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6 SAT Essay Examples to Answer Every Prompt

Just as with most essays, the major secret to excelling on the SAT essay is to pre-plan
the examples and evidence you want to use.

"But wait!" I hear you cry. "Can you do that on the new SAT essay? Isnt the point of the
essay that youre supposed to be using information from the passage in your answer,
which you dont know about ahead of time?"

The answer: Yes and no. While the specifics of each example will obviously change,
depending on the passage, the types of examples you choose to discuss (and the
way you explain each example builds the authors argument) can be defined, and thus
prepared for, ahead of time.

In this article, we give you 6 good SAT essay examples youll be able to find in nearly
every prompt the SAT throws at you. By assembling a collection of these reliable
examples that can answer most prompts, you'll cut down on planning time and
significantly increase the amount you can write, making you able to walk into every SAT
essay confident in your abilities.

Before You Continue

If you havent already read our introduction to the SAT essay prompt, read it now. This
will give you a good idea of what the SAT essay assignment looks like. Then come back
to this article.
Preselecting Your Examples
The SAT essay prompts have several important things in common:

Theyre all passages that try to convince the reader of the veracity of the authors
claim
Theyre all around the same length (650-750 words)
Theyre all meant to be analyzed and written about in a relatively short period of
time (50 minutes)

This means that you can have a pretty good idea ahead of time of what types of
argument-building techniques you might see when you open the booklet on test day.
The main techniques the author uses aren't going to be overly complex (like the first
letter of every word spelling out a secret code), because you just dont have the time to
analyze and write about complex techniques.

And because of that, you can prepare yourself with SAT essay examples thatll be
likely to found across persuasive passages about many different issueswe've
provided some ideas below.

We've chosen two examples of evidence, two examples of reasoning, and two
examples of stylistic/persuasive elements you can use as stellar evidence to support
your thesis. Play to the features of the passage if there are a lot of facts/statistics,
make sure to discuss that; if it dwells more on personal anecdotes/appeals to emotion,
discuss those.

For each example below, we also show you how you can use the type of evidence to
support your thesis across a range of prompts. This should prove to you how
effective pre-planned examples are.

So, without further ado, onto our list of multipurpose support for any SAT Essay prompt.

Examples of Evidence
The most basic way author builds an argument is by supporting claims with
evidence. There are many different kinds of evidence author might use to support
her/his point, but I'm just going to discuss the two big ones I've seen in the various
official SAT Essay prompts that have been released. These two types of evidence
are Facts and Statisticsand Anecdotes.

Example Type #1: Facts and Statistics


Employing statistics and facts to bolster one's argument is one of the most unassailable
methods authors can use to build an argument. This argument-building technique is
particularly common in essays written about scientific or social studies-related topics,
where specific data and facts are readily available.

How Can You Identify It?

Statistics usually show up in the form of specific numbers related to the topic at
hand - maybe as percents, or maybe as a way to communicate other data. Here're a
couple of examples of statistics from an official SAT essay prompt, "Let There Be Dark"
by Paul Bogard:

Example: 8 of 10 children born in the United States will never know a sky dark
enough for the Milky Way
Example: In the United States and Western Europe, the amount of light in the sky
increases an average of about 6% every year.
Factual evidence can also be in the form of non-numerical information. Often,
you'll see facts presented with references to the research study, survey, expert, or other
source from which they're drawn. Here's another example from "Let There Be Dark":

Example: Already the World Health Organization classifies working the night shift as
a probable human carcinogen

Why Is It Persuasive?

Facts and statistics are persuasive argument building techniques because the author
isn't just making up reasons for why his/her argument could possibly be true - there's
actually something (data, research, other events/information) that backs up the
author's claim. In the case of the examples above, Bogard presents specific data
about issues with light pollution (8 in 10 children won't be able to see the Milky Way,
light in the sky increases 6% annually) to back up his statements that light pollution is
real, then goes on to present further information that indicates light pollution is a
problem (working the night shift puts humans at risk for cancer). By presenting
information and facts, rather than just opinion and spin, Bogard empowers the reader to
connect the dots on her own, which in turn gives the reader ownership over the
argument and makes it more persuasive (since the reader is coming to the same
conclusions on her own, rather than entirely relying on Bogard to tell her what to think).

Example Type #2: Anecdotes


Another form of evidence that is often used as an alternative to actual facts or statistics
is the anecdote. This type of evidence is most often found in speeches or other sorts of
essay prompts that are written as a personal address to the reader.

How Can You Identify It?

An anecdote is a short story about a real person or event. When an author discusses
own personal experience or personal experience of someone they know or have heard
of, that's anecdotal evidence. Here's an example of (part of) an anecdote from an official
SAT essay prompt that was adapted from a foreword by former U.S. President Jimmy
Carter:

One of the most unforgettable and humbling experiences of our lives occurred on the
coastal plain. We had hoped to see caribou during our trip, but to our amazement, we
witnessed the migration of tens of thousands of caribou with their newborn calves. In
a matter of a few minutes, the sweep of tundra before us became flooded with life,
with the sounds of grunting animals and clicking hooves filling the air. The dramatic
procession of the Porcupine caribou herd was a once-in-a-lifetime wildlife spectacle.
We understand firsthand why some have described this special birthplace as
Americas Serengeti.

