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SAT Essay Help: Reviewing Assignments by Theme

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Updated on Dec 20, 2010

Since the SAT essay was introduced, there have been nearly 100 prompts and assignments. They can be grouped into nine themes: Individuality versus Groups, Authority/Heroes, Creativity/Originality, Success, Modern Society, Choices/Problem Solving, Past versus Present, Behaviors and Emotions, and Learning. Following, you'll find the assignments paraphrased and grouped within these themes.

Individuality versus Groups

  • Do people need to compare themselves with others to appreciate what they have?
  • Are widely held views likely to be correct or are they often wrong?
  • Is there any value in belonging only to groups with which we have something in common?
  • Is it necessary for people to combine their efforts with those of others in order to be most effective?
  • Are organizations or groups most successful when their members pursue individual wishes and goals?
  • Is it always best to determine one's own views of right and wrong, or can we benefit from following the crowd?
  • Do society and other people benefit when individuals pursue their own goals?
  • Is it more valuable for people to fit in than to be unique and different?
  • Are people more likely to be productive and successful when they ignore the opinions of others?
  • Do we put too much value on the ideas or actions of individual people?

Authority/Heroes

  • Should we pay more attention to people who are older and more experienced than we are?
  • Can a group of people function effectively without someone being in charge?
  • Is it important to question the ideas and decisions of people in positions of authority?
  • Should society limit people's exposure to some kinds of information or forms of expression?
  • Do we benefit from learning about the flaws of people we admire and respect?
  • Are people's actions motivated primarily by a desire for power over others?
  • Should we limit our use of the term courage to describe people who risk their own well-being for the sake of others or to uphold a value?
  • Should we admire heroes but not celebrities?
  • Is there a value in celebrating certain individuals as heroes?
  • Does fame bring happiness, or are people who are not famous more likely to be happy?

Creativity/Originality

  • Is it always better to be original than to imitate or use the ideas of others?
  • Is it better for a society when people act as individuals rather than copying the ideas and opinions of others?
  • Is creativity needed more than ever in the world today?
  • Do people achieve greatness only by finding out what they are especially good at and developing that attribute above all else?
  • Can people ever be truly original?
  • Does planning interfere with creativity?

Success

  • Do people truly benefit from hardship and misfortune?
  • Do people place too much emphasis on winning?
  • Does being ethical make it hard to be successful?
  • Is persistence more important than ability in determining a person's success?
  • Is the effort involved in pursuing any goal valuable, even if the goal is not reached?
  • Is it more important to do work that one finds fulfilling or work that pays well?
  • Do people achieve more success by cooperation than by competition?
  • Is it best for people to accept who they are and what they have, or should people always strive to better themselves?
  • Do success and happiness depend on the choices people make rather than on factors beyond their control?
  • Is criticism—judging or finding fault with the ideas and actions of others—essential for personal well-being and social progress?
  • Do highly accomplished people achieve more than others mainly because they expect more of themselves?
  • Can people achieve success only if they aim to be perfect?
  • Is it best to have low expectations and to set goals we are sure of achieving?
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