internet. I believe they are failing to see the matter with an objective eye because if they did, they would certainly have a different opinion.

    Can you imagine a world without ambulances, fire trucks or police cars? We would be stuck in a Victorian-esque era where it would take literarily hours before we come to the rescue of someone in need. Similarly, the internet has made our lives much more secure. A doctor can quickly send medical information on a patient with brain surgery to a neurosurgery clinic. A police officer can send pictures taken on a crime scene to a detective for thorough analysis. Yet, some still insist to ignore those benefits and focus on the more negative aspects of the internet, taking more often than not the youth as their prey.

    While it’s true that the bringing of such things as word processing and “chat language” by the internet could have had nothing but a detrimental effect on youth, the good far outweighs the bad. Never did students have access to as much free information as they now do. Looking for information on recent researches on cancer? No problem. Just type write words in a search engine like Google or consult a free internet encyclopedia such as Wikipedia. The sky is the limit. This information “revolution” that is now upon us made it possible for anyone, anywhere, anytime to be connected to a world of knowledge, news and much more. It seems as if people who criticize the internet never took that into consideration. One funny thing is that during the 19th century, novels were often critized for corrupting their readers. Today, we say the opposite. The heresy of yesterday has become today’s orthodoxy. Like Hellen Keller said, “The heresy of one age becomes the orthodoxy of the next.”

    Those who refuse to see the greater good technology brings us never do anything but slow-down Humanity. Like author Stewart Brand “Once a new technology rolls over you, if you're not part of the steamroller, you're part of the road.” Who knows what tomorrow’s technology will look like? Whatever it is, one thing is for sure: the internet will be revered and a new kind of technology will be condemned.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 25, 2007 #2
    Essay 2

    Assignment: What motivates people to change?

    What can bring the incorrigible criminal to see the benefits of the path of honesty and virtue? Some will say harsh punishment will do. They are wrong. What really compels us to change are not the consequences of our acts, but rather it is the confrontation with someone who, through his virtues, makes us see our shortcomings.

    In the novel Les Miserable by French author Victor Hugo, the protagonist, escaped convict Jean Valjean, is as a man who shamelessly commits larceny for a living. One day, stumbling upon a poor, threadbare Jean Valjean, a priest takes pity on him and invites him into his house. When left alone in a room for a while, Jean Valjean quickens to pilfer anything he can. Suddenly, the priest bursts into the room, catching Jean Valjean red handed. Instead of denouncing him to the authorities, he grabs two silver candle holders from a nearby table and begs him to take them along what he already seized and leave.

    This strange incident had a forever lasting effect on Jean Valjean; ashamed by his ways, he mutates from a common thief to a man of great convictions. In the play Hamlet, Hamlet says “There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so”. Being exposed to “good”, made Jean Valjean see the “bad”. What follows then is a change that takes roots both in the outside and the inside; the priest, an external element, triggered this change, but it is untimely Jean Valjean who pursued it.

    Jean Valjean is a fictional character, but he remains a paragon of the repenting man. A single encounter sufficed to make this criminal a magnanimous man. People of all sort can – and they do – change this way. However, two conditions must be met: a good influence from the outside, and a will to change from the inside. In the words of Alice Walker: “No person is your friend who demands your silence, or denies your right to grow”.
    Last edited: Jan 25, 2007
  4. Jan 25, 2007 #3
    Essay 3

    Assignment: The door to success is labeled “push”. Discuss.

    So you open your cookbook to a random page only to find this: recipe for success. Under the ingredient section: salt, a zest of olive oil, and, most importantly, pushing. Yes, pushing. Successful people all have something in common. They’re not afraid to take risk. They do not hesitate to grab the opportunities that lay before them. They push forward.

    In a speech addressed to High School students, Bill Gates said something along the lines of “Don’t refuse to flip burgers because you consider it below your dignity. In your grandparents time, they would call it an opportunity”. Well, Bill, I don’t agree. After all, your just one of the richest on the planet, and the main shareholder in a gigantic company, which you founded yourself – by the way, that was sarcasm. What Bill is trying to tell us here is that just sitting there and expecting success to strike us is a sure way to remain unsuccessful.

    Success must be grabbed by the horns. Your success depends – let’s say in general – on you and only you. What would have become Napoleon Bonaparte without his ambition? Before becoming a leader, he was a follower, you know. As in his words, “If you want a thing done well, do it yourself.”

    You may want to annex a cliff-note to that recipe: “The key to success is to pounce on every opportunity you are given, and that is why the “push” ingredient is needed”. But please do not go over the border with the amount of “push” you mix in, or you might end up like Bonaparte – exiled! And Bill, would you like fries with that?
  5. Jan 25, 2007 #4


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    I think essay 3 is very much better than the previous 2, but they all have their problems.

