Free Sat Essay Topics

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!


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The SAT Essay has changed drastically from what it looked like from March 2005-January 2016. On the plus side, you’ll now be asked to do the same task every time: read an argument meant to persuade a broad audience and discuss how well the author argues his or her point. On the minus side, you have to do reading and analysis in addition to writing a coherent and organized essay.

In this article, we’ve compiled a list of the 11 real SAT essay prompts that the CollegeBoard has released (either in The Official SAT Study Guide or separately online) for the new SAT. This is the most comprehensive set of new SAT essay prompts online today.

At the end of this article, we'll also guide you through how to get the most out of these prompts and link to our expert resources on acing the SAT essay. I’ll discuss how the SAT essay prompts are valuable not just because they give you a chance to write a practice essay, but because of what they reveal about the essay task itself.

 

Overview

SAT essay prompts have always kept to the same basic format. With the new essay, however, not only is the prompt format consistent from test to test, but what you’re actually asked to do (discuss how an author builds an argument) also remains the same across different test administrations.

The College Board’s predictability with SAT essay helps students focus on preparing for the actual analytical task, rather than having to think up stuff on their feet. Every time, before the passage, you’ll see the following:

As you read the passage below, consider how [the author] uses
  • evidence, such as facts or examples, to support claims.
  • reasoning to develop ideas and to connect claims and evidence.
  • stylistic or persuasive elements, such as word choice or appeals to emotion, to add power to the ideas expressed.

And after the passage, you’ll see this:

“Write an essay in which you explain how [the author] builds an argument to persuade [her/his] audience that [whatever the author is trying to argue for]. In your essay, analyze how [the author] 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 [the author]’s claims, but rather explain how [the author] builds an argument to persuade [her/his] audience.”

Now that you know the format, let’s look at the SAT essay prompts list.

 

11 Official SAT Essay Prompts

The College Board has released a limited number of prompts to help students prep for the essay. We've gathered them for you here, all in one place. We’ll be sure to update this article as more prompts are released for practice and/or as more tests are released.

SPOILER ALERT: Since these are the only essay prompts that have been released so far, you may want to be cautious about spoiling them for yourself, particularly if you are planning on taking practice tests under real conditions. This is why I’ve organized the prompts by the ones that are in the practice tests (so you can avoid them if need be), the one that is available online as a "sample prompt," and the ones that are in the Official SAT Study Guide (Redesigned SAT), all online for free.

 

Practice Test Prompts

These eight prompts are taken from the practice tests that the College Board has released.

Practice Test 1:

"Write an essay in which you explain how Jimmy Carter builds an argument to persuade his audience that the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge should not be developed for industry."

 

Practice Test 2:

"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."

 

Practice Test 3:

"Write an essay in which you explain how Eliana Dockterman builds an argument to persuade her audience that there are benefits to early exposure to technology."

 

Practice Test 4:

"Write an essay in which you explain how Paul Bogard builds an argument to persuade his audience that natural darkness should be preserved."

 

Practice Test 5:

"Write an essay in which you explain how Eric Klinenberg builds an argument to persuade his audience that Americans need to greatly reduce their reliance on air-conditioning."

 

Practice Test 6:

"Write an essay in which you explain how Christopher Hitchens builds an argument to persuade his audience that the original Parthenon sculptures should be returned to Greece."

 

Practice Test 7:

"Write an essay in which you explain how Zadie Smith builds an argument to persuade her audience that public libraries are important and should remain open"

 

Practice Test 8:

"Write an essay in which you explain how Bobby Braun builds an argument to persuade his audience that the US government must continue to invest in NASA."

 

Special note: The prompt for Practice Test 4 is replicated as the first sample essay on the College Board’s site for the new SAT. If you’ve written a sample essay for practice test 4 and want to see what essays of different score levels look like for that particular prompt, you can go here and look at eight real student essays.

