SAT WRITING WORKBOOK
HOW TO WRITE AN ESSAY IN 1,500 SECONDS
Answer Key to Practice Exercises
Choosing a Main Idea
These are suggestions only. Your answers may be equally or more effective.
1. A. Henry Ford knew more about cars than about people, because talent, ability, and a little bit of luck are the most important ingredients of success.
B. If Henry Ford’s statement is correct, the world is filled with self-deluded people.
C. From spelling bees to Nobel Prizes, nobody with a negative attitude has ever been a winner.
2. A. While rats may learn to run through a maze for a food pellet, children are different.
B. Political history shows that if a dictator wants to control his people, he should scare the living daylights out of them.
C. Knowing that acceptance to a good college waits for them, most students willingly go through hell, including the SAT, to get there.
3. A. Those who say “Money is the root of all evil” know what they are talking about.
B. Dreaming of wealth is as American as apple pie—part of the great American dream.
C. Only a ding-a-ling, or someone named Jay Gatsby, would truly believe that money can buy happiness.
4. A. Mandela is partly right and partly wrong because everything keeps changing.
B. Going back to old places that haven’t changed tells you more about what you were than about what you’ve become.
C. After a recent visit to my old elementary school, I could not agree more with Mandela’s observation.
5. A. Bryan is definitely on the right track. Nothing is as personally satisfying as achieving a goal through hard work.
B. Which kind of success do I prefer? Frankly, I’ll take it either way.
C. I’ve heard that people make their own good luck by their decisions and choices. Therefore, it’s simplistic to think that your destiny can be achieved without it.
Gathering and Arranging Ideas
Answers will vary. The order of ideas is strictly a matter of personal preference.
1. Many more students would become physically fit.
2. Regular exercise reduces stress and promotes feelings of well-being.
3. Students learn lifelong physical/recreational skills.
1. Opportunity to take important elective courses is reduced.
2. Students lose time that can be used to study for tests and quizzes.
3. Tiring physical activity weakens ability to concentrate/focus on academics.
1. Video games provide pleasure and entertainment.
2. Many interactive games stimulate the mind and foster problem-solving skills.
3. They improve hand-eye coordination.
1. Video games tend to be addictive.
2. They glorify violence and destructive behaviors.
3. Their high cost diverts family funds from more worthwhile pursuits.
1. Cheating is rampant and something should be done about it.
2. A code will improve the moral climate in the school.
3. Students must learn that there are consequences for cheating.
1. A code creates an atmosphere of fear and apprehension, like a police state.
2. Students will be reluctant to rat on each other.
3. It discourages students from helping each other learn.
1. War causes people and nations to abandon the qualities that make them human.
2. Wars cause death, suffering, and destruction.
3. Wars cost money that can and should be used for improving lives, not destroying them.
1. War against terrorism provides security for the people.
2. War to depose tyrants is of benefit to mankind.
3. Wars on poverty, drugs, and other social evils improve the quality of life.
Writing an Appealing Opening
Answers will vary. Be confident that the essay openings you wrote may be no less effective than these samples.
1. Topic: The courage of one’s convictions
Most high school kids would rather be caught dead than be considered out of synch with the crowd. An exception to the rule is my best friend, Molly McBride. She would consider herself dead if she couldn’t express her individuality and be different from everyone else.
2. Topic: Deadlines
My dad recently bought me a smartphone. At first I thought it was a strange gift for a father to present to his son on his seventeenth birthday. After all, I’m not a businessman or a lawyer or a high-powered boomer who needs to keep tabs on meetings and clients and overseas flights to catch. But Dad said that I’d need a smartphone very soon, and he was right! I’m applying to more than half a dozen colleges, each with its own deadlines to keep track of and meet, and without my smartphone, my life would be even more chaotic than it is.