    The first paragraph of Essay 3 is engaging which I like, but then the tone changes with that first sentence in the second paragraph. You haven't said who Bill Gates is or why we should consider what he has to say. You added it after what he said, but it seems later than it should be. Also, I don't understand the "by the way, that was sarcasm" remark. As a reader, I would start to feel a little inferior, and I wouldn't want to read something that made me feel that way.

    Is Bill trying to tell us something? Not really, he wasn't speaking to us. You quoted him, so it is out of context. I would probably stick to "what I think Bill meant is that...".

    "Success must be grabbed by the horns." Is that true? I would think success is a state of becoming, not an endpoint. Perhaps I could understand that one should grab a successful method by the horns. (Is success a successful method?)

    "let's say in general" - if the reader doesn't understand that, they will probably feel left out, like you are asking to much of them. And doesn't success depend on what you do more than on you? Or if you equate those two, can you assume the reader does?

    Again, no introduction to Napoleon. Who is he? Before becoming a leader he was a follower? Isn't that implied by default?

    What is a cliff-note? And also, this is a challenge to the reader. I may want to? But I don't know if I should or not! Let me do something else rather.

    And as for the stern warning at the end, I don't think one should be that direct. I would rather have said something like "Of course, too much push can harm as much as help".
    Last edited: Jan 25, 2007
  6. Jan 25, 2007 #5


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    Ok, Essay 2 has serious flaws which I will now address.

    "Some will say harsh punishment will do. They are wrong." The reader might agree with them; if that is the case you have just told the reader he or she is wrong. Not a good way to start, it's highly adversarial.

    "What really compels us..." No, what you think really compels us. Don't take the reader's opinion for granted; they might disagree with you and ignoring them will only turn them away. What I think most authors tend to do in a situation like this is to express a purpose, something like "I will attempt to justify my contention that what really compels us is...".

    In the novel, Valjean does a bunch of stuff but is it really important? I don't think the reader will know why you are reading from this story. Moreover, how is literature telling on real life? Surely the implication runs the other way.

    That Valjean is a paragon of the repenting man is merely asserted by you and is unjustified. I don't know that the reader will agree. A telling thing you can do sometimes is after each sentence, say to yourself "says you". For instance: "People of all sort can and do change this way - says you. However, two conditions must be met - says you." I think by doing this it can help to highlight those parts that are unjustified.
  7. Jan 25, 2007 #6


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    Now for Essay 1, although by now I think you could probably critique it pretty well by yourself :).

    "I might have been lost in eternal sleep there!" Uh, no. There is no such thing as eternal sleep. Why would he say that, I don't understand. I'm feeling inferior now. Perhaps "I might have been late for work" would do better?

    "We all know people who condemn...". Do we? Perhaps "I think there are many who condemn..., perhaps you know such a person."

    "I believe they are failing to see the matter with an objective eye because if they did, they would certainly have a different opinion." If the reader doesn't, you have just insulted him or her. Not good.

    "Those who refuse to see the greater good technology brings us never do anything but slow-down Humanity." A brazen claim, and surely one which any theist would reject.
  8. Jan 25, 2007 #7
    Okay verty, this essay was written before you gave me your feedback so don't be shocked to see the same flaws resurface. One other thing: just out of curiosity, what do you know about the SAT essay? Did you do it? What did you get?

    Essay 4

    Assignment: Can loss teach us more than a win?

    The school’s final chess tournament is being held. All those that I consider threats are out of the competition. Things are looking good - or at least I thought so. I'm in the semi finals and, from previous encounters with my opponent, I knew I was the stronger player.

    It seems as if that gave me free access to over-confidence and arrogance. To mock my opponent, I deliberately let him take my two rooks. What a fatal mistake that was. Within a few moves, I was corned, barely resisting, and had no strategy whatsoever. When your chess player, you know that in that kind of situation the only thing that can save you is a miracle. Indeed, not only did I loose the match, but I also lost my chance to win this tournament for the first time.

    Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft - one of the most successful companies of our time - once said: “Success is lousy teacher. It seduces smart people into thinking they can’t loose.” Now, I’m not implying that I’m smart (please don’t read between the lines) but I do feel his statement applies very well to my situation. Had I faced the same opponent on that same match without knowing anything about him, I think I would have won. As matter of fact I faced him again over a friendly match. This time, I didn’t give any gift. I played as if I was playing against the most robust opponent and it bared fruit: I was soon victorious. This is the way I play ever since.

