If you're seeing this message, it means we're having trouble loading external resources on our website.

If you're behind a web filter, please make sure that the domains *.kastatic.org and *.kasandbox.org are unblocked.

Main content

SAT Essay: high-scoring student example #2

SAT Essay score 4/3/4: Learn why this student received a high score

These sample SAT Essays are provided by the College Board, the creators of the SAT. They include real, scored student responses with an explanation of each score.

SAT Essay Prompt

As you read the passage below, consider how Dana Gioia uses the following strategies to add power to the argument:
· Evidence—such as facts or examples—to support claims.
· Reasoning to develop ideas and to connect claims and evidence.
· Stylistic or persuasive elements, such as word choice or appeals to emotion.
Adapted from Dana Gioia, “Why Literature Matters.” © 2005 by The New York Times Company. Originally published April 10, 2005.

The Passage

A strange thing has happened in the American arts during the past quarter century. While income rose to unforeseen levels, college attendance ballooned, and access to information increased enormously, the interest young Americans showed in the arts—and especially literature—actually diminished.
According to the 2002 Survey of Public Participation in the Arts, a population study designed and commissioned by the National Endowment for the Arts (and executed by the US Bureau of the Census), arts participation by Americans has declined for eight of the nine major forms that are measured. . . . The declines have been most severe among younger adults (ages 18-24). The most worrisome finding in the 2002 study, however, is the declining percentage of Americans, especially young adults, reading literature.
That individuals at a time of crucial intellectual and emotional development bypass the joys and challenges of literature is a troubling trend. If it were true that they substituted histories, biographies, or political works for literature, one might not worry. But book reading of any kind is falling as well.
That such a longstanding and fundamental cultural activity should slip so swiftly, especially among young adults, signifies deep transformations in contemporary life. To call attention to the trend, the Arts Endowment issued the reading portion of the Survey as a separate report, “Reading at Risk: A Survey of Literary Reading in America.”
The decline in reading has consequences that go beyond literature. The significance of reading has become a persistent theme in the business world. The February issue of Wired magazine, for example, sketches a new set of mental skills and habits proper to the 21st century, aptitudes decidedly literary in character: not “linear, logical, analytical talents,” author Daniel Pink states, but “the ability to create artistic and emotional beauty, to detect patterns and opportunities, to craft a satisfying narrative.” When asked what kind of talents they like to see in management positions, business leaders consistently set imagination, creativity, and higher-order thinking at the top.
Ironically, the value of reading and the intellectual faculties that it inculcates appear most clearly as active and engaged literacy declines. There is now a growing awareness of the consequences of nonreading to the workplace. In 2001 the National Association of Manufacturers polled its members on skill deficiencies among employees. Among hourly workers, poor reading skills ranked second, and 38 percent of employers complained that local schools inadequately taught reading comprehension.
The decline of reading is also taking its toll in the civic sphere. . . . A 2003 study of 15- to 26-year-olds’ civic knowledge by the National Conference of State Legislatures concluded, “Young people do not understand the ideals of citizenship . . . and their appreciation and support of American democracy is limited.”
It is probably no surprise that declining rates of literary reading coincide with declining levels of historical and political awareness among young people. One of the surprising findings of “Reading at Risk” was that literary readers are markedly more civically engaged than nonreaders, scoring two to four times more likely to perform charity work, visit a museum, or attend a sporting event. One reason for their higher social and cultural interactions may lie in the kind of civic and historical knowledge that comes with literary reading. . . .
The evidence of literature’s importance to civic, personal, and economic health is too strong to ignore. The decline of literary reading foreshadows serious long-term social and economic problems, and it is time to bring literature and the other arts into discussions of public policy. Libraries, schools, and public agencies do noble work, but addressing the reading issue will require the leadership of politicians and the business community as well. . . .
Reading is not a timeless, universal capability. Advanced literacy is a specific intellectual skill and social habit that depends on a great many educational, cultural, and economic factors. As more Americans lose this capability, our nation becomes less informed, active, and independent-minded. These are not the qualities that a free, innovative, or productive society can afford to lose.

The task

Write an essay in which you explain how Dana Gioia builds an argument to persuade his audience that the decline of reading in America will have a negative effect on society. In your essay, analyze how Gioia uses one or more of the features listed in the box above (or features of your own choice) to strengthen the logic and persuasiveness of his argument. Be sure that your analysis focuses on the most relevant features of the passage.
Your essay should not explain whether you agree with Gioia’s claims, but rather explain how Gioia builds an argument to persuade his audience.