3. Topic: “Keep it! You may need it someday.”
If you’ve ever seen “The Antiques Road Show” on television, you’d never throw anything away, never hold a garage sale, never pass up an opportunity to buy an old toy, an ashtray from the World’s Fair, a miniature Statue of Liberty, or any other piece of junk to fill your shelves and clutter up your closets. The reason is that all these things may be great investments and could someday be worth hundreds, even thousands, of times more than you paid for them.
4. Topic: The wrong time in the wrong place
In 1939, almost a thousand Jews managed to escape from Hitler’s Germany by boarding the SS St. Louis, an ocean liner bound for safety in Cuba. Once they arrived offshore in Havana, however, Cuban authorities would not let the ship dock. The United States also turned the St. Louisaway, even though the passengers could see the lights of Miami in the distance. With no place to go, the ship sailed back to Europe. Many of the passengers settled in countries soon to be overrun by the Nazis and perished in the Holocaust.
5. Topic: Responsibility
Why doesn’t my mother trust me? Why do I get only $10 a week allowance? Why must I contact home every two hours when I am out with my friends? Why won’t my father ever let me borrow his car? How will I ever learn responsibility if I never have any?
Developing Topic Sentences
1. Sentence 1
2. None. Implied topic sentence
3. Sentence 7
4. Sentence 10
5. Sentence 1
6. Sentence 1
7. Sentence 1
8. Sentence 3
9. Sentence 2
10. Sentence 6
Answers may vary.
1. Mother and Father are very different from each other.
2. In the past U.S. athletes dominated the Olympic Games.
3. Monopolies often destroy not only themselves but the incentive of businesses to change and make progress.
4. How little the aristocracy understood the needs of the masses.
5. Vera Simon wrote a gripping and realistic book.
6. Smoking in school is just not worth the trouble it can lead to.
7. But here are my requirements for the perfect roommate.
8. Age and experience have deprived me of courage and spirit.
9. No topic sentence is needed.
10. Although backward in some respects, a so-called primitive culture can be technologically sophisticated.
Answers will vary. The topic sentences you wrote may be as good as or even better than these examples.
a. Of all the equipment needed to traverse the inhuman land of Antarctica, nothing is more important than a team of well-trained sled dogs.
b. Antarctica takes your breath away.
c. This is not an idle comparison, because at every turn you are putting your health and safety in jeopardy.
1. a. 3
2. a. 3
3. a. 5
4. a. 5
5. a. 5
Identifying Paragraph Unity and Coherence
1. Sentence 3 destroys the coherence of the paragraph. Delete it. There’s no reason to save it, because the idea is reiterated in sentence 7.
2. The paragraph lacks unity. It starts by discussing consequences on young people of smoking marijuana and ends by explaining parents’ problems. One way to overcome the paragraph’s lack of unity is to divide it into two parts. Another is to expand the topic sentence to include parents, e.g.,Under present law, smoking marijuana can have serious consequences for both young people and their parents.
If this were done, however, the paragraph would need furtherdevelopment.
3. The paragraph is coherent except for sentence 5, which should be deleted. Sentence 2 strongly supports the topic sentence (1). The remaining sentences, except 5, support sentence 2, which is the major supporting sentence in the paragraph.
4. Although the entire paragraph discusses political parties, the discussion is not unified. Sentences 1–3 deal with the two-party system, while sentences 4–7 are about dictatorships. Either divide the paragraph, or add a topic sentence that justifies discussing both topics within a single paragraph.
5. Sentence 1 is the topic sentence. Sentence 4 is unrelated to the topic sentence. Delete it.
6. The paragraph is mostly unified and coherent, although the topic sentence would be more accurate if it mentioned the human qualities of porpoises.
7. Although the opening sentence leads the reader to think that what follows will be all about Robinson Crusoe, the paragraph is really about the author Daniel Defoe. To improve the coherence of the paragraph, delete or revise the misleading topic sentence.