    I didn’t win that same tournament the year after. But the reasons where different; I did put my full effort in every match I played. Most importantly, I wasn’t disappointed at all. At that time, I knew that the only thing that would have made me a true looser was if I failed to learn from my loss. Had I won this semi-final match, I would have lost an important lesson.
    Last edited: Jan 25, 2007
  9. Jan 25, 2007 #8
    Werg, don't forget that the essay portion of the SAT is fairly new. Chances are that most people here haven't taken it.
  10. Jan 25, 2007 #9


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    Well this one is a lot better, I'd even call it good. However, it can still be improved. Let me show by example...

    I'm using this as an example so you can compare those two paragraphs and see how you feel as a reader when you read these different versions. I think you'll see that mine makes no demands on the reader, it leads the reader without being challenging.

    I also tried to make it seem emotional without being obvious. Can you feel the confidence when you read the first paragraph? Can you feel the anxiety and frustration in the second? Perhaps I am deluded and I didn't manage to do that but nevertheless the important thing to take from this is that you must work with the reader to have a good result.

    Obviously I expect you to continue writing practice essays and being critiqued until you have learned the habit, because it is good to know and you should be looking past this one test.
    Last edited: Jan 25, 2007
  11. Jan 25, 2007 #10


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    And about my experience, I am not in the US so don't know anything about SAT's at all, but what I know is I had to write 500-600 word essays in high school and I typically got about 90% for them, so I must have been doing something right. I don't think my teacher was being overly lenient.
  12. Jan 25, 2007 #11
    Thanks a lot verty, I will keep on practicing. I will write about 3 essays tomorrow, so, if you don't mind, come check them. The way you reconstructed those two paragraph is brilliant! Your a good essayist and it shows. I will try to add the kind of vivacity you showed me to my future essays. If I have the time, I will edit the previous essays with what you recommended in mind.
    Last edited: Jan 25, 2007
  13. Jan 25, 2007 #12
    Are you using a study book for these essay topics or are you making them up
  14. Jan 25, 2007 #13
    Werg22: I didn't write an essay for the SAT, but I wrote an essay for the SAT II writing section which I understand to be essentially the same thing (I did well). One thing that you may what to consider is that from what I recall they prefer you to use multiple examples or sources of evidence to support your point. It's supposed to be kind of like the classical three body paragraph essay. Your writing in compelling, but the structure could perhaps use some work. Also, I'd definitely check out the tips you can find in an SAT study book or even elsewhere online. They look for specific things in an SAT essay that members of this site may not be familiar with.
  15. Jan 25, 2007 #14
    In fact I'm not 1 but 3 study guides. The one that I find the most compelling says it's more about making a point than to stick to a structure. According to it, several creative, out of the ordinary essays have been awarded a 12/12. The most important thing is to get the reader's interest and make the essay a pleasant read. That's what I'm trying to do in my essays, and I find that when I draw from novel or history I have difficulty to accomplish that. That's why I mostly go with the "humanity" path.
  16. Jan 26, 2007 #15


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    I suppose we can distinguish between the content of an essay and the style of an essay. The skill in writing an essay is being able to write a well-styled essay about any topic. Once you can do that, then certainly knowing what the adjudicator expects of the content is important.

    I would say both of these things are important, but I think the style is more noticeable and is a general skill that one can acquire, whereas the content is specific to the situation unless you are writing within a specific domain like perhaps technical reviews or scientific literature or whatever.
  17. Jan 26, 2007 #16
    Okay here's another essay. The name Louis Grotzky is invented because I can't find the real name of the person in question.

    Essay 5

    Assignment: Do we need others to better understand ourselves?

    Often, it’s when we get the same remark from different people that we start to question ourselves on our nature. There are good reasons to believe that truth often comes out from other rather than ourselves. My personal experience as well as a thorough analysis from a renowned psychologist both provide support this claim.

    My mathematics teacher once told me “You know, you’re quite a lazy person.” I didn’t take this remark for much. To me it was just a one time thing; that he had fallen under the wrong impression. When, two days later, my English teacher made the same remark, I was a little aroused but not enough to take it really seriously. After all, it could be a coincidence, right? Probably, I thought. But when the exact same thing eventually happened with my History teacher and my science teacher, I started to question myself. Could it be that I’m lazy? I went to some friends and my parents. Their answers all confirmed it. But I wasn’t vexed or anything of the sort. Certainly, I had only myself to blame; I was only surprised that others were able to discern my weaknesses better than I.

    A recent study conducted by Louis Grotzky, an associate of Harvard University, enlightens us on the matter. In a experiment, Grotzky assembled some people and exposed them to verbal attacks. He then asked them to analyze what was their own reaction. Most had to retreat for while in order to think over it, and came up with hesitant answers. On the other hand, the few that bothered to consult others presented a firm analysis. Grotzky concluded that others are better than ourselves at determining what kind of behavior we have.

