An essay prompt on the SAT exam administered earlier this month’s has created quite a stir in chat rooms on college admissions resource websites. Even The NY Times published an article on the controversy.
The prompt asked students to consider how authentic reality TV shows can be when producers design challenges and scenes and then edit the footage. It did not refer to any specific type of reality TV programming, but lead with the explanatory statement: “These shows depict ordinary people competing in everything from singing and dancing to losing weight, or just living their everyday lives”. It appeared that students who were familiar with reality TV seemed relatively comfortable writing a response, while students with little to no interest in the genre struggled.
The College Board maintains that all essay prompts are extensively “pre-tested” and provide students with the opportunity to show their writing skills. Students need to be able to write a strong argumentative essay, no matter what the topic is. They have to chose a stance on one side of an issue and be able to look past whether or not they actually believe what they are writing. Of course it is helpful if the student is familiar with a topic, but as some students found out, you may not always be so lucky.
So what can students do to prepare? Practice, practice, practice. Search the internet for a few sample topics and practice writing essays. You only have 25 minutes to complete your essay on the actual SAT, so the more you practice producing a well-organized essay with that time constraint, the more relaxed you will be on test day!