Honest Process: SAT Essay

First step – considering the question:


Think carefully about the issue presented in the following excerpt and the assignment below.

We would like to think that progress causes problems to be solved completely, and sometimes that happens. For example, some diseases that once posed a serious threat are no longer a problem, thanks to modern medicine. Some problems can be solved, and they go away. But as often as not, problems exist in a chain of cause and effect: for each problem solved, a new one develops.

Adapted from Gregg Easterbrook, The Progress Paradox: How Life Gets Better While People Feel Worse

Assignment: Does progress reduce the number of problems in the world, or does solving old problems just lead to new ones? 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.

The underlined portion of the prompt is the most important part: you need to directly answer this question.  How would you go about this?  First of all, what is meant by progress?  What are some examples of progress?  (Sometimes looking at the quote helps jog your memory – sometimes not).

Some ideas:

–          Civil rights movement

–          Technology

–          Medicine

–          Infrastructure

–          Modern Art

For a five-paragraph SAT essay, you need three examples, an introduction and a conclusion.  This format is somewhat constrictive, but the SAT essay readers are looking for it.  It is helpful to generate more than three ideas, however, so you choose your three strongest – or combine them.  For example, I could combine technology and infrastructure to talk about advancements in transportation.

Of course it is much easier to brainstorm great essay ideas while sitting in your favorite coffee shop or on the back porch – less so at 9 a.m. in a bare classroom full of strangers.  So, begin your brainstorming now.  Come up with an arsenal of about ten essay examples that are widely applicable.  Think about your own interests and specialties.  Choose examples related to your favorite subject, sport, or hobby.  Keep in mind that the essay readers know nothing about you!  What may seem very familiar to you is completely new for them.  This is a situation in which it helps to apply that much-referenced dictum: write what you know.

Stay Tuned: Drawing out the Details!


3 thoughts on “Honest Process: SAT Essay

  1. You’re right that the five-paragraph outline here is somewhat constrictive, but it’s still just such a great place to start in getting students thinking about writing in terms of organization and structure. This is not just good advice for the SAT; it could be helpful for new college students who are struggling in English courses as well!

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