The Most Common SAT Essay Topics

The Most Common Sat Essay Topics

Introduction:
Although there are sample Sat Essay Prompts out there that students can prepare for, a common problem is that it is near impossible to predict which SAT Essay Question will actually appear on the SAT. So, I thought it would be helpful for students to do some research about what the most common Sat Essay Topics were, so that at least the student could do background research about the most common Essay topic areas before sitting down for whichever Sat Essay Prompt Collegeboard chooses.

(Please note that an Sat Essay Topic is broader and more general than an Sat Essay Prompt, which is more specific)

To determine what the most common Sat Essay Topics were, I first compiled a list of Official Collegeboard Sat Essay Prompts, dating back to the very first new SAT tests in 2005. With this list of official Sat Essay Prompts, I then classified each prompt into a broader topic.

Now, I had to be careful when tallying the numbers, because Collegeboard will put multiple essays of similar category into the same test (each student gets 1 of 4 or 5 different essays). Their decision of which essays to use is most likely not random, because in order to ensure consistency and fairness for all SAT students writing the essays, if they choose one topic, they will insert other essays also centered around that topic, so that one group of students don’t receive an essay that is significantly easier or harder than the other essay groups.

Taking this into account, for each test I didn’t double-count essay topics if a topic appeared more than once.

Looking at the results, I can see clearly that there are common Sat Essay Topics or categories, from which the CollegeBoard creates their Sat Essay Prompts. If I were to recommend students a list of topics to read about, I’d choose this list as it seems that the SAT chooses these topics quite often.


The List of Most Common SAT Topics:

  • Individuality vs Group
  • Creativity
  • Paths to Success (ie. best ways to succeed or live our lives)
  • Realism vs Idealism


The less commonly appearing SAT Essay topics include:

  • Modern Society
  • Technology
  • Media
  • Relativity of truth
  • The Value/Role of Authority
  • Tradition vs. Progression (past vs. modern)

These essay topics aren’t as crucial to remember, although you should still have a basic understanding just in case these topics do come up.

The following is the full list of the Sat Essay Topics and the Prompts associated with each one:


The full list of Sat Essay Prompts and associated Topics

Collegeboard 2005-06 Sample Practice Test
Sat Essay Prompt: Is creativity needed more than ever in the world today?
Sat Essay Topic: The value of Liberal Arts, Originality/Creativity

Collegeboard 2006-07 Sample Practice Test
Sat Essay Prompt: Should people make more of an effort to keep some things private?
Sat Essay Topic: Honesty – Good or bad?

Collegeboard 2009-10 Sample Practice Test
Sat Essay Prompt: Do people accomplish more when they are allowed to do things their own way?
Sat Essay Topic: Individuality, Originality/Creativity, Paths to Success

Collegeboard 2006 Official Test
Sat Essay Prompt: Are we free to make our own decisions or are we limited in the choices we can make?
Sat Essay Topic: Individuality, Constraints

Sat Essay Prompt: Would the world be a better place if everyone always told the complete truth?
Sat Essay Topic: Honesty – Good or bad?, Truth

Sat Essay Prompt: Does the success of a community – whether it is a class, a team, a family, a nation, or any other group – depend upon people’s willingness to limit their personal interests?
Sat Essay Topic: Individuality, Individual vs. Group

Sat Essay Prompt: Does the truth change depending on how people look at things?
Sat Essay Topic: Relativity of Truth, Truth

Collegeboard 2007 May Official Test
Sat Essay Prompt: Should modern society be criticized for being materialistic?
Sat Essay Topic: Modern society

Sat Essay Prompt: Can knowledge be a burden rather than a benefit?
Sat Essay Topic: Value of knowledge

Sat Essay Prompt: Is it always best to determine one’s own views of right and wrong, or can we benefit from following the crowd?
Sat Essay Topic: Relativity of Truth, Individuality

Sat Essay Prompt: Do circumstances determine whether or not we should tell the truth?
Sat Essay Topic: Honesty – Good or bad?, Truth

Collegeboard 2007 October Official Test
Sat Essay Prompt: Is identity something people are born with or given, or is it something people create for themselves?
Sat Essay Topic: Individuality, Individual vs. Group

Sat Essay Prompt: Can people ever truly be original?
Sat Essay Topic: Individuality, Originality/Creativity, Individual vs. Group

Sat Essay Prompt: Do people achieve greatness only by finding out what they are especially good at and developing that attribute above all else?
Sat Essay Topic: Paths to Success

Sat Essay Prompt: Should we admire heroes but not celebrities?
Sat Essay Topic: Celebrities – Good or bad?, Modern society
Collegeboard 2008 January Official Test
Sat Essay Prompt: Is it always better to be original than to imitate or use the ideas of others?
Sat Essay Topic: Individuality, Originality/Creativity, Individual vs. Group

Sat Essay Prompt: Is the effort involved in pursuing any goal valuable, even if the goal is not reached?
Sat Essay Topic: Paths to Success

Sat Essay Prompt: Should people always prefer new things, ideas, or values to those of the past?
Sat Essay Topic: Tradition vs. Progression (old vs. new)

Sat Essay Prompt: Is there any value for people to belong only to a group or groups with which they have something in common?
Sat Essay Topic: Individuality, Individual vs. Group

Collegeboard 2008 May Official Test
Sat Essay Prompt: Are there benefits to be gained from avoiding the use of modern technology, even when using it would make life easier?
Sat Essay Topic: Tradition vs. Progression (past vs. modern), Modern society, technology – good or bad?