8. Although the entire paragraph is about Greek philosophy, it is terribly disjointed. Only sentences 3 and 4 connect with each other. The others are independent thoughts, related in subject matter but not in style. For coherence, add a topic sentence, possibly using material in sentence 5. The fact that Socrates taught Plato, who taught Aristotle might serve as starting point in revising the paragraph.
9. The paragraph is coherent and unified until the last sentence. Delete sentence 6, but if the idea is too good to discard, save it for another place in the essay or revise sentence 1, the topic sentence.
10. The paragraph is unified and coherent. No revision needed.
These paragraphs only illustrate the use of transitions. Your answers will no doubt be different.
1. To get on the good side of a teacher takes practice, but the technique explained below almost never fails. First you must try to create the impression that you think, say, Ms. Douglas, is the best teacher in the world. You must immediately choose a seat that is near to her in the classroom. Thenyou must pretend to listen intently to her every word and nod your head as though you agree with everything she says. Next, smile at her, laugh at her jokes, and never leave the room right after class. Soon after the bell, ask her a question about the lesson and thank her profusely for taking the time to answer it. After a while, she’ll think that you are an intelligent, highly motivated student and with luck will reward you handsomely on your report card.
2. Some people are bored with their lives. As a result, they seek out dangerous situations in order to get a thrill. Accordingly, many movie stuntmen ache to put their lives in jeopardy. As a result, they volunteer to crash through windows, fall down stairs, jump from high places, drive cars into walls and into each other. As a consequence, they often get hurt, but their work is more important to them than their safety and well-being. Hence, it takes a sort of masochist to be a stuntman.
3. Because my father is an optimist and my mother a pessimist, they respond to life in different ways. Unlike my mother, my father is always pretty upbeat, even when he’s worried about his job, about money, and about me and my sister. On the other hand, Mom frets about every little thing, from the weather (it’s never quite right) to dirt on the living room rug (there’s too much of it). In spite of their differences, Dad and Mom get along just fine. Still, I prefer Dad’s way because it resembles mine. Nevertheless, I can see where Mom is coming from and love her all the same.
4. It’s time to reconsider how the United States squanders billions of dollars every year on probing Mars, Jupiter, and other remote places in outer space. Because money is also wasted on glitzy high-tech telescopes that can bring the edges of the universe into view, the government should reevaluate its entire space program. In addition to being a misuse of money that is sorely needed to solve problems here on the Earth, studying outer space has been less fruitful than predicted. Besides failing to live up to their promise, so-called successes have been either modest or totally irrelevant. What’s more, the cost of developing technology required to make worthwhile journeys even to the closest planets or asteroids is, if you’ll pardon the pun, “astronomical.” Equally important is that, given the choice, the American people would prefer to see tax revenues used to improve their everyday lives.
Using Precise Wording
Answers will vary. The words in your sentences may be as precise as or even more precise than the words in these samples.
1. The barn’s rotted walls bulged, its windows wouldn’t open, and moss covered the sagging roof.
2. When accused of lying to the jury, the witness turned beet red, burst into tears, and, with eyes turned to heaven, asked, “What in the world is happening to me?”
3. After winning the election by a 3 to 1 margin, the senator grinned from ear to ear and told her supporters that she was ready to work in their behalf.
4. Molly’s reward for six hours at her desk studying physics was a big fat F on the quiz.
5. The seniors celebrated their graduation but wept inside, realizing that tonight was the last time they would ever be together.
6. To make it on the swim team, the bowling team, or any other team, there are but three things to do: practice, practice, practice.
7. At the wake, Greg was startled by the joviality of the mourners, who rejoiced over Mr. O’Malley’s life instead of lamenting his death.
8. In high school Linda rarely went to class, flunked English and math in summer school, and finally dropped out altogether.
9. Teddy and Joey, the family’s twins, never went out at the same time because they shared the same pair of shoes.
10. Although the current had smashed the canoe against the rocks, Rod unhesitatingly leaped into the water to save the drowning child.
The comparisons that you wrote may be as good as or even better than these examples.
