SAT Essay Writing Examples (Score of 6)
Many persons believe that to move up the ladder of success and achievement, they must forget the past, repress it, and relinquish it. But others have just the opposite view. They see old memories as a chance to reckon with the past and integrate past and present.
Adapted from Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot, I’ve Known Rivers: Lives of Loss and Liberation
Do memories hinder or help people in their effort to learn from the past and succeed in the present? 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.
SAT Sample Essay - Score of 6
Without our past, our future would be a tortuous path leading to nowhere. In order to move up the ladder of success and achievement we must come to terms with our past and integrate it into our future. Even if in the past we made mistakes, this will only make wiser people out of us and guide us to where we are supposed to be.
This past year, I was auditioning for the fall play, “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.” To my detriment I thought it would be a good idea to watch the movie in order to prepare. For two hours I studied Elizabeth Taylor’s mannerisms, attitude, and diction, hoping I could mimic her performance. I auditioned for the part of “Maggie” feeling perfectly confident in my portrayal of Elizabeth Taylor, however, I was unaware that my director saw exactly what I had been thinking. Unfortunately, I didn’t get the part, and my director told me that he needed to see “Maggie” from my perspective, not Elizabeth Taylor’s.
I learned from this experience, and promised myself I would not try to imitate another actress, in order to create my character. Persevering, I was anxious to audition for the winter play just two months later. The play was Neil Simon’s “Rumors,” and would get the opportunity to play “Chris,” a sarcastic yet witty role, which would be my final performance in high school. In order to develop my character, I planned out her life just as I thought it should be, gave her the voice I thought was right, and the rest of her character unfolded beautifully from there. My director told me after the first show that “Rumors” was the best work he’d ever seen from me, and that he was amazed at how I’d developed such a believable character. Thinking back to my first audition I was grateful for that chance I had to learn and to grow, because without that mistake I might have tried to base “Chris” off of someone I’d known or something I’d seen instead of becoming my own character. I utilized the memory of the Elizabeth Taylor debacle to improve my approach to acting and gave the best performance of my life so far.
6 Score Critique
This essay effectively and insightfully develops its point of view (In order to move up the ladder of success and achievement we must come to terms with our past and integrate it into our future) through a clearly appropriate extended example drawing on the writer’s experience as an actor. The essay exhibits outstanding critical thinking by presenting a well-organized and clearly focused narrative that aptly illustrates the value of memory. The essay also uses language skillfully, demonstrating meaningful variety in sentence structure (To my detriment I thought it would be a good idea to watch the movie in order to prepare. For two hours I studied Elizabeth Taylor’s mannerisms, attitude, and diction, hoping I could mimic her performance. I auditioned for the part of “Maggie” feeling perfectly confident in my portrayal of Elizabeth Taylor, however, I was unaware that my director...). Despite minor errors, the essay demonstrates clear and consistent mastery and is scored a 6.
SAT Sample Essay - Score of 6
Memories act as both a help and a hinderance to the success of someone. Many people advise you to learn from the past and apply those memories so that you can effectively succeed by avoiding repeating your past mistakes. On the other hand, people who get too caught up with the past are unable to move on to the future.
Elie Wiesel’s memoir Night perfectly exemplifies the double nature of memories. Wiesel, a Jewish man, suffered heavily throughout the Holocaust and Night is rife with horrific descriptions of his experi-ence. These memories help to spread the view of what life was like. Through recounting these memories, Wie-sel is able to educate world readers about the atrocities committed in hopes that the same blatant violations of human rights are never repeated again. Through reliving the Holocaust through his writing, Wiesel was inspired to become proactive in the battle for civil rights. Some would point to his peaceful actions and the sales of his book and label him a success.
Despite the importance of recounting such memories, Wiesel acknowledges the damage that memo-ries can also cause. Following his liberation from the Auschwitz concentration camp, Wiesel was a bitter, jaded man. He could not even write Night until several years later. The end of the novel describes Wiesel’s gradual but absolute loss of faith throughout the experience. His past experiences haunted him for several years, rendering him passive. It was not until he set aside his past that he could even focus on the future. Had he remained so consumed with the pain and damage caused in the past, he may never have achieved the success that he has attained.
Overall, Wiesel’s experiences exemplify the importance of the past as a guide. Wiesel’s past experi-ences helped to guide him in later life, but it was not until he pushed them aside that he could move on. To me this means that you should rely on your past without letting it control you. Allow your past to act as a guide, while making sure that you are also living in the present and looking to the future.
