Reading and Analyzing the Essay Passage - How to Crack the Essay - Cracking the New SAT with 4 Practice Tests, 2016 Edition

Cracking the New SAT with 4 Practice Tests, 2016 Edition (2015)

Part V. How to Crack the Essay

Chapter 18. Reading and Analyzing the Essay Passage

The SAT includes an optional rhetorical analysis essay. Your job is to read a text (typically a speech or editorial of some sort) and discuss how the author effectively builds an argument. This might be a familiar task if you’ve done it in school. If not, don’t worry. The format is straightforward, and with some practice, you can learn how to write a good SAT essay. In this chapter we’ll look at two of the three tasks you will need to do for the essay—reading and analysis—and show you how to approach each task in the most effective way possible.


The Essay used to be a required part of the SAT Writing test, counting for about a third of the Writing score. Some colleges found the writing score to be helpful, while others did not, so when ETS rolled out the new SAT, they made the Essay “optional.” The Essay score is now completely separate from your total score, so opting out of the essay will not have any effect on your 400–1600 score. Notice how we’re using quotation marks whenever we say the Essay is “optional,” though? You should consider the Essay to be optional for colleges, but not optional for you.

The problem is, some schools require the Essay, while others don’t, and you can’t do the Essay independently of the rest of the SAT. That means if you opt out of the Essay and later you realize you need it for your application, you can’t simply redo the Essay: You have redo the entire SAT. So go ahead and write the Essay. You’ve already killed a Saturday morning, you’re sitting in the testing room, and it’s not ridiculously challenging to prepare for this Essay. Just write it.

Also, writing the Essay can make your college application look more attractive. Your Essay score will appear on every score report you send to colleges, regardless of whether or not the school requires an essay. Every school to which you apply will see that you took the initiative to write the Essay, which is a good thing.


In 50 minutes, you’ll be required to read a text and write a logical, well-constructed analysis of the author’s argument. The thing to remember here is that ETS is not asking you for your opinion on a topic or a text. Your essay will be an objective analysis of a speech or argument.

The prompt will be nearly the same every time, just with a different source text, and will be something like this:

As you read the passage below, consider how the author uses

•evidence, such as facts or examples, to support claims.

•reasoning to develop ideas and to connect claims and evidence.

•stylistic or persuasive elements, such as word choice or appeals to emotion, to add power to the ideas expressed.

Write an essay in which you explain how [the author] builds an argument to persuade [his/her] audience that [author’s claim]. In your essay, analyze how [the author] uses one or more of the features listed above (or features of your own choice) to strengthen the logic and persuasiveness of [his/her] argument. Be sure that your analysis focuses on the most relevant aspects of the passage.

Your essay should not explain whether you agree with [the author’s] claims, but rather explain how the author builds an argument to persuade [his/her] audience.

In the Essay, You Will:

•Carefully read a text

•Understand how an author appeals to a reader’s logic, emotions, or morals

•Write a logical analysis of an argument

•Explain how style choices can affect an author’s persuasiveness

In the Essay, You Will NOT:

•Give your opinion about a text

•Memorize examples from history or literature

•Have previous experience with the text

Two graders will read and score the essay on a 1–4 scale in three different categories: Reading, Analysis, and Writing.

4 = Advanced
3 = Proficient
2 = Partial
1 = Inadequate

The scores will be determined using the following rubric. There is a lot of information here. You don’t need to memorize this, but it may help you understand the scoring a little more. We’ll go through the first two tasks in this chapter, followed by the third task—Writing—in Chapter 19.

Essay Scoring

Reading, Analysis, and
Writing scores will be
combined for a total score
of 3–12. (Each category
will receive a total score
of 2–8, which is found
by adding the individual
1–4 scores from your two
readers.) Each task
(Reading, Analysis, and
Writing) is scored
individually, so a high
score in one does
not guarantee a high
score in another.


In order to write an essay that analyzes a source text, you must first read the text. Unlike with the Reading passages, there are no tricks to shorten your reading time or cut out pieces of the text. However, knowing what to look for as you read can help streamline the reading process and give you a good start on the second task of analysis.

