SAT Test Prep

CHAPTER 13
ESSAY WRITING PRACTICE
20 Practice SAT Essay Assignments

Practice Essay 1

Time—25 minutes


Directions for Writing the Essay

Plan and write an essay that answers the question below. Do NOT write on another topic. An essay on another topic will receive a score of 0.

Two readers will grade your essay based on how well you develop your point of view, organize and explain your ideas, use specific and relevant examples to support your thesis, and use clear and effective language. How well you write is much more important than how much you write, but to cover the topic adequately you should plan to write several paragraphs.

Your essay must be written only on the lines provided on your answer sheet. You will have enough space if you write on every line, avoid wide margins, and keep your handwriting to a reasonable size. Your essay will be read by people who are not familiar with your handwriting, so write legibly.

You may use this sheet for notes and outlining, but these will not be graded as part of your essay.

Consider carefully the issue discussed in the following passage, then write an essay that answers the question posed in the assignment.


Without a clear goal to focus our energy and drive us to grow, we cease to be truly alive. We are inert particles floating on the sea of life. This is true of not only ourselves, but our institutions—our families, our corporations, and our societies. The moment we cease to grow, we begin to die.


Assignment: Is growth necessary to a happy and productive life? Write an essay in which you answer this question and discuss your point of view on this issue. You may discuss personal or institutional growth. Support your position logically with examples from literature, the arts, history, politics, science and technology, current events, or your experience or observation.

Note: Write your practice essay on two pages of standard lined paper.


Practice Essay 2

Time—25 minutes


Directions for Writing the Essay

Plan and write an essay that answers the question below. Do NOT write on another topic. An essay on another topic will receive a score of 0.

Two readers will grade your essay based on how well you develop your point of view, organize and explain your ideas, use specific and relevant examples to support your thesis, and use clear and effective language. How well you write is much more important than how much you write, but to cover the topic adequately you should plan to write several paragraphs.

Your essay must be written only on the lines provided on your answer sheet. You will have enough space if you write on every line, avoid wide margins, and keep your handwriting to a reasonable size. Your essay will be read by people who are not familiar with your handwriting, so write legibly.

You may use this sheet for notes and outlining, but these will not be graded as part of your essay.

Consider carefully the issue discussed in the following passage, then write an essay that answers the question posed in the assignment.


Our leaders love to tell us that only victory will do, as if they are imparting great wisdom. They seek only to defeat the enemy, to achieve the goal. Yet many times a loss, particularly one that is hard fought, is more valuable than victory. We cannot live a life full of only victories, nor should we. The quality of our lives depends as much on how we manage our losses as on how we achieve our victories.


Assignment: Can a loss ever be more valuable than a victory? Write an essay in which you answer this question and discuss your point of view on this issue. Support your position logically with examples from literature, the arts, history, politics, science and technology, current events, or your experience or observation.

Note: Write your practice essay on two pages of standard lined paper.


Practice Essay 3

Time—25 minutes


Directions for Writing the Essay

Plan and write an essay that answers the question below. Do NOT write on another topic. An essay on another topic will receive a score of 0.

Two readers will grade your essay based on how well you develop your point of view, organize and explain your ideas, use specific and relevant examples to support your thesis, and use clear and effective language. How well you write is much more important than how much you write, but to cover the topic adequately you should plan to write several paragraphs.

Your essay must be written only on the lines provided on your answer sheet. You will have enough space if you write on every line, avoid wide margins, and keep your handwriting to a reasonable size. Your essay will be read by people who are not familiar with your handwriting, so write legibly.

You may use this sheet for notes and outlining, but these will not be graded as part of your essay.

Consider carefully the issue discussed in the following passage, then write an essay that answers the question posed in the assignment.


Adventure seekers who merely crave the mitigating rush of adrenaline that accompanies risky feats do not demonstrate true courage. Courage is not fearlessness but the willingness to face our unmitigated fears and vulnerabilities, particularly those fears that make us think less of ourselves.


Assignment: Does true courage always require putting something that is very important to us at risk? Write an essay in which you answer this question and explain the reasons for your choice. You may choose an example from literature, the arts, history, politics, science and technology, current events, or your experience or observation.

Note: Write your practice essay on two pages of standard lined paper.


Practice Essay 4

Time—25 minutes


Directions for Writing the Essay

Plan and write an essay that answers the question below. Do NOT write on another topic. An essay on another topic will receive a score of 0.

Two readers will grade your essay based on how well you develop your point of view, organize and explain your ideas, use specific and relevant examples to support your thesis, and use clear and effective language. How well you write is much more important than how much you write, but to cover the topic adequately you should plan to write several paragraphs.

Your essay must be written only on the lines provided on your answer sheet. You will have enough space if you write on every line, avoid wide margins, and keep your handwriting to a reasonable size. Your essay will be read by people who are not familiar with your handwriting, so write legibly.

You may use this sheet for notes and outlining, but these will not be graded as part of your essay.

Consider carefully the issue discussed in the following passage, then write an essay that answers the question posed in the assignment.


Communicating technology was supposed to turn the world into a “global village,” enhancing our relationships with others and our understanding of other cultures. Yet I fear it has rendered us more polarized and less articulate. Instant communication allows us to proclaim what is on our minds before we’ve analyzed it, substantiated it, or rendered it coherent, let alone eloquent.


Assignment: Do modern means of communication make our society better or worse? Write an essay in which you answer this question and explain your point of view on this issue. Support your position logically with examples from your reading, current events, or your experience or observation.

Note: Write your practice essay on two pages of standard lined paper.


Practice Essay 5

Time—25 minutes


Directions for Writing the Essay

Plan and write an essay that answers the question below. Do NOT write on another topic. An essay on another topic will receive a score of 0.

Two readers will grade your essay based on how well you develop your point of view, organize and explain your ideas, use specific and relevant examples to support your thesis, and use clear and effective language. How well you write is much more important than how much you write, but to cover the topic adequately you should plan to write several paragraphs.

Your essay must be written only on the lines provided on your answer sheet. You will have enough space if you write on every line, avoid wide margins, and keep your handwriting to a reasonable size. Your essay will be read by people who are not familiar with your handwriting, so write legibly.

You may use this sheet for notes and outlining, but these will not be graded as part of your essay.

Consider carefully the issue discussed in the following passage, then write an essay that answers the question posed in the assignment.


Being truly human as a member of a society means seeing injustice and working to fix it. The human mind can not only perceive the immediate world and act instinctively, but also visualize a better future and endeavor to realize it.


Assignment: What is one great injustice in the world, and how should it be addressed? Write an essay in which you answer this question and explain the reasons for your choice. You may draw inspiration and support from literature, the arts, history, politics, science and technology, current events, or your experience or observation.

Note: Write your practice essay on two pages of standard lined paper.


Practice Essay 6

Time—25 minutes


Directions for Writing the Essay

Plan and write an essay that answers the question below. Do NOT write on another topic. An essay on another topic will receive a score of 0.

Two readers will grade your essay based on how well you develop your point of view, organize and explain your ideas, use specific and relevant examples to support your thesis, and use clear and effective language. How well you write is much more important than how much you write, but to cover the topic adequately you should plan to write several paragraphs.

