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SAT Writing Prompts


Normally, when given a writing prompt for which you are asked to create an essay, you are not limited to a specific amount of time in which to analyze what you are being asked. That is not the case with the SAT Essay. You are given 25 minutes to dissect the prompt, plan your essay, write your essay, edit your essay, proofread your essay, and then make any necessary corrections. So, you are going to have to think fast and think clearly.


Let’s look at a prompt from the June 2009 SAT Essay Exam.

Think carefully about the issue presented in the following excerpt and the assignment below.

The discovery that someone we admire has done something wrong is always disappointing and disillusioning. Yet even when people we consider heroes have been tarnished by their faults, they are no less valuable than people who appear perfect. When we learn that an admired person, even one who is seemingly perfect, has behaved in less admirable ways, we discover a complex truth: Great ideas and great deeds come from imperfect people like ourselves.

Assignment: Do we benefit from learning about the flaws of people we admire and respect? 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.

So, where would you start?

Let’s look at the question you are being asked: Do we benefit from learning about the flaws of people we admire and respect?

If I had to write this essay, this is what I would do.

  1. I would ask myself: Have there been any people that I admired and/or respected about whom I learned had flaws? I would think about characters in literature, people I knew personally and perhaps those I admired from afar.
  2. Off to the side, wherever I could write notes, I would jot down the names of three people who fit the bill and then quickly write my introduction. I would restate the question, jot down some filler sentences and write out my thesis statement, including the three names.
  3. Next, I would do a little brainstorming by writing the three names, listing the experiences that showed their flaws, what I learned from each, and how I incorporated that learning into my life.
  4. I have a basic outline, so now I would begin to write.
  5. The first body paragraph would be about the person from literature, like Jay Gatsby, and then someone from my personal life, and finally, a current leader, like the President of the United States.
  6. After finishing the body, I would quickly jot down a conclusion and make sure that I provided closure for the reader.
  7. I would re-read my writing, making revisions and corrections along the way. If there were any time left, I would read it again and again, making revisions and corrections until the proctor called time.

I want to stress that while three examples are awesome, it is more important to remember that two really solid examples, heavily supported with details, are much better than four or five examples that are not supported.

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