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SAT Essay

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Think carefully about the issue presented in the following excerpt and the assignment below.

In many circumstances, optimism—the expectation that one's ideas and plans will always turn out for the best—is unwarranted. In these situations what is needed is not an upbeat view but a realistic one. There are times when people need to take a tough-minded view of the possibilities of success, give up, and invest their energies elsewhere rather than find reasons to continue to pursue the original project or idea.

Adapted from Martin E. P. Seligman, Learned Optimism

Is it better for people to be realistic or optimistic? 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.

Walking into my biology test last week, I had no false impressions about how well I would be able to do. I had barely studied the material, and had been catching naps in class to make up for the lack of sleep over the past few days. I strategically went for the questions I knew well, spending a little more time on the ones I had a good chance guessing at, and barely wasting my time on the ones I didn’t know. I chose to let reality guide me, instead of a false sense of optimism, a decisions that has proven itself successful many a times in history, as during the French revolution and Word War II.

The peasant population of France became a restless crowd in 1789. Bread was scarce, and hunger had gripped a majority of the peoples. A group of peasants marched to the King to appeal for bread and food, feeling that it was the King’s duty to keep his subjects fed. The King denied their requests, keeping them waiting. As hunger turned to starvation, the sense of optimism and the hopes for a successful and peaceful resolution came to an abrupt end. The peasants switched to realistic perception, storming the palace, beheading the king, and plunging the country into a ten year revolution. They recognized that a change in government was necessary, and that their optimistic thoughts weren’t going to solve problems.

Harry S. Truman did not have to face starving peasants, instead he was facing the high casualty rates the staggering battles of WWII were bringing to the United States. The Allied powers were gaining upon the Axis, but the Axis refused to surrender. As more and more people died, Truman’s optimism for a peaceful surrender and ceasefire faded away. More and more troops were unnecessarily dying, and Truman took up a realistic approach. He ordered the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, thus provoking the unconditional surrender of Japan. Though this resulted in millions of deaths, it prevented many more proving that a realistic approach superceded an optimistic one.

Though optimism isn’t necessarily a bad approach to things, it must only be used sparingly and with prudence. Patience must be employed, but reality can never be ignored. A realistic approach to life may not always be the most successful one, but is usually the necessary one.

  • SAT Essay -

    I'm sure I gave you the SAT essay rubric before. Just look at that and you should be able to score this yourself.


    P.S. If you've lost it, just ask again.

  • SAT Essay -

    I scored it myself, but I was just hoping that someone else could give me a numerical grade. Anyone?

  • SAT Essay -

    I'd give this a high 4 or a minimum 5. There's at least one run-on in there plus a few typos. Any time a reader has to go back and reread a section to "get" what the writer is trying to say, your score will drop!

    Here's an example of what I had to reread: "Harry S. Truman did not have to face starving peasants, instead he was facing the high casualty rates the staggering battles of WWII were bringing to the United States." Do you see the run-on?

  • SAT Essay -

    Thank you!

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