Is The New (“Redesigned”) SAT Easier Or Harder Than The Current SAT?


The new, or “redesigned,” SAT, which will debut in March 2016, is a radical departure from the current version of the exam. While the new test shares some features with the current one, its overall emphasis has changed. The result is an exam that, at least for many test takers, will be both easier and more readily “learnable” than the current version. Without question, the overall difficulty level of the exam has dropped.

Why is the exam getting easier? To answer that question, consider why the SAT is changing—and only ten years after the exam underwent a major overhaul back in 2005. A major reason is competitive pressure from the SAT’s rival test, the ACT, which has been gaining tremendous ground on the SAT in recent years. Since all colleges began accepting the SAT and ACT equally some years ago, the number of ACT takers has risen dramatically. In fact, in 2012 the number of students taking the ACT actually surpassed the number of students taking the SAT. Since then, the ACT has only continued its ascent while the SAT has declined in popularity.

Is New SAT Easier Or Harder

One reason why the ACT has been so successful is that many students find it an easier alternative to the SAT. The ACT is shorter than the SAT, clocking in at only 2 hours 55 minutes without the optional essay or 3 hours and 25 minutes with the essay, compared to 3 hours 45 minutes for the current SAT. The ACT is broken up into four distinct sections, whereas the current SAT contains no fewer than 10 sections, with multiple sections for each subject (math, critical reading, writing). The current SAT requires all students to write the essay, whereas the ACT has made the essay optional. The ACT only presents four possible choices for each question instead of the SAT’s five, and it does not dock points for incorrect answers like the SAT does. Questions on the ACT also tend to be less difficult, requiring much less in the way of critical reasoning than do SAT questions, some of which can be very difficult. Lastly, the ACT does not test vocabulary, unlike the vocabulary-dense SAT.

While some students still find that they perform better on the current SAT than the ACT, it’s no surprise that, given these differences, a majority of students have been opting for the ACT of late.

What does the SAT overhaul have to do with the ACT, you ask? Well, the new SAT replicates nearly all those features of the ACT that make it a more appealing, and in many ways easier, exam than the SAT. In seeking to halt its declining popularity and regain market share, the SAT has made a more user-friendly exam.

Easier Questions

The questions on the new SAT are, like the questions on the ACT, simply easier. When it comes to math, the test makers have mostly abandoned the puzzle-like brainteasers that require creative critical thinking. The new questions are much more straightforward and focused on testing mastery of content rather than reasoning ability. The only downside is that you’ll now be required to know more math for the exam than you did previously. There are more topics on the test from Algebra II, for example, as well as some trigonometry. Once you learn that content, however, the math will be much easier to master, given the lack of puzzling brainteasers and hidden tricks.

The critical reading section has also become notably easier. There are practically no difficult or advanced vocabulary words anywhere on this section, let alone vocabulary questions proper. The SAT has claimed to be moving from “tier three,” or advanced vocabulary words, to commonly-used “tier two” words, but the vast majority of students will have no trouble with these new words. One of the most challenging features of the current SAT is its pervasive use of advanced vocabulary—on vocabulary questions, within reading passages, and in reading comprehension questions and answer choices themselves. Difficult vocabulary has now completely vanished from the test.

Questions on the new critical reading section, much like the new math questions, are also easier. Whereas current reading questions require serious critical thinking to identify subtle distinctions between two seemingly valid answer choices, answers on the new section are much more straight-forward and easily identifiable. Questions are still somewhat more difficult than ACT reading questions, but less difficult than the reading questions on the current SAT.

The “writing and language” section of the new SAT, which replaces the writing section of the current test, is also much easier. Rather than having to compare multiple, lengthy grammatical constructions, you now only have to look at four short alternatives to one small portion of a sentence. While the same rules are being tested as before, the way in which they are tested has become much easier. This section now looks nearly identical to the ACT’s English section.

An Optional, More Predictable Essay

The new essay has now been made optional, which will no doubt encourage more people to take the SAT. That said, because a number of colleges either recommend or require the essay, if you are taking the SAT then I would strongly encourage you take the essay in order to broaden your college options.

For those taking the essay, the College Board has create a much more predictable assignment than the current essay or the ACT essay. The new essay asks you to analyze a given passage, rather than construct an argument on a random topic on the spot. You’re also given more time to write (50 minutes) than you are on the current version (25 minutes) or on the ACT (40 minutes). No doubt many students will find this easier than the current essay. The College Board even boasts on their website that the new essay will be much easier than essays requiring you to construct an argument on a random topic within a short time period—a clear jab at the ACT.

New SAT Easier

Friendlier Structure

The structure of the exam as a whole has also become more user-friendly, once again following in the footsteps of the ACT. There are now only four sections, rather than the current 10. There is also much more time granted per question on the reading and math sections—an extra 13 seconds on each reading question and an extra 5 seconds on each math question. Writing questions now allow for less time, but this is only because the format has changed and the questions themselves require much less time. When you factor in the more limited number of answer choices per question on all sections (four instead of five), this also translates into more time per question, not to mention fewer distractions and traps.

