March 2009 – SAT Essay Prompt

If you took the March 2009 SAT Reasoning Test, you would have been given one of the essay prompts below:

Prompt 1
Think carefully about the issue presented in the following excerpt and the assignment below. Many people believe that being honest and honorable limits their options, their opportunities, their very ability to succeed. Unfortunately, in today’s me-first culture, ethics may be the only thing people choose to live without! They believe they have only two choices: (1) to win by doing whatever it takes, even if it is wrong, or (2) to be ethical and therefore lose. Few people set out to be dishonest, but nobody wants to lose. Adapted from John C. Maxwell, There’s No Such Thing as “Business” Ethics

Assignment:
Does being ethical make it hard to be successful? 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 2
Think carefully about the issue presented in the following excerpt and the assignment below. Whatever happened to good manners? Many books and articles have been written about the lack of common courtesy and old-fashioned politeness in today’s society. From spoiled children acting out in restaurants to so-called experts yelling at each other on cable news shows, people seem less concerned with good manners and civilized behavior than ever before. On the other hand, if people really want to change the world for the better, they have to risk being seen as impolite or uncivil.

Assignment:
Is it sometimes necessary to be impolite? 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. We define “courage” too loosely. Real courage is conscious self-sacrifice, either for the sake of others or to uphold a value. But we typically identify a single aspect of courage�daring or honesty, for example�as the entire virtue. We even say it takes courage to differ from the mainstream in one’s preferences in fashion or music or to speak out about certain wrongs. Such acts, though admirable, are not necessarily courageous. Adapted from John McCain with Mark Salter, Why Courage Matters

Assignment:
Should we limit our use of the term “courage” to acts in which people risk their own well-being for the sake of others or to uphold a value? 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.