According to ETS, your Reading score will be based on your:

•comprehension of the source text

•understanding of central ideas, important details, and their interrelationship

•accuracy in representation of the source text (i.e., no errors of fact or interpretation introduced)

•use of textual evidence (quotations, paraphrases, or both) to demonstrate understanding of the source text

When you start the Essay task, the very first thing you have to do is read the text. Obvious, right? But reading for the Essay is more than just pleasure reading, when all you need to worry about is whether or not Katniss is going to make it to the end of the Games. As you read your Essay prompt, you need to consider the central idea (SOAPS) and important details that support that idea (types of appeals and style elements).

Plan Accordingly

Plan for 25–30 minutes for
Reading and Analysis, and
20–25 minutes for Writing.

SOAPS—Like in the Tub?

SOAPS is an acronym to help you remember the five things you need to look for in order to establish the central idea of a passage or argument.






SOAPStone: Ever
Hear of It?

You may have learned
SOAPStone in your English
class. It’s almost the same
thing as SOAPS.


Who is speaking or writing?

Knowing whose voice you are reading is very important for understanding the text thoroughly. It will help you understand their motivations as well as the reason(s) they are speaking or writing in the first place. As you read, ask what makes this person credible? What are the speaker’s credentials?

•What gives a doctor the authority to speak about medical issues, or a politician the authority to speak about political issues? (be specific.)?

For the doctor, you might mention medical school and many years studying medicine. Passing tests and acquiring hands-on experience give a doctor credibility on medical issues. The longer a doctor has been practicing medicine, the more experience he has, lending even more credibility. For the politician, you might mention experience working in government and policy. Many study political science in college. The politician may have run successful campaigns previously.

•Would you rather hear a stockbroker or an athlete speak about financial investing? Why?

Probably the stockbroker! A stockbroker has experience in the field of investments and knows important information to help educate you. An athlete doesn’t necessarily know the type of fiscal information you would want to hear.

So, remember! The speaker of the source text is very important. The next time you read an article online about the five foods you should never eat, consider the speaker or writer. Does that person have the credentials to give advice on nutrition? On the SAT Essay, you will not see a speaker unqualified to discuss the given topic.


What happened that requires this speech or text?

The event that caused the author to want to express her thoughts is an integral part of analyzing the work. It might be as simple as the type of event in which the speech was given. It might, however, be something larger such as a significant time in a war. You will need to think about the historical context of the text.

•What type of elements would you expect to hear in a coach’s speech before a big game?

You might expect elements such as motivational support (examples: “Go Team!”; “Keep your head in the game!”; “Victory will be ours!”) and strategy (examples: “Remember that Wilkins is weak on his left side.”; “Keep your eyes open for the gap in the line.”; “Fake a pass to Jenkins.”).

•What type of elements would you expect to hear in politician’s speech the day before Election Day?

You might expect sweeping statements with few details, such as a reminder to “go out and vote” or a patriotic reminder about that politician’s values. You might even hear a cheer of confidence meant to inspire.

•How might a minister’s message at a wedding differ from her message at a funeral?

At a wedding, a minister is likely to be optimistic and cheerful, while at a funeral, a minister is more likely to be solemn and comforting. In this case, since the speaker is the same, the occasion makes all the difference.

So, remember! Taking note of the occasion of the speech/writing will help you understand why the author uses a certain tone and some of his/her motivations.

Change of Occasion =
Change in Speech

Even though the speaker
is the same, a change
of occasion can totally
change the speech.


Who is the intended audience?

Considering your audience is critical when you are writing a speech. Therefore, it is critical that you consider who the author’s audience is in order to understand the text. What do you know about them? What’s the relationship between the speaker/author and the intended audience? What sort of values or prior ideas might the audience have? How might that affect their perception of the speaker/author?

Take Note!

Same speaker…same

•How might a politician’s Election Eve speech to a conservative group differ from his speech to a liberal group?

When speaking to groups that are very different, a politician is going to cater his speech to each group’s values. To the conservatives, she will speak on conservative issues and to the liberals, the liberal issues. The politician likely has different goals for each.

•How would a principal’s message to a group of new teachers be different from a message to a group of experienced teachers?

