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SAT practice essay about the possibility of knowing oneself

jordansearches 2 / 1  
Mar 9, 2010   #1
Prompt: What must we do to truly understand ourselves?

Since the dawn of our existence, humankind has strove to fully understand themselves. We have created religions, defied accepted behavioral norms, and driven ourselves to near death in the hope of coming to understand ourselves. The sad reality is, we can never reach this perfect state of total understanding.

Religion is a popular choice for those who wish to know themselves. In the New Age religions, people look inside themselves for answers. New Age followers practice meditation to probe the depths of their beings in an attempt to understand themselves. They never achieve a full understanding and instead spend their life in search of greater knowledge.

Hippies of the 1970's strove to understand themselves by maintaining peace with the world. They thought that by bringing about peace in a troubled world, they would come to fully know themselves. In truth, the Hippies found that bringing peace to a warring world would be ultimately

impossible, as would their dream to know themselves.

A great philosopher once said, "Know thyself." The best we may ever hope to do is to try. Total understanding has proven impossible for all previous generations, and the same will eventually prove true for all to come. But perhaps this is a blessing in disguise, for do we really wish to know ourselves?

ivyeyesediting - / 85  
Mar 9, 2010   #2
Hi Taylor,

You're off to a great start. There are some grammatical and syntactical issues here. While the College Board readers are reading in a supportive manner (and not necessarily sticklers for every detail of spelling and so forth), it is important that your writing be clear and correct. SO, in the first paragraph, 'has strove' should be 'has striven' or 'has strived.' Either works (though the first is preferable). Also, you write 'humankind' (singular) and then 'themselves' (plural). To refer to 'humankind' you would say 'itself.' Make sure you are choosing the proper verb tenses and pronouns throughout the essay.

Nice job listing 'religion and defying behavioral norms' as your two supporting pieces of evidence and then describing these in that same order in the essay. This lends your writing nice organization and structure. Where you run into trouble is in your vagueness. You tend to make broad claims and dwell in abstractions. If you can make your writing more specific and concrete, you will be able to gain points on the essay.

You argue: 'we can never reach this state of understanding.' If this is your thesis, prove it. What New Age religions are you talking about? What do you have to vouch for the fact that people never achieve greater understanding through meditation? Can you cite a specific example of this?

You jump rather abruptly to a discussion about hippies. Make your writing more sophisticated and pick up points by enhancing your transitions. What is the connection between New Age religion and hippies?

With the hippies, why was the mission impossible? You're making grand statements about large groups of people. Can you point to specific events? Doing so will make your point all the more convincing.

Finally, great job on the conclusion. I like your impulse to end with a question that overturns your logic. Pick up points by taking this one step further. If time allows, raise the question (once you have proven your point, feel free to address the opposing view point) and then refute it. By refuting a potentially opposing viewpoint, you are strengthening your argument even more.

Using 2 examples instead of 3 is acceptable -- it is, in fact, common practice on the essay section these days. If you are using 2 examples, though, you must make them great. You must deepen your analysis and get very specific in order to drive home your message.

Good luck!

All the best,
IvyEyes Editing
OP jordansearches 2 / 1  
Mar 9, 2010   #3
Thank you for your time! Your critique was extremely helpful.

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