Scoring

What will all this mean for scoring? It’s unfortunately difficult to say just yet. The scoring tables that College Board has released so far don’t indicate any major changes in the curve, so an easier test won’t necessarily equate to a harder curve. That said, College Board is still working out scoring details and won’t be ready to provide official scores until after two administrations of the exam next spring. If everyone who takes the exam in the spring does very well, you might see a tougher curve than you do on the current scoring tables.

What Does This Mean For Me?

If you’re in the class of 2017, there’s still not enough quality prep material out there to warrant studying for the new exam just yet. Focus on the current SAT or the ACT for now, but given these changes, consider the possibility of studying for and taking the new SAT once more material has been released and College Board has worked out all the kinks of the new exam, probably sometime late next spring or early summer.

If you’re in the class of 2018 or above, these changes should make the SAT an easier, friendlier, and more learnable test than the existing one!

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How To Write The New (Redesigned) SAT Essay


Essays Changes and Basic Features

The new (or “redesigned”) SAT essay, debuting in March of 2016 as an optional section on the new SAT, looks radically different than the earlier version of the essay. Instead of coming up with your own argument, you’ll now be required to analyze someone else’s argument. This argument takes the form of a 650-750 word article, and you’ll be given a total of 50 minutes, instead of 25, to read and respond to it.

In short, the SAT asks you to describe how the article in question persuades the reader of its point. In particular, you’re asked to consider its use of evidence, reasoning and/or stylistic and persuasive elements.

How To Write the New (Redesigned) SAT Essay

Scoring has also changed. Instead of receiving a cumulative score of 2-12, you’ll now receive three cumulative scores of 2-8 in three separate categories (with 2 being the lowest score and 8 the highest). Two separate graders will read your work and each will rank it on a scale of 1-4 for each category. When they’re finished, their scores will be combined into your three cumulative scores. The three categories are writing (how well write, i.e. your grammar and style), reading (how well you understood the article) and analysis (how well you assessed the writer’s persuasive techniques). It’s possible to do very strongly in one category but very poorly in another, and there is no overall single score for the essay as a whole.

Even though each essay will feature a different passage, the essay question itself—show how the author persuades the reader of her argument—will never change. For this reason it’s completely possible to prepare for the essay in advance.

Should You Take The New (Redesigned) Essay?

Unlike the old SAT essay, the new version is optional. Some colleges will require the essay, some will recommend it, and others will neither require nor recommend it. In the Ivy League, for instance, the essay is currently required by Harvard, Yale, Princeton and Dartmouth, whereas Columbia, Penn, Brown and Cornell are not requiring it. You can find an official list of each college’s policy here.

Because a number of colleges do require or recommend you submit essay scores, I recommend anyone sitting for the SAT also sit for the essay. Even if you’re not currently planning on applying to a college that asks for the essay, you might later decide to apply to a school that does. College lists change frequently and you never know where you might want ultimately apply. The last thing you want is to have to retake the entire exam, or, worse yet, not be able to apply to a particular college, just because you took the exam without the essay.

How To Write A High Scoring Essay

Before you begin writing your essay, you’ll want to make sure you read the passage carefully. It’s important to read actively, always keeping in mind the author’s main point and how the various parts of her argument relate to that point.

Before you start reading, look at the question that follows the passage. This question tells you the main point of the passage, so you don’t have to figure it out on your own. For example, one official question reads “write an essay in which you explain how Paul Bogard builds an argument to persuade his audience that natural darkness should be preserved.” This means that the main point or argument of the passage is that natural darkness should be preserved.

After you’ve ascertained the main point from the question, keep it in mind as you read the passage. Ask yourself how the author uses evidence, reasoning and/or stylistic and persuasive elements to convince the reader of this main point, as well as how the various parts of her argument relate to the main point. Everything should lead back to the main point in some way.

As you read, annotate or note whenever you come across a device the author uses to persuade you of her argument. If you don’t understand something, go back and reread it. You have ample time to make sure you understand the passage, and it’s important you do so in order to get the highest “reading” category score possible. Confusing moments are often easier to make sense of after you’ve read the entire passage and understand the full context.

Once you’ve read the passage and identified key persuasive devices, it’s time to make a brief outline for your essay. A powerful way to structure your essay is to have an opening paragraph that states the thesis, followed by two or three paragraphs, each devoted to arguing one part of the thesis, followed by a conclusion that restates the thesis (although in slightly different language than in the opening paragraph).

The thesis should make a central claim that the entire essay then sets out to prove. You might argue, for example, that “the author uses statistical evidence, ironic language and emotional appeals to persuade the reader that natural darkness should be preserved.” The next paragraph would then provide concrete examples of how the author uses statistical evidence to persuade the reader, the following paragraph would discuss examples of ironic language, and the next paragraph would discuss specific examples of emotional appeals. The concluding paragraph would wrap things up by restating the thesis. Here’s an example of what your outline might look like:

P1: Thesis – author uses statistical evidence, ironic language and emotional appeals to persuade reader natural darkness should be preserved
P2: Statistical evidence examples
P3: Ironic language examples
P4: Emotional appeals examples
P5: Conclusion (restate thesis)

After you’ve completed this brief outline, you’re ready to write. Keep an eye on the clock and make sure to leave a couple minutes at the end so that you can review what you’ve written. This will give you a chance to correct any grammatical, spelling or stylistic mistakes before you hand in the essay.