A. 1. as comfortable as a baby in its mother’s arms
2. as tough as a wrecking ball
3. as gorgeous as gold
4. as silly as putty
5. as serious as 9/11
6. as perfect as a circle
7. as wild as a leaping salmon
8. as unpredictable as the lottery
9. as impetuous as a flash of lightning
10. as reliable as a sheepdog
B. School is like an airport, a place one passes through for the sole purpose of going somewhere else. Just as no one goes to the airport just to be at the airport, who would go to school in order to go to school. Instead, school is a step one takes while preparing for college and for life. One spends a certain amount of time there, follows the rules, does the work, and then escapes like a traveler en route to Aruba, or Italy, or the Far East. Similarly, at the airport, you must obey the rules: check in at the counter, have your photo ID ready, go through security checks, stand in lines. If you fail to follow the prescribed procedure, trouble can follow, delaying your departure. In that sense, it’s no different from school, where one must do what is expected in order to graduate on time.
These are illustrative answers only. Many other variations are possible.
1. Mr. Finn is a good teacher but he runs the class like a dictatorship. Democracy and freedom have no place in his class. On the first day he announced his rules, among them no talking, no gum chewing, no hats in class, no lateness. If you arrive late, you should expect to find the door locked and to go to detention after school. All homework is compulsory. No one dares to come to class unprepared because a girl who once came to class without her homework turned colors and almost wept after Mr. Finn lowered the boom on her.
2. In the numerous science classes that I have taken, we talked about experiments instead of doing them because the equipment was obsolete and too costly to replace. We learned scientific theories but could not practice them in labs or see them demonstrated. To give students a better education, the science department needs money. About a million dollars would do.
3. By dumping garbage, sewage, and other hazardous waste products into the sea, many nations are polluting the world’s oceans. They are making beaches and swimming dangerous. Toxic pollutants also taint all forms of sea life with materials that humans ingest when eating fish, lobsters, clams, and other seafood.
4. The earth has experienced a sharp increase in natural disasters, from about 100 per year in the 1960s to five times that number in the early part of the twenty-first century. Earthquakes, droughts, huge storms, and floods are not happening more frequently, however. Nor are they occurring with greater intensity. Rather, the population of the world has increased. People in greater numbers now occupy areas that are prone to natural disasters, such as flood plains, coastal lands, and cities built on subterranean fault lines. The planet has not changed but humans have.
5. Although the American Dream is a popular concept, it means different things for different people. Most commonly, it means finding a good job, getting married, having a couple of kids and owning a home with a white picket fence and a two-car garage. Some people, thinking that dream shallow, say that the dream won’t be complete without a good education, friends, a feeling of well-being, good health, and above all, the blessings of liberty, including the freedom of speech and religion and the freedom to choose to be part of an untraditional family made up of same-sex partners or any other combination of adults and children.
Because every writer is different from every other, these answers are no more than possibilities for concluding three different essays.
1. In a generation or less, today’s profanity may be no different from the everyday language in newspapers, on television, and even in essays like this one.
2. Some people succeed because they are lucky. Others succeed because they are more talented or smarter than the competition. But success comes to the vast majority because they have planned how to succeed. When a split second determines the winner in a race, is it fair to say that the second-place finisher is not as good as the winner? No, but it’s a certainty that the winner planned his racing strategy better than the person who lost.
3. If by magic I happened to find myself in junior high again, I wouldn’t rest until I’d made my escape.
Identifying Misplaced and Dangling Modifiers
Your answers needn’t be identical to these, but your sentences should be free of dangling and misplaced modifiers.