A principal is more likely to be more informal in tone to experienced teachers and provide less detailed information. With new teachers, however, the principal will likely want to make a good impression as well as make sure the teachers understand her role as a supportive authority. With new teachers the principal will also need to give very clear information and perhaps repeat that information more than once and explain all the things the experienced teachers already know about the school.

So, remember! The audience can entirely change a work. When reading your source text for the essay, make sure to consider who the audience is and how that affected how the author built his or her argument.


What is the author or speaker’s intention?

Occasion, Subject, and Audience all contribute to Purpose. What is the author trying to accomplish with this work? Is it an attack? Defense? Persuasion? Does it aim to give praise or blame? Is its goal to teach, or something else?


What is the main idea?

Of course, you need to know what the work is about. What is the topic? What is the author’s main point? What are the main lines of reasoning used?


A rhetorical appeal is a persuasive strategy that an author or speaker uses to support his claims (or in a debate, to respond to opposing arguments). When a speaker or author wants to convince an audience of something, there are three main types of rhetorical appeals that can be used:

Appeal to Credibility: “Why Should I Believe You?”

This is the author’s way of establishing trust with his audience. We tend to believe people whom we respect, and a good writer knows this! One of the central tasks of persuasion is to project an impression to the reader that the author is someone worth listening to, as well as someone who is likable and worthy of respect. Remember when we talked about the speaker in SOAPS and his credibility? This is how an author might use his own credentials to his benefit.

Consider the following:

•A doctor writes an article about health issues. What does she need to include in order to establish trust from her audience?

How did you respond? She should probably include a brief biography about her practice and her medical experience, as well as information about whether she has been practicing for a long time, has done important research, or went to a top school.

•A speaker calls into a talk radio program about military strategy. What should he mention in order to establish credibility with other listeners?

Here are some possibilities: any experience he has had (and how much) in the military or with military strategy, and what he has done to enable him to know what he is talking about. A 4-star general is more likely to be fairly listened to and believed than the soon-to-be Call of Duty tristate area champion.

Appeal to Emotion: “Gee, That Made Me Feel All Warm and Fuzzy”

This is when the author tries to appeal to the reader’s emotions. This allows an author or speaker to connect with an audience by using fear, humor, happiness, disgust, and so on. Imagery and language choice are often big components of appeals to emotion.

•An article about world hunger runs in a magazine. What decisions could the magazine editor make to appeal to her readers’ emotions?

Pictures of starving children or visual charts showing how much food the average family throws away are two possible ways the editor could attempt to tug on heart strings.

•A motivational speaker wants to make an energetic entrance. What could he do (and why)?

Some possibilities: Play upbeat music and run in, have certain people in the audience cheer ridiculously, have a cheesy announcer and balloons falling from the ceiling.

People get excited when other people get excited. Certain things, like balloons, confetti, and fireworks, trigger happiness in us, perhaps due to our childhood. If the speaker runs out with a huge smile on his face and dozens (hundreds?) of screaming fans, it is very likely going to excite his audience—or, at the very least, make them sit up a little straighter and be interested in what he will say next.

Appeal to Logic: “Well, This Just Makes Sense!”

This connects with an audience’s reason or logic. This isn’t logic like the formal logic in math, philosophy, or even computer science; it is the consistency and clarity of an argument as well as the logic of evidence and reasons.

Instead of simply saying, “This is a good idea,” an author of a magazine article about environmental protection could convince her readers of her point by doing what?

Some possibilities: Providing proof of some sort, in the form of data, statistics, expert opinions, testimonials, or other options.

•A salesman wants a husband and wife to buy a washer/dryer pair instead of a single appliance. How might he appeal to their logic?

Discuss the cost benefits of buying two at once versus each one at a different time such as having two brand new appliances that won’t need to be worried about for years, and benefits or discounts that apply only if they buy both the washer and dryer, for example. He could also tell them about the money back guarantee to show that the appliances must be quality if the store is willing to refund their money if they aren’t satisfied. All of these are examples of appeals to logic and reasoning. These are all things that make the couple think, “Well, gee, this just makes sense!”