Key Pointers and Mistakes To Avoid

Thesis

When you’re coming up with your thesis, make sure to focus on what the author does to persuade the reader, rather than on what the author fails to do. Even if there are some shortcomings in the author’s argument, your task is to analyze what devices are used in order to persuade the reader, not what shortcomings might exist in the argument.

New Redesigned SAT Essay 2

Similarly, make sure that your thesis explains what persuasive devices the author uses rather than whether her argument is right or wrong. Even if you personally agree or disagree with the argument, it’s important to stay neutral. Think of yourself as an impartial outside observer, confined to commenting on how the author constructs her argument, not on the merits of the argument itself.

Examples

When you write about your examples of persuasive elements, always make sure to tie those examples back to your central argument about persuasion. It’s easy to get so caught up in the details that you forget to state what those details are actually doing—attempting to persuade the reader of something—but it’s important to make this connection clear.

When you choose your examples, look for those examples that are most important to persuading the reader of the author’s argument. Avoid marginal and insignificant details that don’t play a big role in persuading the reader of the main point.

While the SAT asks you to consider the author’s use of “evidence, reasoning, and stylistic and persuasive devices,” you’re not required to discuss all three. In fact, it’s better to go into more detail on just two than to try to address all three and use less detail in the process.

As you discuss specific persuasive elements, try to elaborate on how and why they work to persuade the reader of the main point. It’s not enough to simply mention a detail from the essay in one sentence. Try instead to really flesh out why a specific detail works persuasively—devote a number of sentences to explaining the different ways it functions. The highest scoring essays always go into great detail about a few select moments in the passage, rather than trying to briefly mention every persuasive moment in passing.

When discussing examples, avoid making broad claims that you can’t back up, such as “by discussing tragedy, the author moves the reader.” Instead, get into specifics: “when the author discusses tragedy, she chooses specific examples aimed at resonating with her audience. Since her audience is American, for example, she discusses the American tragedy of September 11th.”

You should also mention how key details and ideas interrelate to one another and the author’s main argument. Showing how everything “fits together” in the passage is critical for earning the highest score possible according to the SAT’s scoring rubric.

In citing specific examples, avoid lengthy direct quotations from the text. You should mainly reserve direct quotes for when you want to draw attention to the specific language or structure of the writing the author is using. Otherwise, it’s usually best to paraphrase what the author is saying. This is not only good writing practice, but it also demonstrates to the grader that you have understood the passage, which is critical to earning a high “reading” category score.

In order to earn a high “reading” score, it’s also important that you write a substantial amount. Essays earning the highest reading scores are usually among the longest, and this is because the more you write about the text, the clearer it is that you understand the text as a whole. Plan on using the full 50 minutes to write as much as possible when you’re not reading the passage or planning and reviewing your essay.

Common Persuasive Elements

There are an unlimited number of persuasive elements that an author can use to make a point, and each passage will feature different ones. That said, here are some common persuasive elements that you might see on any given passage:

Evidence
Historical Facts
Statistics
Anecdotes

Reasoning
Applying a general rule to a specific case
Deducing a general rule from specific cases
Using logic to rule a possibility in or out

Stylistic or Persuasive Elements
The author tries to sound like the reader
Word choice
Irony or sarcasm
Repetition 

Grammar and Style Tips

Because your essay will receive a “writing” score, it’s important to use good grammar and style. Since you should already be studying grammar for the Writing and Language section of the redesigned SAT, try to apply the same rules you’re learning to your own writing on the essay.

New Redesigned SAT 3

To pick up as many “writing” points as possible, make sure that your writing flows smoothly from one idea to the next. Use strong and clear transitions at the start of each new paragraph. You might begin a new paragraph, for example, by saying “Similar to her use of historical evidence, the author employs statistical evidence to argue that the economy is strong.” You should also connect separate clauses with words and phrases that show the specific nature of their relationship, such as “thus,” “therefore,” “nevertheless,” “for example” and “in contrast.”

It’s also important to vary the structure of your sentences. Instead of writing “John is hungry. John is tired. John is not having a good day,” write “John is feeling hungry and tired. As you might guess, he is not having a good day.” Avoid starting consecutive sentences and paragraphs with the same word. One trick to help mix up sentence structure is to throw in an occasional rhetorical question, such as “How would the early Monicaros have felt if they too lacked freedom?”

Whenever possible, forgo passive sentences for active ones. Instead of writing “The apple was eaten by the boy,” for instance, write “The boy ate the apple.” What you’re essentially doing is replacing any “to be” verb forms (“was”) with a verb that represents the action actually taking place in the sentence (eating, or “ate”).