Why Is It Persuasive?

Even though anecdotes aren't statistics or facts, they can be powerful because its more
relatable/interesting to the reader to read an anecdote than to be presented with dry,
boring facts. People tend to put more faith in experiences if they can personally
connect with the experiences (even though that doesn't actually affect how likely or
not a statement is to be true). In the example above, rather than discussing the statistics
that support the creation of wildlife refuges, Jimmy Carter instead uses an anecdote
about experiencing the wonder of nature to illustrate the same point - probably more
effectively. By inviting the reader to experience vicariously the majesty of witnessing the
migration of the Porcupine caribou, Carter activates the reader's empathy towards
wildlife preservation and so makes it more likely that the reader will agree with him that
wildlife refuges are important.

Examples of Reasoning
All authors use reasoning to some extent, but its not always a major part of how the
author builds her/his argument. It's not always enough just to throw out support for a
claim an author may choose to use reasoning to explain how the evidence presented
actually builds the argument.
Example Type #3: Counterarguments and Counterclaims

One way in which an author might use reasoning to persuade the reader to accept the
claim being put forward is to discuss a counterargument, or counterclaim, to the author's
main point. The discussion (and subsequent neutralization) of counterarguments is
found in prompts across all subject areas.

How Can You Identify It?

A counterargument or counterclaim is simply another point of view that contradicts


(either fully or partially) the author's own argument. When "some might claim,"
"however," or other contrast words and phrases show up in an essay prompt, the author
is likely presenting a counterclaim. Here's an example of an effective presentation (and
negation) of a counter claim from an official SAT essay prompt, "The Digital Parent
Trap" by Eliana Dockterman:

You could say some computer games develop creativity, says Lucy Wurtz, an
administrator at the Waldorf School in Los Altos, Calif., minutes from Silicon Valley. But
I dont see any benefit. Waldorf kids knit and build things and painta lot of really
practical and creative endeavors.

But its not that simple. While there are dangers inherent in access to Facebook, new
research suggests that social-networking sites also offer unprecedented learning
opportunities.

Why Is It Persuasive?

So how does bringing up an opposing point of view help an author build her argument?
It may seem counterintuitive that discussing a counterargument actually strengthens the
main argument. However, as you can see in the brief example above, giving some
space to another point of view serves to make it seem as if the discussions
going to be more fair. This is still true whether the author delves into the
counterargument or if the author only briefly mentions an opposing point of view before
moving on. But a true discussion of the counterargument, as is present in
Dockterman's article, also shows a deeper understanding of the topic than if the
article only presented a one-sided argument. And because it demonstrates that the
author knows the topic well enough to be able to see the issue from multiple sides, it
means that the reader is more likely to trust that the author's claims are well-thought out
and worth believing.
In the case of the Dockterman article, the author not only mentions the opposite point of
view but also takes the time to get a quote from someone who supports the opposing
viewpoint. This even-handedness makes her following claim that "it's not that simple"
more believable, since she doesn't appear to be presenting a one-sided argument.

Example Type #4: Explanation of Evidence

In some cases, the clarity with which the author links her evidence and her claims is
integral to the author's argument. As the College Board Official SAT Study Guide says,

"Reasoning is the connective tissue that holds an argument together. Its the thinking
the logic, the analysis that develops the argument and ties the claim and evidence
together."

How Can You Identify It?

This is one of the trickier argument-building techniques to discuss (at least in my


opinion), because while it is present in many essay prompts, it isn't always a major
persuasive feature. You can pretty easily identify an author's explanation of evidence if
the author connects claims to support and explains it, rather than just throwing out
evidence without much ceremony or linking to the claim; however, whether or not the
explanation of the evidence is a major contributing factor to the author's argument is
somewhat subjective. Here's a pretty clear instance of a case where an author uses
explanations of each piece of evidence she discusses to logically advance her
argument (again from the Dockterman passage):

And at MITs Education Arcade, playing the empire-building game Civilization piqued
students interest in history and was directly linked to an improvement in the quality of
their history-class reports.

The reason: engagement. On average, according to research cited by MIT, students


can remember only 10% of what they read, 20% of what they hear and 50% of what
they see demonstrated. But when theyre actually doing something themselvesin the
virtual worlds on iPads or laptopsthat retention rate skyrockets to 90%.

This is a main reason researchers like Ito say the American Academy of Pediatrics
recommendation of a two-hour screen-time limit is an outdated concept: actively
browsing pages on a computer or tablet is way more brain-stimulating than vegging out
in front of the TV.

Why Is It Persuasive?