1. The pizza I ate after completing my chemistry homework tasted great.
2. Denise discovered her boyfriend sound asleep in the hammock.
3. Having been used all night to illuminate the steps, the flashlight needed new batteries.
4. While I drove down the mountain road, a rock smashed my windshield.
5. When I stopped to rest after a long hike, a grizzly bear stood in front of me.
6. Before the school bus picked me up, I ate a quick breakfast.
7. The police submitted a report about the bank robbery.
8. His family emigrated from Russia when Sasha was ten.
9. We gave the dog a bone we didn’t want.
10. Left alone in the house, the child was terrified by every sound.
Identifying Parallel Structure
These are suggested answers. Other answers may also be correct.
1. and inspirational
2. was accused not only of being a bigot but also of being too stupid
3. and gone to fewer parties
4. preparing reports, and making various types of telephone calls
5. and to get up early
6. and she had a habit of disappearing
7. or a commercial artist
8. felt both pride and satisfaction
10. plans to live simply
11. The kids had scattered their books not only all over the bus but also all over the sidewalk.
12. have a good location, have land around it, and enjoy a view
13. Joan’s broken yellow pencil came from this box.
14. how to furnish and decorate the house simply
15. neither have a microwave in his room nor take a shower after 11:00 o’clock
16. and being miles from friends
17. The mouse will either find a quick way into the attic or gnaw at the siding for days.
18. and entertaining
19. and a job in the suburbs
20. that he’ll defeat Tom in the sectionals, and that he’ll emerge
Using Active Verbs
Although your answers will differ from these, be sure that your sentences, like those here, are free of lifeless verbs.
1. The attack of 9/11 shocked most Americans.
2. Nearly three thousand people died in New York City.
3. Afterwards, a controversy raged over whom to blame for America’s vulnerability to terrorism.
4. Efforts to strengthen homeland security began.
5. Some citizens agreed to give up their rights for the sake of security.
6. People struggle with the dilemma of how much freedom to give up for security.
7. The events of 9/11 led to a significant war in Afghanistan.
8. We dressed in sweatshirts and baggy pants whenever we went out.
9. The presence of an all-American high school player stirred up the crowd at the basketball game.
10. Obviously, the average college-bound student needs more training in math and science.
Revising Passive Sentences
Your sentences may differ from these, but be sure you’ve used the active voice.
1. Dead leaves covered the backyard.
2. We discussed the crisis in the Middle East.
3. I failed Friday’s quiz because I had rehearsed for the play every night that week.
4. We began our weeklong vacation in Oregon by flying to Portland.
5. Captain Ahab and his crew pursued the great white whale.
6. Fido fetches the newspaper every morning.
7. The president and his advisors decided to go to war.
8. On Friday night, more than twenty customers took out dinners.
9. In three days, our group saw five Shakespearean plays.
10. Before you do something physical, the body normally calls on the brain.
Trimming Needless Words
Answers will vary. Be sure that your version of each sentence approximates the meaning of the original.
1. Peter Jenkins wrote A Walk Across America, a book about his cross-country walk. To prepare for the trek, he walked twenty-five miles a day.
2. My suggestion for making meetings more productive and relevant to all students needn’t offend the chairperson, Carolyn Welles.
3. In spite of low English grades and poor writing skills, Molly was elected to be the editor of the yearbook.
4. Some kinds of criticism help people cope with problems; other kinds tear people down instead of offering help.
5. By visiting historic places, Americans learn what is important to know about their country.
Avoiding discrimination is but one of many reasons for people to gain weight, according to Stanford University graduate Slim Snyder, who, at a recent conference on health, said “Lean people are victims of discrimination, just as obese people are.” Fortunately, many up-to-date weight-gaining procedures are available to everyone. But they are ridiculed and kept well hidden because health experts agree that being lean is preferable to being obese.
Showing Instead of Telling
Answers will vary. Check your sentences for specific details that show rather than tell.
1. Whenever Mike enters a room, he ducks his head to avoid hitting the top of the doorway.
2. Her sense of accomplishment grew with every handshake and pat on the back. As her face ached from grinning so hard, she knew that she’d be back next year to win again.
