January 2011 SAT: You Be the (Essay) Judge

The essay received a score of 4

A score of 4 means that one reader gave the essay a 2, while another reader also gave it a 2. Here is what a 2 means in the College Board rubric:



An essay in this category demonstrates little mastery, and is flawed by ONE OR MORE of the following weaknesses:

• develops a point of view on the issue that is vague or seriously limited, and demonstrates weak critical thinking, providing inappropriate or insufficient examples, reasons, or other evidence to support its position

• is poorly organized and/or focused, or demonstrates serious problems with coherence or progression of ideas

• displays very little facility in the use of language, using very limited vocabulary or incorrect word choice

• demonstrates frequent problems in sentence structure

• contains errors in grammar, usage, and mechanics so serious that meaning is somewhat obscured


Although the first half of the first sentence appeared like the student was on the right track, the rest of the essay was not. This student was unable to clearly articulate her argument. The student’s essay was organized for the most part, however, her vocabulary was poor and she was unable to develop her essay through the example she provided.  She did not explain what an idealist was or how it related to the African President. Unfortunately for the student, this was more of a quick summary of telling and not an essay that is showing.

TIP: When you write your SAT essay, be sure to clearly define your argument by addressing the prompt. Make sure you relate all your examples back to the original assignment and show the reader what you mean. Do not assume the reader knows what you are talking about.


Other Prompts from Jan 2011

Finally, every administration of the SAT has several different prompts that are given. The prompt above was only 1 of 3 for the January 2011 SAT. Are you curious about the other prompts? Here you go:

Prompt 2

Think carefully about the issue presented in the following excerpt and the assignment below.
People generally put more trust in what they have learned for themselves than in what they learn from others. Few people, however, are really motivated to learn anything on their own. They are much more apt to learn when others are willing to teach them. Even though learning from others means occasionally learning things that are not useful or important, people are still better off when they learn from others.


Is it better for people to learn from others than to learn on their own? 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.

Prompt 3

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

Too many people do not consider their task or project complete or acceptable until every detail has been done right. Fortunately, such people have not always had their way, since nothing would ever be completed if we had to check every detail before we could consider our work done. In fact, none of the world’s greatest accomplishments would have been made, because none of them is perfect in every detail.


Do people put too much importance on getting every detail right on a project or task? Plan and write an essay in which you develop your point of view on this issue.

If you’re curious how you’d do on any of these prompts, just type up your essay in the comments (only take 25 minutes) and we’ll grade it for you promptly.

Best of luck on the SAT, and if you need any help, check out our free classes and our full SAT courses in NYC, LA, DC, Atl, Philly and live online.

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