SAT essay prompts from March 2015

SAT Essay prompts March 2015

This article is designed to help students prepare for their SATs. It outlines some practice questions and answers based on the latest official SAT essay prompts, which were released by the College Board in March 2015, as well as some advice for constructing an argument and planning and writing an essay. If you would like to see the official list of essay prompts, please visit the essay prompt section on the College Board website. Note that each new set of essay prompts replaces the former set. (Note: There appears to be a number of typos on the current page (as of 2015-04-14). For several of the prompts, the context paragraphs do not match the essay prompts given.)

As outlined below, each prompt involves a single issue or idea (which prompts you to think critically about it). For these three prompts, the issues are self-discipline, art and collaboration. For each issue, there is a question and some arguments for and against, as well as some things to consider before writing an essay about that specific issue. Remember, these questions and arguments are just examples and will differ in your actual exam.

Essay Prompt 1: Is Self-Discipline Valuable?

For: Yes. Self-discipline helps us control negative and potentially damaging behavior and emotions. It helps us to say no to things that might initially seem like a good idea, but might have negative consequences. People without self-discipline have fewer boundaries and are not fully aware of how their actions affect others.

Against: No. Self-discipline restricts creative freedom and makes social interaction more difficult. If someone spends too much time disciplining himself, he might suffer from a lack of spontaneity and low self-confidence. Self-discipline emphasizes organization and control, and might lead to anxiety or depression when situations cannot be controlled.

Considerations: Before starting your essay, you should consider the terms of the question. In this case, establish what self-discipline means and then consider whether it’s valuable according to your experience, studies, or observations. As with any essay, you will first need a strong argument. Your argument might be that self-discipline is an important quality that many people develop when working towards set goals. Although you’re arguing for self-discipline, you should aim to construct a balanced argument with points for and against. When making a point for self-discipline, you might say that self-discipline is good for people who need strict organization to achieve goals, such as athletes or actors. You can then make a point against self-discipline, perhaps saying that too much self-discipline for certain people might lead to addictive or selfish personality traits.

Essay Prompt 2: Can Art Change Your Life?

For: Yes. Art changes us every day by moving and inspiring us. Many people are inspired by a favorite book, film, or song that has changed their perspective on the world. Art allows us to explore ideas, emotions, and thoughts from a perspective different from our own.

Against: No. Art’s job is to entertain and distract us and simply cannot change the way we think and act. Art cannot stop climate change or end wars; neither can it change people’s religious or political beliefs.

Considerations: Again, first consider the terms of the question by thinking about what art is and how it might have changed your life or the lives of others. What about the Bible? Isn’t that a work of art that has changed people’s lives? What about American folk music from the 1960s or certain popular music today (hip hop, indie, electronic, metal, etc.)–do you think that has changed people’s lives? To answer these questions, remember to consider whose lives have been changed and in what ways. Also, what does “change” mean? Change is a very broad term and can be interpreted how you like, as long as you make a convincing argument by arguing for and against. Change might be positive or negative, it might be personal, or it could apply to an entire country.

Essay Prompt 3: Is Collaboration Useful?

For: Yes. Human society and individual relationships need collaboration to succeed. Most great discoveries in science and many advances in works of art and architecture have been created in collaboration. Society would not function without collaboration, and it would take individuals much more energy and time to achieve the same results.

Against: No. Collaboration often leads to conflict between groups and people, or results in compromise, where neither group get what they want. If individuals were to work on their own, the finished product would be more personal and closer to the original idea.

Considerations: What is collaboration and in what context are you going to write about it? You might consider “collaboration” in relation to politics, business, TV, or music, or you might think about important scientific discoveries or works of art that relied on the work of more than one person. You might also think about collaboration between areas of study. Do artists collaborate with scientists? Do musicians work with film directors? As with any essay, it’s important to give specific examples to support your arguments. Examples show the essay reader what evidence you have, making your argument more convincing. All of your examples should include names, titles of work, and dates to the extent that you’re able to remember them. A common but also effective kind of example is the quotation. When quoting, remember to make it clear who is speaking and how this relates to the point you are making. If you’re talking about scientific discoveries, for example, you might consider Isaac Newton’s famous quotation, “If I have seen further than others, it is by standing upon the shoulders of giants.”

SAT Essay planning and writing

Before starting any essay it’s important to plan what you’re going to say. When you’re planning your essay, you may wish to take up to three minutes to consider what your argument is and what the structure of your essay will be. At this point, it might be useful to try to summarize your argument into one simple sentence and to note down the main points for each section of your essay.

Once you have your argument, you should think about your introduction. Put simply, your introduction sets out your main argument and says succinctly what you are going to say in the whole of your essay. In the middle section of your essay, each point you make to support your argument should include evidence in the form of examples (quotations are especially useful here). All essays should end with a conclusion, which recaps what you have said and reasserts your main argument, preferably with a slightly different take on your main points.

Remember

Essay prompts usually focus on one issue or idea, but that doesn’t mean you should respond to an essay question in a particular way. Usually, essay prompts focus on broad ideas, as you’ve seen above with questions about self-discipline, art and collaboration. The readers are looking for your own interpretation of the issue, according to what you have experienced and studied. Finally, remember to stick to your chosen argument throughout and to provide a balanced argument that you think best answers the question.

If you’ve found this article useful it would be great to get some feedback, even it’s just a “like” or a simple thank you. In my experience as a tutor and a writer, constructive criticism is especially welcome. Good luck to everyone preparing for their SATs.

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