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Elise Gout

SAT Essay Theme: Groups and Society

Welcome to another installment of our 10 SAT Essay Theme Guides series! Today we’re discussing the theme, “groups and society.”

One of the most common first impressions to get when looking at a “Groups and Society” prompt is, “Oh boy, this could get controversial.” And you aren’t wrong. Essays of this genre definitely ask some of the tougher questions, particularly relevant and applicable to the issues of today. Now that may seem like daunting stuff…


…but “Groups and Society” is actually one of the least intimidating sections. Why? Because you will almost always have a lot to write about. And if you aren’t convinced yet, this overview will change your mind:

Past Prompts:

Should the government be responsible for making sure that people lead healthy lives?

Should people take more responsibility for solving problems that affect their communities or the nation in general?

Does accepting the values of a group allow people to avoid taking responsibility for their own thoughts and actions?

Do groups that encourage nonconformity and disagreement function better than those that discourage it?

Is it always harmful for an individual to think and live as other people do?

Can a small group of concerned individuals have a significant impact on the world?

Do people put too much trust in the guidance of experts and authorities?

Does tradition prevent people from doing things in new or more sensible ways?

Are people too willing to agree with those in charge?


Recommended Readings:

The Giver (book)

This one is a given. (Get it? Giver… Given…I crack myself up.) For those of you who haven’t already read it in middle school, The Giver follows an eleven-year-old Jonas living in a futuristic society that has eliminated all individuality, creating what they believe to be a controlled utopia. Through working with an old gentleman, the Giver, Jonas must receive all former memories of the town prior to these restrictions, exposing him to the ongoing injustice. He faces the challenge of having to either abide by the rules governing around him or defy the inhumanity that he has been raised to accept.

Schindler’s List (book and movie)

Schindler’s List is based on the true story of Nazi Czech businessman Oskar Schindler, who used Jewish labor to start a factory in Poland during World War II. As the war progresses, and the future of Jewish residents grows exceedingly grim, Schindler’s motivations switch from profit to providing aid. Risking his future by working directly against the present Nazi regime, Schindler is able to save countless Jews from eminent capture.

To Kill a Mockingbird (book)

Another 7th grade staple, To Kill a Mockingbird addresses the racial tension prominent in the south during the backdrop of the Great Depression. Told from the point of view of young Scout, the story unfolds as her father, the well respected Atticus Finch, choses to defend a black man in court against fabricated rape charges.

1984 (book)

In this dystopian novel, Winston Smith (and the rest of society) lives beneath the tyrannical power Big Brother. Smith, who works in the Records Department in the Ministry of Truth to rewrite and distort history, comes to find subtle ways to rebel for the sake of maintaining his own humanity.

Any applicable historical event or political happening

Every day, you’re surrounded by evidence for essays. If you’re educated about particular political groups, nonprofit organizations, or current events, don’t hesitate to bring them up (providing valid context and applicable analysis, of course). Some examples may include: the efforts of the World Wildlife Fund, Snowden’s unveiling of NSA information, or the protests occurring in Ferguson, Missouri.


Example Outline

Prompt: Can a small group of concerned individuals have a significant impact on the world?

Thesis: No matter the potential scope of the issue, positive change is almost always instigated first by individuals or small groups of people intent on pursuing justice.

Evidence 1: Even though he was up against the the highly oppressive Nazi party, Oskar Schindler, as depicted in Schindler’s List, managed to save the lives of over one hundred Jews.

Evidence 2: It is because of the efforts of the dedicated Atticus Finch that race is brought into greater conversation within the novel, To Kill a Mockingbird.

Evidence 3: Pakistani Nobel laureate Malala Yousafzi has and continues to shape the world through her advocacy for human rights, particularly equal education opportunities for women.


Example Essay

Sample Essay 1 of this PDF does a great job in showing how to introduce examples and support them well with a strong connection back to the prompt.


Common Mistakes

  1. Getting carried away. It’s really great to have a strong opinion about the prompt that you are presented with. However, keep in mind that you still need to provide concrete support to your claims and establish a respectable, academic voice.
  2. Feeling confined in your answer. Some prompts are really going to seem to be leaning towards a certain side, but you shouldn’t let the biased tone of a question throw you off. More often than not, arguing effectively for the “less popular” side will only help set you apart from the rest.
  3. Failing to recognize counter arguments. Because this essay theme can generate quite the hot topic issue, it’s really important that you provide acknowledgement to the other points of view. Not only will this give you more to write about, but it will also show depth to your understanding of the prompt as a whole.


The Takeaway

There aren’t many other essay themes that pull at your activist heart-strings the way that this one does. Instead of freezing under the pressure of a seemingly-intense question, embrace the opportunity to be passionate. (After all, the SAT and passion are hardly ever synonymous.)


About Elise Gout

Elise writes articles for the Magoosh SAT blog to help teenagers during an exciting time in their lives. Despite residing in Southern California, where she attends San Dieguito Academy high school, she has no surfing abilities whatsoever; it’s actually rather sad. She is your typical senior high school girl who sword fights daily, and is pretty much convinced that bananas are a food sent from heaven. Elise will attend Columbia University next fall to study environmental science.

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