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Anika Manzoor

New SAT Essay Response, Score of 6

Hey SAT practicers! If you’re just joining us, this is Part 2 of a series of essay attempts to this new SAT essay practice prompt. If you haven’t done so already, try your hand at the essay first and then see how it compares to this essay and an 8-point essay. For reminders on how the new SAT is scored, you can go here. Also, if you simply can’t get enough of new SAT essay prompts, you can find another one here. Let’s get to writing!

Example 6-point New SAT Essay

In Barbara Ehrenreich’s article “The Selfish Side of Gratitude,” she argues that expressing gratitude has become a selfish act. Ehrenreich uses evidence from popular news sources, real world events and appeal to emotion to argue her thesis.

The first example Ehrenreich uses to show that gratitude has a selfish side is evidence from a popular news site. She says “much of the gratitude advice involves no communication or interaction of any kind” and then uses a CNN article from a yoga instructor to show that this is the case. If one looks at the advice, one will see that Ehrenreich has a point because the advice doesn’t mention showing gratitude to other people at all. This example is effective because it shows that the media is influencing our perception of gratitude and making us selfish about it.

Ehrenreich also uses real world events to show why gratitude has become a selfish act. She talks about the financial crash of 2008 and how it’s related to gratitude (“The financial crash of 2008 further dimmed the luster of positive thinking…This left the self-improvement field open to more cautious stances, like mindfulness and resilience and — for those who could still muster it — gratitude”). By discussing such a famous event, Ehrenreich not only grabs the audience’s attention, but shows how gratitude is related to the problematic way of thinking (positive thinking) that caused the horrible event in the first place.

Finally, Ehrenreich appeals to the emotions when she talks about how we need to show gratitude to other people. She says “there is a need for more gratitude, especially from those who have a roof over their heads and food on their table” which implies that rich people need to be more grateful to the poor people that help us. Then, she provides a lot of details about all the people that are involved in providing meals and how they have “aching backs and tenuous finances”. All these details about how tough the jobs of these people are and how they make up whole communities is heart-renching. Ehrenreich’s appeal to emotion is effective because it forces us to admit that not enough people show their gratitude to others in the way that Ehrenreich is describing.

Overall, Ehrenreich does a good job about making us realize that gratitude has a selfish side. She does that through using evidence in the form of popular news sources, real world events, and appeals to emotion.

Why this essay would receive an 6

If you were to talk to a College Board essay grader, I believe the key word you would hear from them in describing this essay is “competent.” Although there’s definite room for improvement, the writer showed competence in all three grading categories.

  • Reading comprehension: In all the examples the writer used in their essay, the writer shows a solid understanding of the passage through paraphrasing and direct quotes from the passage. However, the writer could also have provided more details in their paraphrasing for a higher score. For example, the writer could have included quotes from the yoga instructor to bolster the statement “the advice doesn’t mention showing gratitude to other people at all.”
  • Analysis: The writer also had a good understanding of what they were supposed to analyze. They discussed concrete examples taken from the text and explained what they served to do. For a higher score, the writer could have further developed details used from the passage (e.g. use better or additional evidence that linked the 2008 financial crash to gratitude) or elaborated further on the effectiveness of the examples they used (e.g. why exactly does “[forcing] us to admit that not enough people show their gratitude to others in the way that Ehrenreich is describing” prove that gratitude is selfish?)
  • Writing: The writer has a good knowledge of how to organize their essay (though it might be too formulaic) and can more or less express themself clearly. Sometimes, however, they lapse into common speech (“…Ehrenreich appeals to the emotions when she talks about…”) and makes noticeable punctuation errors.


About Anika Manzoor

A 2013 graduate of Grinnell College, Anika dedicated her first few years as a newly-minted professional to teaching. In addition to being an SAT instructor, she served as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant at a Malaysian secondary school for two years. Considering that both opportunities allowed her to explore fun ways to teach and relate to students who were otherwise bored out of their minds, she is excited to share that expertise on the Magoosh High School blog.

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