SAT essay instructions allow students to support their positions “with reasoning and examples taken from your reading, studies, experiences, or observations”. Examples taken from reading and studies generate an “Academic” essay, while examples taken from experiences or observations generate a “Personal” essay. According to the College Board, student essays are evenly divided between these two options. The average score for both types of essay is a 7.2.

Most prep books and teachers focus on how to write academic five-paragraph three-example essays. In fact, my new generation of materials has encouraged the majority of my students to write Academic essays. Even so, some of my students feel more comfortable with the Personal format. Contrary to popular belief, Personal essays can and do receive double-digit scores. Here is an example of a Personal essay composed by one of my students for the October 2012 exam. The essay’s insightful thesis, excellent descriptive vocabulary, and impressive variety of sentence structures combined to earn it a well-deserved 12. It is important to point out that most of the details in the author’s story are fictional. That is perfectly acceptable. After all, most of the details in the novels written by Charles Dickens, Ernest Hemingway, and Toni Morrison are fictional.

OCTOBER 2012
ETS SCORE: 12
TOPIC: Should we care just as much about people in other countries as we do about people in our own country?

“Please give us anything you have to spare. We are desperate,” the young girl implored as she banged on the car window. I looked at my uncle and he said, “just ignore her. People here do this all the time.” I, however, was ambivalent. This poor girl was clearly very unfortunate and needed help. How could I just ignore her? In a recent trip to my native country of India, I learned that it is important to care about people in other countries as much as we care about people in our own country.

I rolled down the window and talked to the young girl as we waited for ten minutes in the standstill traffic. I soon learned that her name was Janvi, and she was mourning the death of both her parents and taking care of her siblings. I soon concluded that she was a beggar. The traffic began moving and we drove away. I could not stop thinking about Janvi. There had to be something I could do to help. When we got home, I told my uncle that I wanted to do something to make a difference in her life. He was skeptical about my goal. Even though my family doubted I could help her, even though I knew it would be hard, and even though I knew my plan may not work, I was determined to at least try and help. So I did.

As a result of many phone calls and lots of research, I found a program that grants underprivileged, promising children in other countries money and accommodation to come and study in the United States, with the hope that they will be able to grow and be successful. I immediately entered in Janvi’s information and anxiously waited to hear back. Soon after, I received a contrite email saying Janvi would not get the grant. I, however, was indomitable and refused to accept defeat. The program board members were touched by my sincerity and the fact that I was actually an American citizen and resident trying to help someone in a different country. They concluded that Janvi and her siblings could relocate to Michigan. I was exuberant because I knew they would get a chance to start over.

This whole process taught me a valuable lesson. To this day I keep in touch with Janvi, who is excelling in school. It is imperative that we care about and help those in other countries. I am now aspiring to be a pediatrician and hope someday to work with Doctors Without Borders. As Americans, we are so blessed, but people in other countries are not necessarily as fortunate as we are. If we see a fellow human being suffering, we should strive to help them. All that matters is altruism, because in the final analysis we are all humans living in a global community.

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