Sat Essay Prompts May 2012

Paul Bogard, a respected and passionate writer, offers a convincing argument on the importance of allowing more darkness to fill the earth for distinct health and ecological reasons. With light providing as such a huge factor in daily life, we sometimes forget that darkness can have more healing abilities, and allows nature to return to a nonartificial, primitive state. Bogard uses personal observation for credibility, stirring feelings, and startling facts to deliver a powerful argument.

Throughout the passage, Bogard remains nostalgic about his childhood: “At my family’s cabin on a Minnesota lake, I knew woods so dark that my hands disappeared before my eyes. I knew night skies in which meteors left smoky trails across sugary spreads of stars....This winter solstice, as we cheer the days’ gradual movement back toward light, let us also remember the irreplaceable value of darkness.” The description of nature and the stunningly beautiful imagery creates a feeling of deep respect for the darkness. We share in Bogard’s view and as a result, Bogard has undeniable credibility. Bogard knows the power of darkness and through his childhood memories, we lean our ears to listen to him.

Even though credibility makes many appearences throughout the passage, it would have no real meaning without evoking emotion. Bogard strikes the people who disagree with him when he says, “Our bodies need darkness to produce the hormone melatonin, which keeps certain cancers from developing and our bodies need darkness for sleep. Sleep disorders have been linked to diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease and depression, and recent research suggests one main cause of ‘short sleep’ is ‘long light’.” Bogard’s statement dissolves any doubt, but builds up new feeling. We finally see the true importance of allowing our world to temporarily succumb to darkness. Through the emotion Bogard evokes, we suddenly feel defensive in preserving the darkness for the sake of our mental and physical health. Bogard even makes us think about the future generations: “In a world awash with electric light...how would Van Gogh have given the world his ‘starry night’? Who knows what this vision of the night sky must inspire in each of us, in our children or grandchildren?”

In order to achieve proper credibility and stir emotion, undeniable facts must reside in passage. Bogard has completed his research, and uses it to further his case: “The rest of the world depends on darkness as well, including nocturnal and crepuscular species of birds, insects, mammals, fish, and reptiles. Some examples are well known—the 400 species of birds that migrate at night in North America, the sea turtles that come to lay their eggs—and some are not, such as the bats that save American farmers billions in pest control and the moths that pollinate 80% of the world’s flora.” Using the facts about animals, Bogard extends the argument beyond humans, allowing us to see that darkness does not only have an impact on us, but all of nature. Bogard then says, “In the United States and Western Europe, the amount of light in the sky increases an average of about 6% every year.... Much of this light is wasted energy, which means wasted dollars. Those of us over 35 are perhaps among the last generation to have known truly dark nights.” However, Bogard extends the facts to offer various solutions to wasted and excessive light, such as changing LED streetlights and reducing the use of lights in public buildings and homes during the night. Bogard builds up our world, and then breaks it down in our minds with his writing: “Simply put, without darkness, Earth’s ecology would collapse....”

We can still save our world according to Bogard. We must see the strength and beauty in the darkness, and remember how our world survived without lights. Light can be acceptable, but too much of it can prove worse than permanent darkness.

This response scored a 4/3/4.

Reading—4: This response demonstrates thorough comprehension of Bogard’s text. The writer captures the central idea of the source passage (the importance of allowing more darkness to fill the earth for distinct health and ecological reasons) and accurately quotes and paraphrases many important details from the passage. Moreover, the writer demonstrates an understanding of how these ideas and details interrelate. In the third body paragraph, for example, the writer shows the movement of Bogard’s argument from humans to animals and from problems to solutions (Using facts about animals, Bogard extends the argument beyond humans...Bogard extends the facts to offer various solutions). The response is free of errors of fact and interpretation. Overall, this response demonstrates advanced reading comprehension.

Analysis—3: The writer demonstrates an understanding of the analytical task by analyzing three ways Bogard builds his argument (personal observation for credibility, stirring feelings, and startling facts to deliver a powerful argument). Throughout the response, the writer discusses Bogard’s use of these three elements and is able to move past asserting their significance to deliver an effective analysis of the effects of these techniques on Bogard’s audience. Effective analysis is evident in the first body paragraph in which the writer discusses the audience’s possible reaction to reading about Bogard’s experience with darkness as a child (Bogard knows the power of darkness and through his childhood memories, we lean our ears to listen to him). In the second body paragraph, the writer contends that Bogard’s statement dissolves any doubt, but builds up new feeling. We finally see the true importance of allowing our world to temporarily succumb to darkness. Through the emotion Bogard evokes, we suddenly feel defensive in preserving the darkness for the sake of our mental and physical health. These points of analysis would have been stronger had the writer elaborated on how they work to build Bogard’s argument. However, the writer competently evaluates Bogard’s use of personal observation, emotions, and facts and provides relevant and sufficient support for each claim, demonstrating effective analysis.