Once you find all the SOAPS points and examples of appeals, you’ve got what you need for the Reading task. Remember, for the Reading task, ETS wants to see that you understand the text, can identify the central idea/theme of the text, and know how details and examples support that central idea.


Read the following prompt and underline anything that references SOAPS points. There’s a worksheet on this page for you to track your notes, and you can check your answers on this page.

As you read the passage below, consider how President John F. Kennedy uses

•evidence, such as facts or examples, to support claims.

•reasoning to develop ideas and to connect claims and evidence.

•stylistic or persuasive elements, such as word choice or appeals to emotion, to add power to the ideas expressed.

1We set sail on this new sea because there is new knowledge to be gained, and new rights to be won, and they must be won and used for the progress of all people. For space science, like nuclear science and all technology, has no conscience of its own. Whether it will become a force for good or ill depends on man, and only if the United States occupies a position of pre-eminence can we help decide whether this new ocean will be a sea of peace or a new terrifying theater of war. I do not say that we should or will go unprotected against the hostile misuse of space any more than we go unprotected against the hostile use of land or sea, but I do say that space can be explored and mastered without feeding the fires of war, without repeating the mistakes that man has made in extending his writ around this globe of ours.

2There is no strife, no prejudice, no national conflict in outer space as yet. Its hazards are hostile to us all. Its conquest deserves the best of all mankind, and its opportunity for peaceful cooperation many never come again. But why, some say, the moon? Why choose this as our goal? And they may well ask why climb the highest mountain? Why, 35 years ago, fly the Atlantic? Why does Rice play Texas?

3We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.

4It is for these reasons that I regard the decision last year to shift our efforts in space from low to high gear as among the most important decisions that will be made during my incumbency in the office of the Presidency…

5To be sure, we are behind, and will be behind for some time in manned flight. But we do not intend to stay behind, and in this decade, we shall make up and move ahead.

6The growth of our science and education will be enriched by new knowledge of our universe and environment, by new techniques of learning and mapping and observation, by new tools and computers for industry, medicine, the home as well as the school. Technical institutions, such as Rice, will reap the harvest of these gains.

7And finally, the space effort itself, while still in its infancy, has already created a great number of new companies, and tens of thousands of new jobs. Space and related industries are generating new demands in investment and skilled personnel, and this city and this State, and this region, will share greatly in this growth. What was once the furthest outpost on the old frontier of the West will be the furthest outpost on the new frontier of science and space. Houston, your City of Houston, with its Manned Spacecraft Center, will become the heart of a large scientific and engineering community. During the next 5 years the National Aeronautics and Space Administration expects to double the number of scientists and engineers in this area, to increase its outlays for salaries and expenses to $60 million a year; to invest some $200 million in plant and laboratory facilities; and to direct or contract for new space efforts over $1 billion from this Center in this City…

8Many years ago the great British explorer George Mallory, who was to die on Mount Everest, was asked why did he want to climb it. He said, “Because it is there.”

9Well, space is there, and we’re going to climb it, and the moon and the planets are there, and new hopes for knowledge and peace are there. And, therefore, as we set sail we ask God’s blessing on the most hazardous and dangerous and greatest adventure on which man has ever embarked.

Thank you.

(John F. Kennedy. September 12, 1962. Rice Stadium, Houston, TX)

Write an essay in which you explain how President Kennedy builds an argument to expand and move forward with the United States’ space program. In your essay, analyze how Kennedy uses one or more of the features listed above (or features of your own choice) to strengthen the logic and persuasiveness of his argument. Be sure that your analysis focuses on the most relevant aspects of the passage.

Your essay should not explain whether you agree with Kennedy’s claims, but rather explain how the author builds an argument to persuade his audience.


1.Speaker: Who is speaking? What credentials does this person have to make his speech believable?

2.Occasion: What was the reason for President Kennedy to give this particular speech?

3.Audience: Who is the audience for this speech? What do you know about them?

Can you figure anything out about their values based on how President Kennedy speaks to them and what he says?

4.Purpose: What is JFK’s goal?

5.Subject: What is the main idea of the speech?


1.Appeal to Emotion: What does President Kennedy say to appeal to his audience’s emotions?

These words/phrases would appeal to which emotion(s)?