Your essay must be written only on the lines provided on your answer sheet. You will have enough space if you write on every line, avoid wide margins, and keep your handwriting to a reasonable size. Your essay will be read by people who are not familiar with your handwriting, so write legibly.

You may use this sheet for notes and outlining, but these will not be graded as part of your essay.

Consider carefully the issue discussed in the following passage, then write an essay that answers the question posed in the assignment.


Acquiring knowledge is like scaling a mountain. The proper attitude in reaching a summit, however, is to marvel not so much at one’s achievement as at the glorious view of the unknown beyond. A well-educated person is known not so much for the questions he or she can answer as for the questions he or she can ask.


Assignment: What is one great question that every educated person should ask? Write an essay in which you indicate what this question should be and explain the reasons for your choice. You may draw inspiration and support from literature, the arts, history, politics, science and technology, current events, or your experience or observation.

Note: Write your practice essay on two pages of standard lined paper.


Practice Essay 7

Time—25 minutes


Directions for Writing the Essay

Plan and write an essay that answers the question below. Do NOT write on another topic. An essay on another topic will receive a score of 0.

Two readers will grade your essay based on how well you develop your point of view, organize and explain your ideas, use specific and relevant examples to support your thesis, and use clear and effective language. How well you write is much more important than how much you write, but to cover the topic adequately you should plan to write several paragraphs.

Your essay must be written only on the lines provided on your answer sheet. You will have enough space if you write on every line, avoid wide margins, and keep your handwriting to a reasonable size. Your essay will be read by people who are not familiar with your handwriting, so write legibly.

You may use this sheet for notes and outlining, but these will not be graded as part of your essay.

Consider carefully the issue discussed in the following passage, then write an essay that answers the question posed in the assignment.


Some people spend their lives waiting for the one great challenge that will define them. Every society needs such people, who forge into the unknown and lay new foundations. But society also depends very much on those who meet the small challenges, like feeding mouths and minds and hearts.


Assignment: Are we defined more by great challenges in our lives or by small, everyday challenges? Write an essay in which you answer this question and discuss your point of view on this issue. Support your position logically with examples from literature, the arts, history, politics, science and technology, current events, or your experience or observation.

Note: Write your practice essay on two pages of standard lined paper.


Practice Essay 8

Time—25 minutes


Directions for Writing the Essay

Plan and write an essay that answers the question below. Do NOT write on another topic. An essay on another topic will receive a score of 0.

Two readers will grade your essay based on how well you develop your point of view, organize and explain your ideas, use specific and relevant examples to support your thesis, and use clear and effective language. How well you write is much more important than how much you write, but to cover the topic adequately you should plan to write several paragraphs.

Your essay must be written only on the lines provided on your answer sheet. You will have enough space if you write on every line, avoid wide margins, and keep your handwriting to a reasonable size. Your essay will be read by people who are not familiar with your handwriting, so write legibly.

You may use this sheet for notes and outlining, but these will not be graded as part of your essay.

Consider carefully the issue discussed in the following passage, then write an essay that answers the question posed in the assignment.


Freedom requires the eradication of repression from tyrants and from want, but eliminating these is not enough. We must also eliminate the means by which we oppress ourselves, through our peeves, our addictions, and in our insecurities. This may involve strengthening the restraints within ourselves.


Assignment: Does freedom require eliminating restraints on behavior, or does it require creating or strengthening certain restraints? Write an essay in which you answer this question and discuss your point of view on this issue. Support your position logically with examples from literature, the arts, history, politics, science and technology, current events, or your experience or observation.

Note: Write your practice essay on two pages of standard lined paper.


Practice Essay 9

Time—25 minutes


Directions for Writing the Essay

Plan and write an essay that answers the question below. Do NOT write on another topic. An essay on another topic will receive a score of 0.

Two readers will grade your essay based on how well you develop your point of view, organize and explain your ideas, use specific and relevant examples to support your thesis, and use clear and effective language. How well you write is much more important than how much you write, but to cover the topic adequately you should plan to write several paragraphs.

Your essay must be written only on the lines provided on your answer sheet. You will have enough space if you write on every line, avoid wide margins, and keep your handwriting to a reasonable size. Your essay will be read by people who are not familiar with your handwriting, so write legibly.

You may use this sheet for notes and outlining, but these will not be graded as part of your essay.

Consider carefully the issue discussed in the following passage, then write an essay that answers the question posed in the assignment.


We employ many devices to maintain or create peace among countries—trade agreements, cultural exchanges, treaties. But nothing unites humanity as well as a common foe. Mutual fear of nature or of foreign ideologies is perhaps the greatest diplomacy we know.


Assignment: What is the most significant means of bringing people together in peace? Write an essay in which you answer this question and discuss your point of view on this issue. Support your position logically with examples from literature, the arts, history, politics, science and technology, current events, or your experience or observation.

Note: Write your practice essay on two pages of standard lined paper.


Practice Essay 10

Time—25 minutes


Directions for Writing the Essay

Plan and write an essay that answers the question below. Do NOT write on another topic. An essay on another topic will receive a score of 0.

Two readers will grade your essay based on how well you develop your point of view, organize and explain your ideas, use specific and relevant examples to support your thesis, and use clear and effective language. How well you write is much more important than how much you write, but to cover the topic adequately you should plan to write several paragraphs.

Your essay must be written only on the lines provided on your answer sheet. You will have enough space if you write on every line, avoid wide margins, and keep your handwriting to a reasonable size. Your essay will be read by people who are not familiar with your handwriting, so write legibly.

You may use this sheet for notes and outlining, but these will not be graded as part of your essay.

Consider carefully the issue discussed in the following passage, then write an essay that answers the question posed in the assignment.


We love best not what gives the greatest pleasure, but what comes through the greatest effort, because this effort provides meaning. A plastic medallion received after completing a marathon is not just a $2.00 trinket, but the representation of months of effort and sacrifice. The best things in life are not free, but come at the expense of hard work.


Assignment: Do we love things most that come at a great cost, or are the best things in life truly free? Write an essay in which you answer this question and discuss your point of view on this issue. Support your position logically with examples from literature, the arts, history, politics, science and technology, current events, or your experience or observation.

Note: Write your practice essay on two pages of standard lined paper.


Practice Essay 11

Time—25 minutes


Directions for Writing the Essay

Plan and write an essay that answers the question below. Do NOT write on another topic. An essay on another topic will receive a score of 0.

Two readers will grade your essay based on how well you develop your point of view, organize and explain your ideas, use specific and relevant examples to support your thesis, and use clear and effective language. How well you write is much more important than how much you write, but to cover the topic adequately you should plan to write several paragraphs.

Your essay must be written only on the lines provided on your answer sheet. You will have enough space if you write on every line, avoid wide margins, and keep your handwriting to a reasonable size. Your essay will be read by people who are not familiar with your handwriting, so write legibly.

You may use this sheet for notes and outlining, but these will not be graded as part of your essay.

Consider carefully the issue discussed in the following passage, then write an essay that answers the question posed in the assignment.


Defeating an enemy by force always has profound, and usually unforeseen, consequences. Destroying another requires destroying a part of one’s own humanity, and strengthening resentment in others. It is better to understand one’s enemy, to learn the subtler but more ennobling art of persuasion and coexistence.


