New Sat Essay Sample Questions


Although the new SAT essay has us saying “goodbye” to coming up with personal, historical, or literary examples to use as supporting details, which was the source of stress for many students, it now calls for students to showcase a new skill: how to analyze an argument. As such, this post will go over a sample essay prompt similar to what you might find on the SAT and an example of how to annotate the passage, which will not only help you find the supporting material you’d want to use in your essay, but also will allow you to work through your own reasoning for why the writer’s methods are effective.

To maximize the effectiveness of this post, I recommend that you read “How To Conquer the New SAT Essay” if you haven’t already and the entirety of this post, and then try your hand at annotating the passage (track changes on MS Word work great if you want to save trees) before looking at my example.

This holiday season, there was something in the air that was even more inescapable than the scent of pumpkin spice: gratitude.

In November, NPR issued a number of brief exhortations to cultivate gratitude, culminating in an hourlong special on the “science of gratitude,” narrated by Susan Sarandon. Writers in Time magazine, The New York Times and Scientific American recommended it as a surefire ticket to happiness and even better health. Robert Emmons, a psychology professor at the University of California, Davis, who studies the “science of gratitude,” argues that it leads to a stronger immune system and lower blood pressure, as well as “more joy and pleasure.”

It’s good to express our thanks, of course, to those who deserve recognition. But this holiday gratitude is all about you, and how you can feel better.

Gratitude is hardly a fresh face on the self-improvement scene. By the turn of the century, Oprah Winfrey and other motivational figures were promoting an “attitude of gratitude.” Martin Seligman, the father of “positive psychology,” which is often enlisted to provide some sort of scientific basis for “positive thinking,” has been offering instruction in gratitude for more than a decade…

[But] positive thinking was in part undone by its own silliness, glaringly displayed in the 2006 bestseller “The Secret,” which announced that you could have anything, like the expensive necklace you’d been coveting, simply by “visualizing” it in your possession.

The financial crash of 2008 further dimmed the luster of positive thinking, which had done so much to lure would-be homeowners and predatory mortgage lenders into a speculative frenzy. This left the self-improvement field open to more cautious stances, like mindfulness and resilience and — for those who could still muster it — gratitude.

…Perhaps it’s no surprise that gratitude’s rise to self-help celebrity status owes a lot to the…John Templeton Foundation. At the start of this decade, the foundation…gave $5.6 million to Dr. Emmons, the gratitude researcher. It also funded a $3 million initiative called Expanding the Science and Practice of Gratitude through the Greater Good Science Center at the University of California, Berkeley, which co-produced the special that aired on NPR. The foundation does not fund projects to directly improve the lives of poor individuals, but it has spent a great deal, through efforts like these, to improve their attitudes.

[Furthermore, it appears that] much of the gratitude advice involves no communication or interaction of any kind. Consider this, from a yoga instructor on CNN.com: “Cultivate your sense of gratitude by incorporating giving thanks into a personal morning ritual such as writing in a gratitude journal, repeating an affirmation or practicing a meditation. It could even be as simple as writing what you give thanks for on a sticky note and posting it on your mirror or computer. To help you establish a daily routine, create a ‘thankfulness’ reminder on your phone or computer to pop up every morning and prompt you.”

Who is interacting here? “You” and “you.”

…Yet there is a need for more gratitude, especially from those who have a roof over their heads and food on their table. Only it should be a more vigorous and inclusive sort of gratitude than what is being urged on us now. Who picked the lettuce in the fields, processed the standing rib roast, drove these products to the stores, stacked them on the supermarket shelves and, of course, prepared them and brought them to the table? …There are crowds, whole communities of actual people, many of them with aching backs and tenuous finances, who made the meal possible.

The real challenge of gratitude lies in figuring out how to express our debt to them, whether through generous tips or, say, by supporting their demands for decent pay and better working conditions. But now we’re not talking about gratitude, we’re talking about a far more muscular impulse — and this is, to use the old-fashioned term, “solidarity” — which may involve getting up off the yoga mat.

Write an essay in which you explain how Barbara Ehrenreich builds an argument to persuade her audience that expressing gratitude has developed into a selfish act. In your essay, analyze how Ehrenreich uses one or more of the features in the directions that precede the passage (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 Ehrenreich’s claims, but rather explain how Ehrenreich builds an argument to persuade her audience.

The first thing you should take note of is the fact that the prompt tells you what kind of elements you need to focus on to see how the author builds his or her argument. Because we are asked about how Ehrenreich built her argument for “expressing gratitude has developed into a selfish act,” I kept this statement at the forefront of my mind as I looked for evidence in the passage as well as what I’ve noticed about tone, word choice, sentence structure, and other elements that served to help make Ehrenreich’s point. I also didn’t take much notes — just general comments about the purpose of the initial paragraphs — until I reached the evidence I needed for my essay, which is when I took a LOT of notes.

Finished with your own annotation? Check out how I would annotate this text (which I would write in a much more rushed and abbreviated manner on the real thing) to see if we were on similar wavelengths!

About Anika Manzoor

A former High School blogger, Anika now serves as the editor for Magoosh's company and exam blogs. In other words, she spends way too much time scouring the web for the perfect gif for a given post. She's currently an MPP candidate at Harvard University and wants her life back, so if you ever find it, please let her know.


Magoosh blog comment policy: To create the best experience for our readers, we will approve and respond to comments that are relevant to the article, general enough to be helpful to other students, concise, and well-written! :) If your comment was not approved, it likely did not adhere to these guidelines. If you are a Premium Magoosh student and would like more personalized service, you can use the Help tab on the Magoosh dashboard. Thanks!


