SAT Essay: Drawing out the Details

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.

 In the preceding post, The Civil Rights Movement was one area that I brainstormed to address this question.  Going off of that idea, and since I recently enjoyed watching the film Lincoln, I could use that as one of my examples. 

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So, in my outline, I would write some quick details that I could use to support my thesis.  First, of all, I have to decide on a thesis!  Since this question is leading me in an obvious direction, I am going to follow along:

 Thesis: Progress creates as many problems as it solves.

 Example #1: The Civil War

             Subthesis: While the Emancipation Proclamation temporarily freed the slaves, it created problems of constitutionality that could only be solved by a constitutional amendment.

             Supporting Facts:

–       The Emancipation Proclamation declared slaves living in the rebellious states free in 1863.

–       This law was passed under martial law and could only take place during wartime.

–       So, in 1865, Lincoln had to garner support for the 13th amendment to the Constitution.

–       Many historians believe that the Emancipation Proclamation was unconstitutional and set a dangerous precedent.

–       While progress was temporarily achieved with the Emancipation Proclamation, this law created some new problems still being solved today: as a country, we are still deciding the extent of executive power in wartime.

 —

Of course, on the actual test, such an outline would be too time-consuming.  That is why it’s good to create about 10 ready examples prior to the test.  You can then mold these examples to any prompt. 

 Here are two more real SAT prompts for which you could use this example:

1)    Is it important to question the ideas and decisions of people in authority?

2)    Should people take more responsibility for solving problems that affect their communities or the nation in general?

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Honest Process: SAT Essay

First step – considering the question:

Prompt

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!

Essential Reading

By Evelyn Gardett

When I was at St. Andrews, my professor gave me the book The Clockwork Muse, by Eviatar Zerubavel, which changed the way I thought about time management.  I always had the sense that so many theories about self improvement and getting organized were off base, because they tell you to abandon everything you are doing to adhere to some new system.  Inevitably, you return to your own ways after just a few weeks, and your closet floor is littered with books like “10 steps to a better you!” 

What Zerubavel says is that you should observe yourself – on good days and bad, for better or worse – and figure out what YOU actually do.  Do you write better in the mornings?  Are you more focused in a crowded coffee shop or in a quiet nook at the library?  Most importantly, when do you need down time in order to recharge for the next project?  When you figure out how you work, you can structure your time to optimize your performance. 

Useful Links:

Tips from the College Board (check out #4)

Tips for students with ADHD or learning disabilities

Technologies to help you optimize your time: NY Times Blog

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