Summer Tip #2: Get Those Essay Examples Ready

Flash forward to the SAT or ACT. You sit down and open your test booklet, only to be confronted by the trickiest essay topic known to man:

Is strong moral character the most important qualification for a leader? Plan and write an essay in which you develop your point of view on this issue. Support your position with reasoning and examples taken from your reading, studies, experience, or observations.

You freeze, panicked. What are you going to write about? Sure, you know a little bit about Galileo from that report you did at the beginning of sophomore year, but now you’re a junior–and you’re having trouble remembering whether Galileo was famous for his contributions to astronomy or botany. You’re sure it was one of those! Or are you thinking of Linnaeus?  Maybe you’re thinking of Marie Curie. Or Abraham Lincoln.

While the above is clearly an exaggeration, you’d be surprised how many COMPLETELY RIDICULOUS essays get written. You should be walking into the SAT or ACT with at least three academic examples ready to go. I’d recommend having five. If you have five examples prepped, at least two of them will fit the essay prompt–and if you pick the right examples, you might even have a few different options!

Prepping examples in advance is key. If you are aiming for a high score on your essay, you must know details about your example. Writing that “Martin Luther King Jr. did a lot for the Civil Rights movement” is considerably less impressive than “Martin Luther King Jr. organized peaceful protests, founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, led the March on Washington, and delivered the iconic ‘I Have a Dream’ speech.” That first sentence belongs in an 8 essay. The second will earn you a 12.

My students always complain about the amount of research required to write a solid paragraph, to which I have two responses:

You don’t actually need to know that much. The equivalent of the top part of a Wikipedia page is usually more than enough info to write a decent SAT or ACT essay paragraph.

Knowing stuff is awesome. History and literature are dense, fascinating subjects–doesn’t it make sense to bulk up on your knowledge now? There are incredible biographies to read and documentaries to watch. Don’t stick yourself with boring reading! Find something fascinating and explore it. It will help you on your essay, and it will help you become a more informed, interesting person.

Go above and beyond. Pick a few characters from history and a few from books. Learn about them. Rock the SAT or ACT and be a more knowledgeable person. Trust me–you’ll be glad that you did.

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