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Chris Lele

New SAT Essay: Example Types to Avoid

Having a go-to list of examples to use when writing your SAT essay is extremely helpful. However, there are some example types you should try to replace with better ones. While the New SAT essay grades you on how you use the example, you can attain a higher score if you choose an example that gives you more options. After all, you want to submit an essay with high scoring potential, unique qualities, and low risk. Here are some things that can muddle up your essay and how you could avoid them.

Bottom Line: Your Example Bank should contain some uncommon examples. Common examples are fine, but try and use them differently to set yourself apart.

Overused SAT Essay Examples

Any scorer can virtually guarantee that these will spring up, no matter the topic. This happens because students are so familiar with them, and feel comfortable using them in a rush. While it’s important to choose familiar examples, these may not always work.

  • Whoever reads your essay will be familiar with any of these. Therefore, they’ll notice if you just gloss over it, use it haphazardly, or fudge the details.
  • The essays that use these tend to look common and dull. It’s hard to impress a scorer when they’re already reading so many arguments about the same thing.

Twisting The Great Gatsby to fit a topic about technology is quite a stretch and creates a weak argument. These essays clearly indicate panic and poor preparation. They also show a lack of originality. Don’t you want to look innovative?!

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Now, I have given top scores (11-12) to essays that used these examples, but they really killed it.

  • The prompt was: . Her thesis (unfortunately, I don’t have it front of me) was something along the lines of: . She clearly chose The Great Gatsby because the novel’s theme fit the essay’s theme. However, she used it as the only example throughout the entire essay, and went in great depth to prove her thesis. So this student used The Great Gatsby, but really made it work to her advantage. She submitted a strong, convincing, well-put-together essay, ultimately setting herself apart from the rest of the pile.


SAT Essay Examples That Are a Little Too Popular:

  • History
    • World War II, Gandhi, George Washington, Martin Luther King, Jr.
    • Anything to do with Abraham Lincoln. He gets his own bullet point because he seriously, deeply, ridiculously popular in SAT essays. This makes sense, since most test-takers are juniors studying U.S. History in school. On top of that, the Lincoln era, slavery, and emancipation are already eminent topics in American culture, so they readily spring to mind.
  • Literature: Of Mice & Men, The Great Gatsby, To Kill a Mockingbird, Romeo & Juliet

Understandably, test-takers pick these because they are commonly and extensively covered in their school curriculum. Also, they’ve probably seen the movies.

Using Common Essay Examples

It’s OK to have some of the especially popular, commonlyused examples in your bank. You may want to actually use one of these on test day. Just remember:

  • These examples are worth using if you can write about them in a unique way. That shows that you really thought about the example in a way that relates to the argument.
  • Themes are especially important because that’s what ties a novel to your essay topic. List the key themes for each work and think about how they relate to common SAT essay themes.
  • Prepare them and know them front and back. You should use The Great Gatsby only if it’s the best possible fit, not because it’s the only example in your pocket. So to really stand out, know the themes, setting, and character details of these works—not just the plot basics.
  • Common historical examples—these have a million angles to them. If you can find a different aspect of the one you’re using and not be too general, you get something more specific and tailored to an essay.


Controversial Examples on the New SAT Essay

This isn’t in the rubric, but you may want to avoid taking highly controversial or widely criticized views on topics. You want to get behind a position you can defend effectively and credibly.


About Chris Lele

Chris Lele is the GRE and SAT Curriculum Manager (and vocabulary wizard) at Magoosh Online Test Prep. In his time at Magoosh, he has inspired countless students across the globe, turning what is otherwise a daunting experience into an opportunity for learning, growth, and fun. Some of his students have even gone on to get near perfect scores. Chris is also very popular on the internet. His GRE channel on YouTube has over 10 million views. You can read Chris's awesome blog posts on the Magoosh GRE blog and High School blog! You can follow him on Twitter and Facebook!

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