2.Appeal to Logic: What does President Kennedy say to appeal to his audience’s logic and reason?

How might these words/phrases appeal to logic or reason?

Awesome job! Now take a look at this page to see if your ideas can be found within ours and to grab some ideas of things you may have missed. Once you have the main points of the speech, it’s time to start analyzing.


Remember: A good score on one task does not guarantee a good score on another. Doing a good job explaining the main idea of the speech and the details that support that main idea will get you a good Reading score, but now we need to talk about the Analysis Task.

For the Analysis task, you’ll have to determine the pieces of evidence, stylistic elements, or logical reasoning the author uses to effectively achieve his or her objective.

Analyze This,
Analyze That

Critical analysis is a huge
part of the new SAT. For
more information on the
new SAT and how you
can do well, watch the
videos in your online
Premium Portal.

According to ETS, your Analysis score will be based on your ability to:

•analyze the source text and understand the analytical task

•evaluate the author’s use of evidence, reasoning, and/or stylistic and persuasive elements, and/or features chosen by the student

•support claims or points made in the response

•focus on features of the text most relevant to addressing the task

For the second task, you will need to explain the author’s choice and use of specific elements in the essay. It’s not enough to say, “The author uses a quote to appeal to the audience’s reason.” You have to explain how the quote appeals to the audience’s reason. This task is all about the how and why. Look for facts, evidence, literary devices, persuasive elements, and other elements the author has used to form his or her argument.

Here are some common style elements that may show up in the text.

Style Detail




A brief reference to a person, thing, or idea from history, literature, politics, or something with cultural significance.

“Don’t ask him for a donation; he’s a total Scrooge.”
“Chocolate was her Kryptonite.”


Comparing two distinct things; the author/speaker makes a connection between them

“Juliet is the sun.”
“My love is like a red rose.”


The author’s choice of words.

“Skinny” instead of “slender” sounds less flattering.
Slang or vernacular gives a text an informal feel, while a professional vocabulary makes a text feel more formal.


Exaggeration not meant to be taken literally

“I’m so hungry I could eat a horse.”


Using language that appeals to our senses. Visual representation of an object or idea is a common perception of imagery, but imagery actually can create ideas that appeal to all five senses.

“The woman walked by, trailing a thick, cloying cloud of perfume.”
“The percussive thump of the large drums vibrated in her chest as the band marched by.”


Placing two ideas side-by-side in order for the audience to make a comparison or contrast

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…”


Deliberate repetition of a letter, word, or phrase to achieve a specific effect.

We shall not flag or fail. We shall go on to the end. We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air…”

Statistics or quotes

A writer or speaker may add credibility to his or her argument by adding data or quotes from a respected/recognized source.

A quote from the American Academy of Pediatrics in a speech about best practices for carseat use.


How words are put together to achieve a certain effect. First and last words of an idea can be particularly important.

An author who wants to convey a message quickly or urgently might choose to use short, direct sentences, while an author who wants to deliberately slow down a text may use longer, more convoluted sentences.


The attitude of the author/speaker toward the subject

Sarcastic, professional, critical

Note: These devices are deliberately used by the author/speaker for a specific purpose. You will need to know the purposes of the devices and their effects on a text, but you will not need to know the specific names.

Spot the Element

Let’s read the following pieces of text and then identify the rhetorical device used in each.

“…raised herself on one round elbow and looked out on a tiny river like a gleaming blue snake winding itself around a purple hill. Right below the house was a field white as snow with daisies, and the shadow of the huge maple tree that bent over the little house fell lacily across it. Far beyond it were the white crests of Four Winds Harbour and a long range of sunwashed dunes and red cliffs.”

—L.M. Montgomery, The Road to Yesterday

•Which of the five senses is appealed to most strongly in Mongomery’s description of the setting?

If you are thinking vision, then you are correct! Montgomery uses imagery (detailed descriptions) to allow the reader to “see” the setting.

•What literary device does Montgomery use to describe the river and the field of daisies?

Comparisons! Montgomery compares the river to a “gleaming blue snake” and the daisies to a “field white as snow.” These comparisons allow the reader to connect the images to something already in his mind to create more vibrant image.