Student Response

In the article, "Why Literature Matters" by Dana Gioia, Gioia makes an argument claiming that the levels of interest young Americans have shown in art in recent years have declined and that this trend is a severe problem with broad consequences. Strategies Gioia employs to support his argument include citation of compelling polls, reports made by prominent organizations that have issued studies, and a quotation from a prominent author. Gioia's overall purpose in writing this article appears to be to draw attention towards shortcomings in American participation in the arts. His primary audience would be the American public in general with a significant focus on millenials.
In his introduction paragraph, Gioia employs a distinct contrast with several listed positive changes in American life such as increased college attendance and increases in income, with the focus of his article: the fact that the interest young Americans show in art has declined. This tool is utilized to establish an emphasis on his primary point by highlighting it as a negative development relative to other changes in American life. This literary tool serves a strong purpose by acting as a vehicle to draw the audience into the principle issue addressed by the writing.
In paragraph 5, Gioia utilizes a synergistic reference to two separate sources of information that serves to provide a stronger compilation of support for his main topic. By citing a quotation from author Daniel Pinks who states, that the talents individuals require for success in the 21st Century are not, "linear, logical, analytic talents," but ones that provide, "the ability to create artistic and emotional beauty, to detect patterns and opportunities," and "to craft a satisfying narrative," Gioia is able to build his point with the agreement of a respected individual. He then immediately follows with a statement that business leaders like to see, "imagination, creativity, and higher order thinking" as qualities for individuals in management positions. This dual utilization of claims from two separate sources conveys to Gioia's audience the sense that the skills built through immersion in the arts are vital to succeeding in the modern workplace which aids in logically leading his audience to the conclusion that a loss of experience with the arts may foreshadow troubling results.
In paragraph 6, Gioia follows up on the point established in paragraph 5 by introducing a negative example of the consequences of loss of the arts with a focus on literacy. Gioia cites a 2001 poll on the National Association of American Manufactures stating stating that poor reading skills ranked second among its employees surveyed for skill deficiencies while 38% of employees believed local schools inadequately taught reading comprehension. Gioias presentation of a numerical statistic based on a major employer adds significant logical weight to his argument by providing an example of the effects of a deficit in experience with art and literature. This may effect his audience by providing a more accurrate depiction of the true problems caused by disconnection with arts while possibly choosing an example they could personally relate to.
Overall, Gioia provides an strong logical argument that disconnection with the arts is troubling for America. He employs strong logical connections and establishes real-world foundations for his point.

Scoring

This paper scored a 4/3/4.

Reading - 4
This response demonstrates thorough comprehension of the source text and illustrates an understanding of the interrelation between the central idea and important details in Gioia's piece. The writer accurately paraphrases the central idea of Gioia's text:
  • "the levels of interest young Americans have shown in art in recent years have declined and that this trend is a severe problem with broad consequences".
The writer then exhibits an understanding of the details in Gioia's text and how they work together to convey the main point:
  • "Gioia is able to build his point; He then immediately follows with....; In paragraph 6, Gioia follow up on the point established in paragraph 5...".
The response is also free of errors of fact or interpretation. Overall, this response demonstrates advanced reading comprehension.
Analysis - 3
The response demonstrates good understanding of the analytical task by offering an effective analysis of the source test.
  • The writer is able to move past simple identification of and assertions about the analytical elements in Gioia's text to discuss how these elements contribute to Gioia's argument. For example, the writer identifies the "distinct contrast" that Gioia establishes early in the passage between "positive changes in American life" and "the fact that the interest young Americans show in art has declined". The writer then explains that Gioia uses this contrast to "establish an emphasis on his primary point by highlighting it as a negative development."
  • The writer then competently evaluates the effect of this element of Gioia's text by explaining that "this literary tool serves a strong purpose by acting as a vehicle to draw the audience into the principle issue addressed by the writing." This pattern of effective analysis continues throughout the remainder of the response and indicates proficient analytical skill.
  • The writer clearly can delineate and evaluate the impact of Gioia's argumentative moves, but this analysis lacks the thoroughness and completeness needed to receive a higher score. For example, there is no indication of how or why these moves are effective.
Writing - 4
The writer demonstrates highly effective use and command of language in this cohesive response. The response includes a precise central claim:
  • "Strategies Gioia employs to support his argument include citation of compelling polls, reports made by prominent organizations that have issued studies, and a quotation from a prominent author".
The skillful introduction establishes the framework for the writer's organizational structure, which is followed throughout the response. Although the subsequent discussion is not laid out as explicitly as the simple three-pronged thesis suggests, each body paragraph remains on-topic and demonstrates a deliberate progression of ideas, and the response as a whole remains focused and cohesive. The response contains many examples of sophisticated sentence structure, notable vocabulary, and precise word choice:
  • "This dual utilization of claims from two separate sources conveys to Gioia's audience the sense that the skills built through immersion in the arts are vital to succeeding in the modern workplace which aids in logically leading his audience to the conclusion that a loss of experience with the arts may foreshadow troubling results".
Overall, this response demonstrates advanced writing ability.

