January 2011 SAT: You Be the (Essay) Judge

One of the best ways to prepare for the SAT essay is to read and write SAT essays. After every SAT, many of our students give us permission to use their actual essays to help others learn from what they did. We’ve posted and discussed this essay to hopefully help you prepare.

A few quick points about the SAT essay for those of you a bit newer to the test:

  • The essay is the very first section of the test.
  • The essay is handwritten in 25 minutes with a pencil on 2 sides of 8.5″x 11″ paper.
  • The essay is worth up to 180 points of the total SAT Writing score.
  • Your full essay will be available on collegeboard.com about 4 weeks after your test date.
  • Each SAT essay consists of a Prompt, which gives some background discussion and context, and an Assignment, which gives the specific assignment they have to complete.


Without further ado, here is a January 2011 SAT essay transcribed for your reading pleasure:


Idealistic people, people who pursue great ideas in hopes of changing the world, often have ambitious plans that are difficult or even impossible to carry out. These people can claim few solid accomplishments. In contrast, practical people concentrate on workable ideas and goals, even though these may not meet an idealist’s high standards. Their approach is likely to be more valuable than the approach of idealistic people.


Is an idealistic approach less valuable than a practical approach? 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.

Student’s Response

As part of the online SAT score report each student receives a copy of the scan (in her own bad handwriting) of her actual essay, we’ve decided not to subject you to that handwriting and have just typed it up.

There are plenty of idealistic people on earth; however, even if they have a bunch of positive and great ideas to develop the world they don’t always succeed because of bad people.

Back in around 1970, in west Africa especially in Ghana they elected their first president after taking their independency from the British around 1960. That president was very ambitious and great for Ghana and for the whole Africa. He had a plan to unify every single African community.

Sometimes after he told people about that, some people were very happy and thought that it was great to have someone like that. Some other was against him and could do anything to kick him out of power. Unfortunately for him bad people took over and he could not succeed.

This is a great example, showing that even if you are such a wonderful person fighting for something that we all need it is hard to make it practical because of detractions that act foolish and selfish.

Finally, I would say that not everybody did not succeed but a lot of people and those who succeed were surrounded by great people.

 So what do you think?

What grade would you give it? (Remember, you have to score for two people so a 7 would be a 3 from one reader and a 4 from the other). If you need to check out the scoring rubric click 

What would you grade this essay from the Jan 2011 SAT?

View Results

Go to the next page to see the score and why it got the score it did.

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