Examples To Be Used In Sat Essays

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!

This entry was posted in Standardized Exams, Study Tips, Writing and tagged college preparation, composition, creative writing, English language, essay tips, essays, exam tips, general study tips, learning techniques, prep, preparation, sat, standardized exam, writing, writing tips on by Shimin Ooi.

Over-achiever alert: the new SAT’s essay is optional! If you choose to accept this challenge, you’ve come to the right place. If you’ve been keeping up with Magoosh’s in-the-know, breaking-news blog posts, then you already know that the new SAT uses real world essays, articles, and samples. Believe me, that’s the best thing you’ve heard all day. Why? Because you can read articles from the same sources the SAT gets material from.


Extra, extra! Read all about it!

The new SAT pulls articles from major newspapers and reputable magazines like The New York Times, The Economist, and The Atlantic. What do essays from all these different sources have in common? The articles the new SAT uses as prompts are all entering a bigger conversation, which means:

  • They usually respond to another article, author, or major event
  • They rely on statistics, articles, and other important people to help make a point
  • They’re usually deep enough in perspective for solid analysis


Responding to the issues

Think about the context of the real world. Stuff is happening all the time! And writers are constantly publishing new material on current events. But, the new SAT isn’t likely to use breaking-news stories that are old by tomorrow morning’s bowl of corn flakes. Instead, the new SAT will use articles about big world issues with far-reaching effects. You might see pieces about climate change, or other environmental issues, like these articles:

Other events and issues the new SAT might use as essay prompts include new discoveries about disorders like autism, gender pay differences, or the recent discovery of gravitational waves.


Let’s agree to disagree

These are pretty big issues, but that means writers have a lot of different opinions about how to talk about complex problems. The new SAT asks you to analyze the excerpt or essay given to you. Analysis means you need to pay attention to the different ways authors build their arguments. What kinds of sources do the author rely on? What kind of language does he or she use? Answering these questions means you must look at the bigger picture. That’s why the new SAT likes to use editorials, or opinion-based articles, for essay prompts. They’re practically asking for analysis!
Some hot-button issues that might show up in editorial form on the new SAT include articles on the effects of natural disasters, college athlete compensation, and the problem of distractions in a digital age.
I bet you weren’t expected to see Sports Illustrated in that list, were you! Remember, the new SAT uses articles from all kinds of publications. Once you check out the articles linked here, browse around those publication websites! Don’t worry if some of the articles you come across seem long. Essay prompt articles won’t usually be longer than a page and a half, so some articles that you find in the LA Times or Scientific American might be abbreviated or adapted for the exam prompt. One of the best ways you can be prepared is to keep up with current events and read articles like these. For more on the what the prompts look like, read this Magoosh post.

And if you’re ready to practice, check out our New SAT Essay Example Passage and Prompt!!


About Emily Faison

An avid reader and art enthusiast, Emily has degrees in English from Florida State University and Southeastern University. When she's not editing web content for a local magazine, you’ll probably find her catching up on her Netflix queue or reading a novel with a fresh cup of coffee at a local cafe.

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