Developing Useful SAT Essay Examples

I remember that one of the biggest challenges I faced when tackling the SAT essay was having a wide variety of examples at my fingertips. Although the SAT essay is intended to measure your writing and argumentative skills, and not your knowledge of any particular subject, it is necessary to use good examples in your SAT essay to create a persuasive argument. Many of the essay prompts given on the SAT tend to be open-ended questions with multiple perspectives one can take. Almost all of these essay prompts deal with basic moral, social and psychological issues such as the meaning of freedom or courage.



[Continue reading to find out how to develop useful SAT essay examples…]

Many students believe that they have read enough and learnt enough at school to be able to “come up” with a good example for the essay. Although this may be so under normal circumstances, writing the SAT essay in less than 25 minutes (if you take a couple of minutes to plan) means that you would have to put together good examples under immense pressure. The best way to combat this problem is to create your own repertoire of good examples that are applicable to a diverse range of topics and that are well-memorized such that you are able to immediately draw it from memory to write it in your detailed body paragraphs. Of course, this method isn’t flawless. The prompt might be completely different from anything you have prepared for. If that’s the case, do not force your examples to fit the prompt, but try to come up with new examples on the spot. However, as most of the SAT essay topics are similar in terms of their moral or social inclination, it would be wise to prepare for such scenarios.

Here are 5 quick steps:

  1. Choose examples that are flexible
  2. Pick out important details about these examples
  3. Practice, practice, practice!
  4. Memorize the examples on your list
  5. Try coming up with new examples on the spot

Some subject areas that would be useful are History, Literature, and Politics.

History: Many social and moral lessons that we have learnt are based in lessons taken from historical events. You should focus on historical events and figures who are well-known for certain changes or lessons they have wrought in society. Don’t try to write about a big event such as “World War I” but whittle the point down to something more manageable such as the Holocaust. Remember that the essay section is only 25 minutes!

Some Examples from History:

  • Martin Luther King – courage, sacrifice
  • Ghandi – courage, patience, passive resistance
  • Hitler – revenge, power, corruption, propaganda
  • Abraham Lincoln – honesty, persistence, hard-working, great leader
  • Great Depression – greed, panic, wrong decisions
  • Civil Rights Movement – racial equality, courage, progress.

Literature: Often, characters from literary texts are able to flesh out a certain moral principle more accurately than real life examples. The ability to analyze these characters in such detail allows readers to demonstrate a good understanding of the morals and social values being discussed in the prompt.

Some Examples from Literature:

  • Greek classics: The Iliad, The Odyssey, Antigone, Oedipus Rex
  • ŸEnglish classics: Beowulf, The Canterbury Tales
  • ŸShakespeare’s plays: Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, MacBeth
  • ŸNathaniel Hawthorne’s novel: The Scarlet Letter
  • ŸDickens’ novels: Great Expectations, Oliver Twist, A Tale of Two Cities

Politics: The dialogue between countries, global cooperation, and negotiations regarding a variety of issues such as natural resources, global warming, chemical warfare, and more, are extremely valuable while writing the SAT essay. These world events could be useful in helping you flesh out a point in your essay. You might want to stress the importance of “communication” and use the example of multiple international dialogues between China, South Korea,  the United States, and North Korea that helped to shed more light on the nuclear situation in North Korea and possible avenues for action. Without such communication, the peace we have today, albeit fragile, might not have been possible. These political events could provide a foundation for you to discuss certain themes such as world peace, conservation and more.

Have fun crafting your own SAT essay examples!

Additional Reading:

Check out my other posts on the SAT Essay:

About the author: Shimin Ooi is a junior in Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs department. She has a strong interest in economic and health policy and has recently returned from a semester of study at Hertford College, Oxford. In high school, her extensive research on standardized tests helped her achieve a near perfect SAT score and perfect scores on each of her SAT Subject tests. Through these blog posts, she hopes to help others achieve test-taking success as well!

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