If you want to practice the new SAT essay, good news! We have a passage and a prompt for you.

On the New SAT, the essay requires you to read a persuasive passage and then respond to it. The reading portion of the New SAT essay will always be adapted from a noteworthy original source—a famous author or prominent media outlet.

In your response, you need to analyze the argument made by the author. In this post, we’ll look at a written opinion piece that is adapted from Dean Ornish’s public speech from the TED Talks symposium. (Ornish is a prominent physician and nutritionist.) Sample answers with commentary will be given in a later post.

Adapted from Dean Ornish, “The Killer American Diet That’s Sweeping the Planet.” © 2006, TED Conferences, LLC. Originally published February 2006.

With all the legitimate concerns about AIDS, avian flu, and other debilitating diseases, I would like to bring your attention to another important and devastating global pandemic. This worldwide plague to human health takes the form of an international rise cardiovascular disease, diabetes, hypertension, and other disorders related to unhealthy eating.

Greater awareness of this growing problem is of crucial importance, because all three of these diseases are completely preventable for at least 95 percent of people who suffer them; the preventative cure is simply a matter of changing diet. This globalization of diet-related illness is occurring due to the influence the United States exerts on the world at large. One every continent, people are starting to eat like Americans, live like Americans, and die like Americans.

Heart, blood vessel, and weight-related diseases still kill more people than all other health maladies combined, not only in the United States, but also worldwide. Take the case of the Asian continent. In one generation, Asia has gone from having one of the lowest rates of heart disease and obesity and diabetes to one of the highest rates for these types of afflictions. Africa has seen similar growth in in diet-related health problems, with death from cardiovascular disease equal the HIV and AIDS fatalities over the last decade. At the core of this international pandemic is an epidemic of obesity. In America itself, obesity is seen in two-thirds of adults and 15% of children. This is a recent and significant shift in health within this country, with the United States Center for Disease Control reporting marked increase in obesity from 1985 onward.

Perhaps of greatest concern, this rapid increase in obesity rates has led to a worldwide growth in diabetes. Again we can look to the United States as a case study for the consequences of the modern American-style diet. In America diabetes has increased 70 percent just from 1995 to 2006. Because diabetes and other life-threatening illnesses have multiplied so exponentially in the USA, this may be the first generation in which American children live a shorter life span than their parents. This trend, which is happening not just in the United States but in many developed and developing nations that have recently adopted the American diet, is both pitiful and preventable.

It is of utmost importance to look at ways to reverse this new direction world health is moving in. We must act to prevent these life-style related maladies from becoming an intractable international problem. A good first step is to find out what kinds of eating habits could combat the effects of America’s killer diet. This step has been achieved. In research I have conducted with my colleagues, we have found that the traditional Asian diet is optimal for reversing obesity, heart disease, and even diabetes that is caught in its early stages.

Unfortunately, as I mentioned, Asian people are starting to eat like Americans do, and are starting to get sick in the same way as Americans. To combat this effect, I have been working with a lot of the larger United States food companies. Through advertising, marketing, and food engineering, these companies can make it appealing and convenient to eat healthier foods. In fact, positive change on this front is already beginning to happen in the multinational food industry.

As part of my work as a nutritionist, I chair the advisory boards to McDonald’s, PepsiCo, ConAgra, Safeway, and Del Monte. With guidance from the medical and scientific community, these and other corporations are and they’re finding that it is good business to promote the health and wellbeing of their customers. The salads that you see at McDonald’s come from this collaborative work between food and health agencies. It is especially worth noting that McDonalds now offers an Asian-style salad. To give an additional hopeful example, The Pepsi Corporation has seen two-thirds of their revenue growth came from their healthier offerings.

The American approach to food focuses on convenience and flavor, often at the expense of wellness and nutrition. The world’s healthcare professionals, food manufacturers, and consumers must make an effort to turn this trend around, both in the United States and worldwide. If we can succeed in this health-driven goal, we will not just become more effective at preventing and curing things like obesity, heart disease, hypertension, and diabetes. We will also be better equipped to take on all illnesses. The simple preventative practice of improved diet will reduce the need for expensive treatment of the sicknesses that come with unhealthy eating. This in turn we can free up resources for buying the drugs and intensive medical solutions that really are needed for treating AIDS, HIV, malaria, avian flu, and so on.

Write an essay in which you explain how Dean Ornish builds an argument to persuade his audience that the world should turn to better eating habits. In your essay, analyze how Ornish uses one or more of the features listed in the box above (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 Ornish’s claims, but rather explain how Ornish builds an argument to persuade his audience.

 

About David Recine

David is a test prep expert at Magoosh. He has a Bachelor of Social Work from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire and a Masters in Teaching English to Speakers of other Languages from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls. He has been teaching K-12, University, and adult education classes since 2007 and has worked with students from every continent. Currently, David lives in a small town in the American Upper Midwest. When he’s not teaching or writing, David studies Korean, plays with his son, and takes road trips to Minneapolis to get a taste of city life. Follow David on Google+ and Twitter!


Magoosh blog comment policy: To create the best experience for our readers, we will approve and respond to comments that are relevant to the article, general enough to be helpful to other students, concise, and well-written! :) If your comment was not approved, it likely did not adhere to these guidelines. If you are a Premium Magoosh student and would like more personalized service, you can use the Help tab on the Magoosh dashboard. Thanks!


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