Assignment: Is it more important to defeat your enemy or to understand your enemy? Write an essay in which you answer this question and discuss your point of view on this issue. Support your position logically with examples from literature, the arts, history, politics, science and technology, current events, or your experience or observation.

Note: Write your practice essay on two pages of standard lined paper.


Practice Essay 12

Time—25 minutes


Directions for Writing the Essay

Plan and write an essay that answers the question below. Do NOT write on another topic. An essay on another topic will receive a score of 0.

Two readers will grade your essay based on how well you develop your point of view, organize and explain your ideas, use specific and relevant examples to support your thesis, and use clear and effective language. How well you write is much more important than how much you write, but to cover the topic adequately you should plan to write several paragraphs.

Your essay must be written only on the lines provided on your answer sheet. You will have enough space if you write on every line, avoid wide margins, and keep your handwriting to a reasonable size. Your essay will be read by people who are not familiar with your handwriting, so write legibly.

You may use this sheet for notes and outlining, but these will not be graded as part of your essay.

Consider carefully the issue discussed in the following passage, then write an essay that answers the question posed in the assignment.


A person’s greatness derives from the many small moral choices one makes moment by moment. To be born into great wealth, power, or ability is not to be great at all. Rather, greatness only comes from the continual choice to use that endowment wisely, to struggle with the needs of humanity as a member of its family.


Assignment: Are human beings more the products of their endowments, or of their choices? Write an essay in which you answer this question and discuss your point of view on this issue. Support your position logically with examples from literature, the arts, history, politics, science and technology, current events, or your experience or observation.

Note: Write your practice essay on two pages of standard lined paper.


Practice Essay 13

Time—25 minutes


Directions for Writing the Essay

Plan and write an essay that answers the question below. Do NOT write on another topic. An essay on another topic will receive a score of 0.

Two readers will grade your essay based on how well you develop your point of view, organize and explain your ideas, use specific and relevant examples to support your thesis, and use clear and effective language. How well you write is much more important than how much you write, but to cover the topic adequately you should plan to write several paragraphs.

Your essay must be written only on the lines provided on your answer sheet. You will have enough space if you write on every line, avoid wide margins, and keep your handwriting to a reasonable size. Your essay will be read by people who are not familiar with your handwriting, so write legibly.

You may use this sheet for notes and outlining, but these will not be graded as part of your essay.

Consider carefully the issue discussed in the following passage, then write an essay that answers the question posed in the assignment.


We tend to think that rewarding people for doing good things is always better than punishing them for doing bad things. We often fail, however, to realize that rewards can be oppressive, too. Giving someone a prize for doing something he or she would do anyway often makes that person feel manipulated. What’s worse, competition for prizes, which invariably occurs when rewards are doled out systematically, often breeds resentment and division rather than cooperation.


Assignment: Are reward systems, like grades, prizes, and work bonuses, effective means of controlling human behavior? Write an essay in which you answer this question and discuss your point of view on this issue. Support your position logically with examples from literature, the arts, history, politics, science and technology, current events, or your experience or observation.

Note: Write your practice essay on two pages of standard lined paper.


Practice Essay 14

Time—25 minutes


Directions for Writing the Essay

Plan and write an essay that answers the question below. Do NOT write on another topic. An essay on another topic will receive a score of 0.

Two readers will grade your essay based on how well you develop your point of view, organize and explain your ideas, use specific and relevant examples to support your thesis, and use clear and effective language. How well you write is much more important than how much you write, but to cover the topic adequately you should plan to write several paragraphs.

Your essay must be written only on the lines provided on your answer sheet. You will have enough space if you write on every line, avoid wide margins, and keep your handwriting to a reasonable size. Your essay will be read by people who are not familiar with your handwriting, so write legibly.

You may use this sheet for notes and outlining, but these will not be graded as part of your essay.

Consider carefully the issue discussed in the following passage, then write an essay that answers the question posed in the assignment.


History books record the deeds of the great inventors, warriors, explorers, and artists, but the real fabric of society is determined by consumers and ordinary workers—not those who make, but those who use; not those who find, but those who settle; not those who fight, but those who repair the damage.


Assignment: Which is more important to a society: the demands of consumers or the dreams of artists, discoverers, and inventors? Write an essay in which you answer this question and discuss your point of view on this issue. Support your position logically with examples from literature, the arts, history, politics, science and technology, current events, or your experience or observation.

Note: Write your practice essay on two pages of standard lined paper.


Practice Essay 15

Time—25 minutes


Directions for Writing the Essay

Plan and write an essay that answers the question below. Do NOT write on another topic. An essay on another topic will receive a score of 0.

Two readers will grade your essay based on how well you develop your point of view, organize and explain your ideas, use specific and relevant examples to support your thesis, and use clear and effective language. How well you write is much more important than how much you write, but to cover the topic adequately you should plan to write several paragraphs.

Your essay must be written only on the lines provided on your answer sheet. You will have enough space if you write on every line, avoid wide margins, and keep your handwriting to a reasonable size. Your essay will be read by people who are not familiar with your handwriting, so write legibly.

You may use this sheet for notes and outlining, but these will not be graded as part of your essay.

Consider carefully the issue discussed in the following passage, then write an essay that answers the question posed in the assignment.


Paradise is not to be found in a life of plenty and ease, free from all suffering. Without challenges to meet, pain to which we can compare delight, and barriers to surmount, paradise would be tedium. Give me the pain and inspiration of struggle over the perfection of your heaven.


Assignment: Is it better to seek difficult challenges, or to seek relief from difficult challenges? Write an essay in which you answer this question and discuss your point of view on this issue. Support your position logically with examples from literature, the arts, history, politics, science and technology, current events, or your experience or observation.

Note: Write your practice essay on two pages of standard lined paper.


Practice Essay 16

Time—25 minutes


Directions for Writing the Essay

Plan and write an essay that answers the question below. Do NOT write on another topic. An essay on another topic will receive a score of 0.

Two readers will grade your essay based on how well you develop your point of view, organize and explain your ideas, use specific and relevant examples to support your thesis, and use clear and effective language. How well you write is much more important than how much you write, but to cover the topic adequately you should plan to write several paragraphs.

Your essay must be written only on the lines provided on your answer sheet. You will have enough space if you write on every line, avoid wide margins, and keep your handwriting to a reasonable size. Your essay will be read by people who are not familiar with your handwriting, so write legibly.

You may use this sheet for notes and outlining, but these will not be graded as part of your essay.

Consider carefully the issue discussed in the following passage, then write an essay that answers the question posed in the assignment.


Oscar Wilde once said that the only thing worse than being talked about was not being talked about. Today it seems we have taken this witticism to its logical extreme. Some people make their lives as “personalities” whose only job is to get their names in the media. They lack any discernible talents except self-promotion.


Assignment: Is fame a good thing or a bad thing? Write an essay in which you answer this question and discuss your point of view on this issue. Support your position logically with examples from literature, the arts, history, politics, science and technology, current events, or your experience or observation.

Note: Write your practice essay on two pages of standard lined paper.


Practice Essay 17

Time—25 minutes


Directions for Writing the Essay

Plan and write an essay that answers the question below. Do NOT write on another topic. An essay on another topic will receive a score of 0.

Two readers will grade your essay based on how well you develop your point of view, organize and explain your ideas, use specific and relevant examples to support your thesis, and use clear and effective language. How well you write is much more important than how much you write, but to cover the topic adequately you should plan to write several paragraphs.

