SAT Essay Prompts

7 SAT Essay Topics Explained!

As part of the writing section of the SAT, the essay is the first question a candidate has to appear for. It is a 25-minutes exercise that needs to be attempted only in pencil. Essays written out in ink will not receive any grading; therefore candidates should keep their No. 2 pencils at hand. The candidate will be given a prompt/assignment to read carefully, understand and then write the essay based on the prompt/assignment given. Essay prompts of SAT are usually quotations or statements that are chosen to make the candidates think and respond to the prompt in different ways. These prompts are also a means of testing the candidate’s English language skills and the ability to develop complex ideas and sustain a point of view in an essay with the support of his own ideas and inferences. The point of view developed by the candidates as a response to the essay prompts can be based on their own observations, experiences and reading.

The SAT essay is scored by two readers on a scale of 1-6, which leads up to a score of 2-12, with 2 being a score of a flawed essay and 6 being the score of an exceptionally well-written and balanced essay. To understand what goes into the scoring of a SAT essay, the College Board website has, from among the many prompts, provided one example and its six responses which candidates can read at . Following are seven essay prompts carefully selected to allow you to read and think about a variety of topics and help you prepare better for the SAT essay.

7 SAT Essay Prompts

  • “The price of greatness is responsibility.”Winston Churchill

    Assignment: Do we expect too much from our public figures? Plan your response, and then write an essay...

    The trick with short quotations is that they pack a punch and often leave the reader with a single point of view because of the forcefulness of the quote. Candidates must avoid this trap and read a quote such as the one above in a larger, worldlier perspective, but within the framework of the life of a public figure. The operative word here is responsibility, so the candidate can pick on this word to flesh out whether public response towards public figures has become very pressurising or not. The candidate should also sustain his point of view with observations made on public figures and the responsibilities they shoulder, from his own readings or experiences.

  • “A man should never be ashamed to own he has been in the wrong, which is but saying, in other words, that he is wiser today than he was yesterday.”Alexander Pope

    Assignment: Do we learn more from finding out that we have made mistakes or from our successful actions? Plan your response, and then write an essay...

    It takes a greater person to accept his mistake in the face of embarrassment and ridicule; a quality time and age teaches us fairly well. The candidate should base his response to this prompt on his own learning either from mistakes or successes, and corroborate his opinion with instances and examples that have been drawn from his own life. As the assignment is a straightforward one, asking a Y/N response, it will be advisable for the candidate to take a side and sustain his argument through and through in support of his point of view.

  • “Each success only buys an admission ticket to a more difficult problem.” – Henry Kissinger

    Assignment: What is your view on the idea that each new success leads to new and more difficult problems? Plan and write an essay in which you develop your point of view on this issue.

    The assignment is a direct question to the candidate and his opinion. The candidate should attempt this by stating his opinion firstly, and then through the length of the essay providing ample proof to sustain this opinion. It could be for or against the view. Irrespective of that, the candidate should have a healthy balance of both views, with a heavier inclination towards his personal view, which should be supported by his inferences from everyday life and his own experiences.

  • "Most people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be." - Abraham Lincoln

    In other words, our personal level of satisfaction is entirely within our control. Otherwise, why would the same experience disappoint one person but delight another? Happiness is not an accident but a choice.

    Assignment: Is happiness something over which people have no control, or can people choose to be happy? Plan and write an essay in which you develop your point of view on this issue.

    Having two views so clearly stated within the assignment is a boon for the candidate, as now it makes the ideas simpler to work with. Happiness is an emotion every human being has experienced to a certain degree in his life. Therefore, it should not be difficult to state whether or not it is a choice or an accident. The candidate should clearly answer the question ‘is happiness a choice?’, and base his answer in response to this displaying his grasp over the said thought and what it implies to him.

  • The making of illusions—misleading images or ideas that appear to be authentic or true—has become the primary business of our society. Included in this category are not only the false promises made by advertisers and politicians but all of the activities which supposedly inform, comfort, and improve us, such as the work of our best writers and our most influential leaders. These promises and activities only encourage people to have unrealistic expectations and to ignore facts. - Adapted from Daniel J. Boorstin, The Image

    Assignment: Are people overly influenced by unrealistic claims and misleading images? Plan and write an essay in which you develop your point of view on this issue.

    The interesting aspect about this prompt is that it is a long one and puts forth many ideas for the candidate to work with. There is a mention of advertising, books and politicians; all, extremely potent topics wherefrom the candidate can choose to base his opinion on illusions and unrealistic claims. A wise move would be to divide the essay on each of these topics and the unrealistic claims attached to them and substantiate the opinions put forth with logical thought and practicality. The candidate should at all times remember to answer the question asked in the assignment and then proceed with the support for that answer.

  • “Aim for success, not perfection. Never give up your right to be wrong, because then you will lose the ability to learn new things and move forward with your life.” –Dr. David M Burns

    Assignment: Do people focus so much on doing things right that they fail to learn from their mistakes? Plan and write an essay in which you develop your point of view on this issue.

    This prompt is more often than not a burning dilemma in most of our lives. Failure, success, mistakes and perfection are elements we always battle with and the candidate can take this as an opportunity to show the examiner how he may have learnt from his mistakes, even though his desire was to ace something and do well. A personal account peppered with a coherent argument in response to this issue would be a great way of attempting this assignment.

  • Knowledge is power. In agriculture, medicine, and industry, for example, knowledge has liberated us from hunger, disease, and tedious labor. Today, however, our knowledge has become so powerful that it is beyond our control. We know how to do many things, but we do not know where, when, or even whether this know-how should be used.

    Assignment: Can knowledge be a burden rather than a benefit? Plan and write an essay in which you develop your point of view on this issue.

    Although the assignment asks the candidate to state the nature of knowledge in terms of a burden or benefit, it will be wise if the candidate explains both sides of the issue and then moves on to express which side he supports more. This support should be well substantiated with his own learning and inferences. Citing books or movies he has seen, a candidate can very well strengthen his argument in support of his point of view. Keeping in mind agriculture, medicine and industry, the candidate should base his response within the framework of the prompt and justify whichever side he takes.