“Well now, one winter it was so cold that all the geese flew backward and all the fish moved south and even the snow turned blue. Late at night, it got so frigid that all spoken words froze solid afore they could be heard. People had to wait until sunup to find out what folks were talking about the night before.”

•In this excerpt from a tall tale about Paul Bunyan, which literary device is used to great effect?

If you are thinking hyperbole, then you are correct! Think about what the author’s goal for using that particular device might be. Hyperbole helps the author communicate to the reader that it wasn’t just plain old cold. It was incredibly cold. However, instead of just using italics like we just did, the author used the much more creative exaggeration of words freezing in midair to get his point across.

“Jackson pulled back the curtain to look at the rain. ‘Better start building that Ark,’ he said over his shoulder.”

•What does Jackson mean?

He means that it is raining really hard. How would you know that? Jackson says to start building an “ark,” a reference to Noah’s Ark, which he had to build to survive a great flood. What literary device is this? Allusion. An allusion is a reference to something (usually another great work, event, or person) without explicit mention of it.


Now let’s think back to the speech by President Kennedy. Go back and read for stylistic elements. Underline and annotate your passage. When you are done, turn to the this page to check your work.

Here are some examples of style devices and rhetorical elements you may have found in the speech.

Metaphor: JFK uses the metaphor of space as the ocean when he says, “We set sail on this new sea” in the first paragraph. This metaphor is continued later in the paragraph with “whether this new ocean will be a sea of peace.”

In the seventh paragraph, JFK says that Houston will “become the heart” of a large scientific community.

Rice will “reap the harvest” of the new advancements in technology.

Imagery: JFK mentions “feeding the fires of war” which creates the image of war as a dangerous, uncontrollable element of nature.

Syntax: JFK (who is widely remembered for his distinct syntax in his speeches) uses rhetorical questions such as “Why choose this as our goal?” He also uses repetition frequently. He asks several rhetorical questions in a row in the second paragraph. In the third paragraph he repeats the phrase “We choose to go to the moon.”

Allusion: JFK makes an allusion to Charles Lindbergh flying across from New York to Paris on his Spirit of St. Louis plane, completing the first solo crossing of the Atlantic with the words “Why, 35 years ago, fly the Atlantic?”

JFK makes an allusion to Texas being “the furthest outpost on the old frontier of the West.” This refers to the outer line of settlement in the United States moving steadily west and the fact that the location of his speech was, at one point, the furthest west that the country extended.

Statistics and Quotes: JFK mentions specific figures for spending on the new space program such as “$60 million a year” for salaries and expenses, “$200 million” in plant and laboratory facilities, and “over $1 billion” to contract for new space efforts.

Diction: We “choose” to go to the moon instead of “We are going to the moon.”

JFK describes the entire plan to go the moon as an “adventure” instead of “budget line item” or “task” or even “journey.”


Now that you have identified the parts of the speech, appeals, and the literary devices used in the passage on this page, you have to figure out how those come together to create an effective argument.

This chapter ends with a drill that allows you to do just that. Reread President Kennedy’s speech and look over your notes, and then answer the questions starting on this page. When you’re done, turn to this page to see how your answers compare with ours.

Reading and Analysis Drill

Answers and explanations can be found on this page.

1.How did the president’s appeals help make his speech more effective for his listeners? What would have been motivating for them, and why?

2.If he had been speaking to a different audience, would some of these strategies have been less effective? Explain.

3.What is the tone of the passage? How do you know?

4.What are some specific examples of word choice (diction), that make the speech convincing? Can you explain why? What word choices would have meant the same thing, but been less convincing?

5.How does the structure of the speech impact his audience? Does the order in which the ideas are presented affect the argument? Why or why not?

6.What would you consider the three most effective parts of the speech? (These will be the basis for your essay body paragraphs.)


SOAPS and Appeals Drill


1.Speaker: Who is speaking? What credentials does this person have to make his speech believable?

The speaker is the current (1962) President of the United States, John F. Kennedy. The job of the presidency alone carries enough weight for people to listen. However, Kennedy does mention his presidency in lines such as “during my incumbency in the office of the Presidency,” probably to keep that authority in the minds of his listeners.

