Past Sat Essays Questions

The redesigned SAT Essay asks you to use your reading, analysis, and writing skills.

It’s About the Real World

The SAT Essay is a lot like a typical college writing assignment in which you’re asked to analyze a text. Take the SAT with Essay and show colleges that you’re ready to come to campus and write.

What You’ll Do

  • Read a passage.
  • Explain how the author builds an argument to persuade an audience.
  • Support your explanation with evidence from the passage.

What’s New

The SAT’s essay component has had a total makeover:

  • It’s optional—but some schools will require it. Get College SAT Essay policies.
  • You have 50 minutes to complete your essay, 25 minutes more than the required essay on the old SAT.
  • You won’t be asked to agree or disagree with a position on a topic or to write about your personal experience.

Watch the Video

The Essay Prompt

The prompt (question) shown below, or a nearly identical one, is used every time the SAT is given.

As you read the passage below, consider how [the author] uses evidence, such as facts or examples, to support claims.

  • 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 [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.

The Topic

You can count on seeing the same prompt no matter when you take the SAT with Essay, but the passage will be different every time.

All passages have these things in common:

  • Written for a broad audience
  • Argue a point
  • Express subtle views on complex subjects
  • Use logical reasoning and evidence to support claims
  • Examine ideas, debates, or trends in the arts and sciences, or civic, cultural, or political life
  • Always taken from published works

All the information you need to write your essay will be included in the passage or in notes about it.

What the SAT Essay Measures

The SAT Essay shows how well you understand the passage and use it as the basis for a well-written, thought-out discussion. The two people who score your essay will each award between 1 and 4 points in each of these three categories:

Reading: A successful essay shows that you understood the passage, including the interplay of central ideas and important details. It also shows an effective use of textual evidence.

Analysis: A successful essay shows your understanding of how the author builds an argument by:

  • Examining the author’s use of evidence, reasoning, and other stylistic and persuasive techniques
  • Supporting and developing claims with well-chosen evidence from the passage

Writing: A successful essay is focused, organized, and precise, with an appropriate style and tone that varies sentence structure and follows the conventions of standard written English.

Take a look at the SAT Essay rubric, or guidelines, scorers use to evaluate every essay.

Who Should Take the SAT with Essay

You don’t have to take the SAT with Essay, but if you do, you’ll be able to apply to schools that require it. Find out which schools require or recommend the SAT Essay. If you don’t register for the SAT with Essay at first, you can add it later.

SAT fee waivers cover the cost of the SAT with Essay.

Sending Scores

If you take the SAT with Essay, your essay scores will always be reported along with your other scores from that test day. Even though Score Choice allows you to choose which day’s scores you send to colleges, you can never send only some scores from a certain test day. For instance, you can’t choose to send Math scores but not SAT Essay scores.

Reminder: Check the Score Choice policies of every college you’re applying to, because some schools require you to send scores from every time you’ve taken the SAT. If this sounds intimidating, keep in mind that many colleges consider your best.

SAT Essay Questions

Understand Your SAT Essay Topics

The SAT Essay

The essay questions of SAT evaluate your skills in interpreting a given issue, in supporting your proposition with relevant examples and in following the Standard Written English. In an essay question, you are given a prompt or a short excerpt in which an issue is presented. An assignment is also given to you, which is against the prompt. You need to understand this issue completely and form your own opinion about the issue. Once you have formed your opinion, you need to compose an essay, reflecting your opinion. You have to frame your essay illustrating it with examples and facts from your reading, studies, observation and experiences. While writing your essay, you have to follow the principle of standard written English. You should be well aware of keeping a connection between your opinion and the given issue. Should you deviate from the topic, the evaluators will disqualify your essay. Moreover, do not forget that you have to use a No.2 pencil to compose your essay.

What are Some Useful Strategies to Answer the SAT Essay Questions?

The essay questions of SAT are surrounded by many myths about answering it suitably. You might be advised to read more work that is classical, use more examples and narrate a long five-page essay to get a better score in the essay section. These myths are inappropriate in reality. The essay evaluators are experts in identifying a good essay. You should develop your point of view with sufficient examples and reasons in your essay. That is the mantra of scoring high in this section. You have to read the issue carefully before forming your opinion. While composing the essay, you should not oversimplify your opinion. It is unnecessary to use abundant examples, which confuses the readers. Invest time in simplifying one particular example. Lastly, do not be afraid to use the ‘I’ element in your essay. As the essay asks about your opinion, you can give the thoughts and experiences of your own life. However, make sure, you are supporting them with enough reasons.

