To ace the SAT essay, you have to know what to expect. Although you can't know exactly what question you'll be asked to write on, you can study those that have appeared on previous SATs. To make it easier, we've categorized the nine most common SAT essay themes below, based on the SATs from the past 5 years. We recommend prepping for the SAT essay by writing at least one 4- or 5-paragraph essay, giving specific examples and clear explanations, for each of the sample questions below.

1. Independent Thinking vs. Conformism

Should we learn for ourselves or learn from others? What is the value of creative thinking?

2. Truthfulness

Is honesty always the best policy? Is truth (or the value of truth) relative?

3. Selfishness/Competition vs. Generosity/Cooperation

Can competition or selfishness be good?

4. Change

How and why do people change? Is change good or necessary?

5. Success vs. Failure

What and how can we learn from our failures? What is success, and how can we achieve it?

6. Learning from Different Perspectives

Are our biases harmful? Can we benefit from the perspectives of others?

7. Responsibility

What are our responsibilities to ourselves and to our society?

8. Evaluating Modern History

What do you think of the world today and how it's changing?

9. Decision Making

How can we make sound decisions? What guides our decision-making process?