SSAT Essay Samples

Writing a good essay means following a few key rules about writing. Take a look at the following paragraph and try to identify what’s wrong with it.

Sample Topic: Do you agree that no good deed goes unpunished?
It always bothers me when people talk about punishment. It’s not fair. I mean, there are some kids out there who do really good things, even though people don’t notice them. In my opinion, everyone spends too much time talking about whether or not there is enough punishment in the world. We should really be talking about more important things like the environment . . .

Common Pitfalls in Essay Writing

What’s wrong with the paragraph you just read? The biggest problem is that it goes off topic. Granted, you’re only seeing the beginning of the essay, but you can tell from the way it ends that the author is about to go off on a tangent about the environment instead of discussing the topic. Remember, always stay on course.
What else is wrong with the sample paragraph? You might have noticed that it sounds very casual, almost like a conversation. Phrases such as “I mean” and “In my opinion” give the essay a tone that’s too familiar and too emotional. While you always want to present your opinion, you should do it in a detached, formal way, as if writing a newspaper article. Try to avoid “I” statements in your essay writing.

Brainstorming in Action

Take a look at the following statements. If it is an “agree or disagree” prompt, decide what position you would take and think of three examples you would use to explain or describe your topic. Take about 5 minutes to do each one.

Sample Topic 1

Should free speech on the Internet be protected? Why or why not?

Sample Topic 2

Do we learn more from our mistakes than our successes? Why?

Sample Topic 3

My fondest memory is…

You’ve probably heard the saying that good writing shows rather than tells. What does that mean, and what do examples have to do with it?
Take the saying, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” Say you wanted to disagree with it. You could explain why you believe the statement isn’t true, what you think about teaching and old age, and so forth. Or you could use examples that illustrate the same point. You could discuss the fact that retired people now use the internet on a regular basis. The fact that people generally considered old by society are adapting to a new technology in large numbers serves to show that you can, in fact, teach an old dog new tricks.
What makes a good example? A good example illustrates the point you want to make. In addition, it comes from the world at large rather than from your personal life. While it may be true that your grandmother emails you, it is more powerful to say that many retirees use the Internet everyday.

Just the Facts

What do you need to do as you write your essay?

  • Develop and organize your ideas.
  • Use three paragraphs.
  • Use appropriate examples.
  • Write in standard English.
  • Stick to the topic.
  • Use proper spelling, grammar, and punctuation.

Practice Essay

Work through this topic as though it were the real thing. Brainstorm your ideas, make an outline, write, and proofread. Time yourself–you have 25 minutes to write your SSAT essay.

Essay Topic: Voting is such an important responsibility that all citizens should be required to vote in every election.

  • Step 1: Brainstorm

    Do you agree or disagree with the prompt? What examples might you use to support your argument? (Remember, give yourself only a few minutes to do this!)

  • Step 2: Make an Outline

    Keep your essay to three paragraphs. Paragraph 1 gives your introduction
    and an example. Paragraph 2 gives another example, and paragraph 3 gives your final example and/or
    your conclusion.

  • Step 3: Write your Essay

    Give yourself 15 minutes to write.

  • Step 4: Proofread

    Go back to your essay and read through it again. Does it make sense? Have you made any spelling or grammar errors? Fix them. Get used to making corrections clearly on your page, since that’s what you will do the day of the test.

Check out more information about the SSAT essay here.