Want to join the conversation?

  • blobby green style avatar for user Hoang Ah
    I don't understand why the student got a 3 in Analysis. Can anyone point out to me how he/she included "no indication of how or why these moves are effective."?
    (13 votes)
    Default Khan Academy avatar avatar for user
    • leafers sapling style avatar for user Omar  Khan
      You basically just have to ask yourself 3 questions when doing the essay. What are the 3 most important features of this passage? How and/or why did the author use it? How and/or why will it affect the audience? The student who wrote this essay forgot to elaborate on the third question in the majority of the essay, hence lost a point on the analysis section.
      (48 votes)
  • blobby green style avatar for user Jack McEachern
    So what would be the score for this essay if they got 4/3/4?
    (12 votes)
    Default Khan Academy avatar avatar for user
  • stelly blue style avatar for user Nadia  Khan
    I didn't know you can get away with a conclusion of only two sentences and still get a 22/24
    (3 votes)
    Default Khan Academy avatar avatar for user
    • blobby green style avatar for user Nadia Christina
      Not only that, but the scorers are looking for your skills in writing. If you run short on time, they know that, and will probably ignore something of that nature. What they do see is the excellent use of vocabulary, analytical skills, and comprehension of the passage! It's really nothing to worry about if you have to be super concise near the end due to time limitations :)
      (4 votes)
  • piceratops seed style avatar for user Harish Prabhakar
    In this essay, the student refers back to the story for evidence by saying "in paragraph 6..." etc. When doing this, I heard that typically, it's against convention to put numbers in numerical format and should be written like "in paragraph six...". Is this true?
    (14 votes)
    Default Khan Academy avatar avatar for user
  • old spice man blue style avatar for user 2016n1029
    Why did he not discuss all the points he mentioned in the first paragraph? ?
    (11 votes)
    Default Khan Academy avatar avatar for user
    • blobby green style avatar for user elliedaniels9
      I don't know why he didn't, but I know that you're never supposed to say things in your intro that you aren't planning to expand on. Also, I think that the structure of this essay was pretty poor...I would definitely stick to the three-pronged thesis that you begin with.
      (12 votes)
  • aqualine ultimate style avatar for user Brandy Crump
    Does anyone have any tips on how to manage my time when writing my essay? I want to be able to put a lot of detail into my essay but I am not exactly the fastest writer so if anyone has any tips I would much appreciate it.
    (7 votes)
    Default Khan Academy avatar avatar for user
  • aqualine ultimate style avatar for user Swati Anshu
    Can we emphasize on the usage of figures of speech - metaphor, simile, symbolism, compare and contrast etc and refer to their meaning? or do we have to simply analyse the text and give importance to the writer's effect?
    (5 votes)
    Default Khan Academy avatar avatar for user
    • leafers seedling style avatar for user Nicole
      Might be a late-reader, but in case anyone else is looking into this question, there is a comment by another user on the "SAT high-scoring example #1" that sums up the scoring and essential objectives of the writing-
      Thelma explains that "you must understand what the essay is about,[and] find out how the author uses persuasive elements in his essay (pathos, ethos, and logos) because that will be part of the essay. Of course, you will always have your introduction and conclusion, and you can throw in some figurative language that you find in the passage and the roles they play in the passage (if you still have sufficient time)." Focusing on the prompt in your writing, elaboration of the "how" and "why" is what results in your higher scores, especially in analysis.
      Examination of figurative language can be written in as a rhetorical flourish and certainly could improve your score, provided you use those elements to enhance your response on top of demonstrating your comprehension of the text and the author's purpose.
      (6 votes)
  • blobby green style avatar for user Grace Auckley
    I am confused as to how they are graded. I just took practice test 1 and it gave me a score of 4/2/4. Then it says that each category has a max score of 8. But the example SAT essays they have on this article are out of 4. Which is correct?
    (6 votes)
    Default Khan Academy avatar avatar for user
    • aqualine tree style avatar for user nottachango
      Hello,
      Basically, you will be graded by two graders. Each grader can give you a max score of 4 for the three categories: Reading, Writing, and Analysis. By adding the two scores together for the respective categories, you get a maximum of 8 The computer gave you a score of one grader so if you want your actual score just multiply your grade by 2 to get 8/4/8. Hope that helps!!
      :)
      (2 votes)
  • blobby green style avatar for user Emi Ahlo
    How effective is the usual 5 paragraph structure?
    (1 vote)
    Default Khan Academy avatar avatar for user
  • blobby green style avatar for user rachelthenotrachel
    do we have to use all the 4 papers given? How am i supposed to write 4 full pages oh my god
    (3 votes)
    Default Khan Academy avatar avatar for user