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.
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.
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.
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.
December 2008 – SAT Essay Prompt
If you took the December 2008 SAT Reasoning Test, you would have been given one of the essay prompts below:
Think carefully about the issue presented in the following excerpt and the assignment below. The biggest difference between people who succeed at any difficult undertaking and those who do not is not ability but persistence. Many extremely talented people give up when obstacles arise. After all, who wants to face failure? It is often said about highly successful people that they are just ordinary individuals who kept on trying, who did not give up. Adapted from Tom Morris, True Success: A New Philosophy of Excellence
Is persistence more important than ability in determining a person’s success? 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.
Think carefully about the issue presented in the following excerpt and the assignment below. Whether it is a child pouting to get ice cream or a politician using emotionally charged language to influence potential supporters, all people use some form of acting to achieve whatever ends they seek. Public figures of all kinds would have short, unsuccessful careers without the aid of acting. Acting consciously assuming a role in order to achieve some purpose is a tool people use to protect their interests and gain advantages in every aspect of life. Adapted from Marlon Brando, Foreword to The Technique of Acting by Stella Adler
Is acting an essential part of everyday life? 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.
Think carefully about the issue presented in the following excerpt and the assignment below. When people are very enthusiastic always willing and eager to meet new challenges or give undivided support to ideas or projects they are likely to be rewarded. They often work harder and enjoy their work more than do those who are more restrained. But there are limits to how enthusiastic people should be. People should always question and doubt, since too much enthusiasm can prevent people from considering better ideas, goals, or courses of action.
Can people have too much enthusiasm? 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.