3. On the sagging floor stood a rusted iron stove, a spinning wheel, and a broken rocking chair.
4. The smell of salt spray, seaweed, and sunblock filled Suzanne’s nostrils.
5. During the lesson, four kids in the back played poker, another smoked pot in the corner, while the rest of the class either wisecracked with each other, applied makeup, or put their heads down and snoozed.
6. The pioneers left behind a trail of gravesites where dead children and adults had been hurriedly buried.
7. The cabin was everything that would give most people the creeps: dark, damp, chipped, rotting, full of holes, drafty, leaky and sagging—a celebration of neglect.
8. The air was filled with blue smoke that reddened our eyes and made some of us dizzy and gasping for air.
9. The end of the speech brought the crowd to its feet for fifteen minutes of applause and cheering.
10. Mary Jane’s mother insists that visitors entering her house take off their shoes and be checked for fleas.
PART A. POSSESSIVES
5. girls’, boys’
6. Andersons’, Year’s
PART B. COMMAS AND SEMICOLONS
1. While Bill was riding, his bike got a flat tire.
2. The mail carrier did not leave the package, for Valerie was not at home.
3. After doing his homework Mikey, as you might expect, talked on his cell phone for an hour.
4. His work criticized many commonly held beliefs, however, and it was strictly censored.
5. The car that ran into mine at the intersection was an SUV.
6. Dad went to the airport to pick up Dave; Ellie went to the train station to meet Debbie.
8. The boat was seventy-five feet long and eighteen feet wide; its mast was about eighty feet tall.
9. To anyone interested in flying, planes hold endless fascination.
10. Jeff and Steve, left alone for the weekend, invited all their friends to a party.
11. I need street maps of Boston and Portland, Maine.
12. Some of the theories dealt with the political, social, and religious ideas of the time.
13. Students who want to try out for the chorus have been asked to report to room 330.
14. Doug, for example, is both a scholar and an athlete.
15. Monica refused to go unless Phil went with her.
16. The hero of the book, John Coffey, rode his bike across the United States.
17. After all, she did for him what she could.
18. Starting in Minnesota, the Mississippi runs all the way to the Gulf of Mexico.
19. Harold Watkins, who comes from Chicago, won a full tuition scholarship to Duke.
20. Although the characters are stereotypes, they were interesting to read about.
21. Yo-Yo Ma, the famous cellist, will perform a recital on Saturday night.
22. This test covers Spanish literature, culture, and history, and it lasts for three hours.
23. Michelle is pretty, tall, and dark, but her older sister Norma is pretty, short, and light.
24. Sean, the twin brother of Ian, was struck by a falling tree limb.
25. The window washer dropped by last evening, but he didn’t bring his squeegee.
1. On Labor Day Bennington County’s fire department plans to hold a turkey shoot on the field at Miller’s Pond.
2. The judge gave District Attorney Lipman a book entitled The Rules of Evidence and instructed her to read it before she ever dared set foot in the Court of Appeals of the Ninth Circuit again.
3. The secretary of state greeted the president of Austria at the Ronald Reagan Airport in Washington, D.C.
4. The Shackleton expedition nearly met its doom on Georgia Island in Antarctica.
5. For Christmas he got a Black & Decker table saw from the Sears store next to the old Bedford Courthouse.
6. According to Georgetown’s high school principal, Eugene Griffiths, Georgetown High School attracts students from the whole west coast. At Georgetown students may major in drawing and painting, design, graphics, or sculpture. Mr. Griffiths said, “I attended a similar high school in New England just after the Vietnam War.”
7. We expect to celebrate New Year’s Eve again this year by ordering a movie of an old Broadway musical from Netflix and settling down in front of the DVD player with some Pepsi and a box of Oreos.
8. After traveling all the way to the Pacific, the Corps of Discovery rode down the Missouri River going east on their way back to St. Louis.
9. This Irish linen tablecloth was bought at Kmart in the Emeryville Mall off Powell Street.
10. Yellowstone National Park is located in the northwest corner of Wyoming.