2.Occasion: What was the reason for President Kennedy to give this particular speech?

JFK wanted to promote and rouse support for the United States’ new space program. In paragraph 4 he says, “…I regard the decision to shift our efforts in space from low to high gear as among the most important decisions made…”

3.Audience: Who is the audience for this speech? What do you know about them?

JFK mentions both Rice University and Houston in his speech, making several references that would be significant to those people. We know that they care about their university and their city, and we know they have school spirit! (In paragraph 2, JFK asks several questions including why climb a mountain, why fly across the Atlantic, and “Why does Rice play Texas?” You can almost imagine the listeners cheering at this reference.)

Can you figure anything out about their values based on how President Kennedy speaks to them and what he says?

We know they value their community because JFK makes several references to the good that this effort will do the locals such as more jobs and a better economy. We know they value education and the furthering of science because JFK discusses the benefit to the scientific community as well as the medical community. We know they value the idea of a God and his goodwill since JFK makes a point to “ask God’s blessing” on his mission.

4.Purpose: What is President Kennedy’s goal?

JFK wants to garner support and excitement for the mission to put a man on the moon. He has come to Houston specifically to try to get the locals on board since they will be incredibly important to the entire effort. Evidence for this is right in the first paragraph.

5.Subject: What is the main idea of the speech?

JFK’s main idea is that putting a man on the moon will not only be positive for the local community, but also something America must do because Americans do not shy away from a challenge.


1.Appeal to Emotion: What does President Kennedy say to appeal to his audience’s emotions?

•JFK discusses how space science will become either a “force for good or ill,” and the outcome depends on humanity. He mentions the need for America to “occupy a position of pre-eminence” so that we can steer the outcome, directly appealing to his audience’s sense of responsibility and patriotism.

•JFK repeatedly discusses that “we choose to go to the moon” not because it is easy but because it is hard. He discusses that it will be “the most hazardous and dangerous and greatest adventure on which man has ever embarked.”

•JFK uses words like “set sail” and “furthest outpost” and “old frontier of the West.” These would appeal to the adventurous spirit.

•JFK tells his listeners that there is knowledge to be gained for “all people,” and that space is “hostile to us all.” That would effectively pull people together and inspire unity.

•JFK discusses “Rice play[ing] Texas” as an example of something that is hard, but is done anyway. (Here he is referring to their football teams competing since Texas historically has a good football team and Rice, not so much.) Pride! Go team!

•JFK asks for “God’s blessing on the…adventure.” Christian values.

2.Appeal to Logic: What does President Kennedy say to appeal to his audience’s logic and reason?

•He makes a reference to “35 years ago, fly[ing] the Atlantic.” This shows the audience that there have been things in the past that we felt were impossible and dangerous that are now commonplace to us. Flying across the Atlantic Ocean is a logical comparison to space travel.

•He discusses how “science and education will be enriched by new knowledge” as well as many other references to the benefits of space travel and space science including to Rice University specifically. By showing the benefits to the scientific community, he gives people an understanding that the benefits are worth the risks and costs. It also gives them a personal stake in the decision for any that work or attend Rice University in the science fields.

•He reassures the audience that we will not “go unprotected.” This makes his audience feel as if it is not a hasty and unreasonably unsafe decision. Appeals to those that might be dubious towards the prospect of space exploration.

•He mentions how many jobs have already been created and how the region and the state will flourish as “the heart of a large scientific and engineering community.” The long-term benefits to the Houston area are clearly positive outcomes.

Reading and Analysis Drill

Here are some possible answers to the previous questions. Yours may or may not match—these answers are possible answers, not the only right answers.

1.The president’s appeals to emotion fill his listeners with a sense of participation in the “adventure” that is putting a man on the moon. The listeners are not simply listening to a government official explain why he made a decision; they are made to feel pride, unity, control, and patriotism. The president’s words make the listener feel as if he, as an American, is brave for taking this on. The listener feels like a pioneer who is doing what his ancestors before him did: exploring the unknown. The president’s appeals to logic motivate the listeners to support the mission because of all the prosperity it will bring their community. First, the president helps them understand that goals that have seemed as impossible in the past have been accomplished to quell any doubters. Then, he details all of the wonderful things that will take place in Houston when the change takes place and for many years to come.

