SAT Scoring Samples*

The SAT essay measures your ability to:

Develop a point of view on an issue presented in an excerpt support your point of view using reasoning and examples from your reading, studies, experience, or observations follow the conventions of standard written English. The essay will be scored by trained high school and college teachers. Each reader will give the essay a score from 1 to 6 (6 is the highest score) based on the overall quality of the essay and your demonstration of writing competence.

The essay gives you an opportunity to show how effectively you can develop and express ideas. You should, therefore, take care to develop your point of view, present your ideas logically and clearly, and use language precisely.

Your essay must be written on the lines provided on your answer sheet-you will receive no other paper on which to write. You will have enough space if you write on every line, avoid wide margins, and keep your handwriting to a reasonable size. Remember that people who are not familiar with your handwriting will read what you write. Try to write or print so that what you are writing is legible to those readers.

  • A pencil is required for the essay. An essay written in ink will receive a score of zero.
  • Do not write your essay in your test book. You will receive credit only for what you write on your answer sheet.
  • An off-topic essay will receive a score of zero.
  • If your essay does not reflect your original and individual work, your test scores may be canceled.

You have twenty-five minutes to write an essay on the topic assigned below.

 

Think carefully about the issue presented in the following excerpt and the assignment below.

Many persons believe that to move up the ladder of success and achievement, they must forget the past, repress it, and relinquish it. But others have just the opposite view. They see old memories as a chance to reckon with the past and integrate past and present.

—Adapted from Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot, I’ve Known Rivers: Lives of Loss and Liberation

Do memories hinder or help people in their effort to learn from the past and succeed in the present? 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.

The essay is scored by experienced and trained high school and college teachers. Each essay is scored by two people who won’t know each other’s score. They won’t know the student’s identity or school either. Each reader gives the essay a score from 1 to 6 (6 is the highest score) based on the SAT essay Scoring Guide.

SAT Sample Essay

Score: 6

Essay

Without our past, our future would be a tortuous path leading to nowhere. In order to move up the ladder of success and achievement we must come to terms with our past and integrate it into our future. Even if in the past we made mistakes, this will only make wiser people out of us and guide us to where we are supposed to be.

This past year, I was auditioning for the fall play, “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.” To my detriment I thought it would be a good idea to watch the movie in order to prepare. For two hours I studied Elizabeth Taylor’s mannerisms, attitude, and diction, hoping I could mimic her performance. I auditioned for the part of “Maggie” feeling perfectly confident in my portrayal of Elizabeth Taylor, however, I was unaware that my director saw exactly what I had been thinking. Unfortunately, I didn’t get the part, and my director told me that he needed to see “Maggie” from my perspective, not Elizabeth Taylor’s.

I learned from this experience, and promised myself I would not try to imitate another actress, in order to create my character. Perservering, I was anxious to audition for the winter play just two months later. The play was Neil Simon’s “Rumors,” and would get the opportunity to play “Chris,” a sarcastic yet witty role, which would be my final performance in high school. In order to develop my character, I planned out her life just as I thought it should be, gave her the voice I thought was right, and the rest of her character unfolded beautifully from there. My director told me after the first show that “Rumors” was the best work he’d ever seen from me, and that he was amazed at how I’d developed such a believable character. Thinking back to my first audition I was grateful for that chance I had to learn and to grow, because without that mistake I might have tried to base “Chris” off of someone I’d known or something I’d seen instead of becoming my own character. I utilized the memory of the Elizabeth Taylor debacle to improve my approach to acting and gave the best performance of my life so far.

 

Why this Essay Received a Score of 6

This essay effectively and insightfully develops its point of view (“In order to move up the ladder of success and achievement we must come to terms with our past and integrate it into our future”) through a clearly appropriate extended example drawing on the writer’s experience as an actor. The essay exhibits outstanding critical thinking by presenting a well-organized and clearly focused narrative that aptly illustrates the value of memory. The essay also uses language skillfully, demonstrating meaningful variety in sentence structure (“To my detriment I thought it would be a good idea to watch the movie in order to prepare. For two hours I studied Elizabeth Taylor’s mannerisms, attitude, and diction, hoping I could mimic her performance. I auditioned for the part of “Maggie” feeling perfectly confident in my portrayal of Elizabeth Taylor, however, I was unaware that my director…”). Despite minor errors, the essay demonstrates clear and consistent mastery and is scored a 6.

Score: 3

Essay

Memories can be helpful to some and hinder others. I believe that memories from different aspects of ones life have different consequences. One memory may be bad and it may be best forgotten about, when trying to succeed. Though some memories may give on strength to suceed in achieving a higher status in life.

When a person completes a task they have done once before, it triggers a memory and lets the reader reflect on that particular time in life. For example, a sporting team at the local high school makes it to the state championships, but severly loses to their opponent, the next time they get to the state championships they may think about the past and how they lost before, and it may hinder there feelings and they may once again lose. This demonstrates how a memory can ruin a certain activity for ever. On the other hand a memory can also help someone to move up the ladder of success. As an example if a person has cancer and is given treatment then diagnosed in remission they feel like they have beat the cancer.

When the patient in remission is later told that the cancer has grown back, the patient might feel that they can kill the cancer again because when looking at the past they see they have beat it once why not beat it again. This demonstrates how a memory can be helpful to a person. In this case it did not help the person climb the ladder of success though it helped the to continue climbing the ladder of life to the extent that they were able to climb.

Those two short examples just go to demonstrate how memories of the past can both help and hinder a person in their path of not only success but also in the path of life.

 

Why this Essay Received a Score of 3

This essay develops a point of view (“Memories can be helpful to some and hinder others”) and shows some critical thinking by providing examples of the positive and negative effects of memories. However, the examples are limited in focus, featuring some lapses in coherence and progression of ideas, and are thus inadequate to support the position. The essay also demonstrates occasional problems in sentence structure and mechanics. To achieve a higher score, this writer needs to use critical thinking to clarify and expand each example by adding additional focused reasoning and details. The writer also needs to avoid using run-on sentences (“. . . when looking at the past they see they have beat it once why not beat it again”). The essay demonstrates developing mastery and earns a 3.

Score 1

Essay

My opinion on this topic are oposing memories and favoring them. People do succed with repeating their memories. They might have horrible memories but also succeed because they don’t repeat the past. I also think memories should not rule the present. If you let the past overcome the preset you won’t get any where. This is why memories should be guidelines, not rules. If you repeat the past it won’t come out as well as it did because the world has changed. See the past will never change with the world, but the world will change to overcome the past. So in conclusion don’t forget the past or live in it, and the past is only guidelines.

 

Why this Essay Received a Score of 1

This minimal essay demonstrates very little mastery, offering only a collection of general ideas in support of the writer’s point of view (“don’t forget the past or live in it, and the past is only guidelines”). The evidence presented is disorganized and unfocused, resulting in a disjointed essay. To earn a higher score, this writer needs to provide additional focused evidence that develops the point of view, including specific examples. The essay demonstrates very little mastery and receives a 1.