The SAT also expects you to write formally. This means avoiding contractions like “it’s” or “that’s” in favor of “it is” or “that is,” as well as avoiding the first person (I, we, me, etc.). You should also avoid clichés or any expressions that sound too colloquial. Try to emulate the type of formal writing you find in many academic essays and school textbooks. This also means aiming to use advanced vocabulary when appropriate. Just make sure you’re using any advanced word correctly—when in doubt, leave it out.

Practice Makes Perfect

Now that you’re armed with the knowledge of what to do on the essay, it’s essential to practice. You’ll ideally want to write a couple of practice essays before you sit for the real thing.

It’s best to practice with official College Board essay prompts, since prompts written by test prep companies might not always represent what you’ll see on test day as accurately. Fortunately, College Board has already released a number of prompts. You can find two prompts, including scored sample responses with College Board commentary, here. There are also another four included with the four released practice tests here, as well as an additional two in the new Official SAT Study Guide.

If you’ve exhausted these eight practice prompts, you can also practice with old AP English Language and Composition free response questions, available here. The second question in each free response asks you to compete essentially the same task as the SAT essay question.

Make sure to adhere to the 50 minute time limit when practicing!

Recap

The new (or “redesigned”) SAT features a very different type of essay question than the prior SAT did. Although this essay is optional, it’s a good idea to take it so as not to close the door on any colleges you might be eventually wish to apply to. You can make sure you’re prepared on test day by combining the advice in this article with writing multiple, timed practice essays. Because the assignment and scoring criteria never change, preparing should leave you with no surprises and a high set of scores.

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How To Make The College List: An Interview With Dr. Brittany Maschal

Dr. Brittany MaschalDr. Maschal has held positions in admissions and student services at a number of higher education institutions, including the University of Pennsylvania at Penn Law and The Wharton School; Princeton University (undergraduate) and the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs; and the Johns Hopkins University – Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS). Additionally, she has been invited to serve on admissions committees with American Councils for International Education and served as an alumni interviewer and admissions representative for the Graduate School of Education at the University of Pennsylvania, where she is also currently an active executive member of the Education Alumni Association Board of Directors.

Dr. Maschal, please tell us a little bit about yourself and the work you do with college applicants.

I founded B. Maschal Educational Consulting in the summer of 2012. B. Maschal Educational Consulting provides individual postsecondary planning services at the undergraduate and graduate level. Guiding my work is the recognition that each applicant is unique, and these unique qualities can be highlighted throughout the application to best position students for admission. It is my strong belief that there is a postsecondary option for everyone; accordingly, critical to a successful admission process and, ultimately, college or graduate experience is determining what schools will be the most appropriate and best fit. To assure this, I provide students (and their families) guidance and support on all aspects of the process based on my professional experience in higher education, and my approach is highly customized. I try to make the entire college admissions process, whether we start our work together in 9th grade or 12th grade, as easy and stress free as possible! In addition to college admissions counseling services, I provide guidance and support to students and their families regarding transfer admission, pre-college and college internship opportunities, as well as summer, bridge and gap year programs. To further enhance my clients’ experience, public speaking and workshops are two things I am trying to spend more time taking part in, as well as continuing pro bono work through College UnDocumented, an organization I founded in 2014.

There are now nearly 5,000 different colleges in the United States students can apply to. With so many options, what can students do to start narrowing down the choices? What should they be considering in order to restrict their search?

Students’ priorities vary. And at the early stages, their priorities are almost always different than when they actually begin to craft their “real” list. This has to do with reality setting in, like GPA and test scores, shifts in parental involvement, and for many students financial considerations. This is where speaking to a counselor can be very helpful.

I think the first thing to think about is what characteristics in a school are of greatest importance to you (location, campus environment, major options, degrees offered, career services/placement, size, location, etc.). Your test scores and GPA are also of great importance. Although most schools do not have “minimum” GPA’s or test scores, students should look at the class profiles for schools of interest and focus their search on schools that are within reach. This means schools where their GPA and test scores are within the 50% band. For example, if a school’s average GPA is 4.0 and ACT 50% score band is 31-33, then you need to have a GPA around 4.0 and an ACT of 31 for this to be a target school. There are other factors to also take into consideration, like your high school’s acceptance history with the school. For example, if ten students apply every year and fall within admitted student averages, but none of them get in year after year, this is poor school history. Even if you fall within the averages, your chances here seem to be slim. On the other hand, if every year ten students apply and 7-8 get in, that is great school history, and your chances are seemingly better. Again, there are other things schools take into consideration, like extracurriculars, the quality and content of your letters of recommendation, and institutional priorities (legacy applicants, recruited athletes)—so it is important to know that just because your test scores and GPA fall within the accepted averages does not mean you will get in. You can gauge that you have a fair shot, but other factors will come into play.