How Will the Evaluators Mark Your Essay?

The previous paragraph contains some recommendations for approaching your essay questions. Follow the basic rules for writing the essay and you can score high in the essay section. The evaluators mark you on a scale of 2-12. There are two evaluators who read your essay. Each of these evaluators will mark you on a scale of one to six. Your SAT essayscore depends on the combined score of these two evaluators. On an average, both the evaluators will mark you the same. However, in case, the evaluators differ by one mark or more, a third evaluator reads your essay and marks you. Your essay marks depend largely on your usage of proper vocabulary, flawless grammatical sentences and sufficient uses of facts and evidences in advocating your opinion.

In the essay, a score of 10 out of 12 is considered excellent. A test-taker may get a zero score in case he has written an essay not related with the topic or failed to abide by the requirements to write the essay. However, you will get a better grip at writing essays if you consult few of the sample essay papers.

Sample SAT Essay Questions

In order to clear all your doubts about the SAT essay, you should go through few of the sample essay questions. The official website of College Board provides few prompts of SAT essay.You may start composing essays based on these prompts. Once you have started your essay, you should keep in mind the exact course or pattern you will follow for writing the essay. Following are some of the sample essay prompts, which will help you in understanding the essays.

  1. Sample 1:
  2. The Prompt:

    Time has a doomsday book, on whose pages he is continually recording illustrious names. But as often as a new name is written there, an old one disappears. Only a few stand in illuminated characters never to be effaced.

    • Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

    Assignment: Are there some heroes who will be remembered forever? Or are all heroes doomed to be forgotten one day? Plan your response, and then write an essay to explain your views on this issue. Be sure to support your position with specific points and examples. (You may use personal examples or examples from your reading, observations, or, knowledge of subjects such as history, literature, science.)

  3. Sample 2:
  4. The Prompt:

    Many persons believe that to move up the ladder of success and achievement, they must forget the past, repress it, and relinquish it. But others have just the opposite view. They see old memories as a chance to reckon with the past and integrate past and present.

    • Adapted from I've Known Rivers: Lives of Loss and Liberation, by Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot

    Assignment: Do memories hinder or help people in their effort to learn from the past and succeed in the present? 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.

  5. Sample 3:
  6. The Prompt:

    Even scientists know that absolute objectivity has yet to be attained. It's the same for absolute truth. But, as many newspaper reporters have observed, the idea of objectivity as a guiding principle is too valuable to be abandoned. Without it, the pursuit of knowledge is hopelessly lost.

    • Adapted from "Focusing Our Values," Nieman Reports

    Assignment: Are people better at making observations, discoveries, and decisions if they remain neutral and impartial? Support your position with reasoning and examples taken from your reading, studies, experience, or observations.

  7. Sample 4:
  8. The Prompt:

    Although most of us do not like being criticized, it is said that we can always benefit from being told what we are doing wrong. We may lose a valuable learning opportunity if we do not listen to the criticisms expressed by others. Yet criticism, even when honest and well intended, can be more harmful than helpful. We have more to gain by ignoring or shielding ourselves from the criticisms of others.

    Assignment Are people better off if they do not listen to criticism? 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.

  9. Sample 5:
  10. The Prompt:

    "Discipline" is a negative word for many people because it is associated with rigorous training, strict rules, and strong self-control. But we fail to realize that freedom comes only through discipline. Discipline compels us to sacrifice immediate rewards and pleasures, but it also gives our lives structure and prevents us from making costly mistakes. It keeps us from being subject to our impulses and weaknesses and thus frees us to achieve our true goals.

    Assignment Do people need discipline to achieve freedom? 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.

    You can score a complete 6 in all of the above essay prompts. However, there are certain standpoints you need to keep in mind before you approach the essay. Let us discuss the last sample essay, i.e. sample essay 5. Read the prompt carefully. It tells you the values of ‘discipline’ and the utility you derive from it. The assignment asks you to evaluate the role of ‘discipline’ in achieving freedom. You need to provide reasons and facts, which best describes your essay. Here is what you need to provide in the essay.

You need to have the correct positioning of strength and clarity of the topic. You got to present relevant examples supporting the argument, a flawless organization of paragraphs and have a command over vocabulary. You have to know perfect sentence construction and make a skillful selection of words in your essay. It is for these few perspective, that your essay will fetch you a complete 6.

These essay topics will help you get a gist of the essay section of the SAT. Your essay score will be based on your knowledge, as portrayed in the essay. You have to be clear of the issue given in essay questionsbefore developing your opinion. Use crisp yet legible words to bring out your opinion in the clearest manner.

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