Writing—4: The writer demonstrates highly effective use and command of language in this cohesive response. The response includes a precise central claim (Bogard uses personal observation for credibility, stirring feelings, and startling facts to deliver a powerful argument), and each of the subsequent paragraphs remains focused on one of the topics set forth in that central claim. There is a deliberate progression of ideas both within paragraphs and throughout the response. Moreover, the response demonstrates precise word choice and sophisticated turns of phrase (temporarily succumb to darkness, remains nostalgic about his childhood, dissolves any doubt). The concluding paragraph develops the essay rather than just restating what has been said and is also successful for its precise word choice and complex sentence structures (We must see the strength and beauty in the darkness, and remember how our world survived without lights. Light can be acceptable, but too much of it can prove worse than permanent darkness). Although there are occasional missteps where the writer overreaches with language (In order to achieve proper credibility and stir emotion, undeniable facts must reside in the passage), overall, this response demonstrates advanced writing skill. 

On the optional SAT Essay section, you have 50 minutes to analyze the argument an author puts forth in a passage. The content of the given passage remains a secret until you see it on test day, but you do have an opportunity to learn about SAT Essay prompts as you prep for the test. Studying the elements of SAT writing prompts can help you lay the groundwork for a stellar essay.

Elements of the SAT Essay Prompt
All of the optional SAT Essay prompts adhere to the same basic template. First, the prompt instructs you to consider how the author of the passage uses evidence (examples or facts) to support their claims. Secondly, you’re asked to consider the author’s idea development as well as how they connect their claims with evidence. Third, you must consider the author’s use of elements such as their word choice to enhance their ideas. Though these are the basic elements of all SAT writing prompts, the passages vary from one exam to the next.

What to Expect in the Passage Given for the SAT Essay
The practice Essay prompts that are available reveal some of what to expect on the actual test. For example, one practice prompt may ask you to analyze a portion of a speech made by Martin Luther King Jr. on the injustice of the Vietnam War. Another may be a prompt connected to a passage from a book written by President Jimmy Carter, asking you to analyze his argument against the industrial development of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Other passages available for students to use to practice their writing skills before taking the SAT are pieces written by contemporary authors such as Paul Bogard and Eliana Dockterman. But keep in mind that when responding to every SAT Essay prompt, the content of the passage is not as important as the quality of the author’s argument.

Preparing to Write Your Essay
The best way to prepare for the new SAT Essay is to practice writing essays with sample SAT writing prompts in mind. Also, get into the habit of jotting down notes as you read the passage. These notes can help you to include evidence that supports your analysis of the author’s argument.

Creating an outline before writing your practice essay is another effective way to prepare for this task. The typical outline features four parts: an introductory paragraph that includes your thesis sentence, a paragraph offering specific examples that support your thesis, a third paragraph covering details of how these examples support your thesis, and a concluding paragraph restating your thesis. Dedicating several minutes to creating an outline for your essay is worth your effort. If you happen to lose your train of thought while writing the actual essay, you can look at your outline to get back on track.

The Ingredients in a High-Scoring SAT Essay
In addition to studying the available SAT Essay prompts, it’s a smart idea to read several essays that received high scores. The new SAT Essay rubric reveals the specific features an essay must have in order to earn a high score. Write your essay using a practice prompt, then evaluate your piece using the rubric to get an idea of how you would have scored. By doing this, you can determine what needs to be put into and left out of your essay in order to earn a high score.

Want to practice with the best? The SAT instructors at Veritas Prep are experts at crafting high-scoring essays. We hire tutors who scored in the 99th percentile on the SAT, so you’ll have access to teachers who know tips and tricks to simplify the essay-writing process. We’ll critique your practice essays and provide you with strategies for crafting a solid analysis of the passage.

We also offer free tutorials to give you an idea of how we can help you prepare for the SAT Essay section as well as all other parts of the test. And when you sign up with Veritas Prep, you can take advantage of either online or in-person courses for your convenience. Give us a call and let our instructors give you the advantage on the new SAT Essay section!

Still need to take the SAT? Check out our variety of free SAT resourcesto help you study successfully. And be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and Twitter!

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