Your essay must be written only on the lines provided on your answer sheet. You will have enough space if you write on every line, avoid wide margins, and keep your handwriting to a reasonable size. Your essay will be read by people who are not familiar with your handwriting, so write legibly.

You may use this sheet for notes and outlining, but these will not be graded as part of your essay.

Consider carefully the issue discussed in the following passage, then write an essay that answers the question posed in the assignment.


History books are inclined to focus on power gained through military or political conquest, but power is maintained most efficiently by ideology—control over the symbols of a society and over the framework of debate. This way, popular opinion is controlled without raising popular anger or resentment.


Assignment: How do people gain power over others? Write an essay in which you answer this question and discuss your point of view on this issue. Support your position logically with examples from literature, the arts, history, politics, science and technology, current events, or your experience or observation.

Note: Write your practice essay on two pages of standard lined paper.


Practice Essay 18

Time—25 minutes


Directions for Writing the Essay

Plan and write an essay that answers the question below. Do NOT write on another topic. An essay on another topic will receive a score of 0.

Two readers will grade your essay based on how well you develop your point of view, organize and explain your ideas, use specific and relevant examples to support your thesis, and use clear and effective language. How well you write is much more important than how much you write, but to cover the topic adequately you should plan to write several paragraphs.

Your essay must be written only on the lines provided on your answer sheet. You will have enough space if you write on every line, avoid wide margins, and keep your handwriting to a reasonable size. Your essay will be read by people who are not familiar with your handwriting, so write legibly.

You may use this sheet for notes and outlining, but these will not be graded as part of your essay.

Consider carefully the issue discussed in the following passage, then write an essay that answers the question posed in the assignment.


We can hardly become complete human beings without identifying with at least one social group—family, social clique, political party, ethnic group, nation, or religion. Yet, by distinguishing “us” from “them,” these group identities are also the source of great injustices like prejudice and war.


Assignment: Is group identity a good thing or a bad thing? Write an essay in which you answer this question and discuss your point of view on this issue. Support your position logically with examples from literature, the arts, history, politics, science and technology, current events, or your experience or observation.

Note: Write your practice essay on two pages of standard lined paper.


Practice Essay 19

Time—25 minutes


Directions for Writing the Essay

Plan and write an essay that answers the question below. Do NOT write on another topic. An essay on another topic will receive a score of 0.

Two readers will grade your essay based on how well you develop your point of view, organize and explain your ideas, use specific and relevant examples to support your thesis, and use clear and effective language. How well you write is much more important than how much you write, but to cover the topic adequately you should plan to write several paragraphs.

Your essay must be written only on the lines provided on your answer sheet. You will have enough space if you write on every line, avoid wide margins, and keep your handwriting to a reasonable size. Your essay will be read by people who are not familiar with your handwriting, so write legibly.

You may use this sheet for notes and outlining, but these will not be graded as part of your essay.

Consider carefully the issue discussed in the following passage, then write an essay that answers the question posed in the assignment.


I have been gravely disappointed with the … moderate who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice … Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.

Excerpted from Martin Luther King, Jr., Letter from a Birmingham Jail


Assignment: Are there certain kinds of peace that are unacceptable? Write an essay in which you answer this question and discuss your point of view on this issue. Support your position logically with examples from literature, the arts, history, politics, science and technology, current events, or your experience or observation.

Note: Write your practice essay on two pages of standard lined paper.


Practice Essay 20

Time—25 minutes


Directions for Writing the Essay

Plan and write an essay that answers the question below. Do NOT write on another topic. An essay on another topic will receive a score of 0.

Two readers will grade your essay based on how well you develop your point of view, organize and explain your ideas, use specific and relevant examples to support your thesis, and use clear and effective language. How well you write is much more important than how much you write, but to cover the topic adequately you should plan to write several paragraphs.

Your essay must be written only on the lines provided on your answer sheet. You will have enough space if you write on every line, avoid wide margins, and keep your handwriting to a reasonable size. Your essay will be read by people who are not familiar with your handwriting, so write legibly.

You may use this sheet for notes and outlining, but these will not be graded as part of your essay.

Consider carefully the issue discussed in the following passage, then write an essay that answers the question posed in the assignment.


Human beings can attain a worthy and harmonious life if only they are able to rid themselves, within the limits of human nature, of the striving for the wish fulfillment of material kinds. The goal is to raise the spiritual values of society.

Albert Einstein


Assignment: Is the desire for “wish fulfillment of material kinds” a good or a bad thing? Write an essay in which you answer this question and discuss your point of view on this issue. Support your position logically with examples from literature, the arts, history, politics, science and technology, current events, or your experience or observation.

Note: Write your practice essay on two pages of standard lined paper.


Sample Essays: Practice Essay 1


Consider carefully the issue discussed in the following passage, then write an essay that answers the question posed in the assignment.


Without a clear goal to focus our energy and drive us to grow, we cease to be truly alive. We are inert particles floating on the sea of life. This is true of not only ourselves, but our institutions—our families, our corporations, and our societies. The moment we cease to grow, we begin to die.


Assignment: Is growth necessary to a happy and productive life? Write an essay in which you answer this question and discuss your point of view on this issue. You may discuss personal or institutional growth. Support your position logically with examples from literature, the arts, history, politics, science and technology, current events, or your experience or observation.


Sample 1: 6 points out of 6

Ever since the Enlightenment, Western thought has been dominated by the idea that humans are endowed with “natural rights,” which include not only the right to free speech and the pursuit of happiness, but the right to dominate the natural world and even other “less civilized” societies. The growth of an individual or a society, we believe, is limited only by one’s imagination. But not only is eternal growth an illusion, to pursue it is a danger.

Today, our media trumpet the benefits of “growth.” A company cannot be satisfied with providing a consistent product or service over time; it must keep growing and expanding, preferably swallowing up competitors to produce more and more value for investors. A school cannot be satisfied with consistently meeting the diverse needs of its students; it must graduate a higher and higher percentage of its students, who must get higher and higher test scores, and get into better and better colleges. But such “growth” only serves the psychological needs of deluded consumers; it provides no real value. CEOs feel compelled to “cook the books” and educators likewise feel compelled to “manipulate” test scores or cheat outright so that the illusion of “growth” can be maintained.

As a society, we must learn to see that the only worthwhile growth in society is that which enhances personal growth. Better profits mean nothing unless they are from a company that helps people to experience life more fully, and not merely give them tasty snack foods or mindless entertainment to consume. Higher test scores mean nothing unless they reflect students who are better problem solvers and more empathetic and happier human beings.

Growth is not a universal good. Just because a statistic is going up doesn’t mean the world is getting better. Our statistics-obsessed society has to learn to appreciate the quality of life around us more than the quantities that summarize and, sometimes, eviscerate it.

Evaluation: Although not exceptionally long, this essay accomplishes a great deal in four paragraphs. It effectively supports the insightful thesis that “not only is eternal growth an illusion, but to pursue it is a danger.” The examples of humanity’s domination of nature, corporate growth, and higher test scores are very effective, although some could be examined in greater detail. The author also demonstrates a strong facility with language, using terms such as “eviscerate” and “empathetic” to good effect while maintaining a clear style throughout. It is well organized and persuasive.