 

within darkness by jason jenkins, used under CC BY-SA 2.0/Resized from original.

 

Free Online Practice

This prompt comes from the CollegeBoard website for the new SAT.

“Write an essay in which you explain how Dana Gioia builds an argument to persuade his audience that the decline of reading in America will have a negative effect on society.”

 

The Official SAT Study Guide (for March 2016 and beyond)

The Official SAT Study Guide (editions published in 2015 and later, available online for free) contains all eight of the previously mentioned practice tests at the end of the book. In the section about the new SAT essay, however, there are two additional sample essay prompts.

 

Sample Prompt 1:

“Write an essay in which you explain how Peter S. Goodman builds an argument to persuade his audience that news organizations should increase the amount of professional foreign news coverage provided to people in the United States.”

The College Board modified this article for the essay prompt passage in the book. The original passage (1528 words, vs the 733 it is on the SAT) to which this prompt refers can also be found online (for free) here.

 

Sample Prompt 2:

“Write an essay in which you explain how Adam B. Summers builds an argument to persuade his audience that plastic shopping bags should not be banned.”

There are still a couple of minor differences between the article as it appears in The Official SAT Study Guide as an essay prompt compared to its original form, but it’s far less changed than the previous prompt. The original passage to which this prompt refers (764 words, vs the 743 in The Official SAT Study Guide) can also be found online (for free) here.

 

hey thanks by Jonathan Youngblood, used under CC BY 2.0/Cropped and resized from original.

 

How Do You Get the Most Out of These Prompts?

Now that you have all the prompts released by the College Board, it’s important to know the best way to use them. Make sure you have a good balance between quality and quantity, and don’t burn through all 11 of the real prompts in a row – take the time to learn from your experiences writing the practice essays.

 

Step By Step Guide on How to Practice Using the Article

1. Understandhow the SAT essay is graded.

2. Watch as we write a high-scoring SAT essay, step by step.

3. Pre-plan a set of features you’ll look for in the SAT essay readings and practice writing about them fluidly. This doesn't just mean identifying a technique, like asking a rhetorical question, but explaining why it is persuasive and what effect it has on the reader in the context of a particular topic. We have more information on this step in our article about 6 SAT persuasive devices you can use.

4. Choose a prompt at random from above, or choose a topic that you think is going to be hard for you to detach from (because you’ll want to write about the topic, rather than the argument) set timer to 50 minutes and write the essay. No extra time allowed!

5. Grade the essay, using the essay rubric to give yourself a score out of 8 in the reading, analysis, and writing sections (article coming soon!).

6. Repeat steps 4 and 5. Choose the prompts you think will be the hardest for you so that you can so that you’re prepared for the worst when the test day comes

7. If you run out of official prompts to practice with, use the official prompts as models to find examples of other articles you could write about. How? Start by looking for op-ed articles in online news publications like The New York Times, The Atlantic, LA Times, and so on. For instance, the passage about the plastic bag ban in California (sample essay prompt 2, above) has a counterpoint here - you could try analyzing and writing about that article as well.

Any additional articles you use for practice on the SAT essay must match the following criteria:

  • ideally 650-750 words, although it’ll be difficult to find an op-ed piece that’s naturally that short. Try to aim for nothing longer than 2000 words, though, or the scope of the article is likely to be too wide for what you’ll encounter on the SAT.
  • always argumentative/persuasive. The author (or authors) is trying to get readers to agree with a claim or idea being put forward.
  • always intended for a wide audience. All the information you need to deconstruct the persuasiveness of the argument is in the passage. This means that articles with a lot of technical jargon that's not explained in the article are not realistic passage to practice with.

 

What’s Next?

We’ve written a ton of helpful resources on the SAT essay. Make sure you check them out!

15 SAT Essay Tips.

How to Write an SAT Essay, Step by Step.

How to Get a 12 on the SAT Essay.

SAT Essay Rubric, Analyzed and Explained.

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