2.Had the president been speaking to a Portuguese audience, it is much less likely that they would have been excited about American patriotism or felt any nostalgia for the American pioneering heritage. Even if the president had simply been in another state, all of the details about how Houston will benefit would not have been as effective. What do the residents of Cheyenne, Wyoming, care about jobs in Houston?

3.The tone of this passage is inspiring and determined. The passage begins with the phrase “We set sail on this new sea,” which conveys the idea of exploration and discovery, connecting the earliest explorers and founders of America. Although Kennedy acknowledges the uncertainty surrounding such a venture (exploring space), his tone is confident and self-assured: “I do say that space can be explored and mastered”; “We choose to go to the moon…and do other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard…”; “…we shall make up and move ahead.” Finally, he ends with a short anecdote about the British explorer George Mallory, who explained his reasons for climbing Mount Everest as such: “Because it is there.” Kennedy’s words are infused with an adventurous spirit, a perseverance in the face of challenges, that encapsulates the philosophical underpinnings of the United States.

4.When the president chose to use the word “choose” in the famous line “We choose to go to the moon,” he was making a wise choice. Or perhaps it was the president’s speechwriter—but either way, this word is more powerful than had he said something like “We probably should go to the moon” or “We can try to go to the moon.” The word choose puts the power of choice in the listener. When people believe they are choosing something (even if a speaker tells them they are choosing it), they feel empowered. Another example of diction that made the speech convincing is the president’s use of the word “adventure” in his concluding remarks. In describing his mission to put a man on the moon as an “adventure” he avoided the negative doubts of some listeners. “Adventure” is positive and exciting. He could have said “we ask God’s blessing on the…most expensive decision on which man has embarked” or “on the…overwhelming task” both of which would leave the listener with a sense of cynicism or uncertainty. There are lots of great choices for convincing diction in this speech, so if you found another example, that’s great!

5.The order of Kennedy’s speech is carefully constructed to emotionally captivate the listener. This is a skill that political speechwriters must have, or they will probably not keep their jobs very long. Kennedy’s opening brings the listeners in by making them feel as if space exploration is their responsibility (which makes them continue to listen earnestly). The middle of the speech addresses doubts and concerns, which reassures people and makes them feel as if Kennedy is forthright. The ending discusses the benefits that the listeners will reap and wraps up with a tie in to several previously mentioned points, which gives the speech a nice closure. In his last sentence, Kennedy entreats God for a blessing, which ends the speech on a humble note. All of these pieces fit together in exactly that order to ensure that the listener will feel all of those things. If Kennedy had begun humble and ended doubtful, the listeners would get the feeling that he wasn’t very confident.

6.There is no correct response here as there are many possible answers. Here are three of the effective parts of the speech that you could write about. However, if you wrote a different set of three, that’s fine. You should pick whichever three seemed the most effective to you.

1.Nostalgia for the listener’s pioneering heritage (Appeal to Emotion)

2.Addressing the concern that America is already behind in the space race (Appeal to Logic)

3.Pointing out the local benefits (Appeal to Logic)


○The essay may be “optional,” but you should always opt to take it—especially if you’re not sure whether the schools you’re applying to require it. It’s better to be safe than sorry—and to sit for an extra 50 minutes once rather than have to sit for the entire test a second time after finding out you need the essay to apply to your dream school!

○The Essay is comprised of three separate tasks that will be scored individually: Reading, Analysis, and Writing.

○The essay on the redesigned SAT does not require you to agree or disagree with a position or to write about a personal experience. Instead, you will have to read a passage and analyze how the author builds his or her argument.

○To score well on the Reading portion, you will have to be able to identify (in your essay) the main idea and supporting details of the text. Think SOAPS:






○To score well on the Analysis portion, you will have to be able to explain (in your essay) how the author uses specific style elements and rhetorical devices to create an effective argument.

○While reading and analyzing the passage, you should also think about whether the author makes any kind of appeal (to credibility, to emotion, to logic?) to his or her audience.