Sample 2: 5 points out of 6

My keyboard felt like a world unto itself. The ghosts of Muddy Waters and Stevie Ray Vaughan and Dave Brubeck and Gustav Mahler and, I admit it, even Raffi, were an ether that engulfed the keyboard and infused my fingers, arms and body, so that I had no choice but to play, to give a sound dimension to this world. Sometimes the music that came out was just an etude that I had practiced for Mrs. Parker years before, but sometimes, magically, it was a completely new form that seemed conjured from that ether like a genie from a bottle.

Sometimes my buddy Paul would pick up on the vibe and we’d jam for hours. Our band, the Badunks, was my whole world. But two years later, that all changed. The spark wasn’t there any more between Paul and me, and as soon as we stopped growing musically, Badunk began to die.

I think about those years a lot now, and I guess it was inevitable. Paul is a smart guy and, unlike me, he was inspired by history and physics and started to groove on DBQs and equations instead of NRBQ and The Persuasions. We both got girlfriends, and you know how love isn’t nearly as inspirational when it’s no longer just out of reach. We just weren’t able to find the time to jam together, to write together, to just talk music together. Even though Paul and I are still best friends, I feel like I’ve lost my real best friend—music.

I guess music is a person. You have to nurture it if you want it to stick around. If you don’t give it what it needs, which is your whole commitment, your whole soul, then it begins to wither into those dried-up jingles you hear on shampoo or dog food commercials.

Evaluation: This essay uses a consistent first-person narrative to support the point of view that, without growth, musical inspiration begins to die. It explores a single example in depth, but it does so with a clear sense of organization and a well-developed style. The author uses imagery and metaphor very effectively. Although not written in the traditional five-paragraph expository form, its overall effect is persuasive and insightful. It does not get the highest possible score because it does not discuss the concept of “growth” beyond the author’s personal musical experience.

Sample Essays: Practice Essay 2


Consider carefully the issue discussed in the following passage, then write an essay that answers the question posed in the assignment.


Our leaders love to tell us that only victory will do, as if they are imparting great wisdom. They seek only to defeat the enemy, to achieve the goal. Yet many times a loss, particularly one that is hard fought, is more valuable than victory. We cannot live a life full of only victories, nor should we. The quality of our lives depends as much on how we manage our losses as on how we achieve our victories.


Assignment: Can a loss ever be more valuable than a victory? Write an essay in which you answer this question and discuss your point of view on this issue. Support your position logically with examples from literature, the arts, history, politics, science and technology, current events, or your experience or observation.


Sample 1: 6 points out of 6

My father always says, “It’s not whether you win or lose, it’s how you play the game.” I can understand his point; playing hard and fair is its own reward. We become stronger by learning how to lose gracefully. But sometimes it is whether you win or lose. Sometimes, nothing but victory will do.

There are hundreds, maybe thousands, of stories of people who tried to invent flying machines. Nearly all of them are relegated to oblivion or, at best, quaint mentions in arcane history books or old film clips accompanied by a silly trombone. But we all know the Wright Brothers. They’re emblazoned on every license plate in North Carolina. We know them for one reason only: they succeeded. They got a big hunk of wood and metal to fly. If their struggles led only to another hapless nose-dive off a cliff, their workshop would long ago have been forgotten and replaced by a Piggly Wiggly.

Without question, World War II was hard fought by America, as much as we tried to avoid getting involved. In the end, we lost well over a quarter of a million American lives to the struggle. Would it have been worth it had we not defeated Hitler, Mussolini and Hirohito? We could hardly claim any benefit if we had lost, and allowed hundreds of thousands of more “undesirables” to be incinerated by Hitler and his henchmen.

Sometimes, a loss, hard fought, is more valuable than an easy victory. But whether this is true depends on the worthiness of the goal. If we are true explorers, true noble warriors, true visionaries, then it is our responsibility to envision goals that are worth every sacrifice to achieve.

Evaluation: This essay presents well-reasoned and cogent support for the view that “sometimes nothing but victory will do” although at other times “a loss, hard fought, is more valuable than an easy victory.” In taking such a nuanced position, the author is obligated to articulate the distinctions between those times when victory is necessary and those when a loss can be acceptable. The author accomplishes this by discussing “the worthiness of the goal” and the fact that we can “become stronger by learning how to lose gracefully” and by giving examples of goals well worth achieving. The examples of the advent of human flight and the American victory in World War II are relevant and well presented.

Sample 2: 5 points out of 6

I studied my hindquarters off for that test. I had two Starbucks mocha javas (don’t tell my mom) to help me stay up until 2:00 am studying for the darn physics test (circular motion and gravitation—yuk) and I still got a C–! For months afterward, I swore that physics was the most ridiculous subject ever. But something about that C– really got to me. I started to wonder why some people would spend their lives studying this subject that seemed so difficult to understand.

I took it as a personal challenge. I guess I felt a lot like an athlete feels when he loses a playoff game, but knows that, if he had just worked harder, he could have won the whole championship. So I started to look into physics. I picked up a book called “Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman” about a Noble Prize–winning physicist and how he saw the world. I was hooked. Richard Feynman convinced me that trying to solve the great riddles of physics could be profoundly rewarding, and even fun.

It helped a great deal, too, I think, that I was now confronting physics on my own terms. I wasn’t reading this book because it was assigned, but because I wanted to read it (and because my dad said it was hilarious). And I wasn’t thinking about physics because I had a test to study for, but because the problems were interesting to think about.

If I had gotten an A on that physics test, instead of a C–, I probably would not have gotten mad enough to venture into the world of physics on my own. I would not have immersed myself in the relativistic twin paradox, or the question of how black holes are formed. I could have done the opposite, as my friends have done, and just shunned science for the rest of my life. I’m glad I didn’t. Sometimes losing can be more valuable than victory, if losing opens new doors.

Evaluation: This essay provides a creative first-person narrative supporting the view that “sometimes a loss, hard fought, is more valuable than an easy victory.” It uses colloquial language, but with a consistent and focused point of view. The narrative remains focused on examining the author’s “loss” in a particularly difficult science class and how she refocused herself as a result. Although connections to other such “losses” would have strengthened the essay, the overall effect is very strong. It does not receive the highest possible score, however, because it does not explore the general implications of its thesis, and so its conclusion is somewhat incomplete.

Sample Essays: Practice Essay 3


Consider carefully the issue discussed in the following passage, then write an essay that answers the question posed in the assignment.


Adventure seekers who merely crave the mitigating rush of adrenaline that accompanies risky feats do not demonstrate true courage. Courage is not fearlessness but the willingness to face our unmitigated fears and vulnerabilities, particularly those fears that make us think less of ourselves.


Assignment: Does true courage always require putting something that is very important to us at risk? Write an essay in which you answer this question and explain the reasons for your choice. You may choose an example from literature, the arts, history, politics, science and technology, current events, or your experience or observation.


Sample: 6 points out of 6

Real courage always involves putting something important at risk. Although we often think about what brave people have to gain, like firefighters saving the lives of others, or civil rights advocates working to gain freedoms, what makes these people courageous is not the value of what they are fighting for, but rather with the risks that they are taking with things that are very valuable to them. This can be seen in literature in the character Pip in Great Expectations and also in modern soldiers, who take risks that go far beyond potential bodily harm, sacrificing their own freedoms for ours.