If possible, start to visit college campuses early on in your college search in your junior year or the summer before junior year. Sometimes just being there in person and being able to catch the “vibe” of the school is just as important a component of determining what school or schools will be the best overall “fit” for you. Lastly, if financial consideration needs to be taken, students need to know about this up front. Students should ask parents directly how much they can afford to pay for college per year and factor this into their search, too.

So school characteristics (the things you want in a school that are important to you); the admitted student data; your schools acceptance history to schools of interest; the overall vibe you get when on campus; and cost are the main factors I would take into consideration when coming up with your school list.

Just to stress this—because I feel like it’s such an important factor that’s too often only considered late in the game—tuition and financial aid considerations should always factor into making the college list?

Absolutely!!! Students should talk to their parents at the start of the process so everyone is on the same page in terms of college and finances. Families should talk openly about how much they can afford to pay in tuition per year, the “other” costs associated to attending college (travel, books, etc.), as well as the pros and cons of students taking out their own loans to pay for college.

How important is it to consider your possible major or career interests when making the list?

Very important! If you have a very specific major or career in mind you need to make sure the schools on your list have that major or the majors that will allow you to pursue a certain career path. If you are unsure of your career path or intended major, it would benefit you to choose schools where you will be able to explore your areas of interest. It is much easier to switch out of a major and into another major at a school that has the options you want than to begin at one school in a very specialized track and not have any options at that school if you decide it is not the right path for you. That being said, most schools have a wide variety of majors that cater to nearly all students interests, unless you are interesting in something very niche or in a trade school.

What are some common mistakes to avoid that students make when assembling the list?

I think one of the biggest mistakes students make is that they feel like they need to find one school that they love. It can sometimes be hard to find just one school to be head over heels with that is actually a reasonable choice (reasonable = where they can get in). Everyone falls in love with reaches, with dream schools, but falling in “like” as I like to call it, with 4-5 schools, is much harder. You need a list with breadth and depth, with a wide range of schools that you could see yourself at, not just one or a few that you love.

Once a student has a specific idea of what he or she is looking for in a school, what’s the best way to identify and learn about colleges that are a good match?

Go to the school’s specific website and check out the admitted class profile. If your school uses Naviance, check your schools acceptance history vs. your data (GPA, test scores). Where do you fall? Are you above the averages? This means it may be a likely school. Are you within the 50% band? This means it is most likely a match. Are you below the 50% band? This school is a reach then in most cases, only have a few of these on your list! Talk to your counselor and also your parents, too! They can help you work through all of this data and help you determine which schools are reaches, matches and likely schools.

When do you recommend students start work on the college list?

Summer before junior year, but know that it will be a work in progress, as most students at this time do not have standardized testing finalized and there could be some GPA movement by the end of junior year. I suggest seeing a few schools at the end of August and into fall of junior year, utilizing the breaks that students have in spring of junior year, and then starting to finish all visits in the August leading up to senior year and into that fall. By October of senior year the list should be set!

Let’s talk specifics about the list itself. How many schools shoul be on it, and should they be broken up into reach, target and safety schools? Should it be the same for every student?

I think 8-12 schools are sufficient, although some students may apply to fewer.

Here I what I think is the ideal breakdown:

Reach: 2-3

Match: 4-6

Safe: 2-3

Could you speak about a great college list that one of your clients put together—what was so effective about it and how did it pay off?

Just about all of my student’s have appropriate college lists. I think the key to a great list is being realistic—very realistic. A realistic list looks like the breakdown above. It results in a student getting in to most of the schools they apply to and feeling great about the process when it comes to an end. Not a lot of surprises or disappointments here.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with us about the college list?

Be realistic :). This is one of the biggest mistakes I see applicants and their parents make: they think applying to more schools will result in a greater number of positive outcomes, but this is just not true. There are very few, if any, cases where you just “throw an application in” to a reach school and you get lucky and get in. Even if a student and their family recognize it is a long shot, and say there will not be hurt feelings, there almost always are and that’s no fun.

You can visit Dr. Maschal’s website at BMaschalEdConsulting.com or follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

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Ten New ACT Essay Question Prompts

The ACT recently changed the format of the optional essay, debuting the new essay on the September 2015 exam. From September on, all essay prompts will require you to not only respond to a specific question, but to also read and address three unique perspectives on the question.

NewACTEssaySampleQuestionPrompts

While the new essay format is admittedly more complex than the earlier version, it’s still very predictable and you can do very well on it with the right preparation. For advice on how to approach the essay, check out my post How To Write the New ACT Essay.

Unfortunately, the ACT has only released a meager two sample prompts for you to preview. The first one is available on the ACT’s website here. The second is included in the most recent practice ACT the test makers have released, available as a PDF here.

In order to do your best on the essay, you’ll want to make sure you practice with more than just two essay question prompts. Here are ten additional new ACT sample essay question prompts I’ve written to help you prepare. You’ll have 40 minutes to complete each essay.