Unfortunately, the explanation the Official SAT Study Guide gives for how to discuss an
author's "reasoning" is a little vague:
You may decide to discuss how the author uses (or fails to use) clear, logical
reasoning to draw a connection between a claim and the evidence supporting that
claim.
But how exactly you should go about doing this? And why is it persuasive to clearly
explain the link between evidence and claim?

In general, when an author explains the logic behind her argument or point, the
reader can follow along and understand the authors argument better (which in
some cases makes it more likely the reader will agree with the author).

In the Dockterman example above, the author clearly lays out data (Civilization leads to
improvements in history class), a claim (this is because of engagement with the game
and thus the subject material), provides data that back up that claim (retention rate
skyrockets when students do things for themselves), and links that smaller claim to a
larger concept (actively browsing pages on a computer or tablet is way more brain-
stimulating than vegging out in front of the TV). This clear pattern of data-explanation-
more data-more explanation enables the reader to follow along with Dockterman's
points. It's more persuasive because, rather than just being told "Civilization leads to
improvements in history" and having to take it on faith, the reader is forced to reenact
the thinking processes that led to the argument, engaging with the topic on a deeper
level.

Examples of Stylistic/Persuasive Elements


This final category of examples is the top layer of argument building. The foundation of
a good argument is evidence, which is often explained and elucidated by reasoning, but
it is often the addition of stylistic or persuasive elements like an ironic tone or a
rhetorical flourish that seals the deal.

Example Type #5: Vivid Language

Vivid language is truly the icing on the persuasive cake. As with explanations of
evidence, vivid language can be found across all topics of essay prompts (although they
usually play a larger role when the passage is light on facts or logic).

How Can You Identify It?


Vivid language is pretty easy to spot - it shows itself in similes, metaphors, adjectives,
or any words that jump out at you that dont seem to have purely functional
purposes. Here are a couple of examples - the first is Paul Bogard again:

show that what was a very dark country as recently as the 1950s is now nearly
covered with a blanket of light.
This example is relatively restrained, using the metaphor of "a blanket of light" to add
emphasis to Bogard's discussion of light pollution. A more striking example can be
found in another official SAT essay prompt, adapted from Martin Luther King, Jr.'s
speech "Beyond Vietnam - A Time To Break Silence":

Vietnam continued to draw men and skills and money like some demonic destructive
suction tube.

Why Is It Persuasive?

Vivid language is an effective argument building device because it puts the reader in the
authors shoes and draws them into the passage. If used in moderation, vivid
language will also make the topic more interesting for the reader to read, thus engaging
them further. In the excerpt taken from Martin Luther King Jr.'s speech above, the
phrase "demonic destructive suction tube" is startling and provocative, meant to rouse
the audience's indignation at the injustice and waste of the Vietnam war. If King had left
out the second part of the sentence and only said, "Vietnam continued to draw men and
skills and money," his point would not have had as big of an impact.

Example Type #6: Direct Addresses and Appeals to the Reader

The last category I'll be discussing in this article are direct addresses and appeals to the
reader. These stylistic elements are found across all sorts of different passage topics,
although as with the previous category, these elements usually play a larger role when
the passage is light on facts or logic.

How Can You Identify It?

Direct addresses and appeals to the reader are wordings or other stylistic devices
specifically designed to provoke a response (often emotional) in the reader. This
category covers many different elements, from appeals to emotion to rhetorical
questions. Here's an example of an appeal to emotion, taken again from Martin Luther
King, Jr.'s speech:
Perhaps a more tragic recognition of reality took place when it became clear to me
that the war was doing far more than devastating the hopes of the poor at home. It
was sending their sons and their brothers and their husbands to fight and to die in
extraordinarily high proportions relative to the rest of the population.
And here's an example of a rhetorical question (from the Paul Bogard article):

Who knows what this vision of the night sky might inspire in each of us, in our
children or grandchildren?

Why Is It Persuasive?

Appealing to the emotions, as Martin Luther King, Jr. does in his speech, is an
alternate route to persuasion, as it causes readers to emotionally (rather than
logically) agree with the author. By describing how the war was causing "their sons
and their brothers and their husbands to fight and die," King reminds the reader of the
terrible costs of war, playing upon their emotions to get them to agree that the Vietnam
War is a mistake, particularly for the poor.

Rhetorical questions, on the other hand, get the readers to step into the author's
world. By reading and thinking about the author's question, the reader engages
with the topic on a deeper level than if the reader were just given a statement of
what the author thinks. In the case of the Bogard example above, the rhetorical
question draws the reader into thinking about his/her descendants, a group of people for
whom the reader (presumably) only wishes the best, which then puts the reader into a
positive mood (assuming the reader likes his/her descendants).

Review
As you can see, these examples of different argumentative techniques can be extracted
from a lot of different article types for a wide range of topics. This is because the
examples themselves are so meaningful and complex that they can be used to discuss
a lot of issues.

The main point is, you don't have to wait until you see the prompt to develop an arsenal
of types of argument-building techniques you can use to support your points. Instead,
preparing beforehand how youll discuss these techniques will save you a lot of
time and anxiety when the test rolls around.