Philip Pirrip, or Pip, the hero of Great Expectations by Charles Dickens, meets a wild-looking escaped prisoner on the moors and helps the prisoner by giving him food. The prisoner promises to repay Pip’s kindness. After growing wealthy in the colonies, the prisoner does return under an assumed name and serves as Pip’s anonymous benefactor. When Pip finds out the truth, he resolves that he will help his benefactor, now named Provis, despite the fact that Pip could be put in jail for helping a prisoner. Pip shows true courage by putting his own freedom, as well as his hard-fought position as a gentleman, on the line. It is the same persistent courage that he demonstrated in enduring for years the cruelty of Miss Havisham and the beautiful Estella, whom he finally won over decades later, and in persisting with his support of the pauper Joe Gargery.

To many people, soldiers are overused as examples of courage. Obviously, they face death or injury in battle, but they make another sacrifice we usually don’t think about. They know that a strong nation needs a unified army. So when soldiers fight for their country, they must withhold their free speech and refrain from criticizing their superiors. They give up a freedom that they are fighting to maintain for us: the freedom to speak their mind.

Sometimes, when soldiers return from the battlefield they do criticize the president or the strategy of the war. But while they are in uniform, they hold their tongues for the greater good. Today many service men and women serving in Iraq have serious moral and strategic doubts about the execution of the war. But they (at least most of them) do not speak out, not because they are afraid, but because they are courageous enough to sacrifice their own right to free speech for the good of the nation, at least temporarily.

When we do something scary, like skydive out of an airplane, we risk a very tiny chance of falling to our deaths. But when we land, we realize that we have not really lost anything, and actually have gained an exhilarating experience. Real courage involves real sacrifice of something important, like your self-importance, your freedom, or your life.

Evaluation: This excellent essay provides a persuasive argument that “real courage always involves putting something at risk” and provides two strong examples of such courage in contrast with mere “thrill seeking.” The courage of Pip is described from a unique perspective, supporting the idea that he sacrificed his own self-importance for the sake of love and duty. The example of soldiers, also, provides a unique insight into a courageous sacrifice that is not frequently acknowledged. The essay is very well organized, although the transitions could be smoother. The author employs effective diction (execution, exhilarating, benefactor), with only occasional lapses into cliché (hold their tongues, greater good).

Sample Essays: Practice Essay 4


Consider carefully the issue discussed in the following passage, then write an essay that answers the question posed in the assignment.


Communicating technology was supposed to turn the world into a “global village,” enhancing our relationships with others and our understanding of other cultures. Yet I fear it has rendered us more polarized and less articulate. Instant communication allows us to proclaim what is on our minds before we’ve analyzed it, substantiated it, or rendered it coherent, let alone eloquent.


Assignment: Do modern means of communication make our society better or worse? Write an essay in which you answer this question and explain your point of view on this issue. Support your position logically with examples from your reading, current events, or your experience or observation.


Sample: 6 points out of 6

Communication technology has made the world a “global village,” enhancing our understanding of other cultures as never before. Technology has made this possible by granting instant access to a variety of international popular cultures. The internet has allowed people worldwide to sample music, read literature and peruse news items from other cultures, exposing them to artistic ideas and perspectives previously too obscure to find by chance. Before such advances in technology, cross-cultural understanding was more difficult to achieve.

As recently as the early 1990s, a college student might need to spend days in the library, or take an expensive trip, to begin to understand another culture. Not everyone had access to these resources and, as such, the gap was often too vast to bridge. Although technology has not made multi-national enlightenment universal, it has allowed millions to take a more active role in the world around them. MP3s have played a pivotal part in this transition from ignorance to semi-enlightenment. By exposing listeners to artists such as Ireland’s Damien Rice, the Internet took control out of the hands of record companies, allowing consumers to decide what should be in demand. People were given insight into a world beyond their own.

We are a global village in more than just music and pop culture. The internet has greatly enhanced our understanding of people in foreign lands—their concerns, their religious views, their political status—and we have become more aware of how similar we are even though we may be thousands of miles apart. Without communication technology, many people have no access to the world outside of their own towns and, as such, have no opportunity to explore other cultures by themselves.

Because of communication technology, the world is now, literally, at our fingertips. With the proper amount of initiative and curiosity, anyone can now delve into the volumes of information available on topics previously locked away in library towers and distant cities. While the internet does not offer the personal feel of a firsthand encounter, it still manages to bring the world together and provide limitless amounts of information. Communication technology has enhanced the average understanding of the world as a whole, creating a less ignorant and provincial lifestyle for millions of people worldwide.

Evaluation: This well-reasoned and traditionally organized essay supports the point of view that “communication technology has … [enhanced] our understanding of other cultures as never before.” It discusses not only the issue of communication but also those of research, entertainment, social development, and political awareness. It avoids the redundancy so common to such discussions by examining the aspects and implications of its claims. The author uses vocabulary effectively and shows facility with sentence variation.

Sample Essays: Practice Essay 5


Consider carefully the issue discussed in the following passage, then write an essay that answers the question posed in the assignment.


Being truly human as a member of a society means seeing injustice and working to fix it. The human mind can not only perceive the immediate world and act instinctively, but also visualize a better future and endeavor to realize it.


Assignment: What is one great injustice in the world, and how should it be addressed? Write an essay in which you answer this question and explain the reasons for your choice. You may draw inspiration and support from literature, the arts, history, politics, science and technology, current events, or your experience or observation.


Sample: 6 points out of 6

One great injustice that has not been adequately addressed is the perception that depression is a sign of weakness. The human mind is a complex puzzle. Psychological theories, diagnoses and treatments are constantly changing and may never be fully understood. Unfortunately, people tend to dismiss theories that don’t provide simple answers.

At best, psychologists can create a rough map of tendencies and patterns, connecting them as often as possible to findings in neurology and thus lending them a sense of scientific validity. Diagnosing a complex disease like depression involves examining a wide constellation of symptoms over a long period of time. This doesn’t satisfy skeptics. Someone with the flu will show clear symptoms like fever, nausea, and congestion. A depressed person will have less measurable symptoms like lethargy, emotional polarity or apathy. Skeptics tend to view these as simply a lack of will. They do not understand that depression is an illness just like influenza or cancer. Someone with a tumor can’t just think happy thoughts and pretend it is not there. The same can be said about clinical depression.

People suffering from depression are unfairly stigmatized. They resist seeking help and so lead lives filled with unnecessary pain. Those lucky enough to find help are often ashamed to tell their peers. Friends often misconstrue symptoms of depression as personal slights: Why didn’t she call me? Why is he not fun anymore? Bonds are thus broken due to miscommunication.

Depression alters one’s life at least as dramatically as more “accepted” illnesses do. People suffering from depression need others to understand the limitations depression imposes. They need to be allowed to heal. Advances in anti-depressants and mood stabilizers can help ease these adjustments, but social pressure makes it nearly impossible for the victims of depression to live in a suitable environment.

Emotional disorders are a remarkably sad facet of life. To lose control over one’s emotions is to lose track of hope. A world that denies one’s suffering makes this situation even worse. The key to resolving this problem is education. People of all ages need to understand how prevalent depression is and that it is not a cause for embarrassment. Hopefully, we will one day live in a world where emotional disorders will be treated with the same tolerance and compassion as “traditional” illnesses.

