Success, struggle, self-knowledge, leadership, the individual vs. society… These are concepts on which high school teachers ask students to reflect as they read classic novels, autobiographies, and as they study history as well. Not surprisingly, reviewing your high school essays helps to prepare for similar writings prompts for the SAT Essay.
The first official practice test found in College Board’s Official SAT Study Guide has the following essay question:
“Is it important to question the ideas and decisions of people in positions of authority?”
Romeo, Romeo, where the heck is that Romeo and Juliet paper I wrote?! Here a student could reference the Bard’s ill-fated couple and take a strong position in either direction. (Always take a strong position, since fence-sitting is not appreciated by the essay graders). What will your thesis be?
Option 1) The decisions made by powerful people cannot take precedence over the desires of the individual.
Option 2) Ignoring the ideas of those in authority can lead to serious consequences, even death.
Both thesis options can be supported by providing plot details and concepts from Romeo and Juliet.
The “individual vs. society” question can also be addressed by referring to the plot of The Scarlet Letter. A student could support thesis option 1 by describing how Hester Prynne held onto her scarlet letter even as those in authority considered allowing her to remove it. Her actions support the supremacy of the individual over society.
For those students aiming for a high score on the essay, there is one caveat to relying only on classic novels for support: you may be boring a teacher who has seen the Romeo and Juliet example one too many times. After all, it *is* one of the most commonly read book in high schools across the country. While you should still dig around your old English and Social Studies papers to bolster your reference points, look for unique stories that seemed to appeal especially to you. Need more inspiration? Your history book is a rich resource here.
Let’s open to the World War II chapter and zoom in on the actions of German students Hans and Sophie Scholl (pictured). Leaders of the White Rose movement, they denounced Hitler and the Nazis in six anonymous and inflammatory leaflets. Despite knowing full well that this would be considered treason, they distributed them at the University of Munich. Anti-Nazi graffiti began appearing around campus as word of their call for justice spread. They were caught, arrested, tried and promptly guillotined. The details of their story can be used to answer essay prompts about taking responsibility for society’s problems, (College Board Practice Test 2), and others revolving around heroism.
Beyond books and old essays, resources can be found online. Get inspired by other leaders in social movements and their essay-ready quotes found here: http://www.sojust.net/speeches.html.
Stay tuned for my next post explaining essay-writing dos and don’ts.
The next two SATs will be on October 6th and November 3rd. The deadline to register for the October exam is September 7th and the deadline for the November exam is October 4th.