    As humans, we are often not able to let go of our ego and judge ourselves frankly. For this reason, we are better off if we seek our truth in others. Had I not been told that I was lazy, I would probably still ignore it. As matter of fact, I regularly do the exercise of questioning others on myself. Perfection is not attainable, but to pursue never did me any harm.
  18. Jan 26, 2007 #17
    Essay 6

    Assignment: Is the world changing for the better?

    Mankind has a dark history; one of war, crimes and ruthlessness. Today, we have fallen under the impression, living cozily out of conflict’s way, that we have reached an era of greater peace. Unfortunately, I’m afraid this is nothing but an illusion. We don’t live in peace any more than we ever did.

    The First World War was said to be the “war to end all wars”. The ones advocating that claim must have been quite in shock, then, when not 20 years later Europe entered into a yet more bloody, more devastating conflict. Albert Einstein once said “As long as there will be men, there will be war”. Nearly a 100 years after the “war to end all wars”, are compelled to think that he was right.

    In today’s world, Crusades have evolved into what is called terrorism. The model of an evil despot who must be removed that was defined by figures such as Hitler is still carried in people’s mind, often in a far too simplistic manner. Rather than evaluating its modern problems with a new perspective, Humanity prefers to look into the past and thus comes up with solutions from the past. Truly, we may live in an era where we can contact a person oversees within a few seconds, or travel across the Atlantic ocean in a few hours, but Humanity isn’t much different than it was 10 000, a 1000 or a 100 years ago.

    Four billions out of the 6 billions human beings live in conditions of poverty, hunger, malnutrition and disease. The remaining 4 billions seem to shelter themselves in their own bubble and pretend there is no such thing. Like George Bernard Shaw, a famous Irish playwright once said: “we learn from history that we learn nothing from history.”
    Last edited: Jan 26, 2007
  19. Jan 26, 2007 #18
    When I write essays I try to use language that flows nicely, is combined in a fashion that doesn't look familiar (the words and combinations of words you use is unique, isn't forced and is elegant), includes interesting information that relates but would not normally be contained in the essay (philosophical perspectives or critiques), etc.

    I try to create original essays that are not congruent to the typical model people use to write essays. Then again, I am better at writing than I am at mathematics so I might just be weird. I feel if someone reads something completely fresh and different than what the usually recieve, they are more inclined to read your essay and possibly pursue your effort in assisting them.

    EDIT: I will write two sample paragraphs to the question you most recently posted, demonstrating my opinion on writing.
    Last edited: Jan 26, 2007
  20. Jan 26, 2007 #19
    I am at work so I only had enough time on my 10 minute break to write an introductory paragraph. I wrote this in about ten minutes, using nothing other than my brain. I think your style is too concrete and perhaps extending your essay further might benefit you. My style is no better than yours, I am just offering something a little different. If you do not like the way I write, that's definitely understandable.

    Is the World changing for the better?

    As one begins to explore and analyze their perceptions of the external World, a retrospective model of antecedent events begins to emerge. Deep introspection leads to a natural extrapolation of particular aspects of the past, which one can subjectively apply to the external world through the construction of a particular, independent paradigm of reality, which allows for the potential acquisition of important insight. When one is asked the question, “Is the World changing for the better?”, it might be reasonable to inquire as to what aspect(s) of the World, one should consider. While today’s society appears to be dynamic, evolving exponentially, towards the development of technology, from which globalization and industry has emerged, it is a non sequitur to assert that this trend is to be regarded strictly as a positive change. The worldwide integration of humanity and the increased compression of spatial and temporal distances between countries, functions as a catalyst for the gapped expansion between underdeveloped nations and the inextricable, interconnected relationship they share with the world’s hyper economy.

    I bolded my thesis statement, which I like to include at the end of my introductory paragraph so it sticks in their head. You want to structure the architecture of your essay around your thesis then proceed to prove it through out your essay.

    Instead of writing out essays for each topic, get familiar with how to think about a topic, construct some kind of argument for or against it and defend it. The questions are so vague that you can honestly answer it anyway you want, so long as you can stay consistent with what the question is asking.
    Last edited: Jan 26, 2007
  21. Jan 26, 2007 #20
    complexPHILOSOPHY, your style would be best fit for a long term assignment, where you have ample of time and space to clarify your stance. The SAT essay however is bounded by a 25 minutes time limit, and the examiner will read it in a few minutes before he gives it a score. Hiding the meaning in cleverness or trying to give a deep philosophical dimension to the essay might not be the best choice because the examiner simply won't bother to reflect on it. Two of my study guides recommend to be as concrete as possible in order to avoid this issue. I appreciate your feedback very much though; I am quite an abstract writer myself so I understand very well your point of view.
    Last edited: Jan 26, 2007
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