SSAT Writing: Essay Prompts and Samples

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The SSAT Essay

The SSAT essay is the first part of the SSAT exam. You will be given a choice of two topics, one creative writing topic, and one topic that asks for your opinion about an issue. You have 25 minutes to read the topics, choose the topic you wish to write about, organize your essay, and write.

Six Steps For Essay Writing: Getting It Right

1. Read the question to find out exactly what it asks you to do.

2. Choose a point of view or decide how to answer the question.

3. Outline your essay. For creative writing topics, use the topic given as the first sentence of your essay. Then write a descriptive story with a clear beginning, middle, and end. For all other essays, you will probably want four paragraphs: an introduction, two paragraphs for two supporting ideas or illustrations, and a conclusion.

4. Write the essay.

5. Proofread. Correct errors in punctuation, spelling, grammar, and word choice.

6. If needed, make phrasing changes as neatly as possible.

Now let's try these steps on a couple of sample topics:

Topic: Every student should be required to complete 60 hours of community service during his or her high school years. Do you agree or disagree?

1. This question is asking you to choose sides, then support your position.

2. You must now decide whether you want to write in favor or in opposition. Choose the side that you will find easier to defend with strong examples; which side you choose does not matter. The question is not really seeking your opinion. For this exercise, let's disagree.

3. Introduction: Community service should not be compulsory.

Point 1: Involuntary activities are never performed well.

A. Beneficiaries suffer from half-hearted service.

B. Student is resentful and gains no satisfaction.

Point 2: Teenagers must learn to arrange priorities and manage their time for their own benefit.

A. Some poor students cannot afford to give up so much study time.

B. Many beneficial extracurricular activities compete for precious time.

C. Some students must hold part-time jobs to help their families.

Conclusion: Community service should be encouraged, not be compulsory.

4. Write the essay.

5. Proofread. Ask yourself these questions:

- Does each paragraph have a topic sentence? Is the topic sentence well developed within the paragraph?

- Is my language colorful and descriptive? Have I varied my sentence


- Do I make a convincing argument for my position?

- How is my spelling? Is my punctuation correct? What about my grammar?

6. Refine the essay if necessary. Remember: Neatness counts.

Tips for Writing Excellent Essays for the SSAT and ISEE exams

SSAT Essay Samples

SSAT Essay Prompts