The phrase “knock yourself out” definitely applies to the SAT essay. Those plucky, indefatigable types will write essay after essay. And there’s no shortage—the College Board releases four essay prompts after each test. Over the course of years, you have well over a hundred prompts to choose from.
The point of this post is not for you to find all those prompts and then go into aggro essay writing mode. Rather, by writing a number of essays you will notice recurrent themes: Heroes, Success, Individuality vs. Conformity, Technology/Progress, Tradition, and Heroes.
Knowing the range of prompts can prepare you for test day. Even better, if you know more or less what the prompt is going to be about you can prepare your examples beforehand. That’s right! Instead of scrambling to come up with cogent, well thought out examples, spend those precious 25 minutes actually writing.
Wait a second…how can one example apply to all these different things?
Don’t worry, I ‘m not asking you to put together one cookie cutter example in the quixotic hope that it’ll happen to apply to the prompt. Instead, you should have trusted sources from which to draw your example from.
For instance, one of my students used Harper Lee’s novel To Kill a Mockingbird for any essay prompt I threw at her. She would of course only use one TKMB example per essay; it was unfailingly apt. Most of the time these examples were pretty similar and all related to Scout and Atticus. Of course the College Board won’t know this while they are grading your essay.
A range of sources
It is a good idea to make sure all of your sources aren’t for literature. I encourage students to come up with a current event or two, and a historical event or two. The key is that you know your sources well. (To illustrate I’ve appended a list below).
So sit back and think of a novel you read recently (and liked), or some current event that really grabbed your attention. Then to see if it translates well to SAT essay land, the link below will take you to a page covering all the SAT prompts since 2005. As they say, “knock yourself out”: http://talk.collegeconfidential.com/sat-preparation/764514-sat-essay-prompt-archetypes.html
FDR’s leadership during the Great Depression
Napoleon’s ill-fated siege of Moscow during winter
BP oil spill
Japanese earthquake and tsunami
Lord of the Flies