Here's a sample response to the essay question given in Barron’s New SAT, Model Test 1, Essay. P. 748. I'm not going to reproduce it here. It's too much effort for me, I don't want to violate Barron's copyright, and the book's easy enough to get from a bookstore or your local library. I highly recommend the Barron's book for your SAT prep, despite some annoying typos in the answer keys. Note that the new SAT's essay questions ask you to analyze a piece of writing, rather than express your own views on an issue - in fact, the instructions expressly state "Your response should not give your personal opinion on the source text, but instead show how the author how the author crafts an argument to persuade readers." Make sure you focus on the writing style and argument tactics used by the author, not whether or not you agree with the author, although you probably should mention obvious counterarguments to the author's points, and how the author addresses, or fails to address, those counterarguments.
This essay uses a personal anecdote, citations to specific evidence from sources (specifically, survey results and famous accomplished creative people) and advanced vocabulary, possibly intended as humorous, to make her argument that creativity is essential to the personal and professional success of the individual, and to the advancement of society.
First of all, the writer uses a creative title – “A Lesson on Commas.” The title is creative because it is misleading – what the reader believes will be a lesson in punctuation turns out to be a discussion on creativity. Thus, the author’s choice of title is itself an expression of creativity. The author also uses a quote from Dr. Seuss to indicate that the essay is about creative thinking – “Oh the thinks you can think up if you only try” – rather than a rote English lesson to memorize.
The writer, apparently “Ms. Jensen,” according to her opening anecdote, states she was teaching a lesson on commas when one of her students, “the freckled, garrulous Emily,” asked her why she, the teacher, wrote. The teacher responded with a series of rhetorical questions – “Why does one listen to music? Or dance? Or look at the stars?” to make the point that people and other animals sometimes do things for the sheer pleasure of doing them or because they simply feel they have to do so. The descriptive language – the description of Emily as “freckled [and] garrulous,” for instance, makes the writer’s anecdote more personal and immediate.
The author then continues to explain that she later thought about her flippant answer, and realized her urge to write was an expression of her greater need for creativity. She then makes the indisputable assertion that creativity is essential to all social progress, since without new ideas arising from creativity, society would necessarily stagnate. She then asserts that people do not need to be world-class creative thinkers on a par with Jane Austen, Pablo Picasso, Johann Sebastian Bach, or other famous innovators from history to be creative and improve both their own personal lives and society. This assertion answers the predictable counterargument to the effect that “Certainly some people are extremely talented and innovative, but most people aren’t very talented. Wouldn’t those people better off doing things the way they’ve always been done instead of trying to be creative?” However, this latter assertion is less obvious, as evidenced by the counterargument the author predicted, so the author supports her assertion by following it with evidence. She then shrewdly supports her assertions by citing to the obvious creativity expressed by every young child. The strategy of showing her assertion is consistent with common-sense observations practically everyone has made is effective, since people are likely to dismiss survey results that do not comport with their own experience.
Ms. Jensen cites to a LinkedIn survey that workers’ job dissatisfaction is caused chiefly by “not being challenged” and “not feeling valued,” as well as an IBM survey that concludes “creativity [is] the single most important factor in corporate success.” The point she wished to make is that creativity is important to success and progress, and people resent having to work jobs where creativity is unnecessary, or even actively discouraged. Then the author again cites to common examples of medical, scientific, and engineering creativity to illustrate how creativity is important outside the world of “the recluse artist”– the cases of “medical cures, energy alternatives, and space exploration.” Again, this is a shrewd strategy, intended to pre-empt the obvious counter-argument that creativity is “impractical” and important only in pleasant but “unnecessary” avocations such as the fine arts. She concludes her argument for creativity’s importance with the overused Einstein quote “Imagination is more important than knowledge,” in an appeal to authority and also as a example of an important creative figure from history whose contributions were “practical” rather than artistic.
Finally, the writer provides useful and practical advice on how to teach creativity in school – encouraging children to see what is good and bad in arguments, problem solving, experiments, and to ask themselves and each other how the arguments and experiments could be improved. The last paragraph is a strong conclusion to this essay, giving real-world, common-sense advice on how to encourage creativity.
However, the writer’s use of advanced, English-teacher-like vocabulary, while perhaps intended to be humorous, is actually alienating and annoying, and makes the essay less effective. Ms. Jensen’s word choice imbues the essay with a subtext that says “Look how smart I am – I know words you might not and use them when simpler words would work!” A barrage of polysyllabic “SAT words” is not an effective way to win a reader to the writer’s cause, unless the writer’s cause is convincing the reader that the writer simply understands a highly esoteric or technical subject better than the reader does. In the case of a general topic such as “creativity,” that approach misses the mark by a considerable margin. It makes the topic more inaccessible by making the essay harder to read. This is ironic, given that the topic of the essay is that creative pursuits are important and should be easily accessible to all. Perhaps this is why Ms. Jensen, by her own admission, has had “little success” in her writing.
All in all, the essay is an effective argument for the importance of creativity that makes practical suggestions on how to encourage creative thinking, but it could be greatly improved by the author’s use of more accessible vocabulary and diction. An essay intended to encourage people to be creative should not discourage people from reading the essay by using unnecessarily difficult and smug-sounding language; the essay is about creativity, not unintentional irony.
Author: John Linneball Who did you think? ;-)
I'm the proprietor and only tutor for this business; that's why I named it after me.