6 Score Critique
This essay exhibits outstanding critical thinking by effectively and insightfully developing its point of view (you should rely on your past without letting it control you) through the clearly appropriate example of Elie Wiesel’s Holocaust memoir, Night. The essay demonstrates clear coherence and smooth progression of ideas, carefully contrasting Wiesel’s success in using his memories to gain attention for his cause with the difficulty Wiesel faced in dealing with those same powerful memories. The essay uses language skillfully to convey Wiesel’s struggle (Despite the importance of recounting such memo-ries, Wiesel acknowledges the damage that memories can also cause. Following his liberation from the Auschwitz concentra-tion camp, Wiesel was a bitter, jaded man. He could not even write Night until several years later). The essay demonstrates clear and consistent mastery and receives a 6.
The following is representative of what you'll encounter on test day.
You have 50 minutes to read the passage and write an essay in response to the prompt provided inside this booklet.
As you read the following passage, consider how Martin Luther King Jr. uses
1. evidence, such as facts or examples, to support claims.
2. reasoning to develop ideas and to connect claims and evidence.
3. stylistic or persuasive elements, such as word choice or appeals to emotion, to add power to the ideas expressed.
Adapted from Martin Luther King Jr., "Beyond Vietnam-A Time to Break Silence." The speech was delivered at Riverside Church in New York City on April 4, 1967.
Since I am a preacher by calling, I suppose it is not surprising that I have . . . major reasons for bringing Vietnam into the field of my moral vision. There is at the outset a very obvious and almost facile connection between the war in Vietnam and the struggle I, and others, have been waging in America. A few years ago there was a shining moment in that struggle. It seemed as if there was a real promise of hope for the poor-both black and white-through the poverty program. There were experiments, hopes, new beginnings. Then came the buildup in Vietnam, and I watched this program broken and eviscerated, as if it were some idle political plaything of a society gone mad on war, and I knew that America would never invest the necessary funds or energies in rehabilitation of its poor so long as adventures like Vietnam continued to draw men and skills and money like some demonic destructive suction tube. So, I was increasingly compelled to see the war as an enemy of the poor and to attack it as such.
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. We were taking the black young men who had been crippled by our society and sending them eight thousand miles away to guarantee liberties in Southeast Asia which they had not found in southwest Georgia and East Harlem. And so we have been repeatedly faced with the cruel irony of watching Negro and white boys on T V screens as they kill and die together for a nation that has been unable to seat them together in the same schools. And so we watch them in brutal solidarity burning the huts of a poor village, but we realize that they would hardly live on the same block in Chicago. I could not be silent in the face of such cruel manipulation of the poor.
My [next] reason moves to an even deeper level of awareness, for it grows out of my experience in the ghettoes of the North over the last three years-especially the last three summers. As I have walked among the desperate, rejected, and angry young men, I have told them that Molotov cocktails1 and rifles would not solve their problems. I have tried to offer them my deepest compassion while maintaining my conviction that social change comes most meaningfully through nonviolent action. But they ask-and rightly so-what about Vietnam? They ask if our own nation wasn't using massive doses of violence to solve its problems, to bring about the changes it wanted. Their questions hit home, and I knew that I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today-my own government. For the sake of those boys, for the sake of this government, for the sake of the hundreds of thousands trembling under our violence, I cannot be silent.
For those who ask the question, "Aren't you a civil rights leader?" and thereby mean to exclude me from the movement for peace, I have this further answer. In 1957 when a group of us formed the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, we chose as our motto: "To save the soul of America." We were convinced that we could not limit our vision to certain rights for black people, but instead affirmed the conviction that America would never be free or saved from itself until the descendants of its slaves were loosed completely from the shackles they still wear. . . . Now, it should be incandescently clear that no one who has any concern for the integrity and life of America today can ignore the present war. If America's soul becomes totally poisoned, part of the autopsy must read: Vietnam. It can never be saved so long as it destroys the deepest hopes of men the world over. So it is that those of us who are yet determined that America will be-are-are led down the path of protest and dissent, working for the health of our land.
1 A crude bomb made from a glass bottle filled with flammable liquids and topped with wicks
Write an essay in which you explain how Martin Luther King Jr. builds an argument to persuade his audience that American involvement in the Vietnam War is unjust. In your essay, analyze how King uses one or more of the features listed in the preceding notes section (or features of your own choice) to strengthen the logic and persuasiveness of his argument. Be sure that your analysis focuses on the most relevant features of the passage.
Your essay should not explain whether you agree with King's claims, but rather explain how King builds an argument to persuade his audience.