Accelerating Globalization (Sample Essay Prompt 1)

Only a few hundred years ago, communication between countries on opposite ends of the globe was painstakingly slow or non-existent. Most people knew little about distant lands, peoples and cultures. What they thought they knew was frequently erroneous or ill conceived. Within the past hundred years, however, the pace of globalization has accelerated rapidly. Today travel across the globe in less than 24 hours is a real possibility for many people. Individuals and nations can instantly communicate with one another across great distances. For better or worse, the world has become more connected than was ever imaginable before, and it continues to become more connected every day. Has globalization made the world a better or a worse place?

Read and carefully consider these perspectives. Each suggests a particular way of thinking about the effects of globalization.

Perspective 1

Globalization, despite its lustrous promises, has created more problems than it has solved. It has allowed rich countries to get richer at the expense of poorer countries, and it has increased, not decreased, the number of armed conflicts in the world.

Perspective 2

The world is undoubtedly a better place today because of globalization. It has allowed critical resources to be distributed to the governments and people that need them the most.

Perspective 3

While I celebrate the productive exchange of cultures globalization has facilitated, I worry about how globalization is homogenizing those cultures. Take languages—do we really want to live in a world where one day everyone only speaks only one global language?

Essay Task

Write a unified, coherent essay in which you evaluate multiple perspectives on the impact of globalization on the world. In your essay, be sure to:

  • analyze and evaluate the perspectives given
  • state and develop your own perspective on the issue
  • explain the relationship between your perspective and those given

Your perspective may be in full agreement with any of the others, in partial agreement, or wholly different. Whatever the case, support your ideas with logical reasoning and detailed, persuasive examples.

Technology and Everyday Life (Sample Essay Prompt 2)

Technology has radically changed the way we interact with the world. Not long ago, individuals who wanted to get in touch had to do so either by meeting in person or sending messages through postal mail. In order to perform most types of research, people were forced to visit physical libraries, bookstores or archives. Over the past two decades, technology has rendered many of these time-consuming tasks obsolete. Messages can be sent anywhere in the world via email in only a matter of seconds. All sorts of information is available with the click of a smart phone button. People can not only call individuals anytime, but they can also access their geolocation on demand. It seems like everyone is on his or her smart phone every waking minute. Has this increase in the power and reach of technology bettered out lives?

Read and carefully consider these perspectives. Each suggests a particular way of thinking about the presence of technology in our lives.

Perspective 1

Today’s technology has greatly bettered our lives. Individuals are more connected to the information and people they want to connect with, and the result is smarter, happier and more fulfilled human beings.

Perspective 2

Technology promises to “connect” us with one another. But look around and you’ll see how disconnected it’s made us—individuals no longer interact with one another because they’ve become so consumed by their phones and devices.

Perspective 3

Technology may have made the world a better place for those who have access to it, but its prohibitive costs have made it inaccessible, and consequently unhelpful, to too many people.

Essay Task

Write a unified, coherent essay in which you evaluate multiple perspectives on the impact of technology on our lives. In your essay, be sure to:

  • analyze and evaluate the perspectives given
  • state and develop your own perspective on the issue
  • explain the relationship between your perspective and those given

Your perspective may be in full agreement with any of the others, in partial agreement, or wholly different. Whatever the case, support your ideas with logical reasoning and detailed, persuasive examples.

College Sports (Sample Essay Prompt 3)

College sports have become incredibly popular in the United States. Big games air on the most coveted TV channels at the most coveted times. Teams are followed not only by loyal students and alumni but also by diverse fans from across the country. Major athletic programs bring millions of dollars to university coffers. Star coaches can often earn more than university presidents, making them the highest paid employees on campus. Full scholarships are awarded to star athletes because of their athletic prowess rather than their academic record. In some instances, athletes are even given fake grades to help them stay on the team. Given all of this, should colleges continue to support their sports teams?

Read and carefully consider these perspectives. Each suggests a particular way of thinking about the role of athletics at colleges.

Perspective 1

Colleges should strongly support their sports teams. These teams not only generate millions of dollars for schools, but they also help sell prospective students on attending the college.

Perspective 2

Sports have no official place in college. Colleges are institutions created for learning, not for athletics. College sports compromise academic standards and disadvantage students who don’t participate.

Perspective 3

While college sports play a valuable role on university campuses, it is important for administrators to not lose perspective. That some football coaches earn more than university presidents, for example, is clearly wrong.

Essay Task

Write a unified, coherent essay in which you evaluate multiple perspectives on college support for sports teams. In your essay, be sure to:

  • analyze and evaluate the perspectives given
  • state and develop your own perspective on the issue
  • explain the relationship between your perspective and those given

Your perspective may be in full agreement with any of the others, in partial agreement, or wholly different. Whatever the case, support your ideas with logical reasoning and detailed, persuasive examples.

College Curricula (Sample Essay Prompt 4)

For years, American colleges have emphasized the liberal arts over more narrow technical and professional training. College students have been required to study a broad range of academic disciplines, such as literature, philosophy, history and mathematics. Today, however, a growing number of colleges and students have rejected the liberal arts in favor of what some consider to be more practical subjects, such as accounting, finance and nutrition. Global economic hardship has led many to question the value of a liberal arts education that, in their eyes, fails to adequately prepare students for the realities they will face after graduation. Is it important for colleges to promote the study of the liberal arts, or should they emphasize professional and technical training in its place?