Evaluation: This is a thoughtful and well-articulated essay supporting the thesis that “the perception that depression is a sign of weakness” is a great injustice. It effectively analyzes the social perception of clinical depression, clearly articulates opposing views on the matter, and explains the reasoning supporting the author’s viewpoint. The author does a very good job of engaging the reader and remains focused on portraying this misperception as a great injustice, yet concludes on a hopeful note.

Sample Essays: Practice Essay 6


Consider carefully the issue discussed in the following passage, then write an essay that answers the question posed in the assignment.


Acquiring knowledge is like scaling a mountain. The proper attitude in reaching a summit, however, is to marvel not so much at one’s achievement as at the glorious view of the unknown beyond. A well-educated person is known not so much for the questions he or she can answer as for the questions he or she can ask.


Assignment: What is one great question that every educated person should ask? Write an essay in which you indicate what this question should be and explain the reasons for your choice. You may draw inspiration and support from literature, the arts, history, politics, science and technology, current events, or your experience or observation.


Sample: 6 points out of 6

A well-educated person is known more for the questions he or she asks than for the questions he or she can answer. One great question that I think every educated person should ask is whether the news they read and hear is based on objective facts or subjective views. Within moments, any important news story will be studied, filmed, and disseminated for an entire world to see. Televisions broadcast this information for global audiences and, instantaneously, a world opinion is formed. But does this presentation resemble more closely an objective analysis or a “spun” interpretation of an image-conscious presenter?

Most people think of “news” as the factual story of what is going on in the world. Few would say that the news is a script produced by businessmen seeking ratings and profits, although this is an uncontroversial fact that’s hard to deny. Most people either accept what they see in the media as facts or cynically dismiss everything they hear as propaganda. Hiding somewhere in between these two extremes is perspective, the ability to independently judge what is factual and, from that, to create a unique and personal view.

We are continually bombarded with flashy images, scandalous revelations, and sound bites devoid of context. Journalists interpret and explain the news for us, encouraging us to sit quietly rather than think. An educated person must view this programming with a skeptical eye. Every story is tainted by subjectivity, no matter how distant the producer. The educated viewer, however, must be disciplined enough to recognize how the corporate media “spins” the news. By analyzing the differences among storytellers, the viewer can better understand what is real and what is merely opinion.

Information can be potent. Truthful information, in particular, has the power to unite or fracture, to enlighten or confirm previously held beliefs. Unfortunately, truth is slippery, easily lost in the swirling winds of global communication. Educated people must pursue the truth by asking questions and resisting the urge to accept every image flashed before them. Education teaches us to analyze situations from multiple angles whenever possible. Those who have embraced the moral value of critical thinking will apply that ideal to the world around them, treating every bit of news only as a piece of information open to debate and intense analysis.

Evaluation: This essay provides an excellent examination of the issue of motives and professionalism in journalism to support the idea that every educated person should ask the question, “Is the news objective?” It examines common perceptions of the journalistic media and argues for “perspective” on the part of an educated observer. It is well organized and persuasive, although it could have been made more effective with a discussion of more specific examples.

Sample Essays: Practice Essay 7


Consider carefully the issue discussed in the following passage, then write an essay that answers the question posed in the assignment.


Some people spend their lives waiting for the one great challenge that will define them. Every society needs such people, who forge into the unknown and lay new foundations. But society also depends very much on those who meet the small challenges, like feeding mouths and minds and hearts.


Assignment: Are we defined more by great challenges in our lives or by small, everyday challenges? Write an essay in which you answer this question and discuss your point of view on this issue. Support your position logically with examples from literature, the arts, history, politics, science and technology, current events, or your experience or observation.


Sample: 5 points out of 6

Whether a challenge is “great” or “small” depends on your attitude and position in life. A problem that seems inconsequential to a parent might be a very important transition for the child. Regardless, I think that what defines people is how they deal with things that they themselves don’t actually regard as a big deal. For instance, how a person acknowledges others or solves little everyday problems. Anyone can rise to a big occasion, but it takes a big person to rise to little occasions.

When I think of people I want to emulate, I think of a person who is defined by little challenges: my mom. There is no more considerate person in the world. Even though she is often stressed out from her job and from raising two kids, she always finds time to do something nice for someone every day. Sometimes she will bake a cake and send it over to our elderly neighbor, just because she wants an excuse to go over and say hello and because she knows how a good sweet can brighten someone’s day. My mom also writes beautiful thank you notes on nice stationery after every event she attends to thank the host or hostess. She could send a quick e-mail, but she knows that the little extra effort is worth it.

When you pay attention to the little things, they can become big things. For instance, when diplomats or heads of state show kindness and respect to their counterparts, they help to solve the bigger problems like war and trade disagreements. Sometimes I am amazed when I hear a president or a prime minister speaking disrespectfully of another nation’s leader. A wise leader always shows kindness and respect to other leaders, even those he or she disagrees with, because, at least, those leaders represent many other decent people. Wars and conflicts are often the result of fears that arise because leaders don’t perform the common courtesies that they could use to put their opponent’s minds at ease.

When I think about little everyday kindnesses, I also think about “Catcher in the Rye” by J. D. Salinger. Holden Caulfield, the protagonist, is boy who thinks that all of the adults and most of the kids around him at his prep school are “phonies,” but in reality Holden is simply too immature to build meaningful relationships with others. He doesn’t yet understand the importance of being kind to others, at least not until he takes his little sister to the zoo. Then he realizes that he really can care for something, and he nearly cries just watching her ride the carousel.

Holden learned that the only way to be happy is to care about something or someone, and to respect that thing or person. I wish that more people could learn that lesson, and just show a little bit of kindness to the people they meet every day.

Evaluation: This very competent essay argues persuasively that “it takes a big person to rise to little occasions.” The examples of the author’s mother, world leaders, and Holden Caulfield support the author’s thesis that even small actions that show consideration for others can be very important not only in resolving disputes but also in maintaining a sense of self-worth. The essay is generally well-organized and coherent, although the conclusion is underdeveloped and the example of Holden Caulfield could be more substantially explained. The author uses language competently, and varies sentence structure effectively.

Sample Essays: Practice Essay 8


Consider carefully the issue discussed in the following passage, then write an essay that answers the question posed in the assignment.


Freedom requires the eradication of repression from tyrants and from want, but eliminating these is not enough. We must also eliminate the means by which we oppress ourselves, through our peeves, our addictions, and in our insecurities. This may involve strengthening the restraints within ourselves.


Assignment: Does freedom require eliminating restraints on behavior, or does it require creating or strengthening certain restraints? Write an essay in which you answer this question and discuss your point of view on this issue. Support your position logically with examples from literature, the arts, history, politics, science and technology, current events, or your experience or observation.


Sample: 6 points out of 6

In the United States today, the issue of freedom is being discussed as a matter of both foreign and domestic policy. Should we export our freedoms and our democracy to other countries? Should we give up some of our freedoms to make sure that we are safe from terrorism? What is freedom anyway, and what is it worth? Many people who say they are patriots simply say “freedom isn’t free” and leave it at that. Actually, real freedom isn’t just the right to do whatever we want, and we don’t get it just by conquering other people. Freedom is the ability to control our selfish instincts so that we can stop being controlled by them. Ironically, freedom requires constraints.

The reason we are trying to export democracy to Iraq today, some say, is because we will be safer if the Middle East embraces some of our values. But we can’t jam our values down their throats, especially values like freedom of choice and speech. Also, we haven’t shown that we are restrained enough to be worthy of those freedoms ourselves. Some mercenary contractors have shot up Iraqi civilians because they felt a slight threat. Similarly, our administration does not seem to be able to hold back from any fight because it is filled with people who need to be perceived as tough. But they aren’t free because they are still controlled by their fear, and therefore they are prisoners.

In his book, “Night,” Elie Wiesel talks about being in a concentration camp in Nazi Germany where he was deprived of almost all of his freedoms. He is whipped for just talking to a girl, is forced to do hard labor and sees people all around him being led to the gas chambers. It was in these horrible conditions that Elie discovered that his most important freedom was his freedom of thought that the Nazis couldn’t take away from him. While his body was imprisoned, he found the freedom of his soul.

When people hold protests for freedoms, like the Civil Rights marchers in the 60’s or the Women’s Rights suffragettes, they are not simply trying to assert their rights. They are also trying to show that they are constrained enough to be worthy of their rights. Civil Rights marchers were well-known for their noble restraint from violence, which helped them to rise above those ignorant citizens who wanted to harm or kill them to prevent them from achieving equality. Through intelligent restraint, both the Civil Rights and the Women’s Rights movements have made great strides.

We can’t live in freedom if we are controlled by our selfishness and our fears of others who are different from us. Freedom isn’t about conquering others, it is about conquering our own worst qualities. Because if we don’t, then they will conquer us.

Evaluation: This excellent essay provides well-reasoned and well-organized support for the thesis that “freedom is about conquering our own worst qualities.” The examples of American policy in the Middle East, the Civil and Women’s Rights movements, and Elie Wiesel’s Night provide substantial support to the idea that freedom has more to do with self-control than with physical freedom or conquering one’s oppressors. The author’s use of language is competent and effective, despite a few slightly awkward sentences.

Sample Essays: Practice Essay 9


Consider carefully the issue discussed in the following passage, then write an essay that answers the question posed in the assignment.


We employ many devices to maintain or create peace among countries—trade agreements, cultural exchanges, treaties. But nothing unites humanity as well as a common foe. Mutual fear of nature or of foreign ideologies is perhaps the greatest diplomacy we know.


Assignment: What is the most significant means of bringing people together in peace? Write an essay in which you answer this question and discuss your point of view on this issue. Support your position logically with examples from literature, the arts, history, politics, science and technology, current events, or your experience or observation.


Sample: 5 points out of 6

Nothing unifies humanity as well as a common foe. This thought can be said to explain the triumph of the Allied forces in WWII, the French and American Revolution, and other great triumphs in western history. However, this uplifting thought has a dark corollary, because the common foe is usually another segment of humanity.

The great modern historian, T. Ruiz, at UCLA writes and lectures extensively on the middle ages. He explains western history not as a progression from barbarism to high civilization, but as a continuing series of clashes of man against man, advancing only in the increasing number of victims resulting from more powerful weaponry. In all these clashes the victors (who after all write the history of the event) see and explain their success as due to unified humanity against the common foe.

To take a sweeping view of western history after the fall of the Roman Empire, we see a European Society for hundreds of years without borders, without governments, without kings, without commerce, without land ownership, somewhat of an empty slate by modern political and economic terms. As the world changed from a medieval world to a modern world, we can observe some changes which came about by the unification against a common foe. The rise of the nation state was made possible by the emergence of the “king” who united his subjects by invention of a common foe (e.g. “France”). Witchcraft, antisemitism and other concepts of “otherness,” can be argued to be offshoots of the movement toward nation states. And these evils are caused by the invention of a common foe.

The nation state, antisemitism, witchcraft all came about as inventions of the modern era. The Crusades, to expel the Arabs from Europe, the fallout from which we are still experiencing, is perhaps nothing but a political example of the successful search for a common enemy. Political, of course, because they occurred in the era when the king realized that religion was too important to be left to the Pope.

As history marches on, we have the modern success of genocide as the ultimate success possible from the unification against the common enemy. The lesson perhaps is that when humanity unifies against a common enemy, make sure you’re not the enemy.

Evaluation: This essay effectively argues for the perspective that “nothing unifies humanity as well as a common foe.” The author demonstrates a solid understanding of Europe after the fall of the Roman Empire and gives many examples of “common foes.” The author shows a strong facility with language and uses appropriate historical vocabulary. The essay does not receive the highest possible score, however, because it focuses too much on conflict rather than peace, as the question suggests.

Sample Essays: Practice Essay 10


Consider carefully the issue discussed in the following passage, then write an essay that answers the question posed in the assignment.


We love best not what gives the greatest pleasure, but what comes through the greatest effort, because this effort provides meaning. A plastic medallion received after completing a marathon is not just a $2.00 trinket, but the representation of months of effort and sacrifice. The best things in life are not free, but come at the expense of hard work.


Assignment: Do we love things most that come at a great cost, or are the best things in life truly free? Write an essay in which you answer this question and discuss your point of view on this issue. Support your position logically with examples from literature, the arts, history, politics, science and technology, current events, or your experience or observation.


Sample: 4 points out of 6

We love best not that which gives great pleasure, but what comes through great effort. What do we mean by “love”? For one may love one’s mother, chocolate and fine art, all in different ways and all of which usually come with little effort. But perhaps love means “value,” as in one loves freedom and one loves life. It is often observed that those who have had to fight for freedom love it more, and those who have recovered from near death accidents or disease have a greater love of freedom and life.

It is an American phenomenon that freedoms are valued so highly because so many Americans have suffered religious or political persecution and suffered great hardship to escape to this country. However, there are many things one loves which are not achieved through great effort, and there are many things achieved through great effort that one comes to hate. The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam expresses a way to achieve love, contentment and happiness without effort. It suggests the less effort the better. John Ruskin said, “Life without work is guilt, life without art is brutality,” suggesting that effort and love are two separate things.

The Calvinists, and the Protestant ethic, suggest that the only thing worth achieving is achieved through hard work. Or perhaps, they suggest that hard work in itself gives satisfaction. Although something achieved through effort is valued (loved) more highly than the same thing received as a gift, many things are loved intensely without regard to the effort expended.

Although some have discarded the Cartesian duality of mind and body, perhaps it is a real separation. Great effort satisfies the body primarily. The body loves to work. Love, on the other hand, satisfies the mind or the soul.

As Ruskin suggests, if I work hard to achieve a pot of gold, I may find love of riches does not satisfy, but if I work hard to create a work of art, and craft a beautiful shaped and molded chair, I may find that I love this chair more than any other in the world.

Evaluation: This essay presents a thoughtful point of view but fails to take a clear stance on whether what we love most are things that are free or that come at a great cost. It goes back and forth so often that the reader feels as if she is watching a tennis match. Still, there are things that the author does well, such as discussing intriguing examples of Calvinism and freedom and citing interesting authorities such as Omar Khayam and John Ruskin. The author demonstrates a good facility with language but does not adequately focus the essay to achieve one of the highest scores.