Read and carefully consider these perspectives. Each suggests a particular way of thinking about college curricula.

Perspective 1

The liberal arts are essential to a quality education because they teach students how to think critically about a broad range of topics, thus preparing them to tackle any issue that might arise in the workplace.

Perspective 2

It is time to bury the liberal arts model at our colleges. Reading Shakespeare and studying pure mathematics will not help anyone be successful in any sort of business.

Perspective 3

Colleges should closely integrate the liberal arts with professional studies, as each can benefit from the other. Business courses, for example, are enriched by the philosophical study of ethics.

Essay Task

Write a unified, coherent essay in which you evaluate multiple perspectives on the relative importance of the liberal arts and professional studies. In your essay, be sure to:

  • analyze and evaluate the perspectives given
  • state and develop your own perspective on the issue
  • explain the relationship between your perspective and those given

Your perspective may be in full agreement with any of the others, in partial agreement, or wholly different. Whatever the case, support your ideas with logical reasoning and detailed, persuasive examples.

Arts Funding (Sample Essay Prompt 5)

Government funding for the arts is commonplace in many countries today. In the United States, the government funds writers, musicians and visual artists through a variety of initiatives. Critics of this type of funding argue that the government has no place in the arts. Why should taxpayers, the majority of whom have no interest in the works being supported by such funding, be forced to pay for those works? Others, however, argue that government funding for the arts is critical to the wellness of our society. Given the dismal financial prospects in the arts, many artists would be unable to support themselves without the type of funding that the government provides. Should the government continue to fund the arts?

Read and carefully consider these perspectives. Each suggests a particular way of thinking about the government funding for the arts.

Perspective 1

The government has no place in the arts because the government is not qualified to judge which projects should receive funding and which should not.

Perspective 2

Without financial support from the government, many great works of art would never be created. Government funding is thus essential.

Perspective 3

The free marketplace, not the government, is the best source of arts funding. If an artist can’t get any money, the reason is simple—her work is not very good!

Essay Task

Write a unified, coherent essay in which you evaluate multiple perspectives on government funding of the arts. In your essay, be sure to:

  • analyze and evaluate the perspectives given
  • state and develop your own perspective on the issue
  • explain the relationship between your perspective and those given

Your perspective may be in full agreement with any of the others, in partial agreement, or wholly different. Whatever the case, support your ideas with logical reasoning and detailed, persuasive examples.

Corporate Responsibility (Sample Essay Prompt 6)

Large corporations make up some of the wealthiest entities in the world today. Some see these corporations as engines of economic development and progress, bringing better products at better prices to a wider range of people every day. Others, however, criticize corporations for their shortcomings when it comes to social responsibility: failing to assist the less fortunate in our society, including their workers, while focusing too narrowly on profits at the expense of social welfare. Should corporations do more than simply aim to improve their profit margins? Is it important for large corporations to set aside profits from time to time in order to donate to charities and to help the needy?

Read and carefully consider these perspectives. Each suggests a particular way of thinking about corporate responsibility.

Perspective 1

Corporations have only one responsibility: to make the greatest profit they possibly can. It is only by doing so that they can benefit their workers, shareholders, and society.

Perspective 2

Profits often get in the way of doing the right thing. Large corporations should focus less on profits and more on developing meaningful ways of helping the disadvantaged.

Perspective 3

It is important that corporations adhere to any and all laws that pertain to them. Beyond this, however, they are free to do as they please.

Essay Task

Write a unified, coherent essay in which you evaluate multiple perspectives on corporate responsibility. In your essay, be sure to:

  • analyze and evaluate the perspectives given
  • state and develop your own perspective on the issue
  • explain the relationship between your perspective and those given

Your perspective may be in full agreement with any of the others, in partial agreement, or wholly different. Whatever the case, support your ideas with logical reasoning and detailed, persuasive examples.

The Federal Government (Sample Essay Prompt 7)

The United States government is made up of various national, state and local governing bodies. Certain responsibilities, like the building of interstate roadways, are looked after by the national, or federal, government, whereas more local issues are often overseen by local government bodies like state legislatures or city councils. Many argue that states and cities in the United States wield too much power, power that they believe should belong in the hands of the federal government. Others contend that the federal government is too large and is unresponsive to the particular needs of states and cities; they would like to see local government overtake many of the responsibilities now delegated to the federal government. Should the federal government or local governing bodies have more power?

Read and carefully consider these perspectives. Each suggests a particular way of thinking about the role of the federal government.

Perspective 1

States and cities are ill-equipped to handle most of their own governing. The federal government can do not only a better job of governing them, but a faster and cheaper one.

Perspective 2

The federal government is too big to adequately address the needs of individual states and cities. States and cities know what is best for them, not the federal government.

Perspective 3

Local government fails only when it lacks the backing of the federal government. The federal government should provide logistical and financial support to states and cities in order to enable them to govern themselves effectively.

Essay Task

Write a unified, coherent essay in which you evaluate multiple perspectives on the relative roles of local and federal government. In your essay, be sure to:

  • analyze and evaluate the perspectives given
  • state and develop your own perspective on the issue
  • explain the relationship between your perspective and those given

Your perspective may be in full agreement with any of the others, in partial agreement, or wholly different. Whatever the case, support your ideas with logical reasoning and detailed, persuasive examples.

Religious Liberty (Sample Essay Prompt 8)

The relationship between religious liberty and individual rights has often been a problematic one throughout American history. Today, for example, many businesses feel compelled to refuse service to homosexuals because of the religious beliefs of the business owners. Some argue that this refusal of service constitutes unlawful discrimination. Public school boards are often uncertain which religious holidays to add to the academic calendar. Should a Christian student, for instance, have to miss school because of a Jewish holiday? How should the state balance the need to respect religious liberty with need to preserve the rights of all members of society?

Read and carefully consider these perspectives. Each suggests a particular way of thinking about religious liberty and individual rights.

Perspective 1

The state must accommodate all religions to the fullest extent possible. This means school days off for all major religious holidays and protecting the right of business owners to refuse service based on religious beliefs.

Perspective 2

The government has no special obligation to protect religious liberties when they interfere with the freedoms and well-being of the public at large.

Perspective 3

Government should seek, to the greatest extent possible, ways to accommodate both religious liberty and individual rights when the two find themselves in conflict.

Essay Task

Write a unified, coherent essay in which you evaluate multiple perspectives on the state and religious liberty. In your essay, be sure to:

  • analyze and evaluate the perspectives given
  • state and develop your own perspective on the issue
  • explain the relationship between your perspective and those given

Your perspective may be in full agreement with any of the others, in partial agreement, or wholly different. Whatever the case, support your ideas with logical reasoning and detailed, persuasive examples.

Solving Society’s Problems (Sample Prompt 9)

The world today faces a wide range of challenges. Despite the great economic and scientific progress mankind has made, many in the world are still struggling to survive. Even in developed nations, individuals and communities face problems like poverty, disease and violence. Individuals and private organizations have done much to help alleviate many of these problems. Government have also played a role in addressing issues like poverty and public health. In your opinion, who has a bigger role to play in solving today’s problems: governments or individuals?

Read and carefully consider these perspectives. Each suggests a particular way of thinking about the role of government and individuals in solving today’s problems.

Perspective 1

Individuals could not possibly hope to solve problems as large as the ones we face today. Only large governments with sizable resources can help.

Perspective 2

Governments are, by nature, composed of individuals working as a team. Governments can solve major problems because they harness the power of individuals.

Perspective 3

The best solutions to society’s problems always come from individuals, not governments. Governments lack the creativity and drive necessary to tackle major problems successfully.

Essay Task

Write a unified, coherent essay in which you evaluate multiple perspectives on the role of individuals and governments as problem solvers. In your essay, be sure to:

  • analyze and evaluate the perspectives given
  • state and develop your own perspective on the issue
  • explain the relationship between your perspective and those given

Your perspective may be in full agreement with any of the others, in partial agreement, or wholly different. Whatever the case, support your ideas with logical reasoning and detailed, persuasive examples.

Avoiding Armed Conflicts (Sample Prompt 10)

Armed conflicts between nations have always been and remain, unfortunately, a constant fact of life. How politicians and governments seek to avoid of these conflicts, however, varies greatly. Many leaders and political thinkers insist on the importance of demonstrating military might in order to reduce the likelihood of such conflicts. Others argue that flexing military muscle is basically inviting armed conflict, and that the best way nations can avoid conflicts is simply by keeping an open line of communication with one another. When forced to choose between a strong showing of military might and diplomatic efforts, which should nations choose in order to avoid armed conflicts?

Read and carefully consider these perspectives. Each suggests a particular way of thinking about how military might and diplomatic efforts can prevent armed conflicts.

Perspective 1

Without a strong showing of military might, a nation will lead its enemies to believe that it is weak and vulnerable to attack. The result is, inevitably, such an attack.

Perspective 2

International conflicts can quickly escalate into full-blown armed conflicts unless the nations involved talk to one another and learn to settle their differences through words rather than bombs.

Perspective 3

Demonstrating military might is always a better way to prevent armed conflict than diplomacy, because whereas military might is a deterrent to conflict, diplomacy rarely succeeds in resolving international disagreements.

Essay Task

Write a unified, coherent essay in which you evaluate multiple perspectives on the respective roles of diplomacy and military might. In your essay, be sure to:

  • analyze and evaluate the perspectives given
  • state and develop your own perspective on the issue
  • explain the relationship between your perspective and those given

Your perspective may be in full agreement with any of the others, in partial agreement, or wholly different. Whatever the case, support your ideas with logical reasoning and detailed, persuasive examples.

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