Sat Essay Prompt: Do people place too much emphasis on winning?
Sat Essay Topic: Paths to Success, Winning vs. Journey

Sat Essay Prompt: Are people’s actions motivated primarily by a desire for power over others?
Sat Essay Topic: Selfishness vs. Altruism – the nature of humans, Realism vs. Idealism

Sat Essay Prompt: Do incidents from the past continue to influence the present?
Sat Essay Topic: Tradition vs. Progression (past vs. modern)

Collegeboard 2008 October Official Test
Sat Essay Prompt: Is compromise always the best way to resolve a conflict?
Sat Essay Topic: Realism vs. Idealism

Sat Essay Prompt: Are decisions made quickly just as good as decisions made slowly and carefully?
Sat Essay Topic: Paths to Success

Sat Essay Prompt: Can a group of people function effectively without someone being in charge?
Sat Essay Topic: Individual vs. Group, the value of Authority

Sat Essay Prompt: Do actions, not words, reveal a person or group’s true attitudes and intentions?
Sat Essay Topic: Truth

Collegeboard 2009 January Official Test
Sat Essay Prompt: Does planning interfere with creativity?
Sat Essay Topic: Paths to Success, creativity

Sat Essay Prompt: Do highly accomplished people achieve more than others mainly because they expect more of themselves?
Sat Essay Topic: Paths to Success

Sat Essay Prompt: Should people change their decisions when circumstances change, or is it best for them to stick with their original decisions?
Sat Essay Topic: Paths to Success

Sat Essay Prompt: Is striving to achieve a goal always the best course of action, or should people give up if they are not making progress?
Sat Essay Topic: Paths to Success

Collegeboard 2009 May Official Test
Sat Essay Prompt: Should we pay more attention to people who are older and more experienced than we are?
Sat Essay Topic: the value of Authority, Tradition vs. Progression (past vs. modern)

Sat Essay Prompt: Should people let their feelings guide them when they make important decisions?
Sat Essay Topic: Paths to Success

Sat Essay Prompt: Has today’s abundance of information only made it more difficult for us to understand the world around us?
Sat Essay Topic: Modern society, Media

Sat Essay Prompt: Are people best defined by what they do?
Sat Essay Topic: Individuality

Collegeboard 2009 October Official Test
Sat Essay Prompt: Is using humor the best way to approach difficult situations and problems?
Sat Essay Topic: Paths to Success

Sat Essay Prompt: Does everyone, even people who choose to live alone, need a network or family?
Sat Essay Topic: Individual vs. Group

Sat Essay Prompt: Do books, newspapers, and other media focus too much on bad news?
Sat Essay Topic: Media

Sat Essay Prompt: Is it better for people to know everything they can about something before taking action, or should they wait and get more information later?
Sat Essay Topic: Paths to Success

Collegeboard 2010 January Official Test
Sat Essay Prompt: Do the demands of others tend to make people more productive than they would be without such pressure?
Sat Essay Topic: Constraints, Individual vs. Group

Sat Essay Prompt: Should all people’s opinions be valued equally, or should only informed opinions be taken seriously?
Sat Essay Topic: Relativity of Truth

Sat Essay Prompt: Should books portray the world as it is or as it should be?
Sat Essay Topic: Realism vs. Idealism

Sat Essay Prompt: Do people make the greatest discoveries by exploring what is unfamiliar to them or by paying close attention to what seems familiar?
Sat Essay Topic: Paths to Success

Collegeboard 2010 May Official Test

Sat Essay Prompt: Is talking the most effective and satisfying way of communicating with others?
Sat Essay Topic: technology – good or bad?

Sat Essay Prompt: Should the government be responsible for making sure that people lead healthy lives?
Sat Essay Topic: Individual vs. Group responsibility

Sat Essay Prompt: Do people succeed by emphasizing their differences from other people?
Sat Essay Topic: Paths to Success, Individuality, Originality/Creativity

Collegeboard 2010 October Official Test
Sat Essay Prompt: is it absolutely necessary for people to study the creative arts?
Sat Essay Topic: The value of Liberal Arts, Originality/Creativity

Sat Essay Prompt: Is it important for people to spend time outdoors and to learn to appreciate their natural environment?
Sat Essay Topic: Modern society, environment

Sat Essay Prompt: Should originality always be more highly praised than conformity?
Sat Essay Topic: Originality/Creativity, Individual vs. Group

Collegeboard 2011 January Official Test
Sat Essay Prompt: Is an idealistic approach less valuable than a practical approach?
Sat Essay Topic: Realism vs. Idealism

Sat Essay Prompt: Is it better for people to learn from others than to learn on their own?
Sat Essay Topic: Individual vs. Group

Sat Essay Prompt: Do people place too much importance on getting every detail right on a project or task?
Sat Essay Topic: Paths to Success

Sat Essay Prompt: Does the process of doing something matter more than the outcome?
Sat Essay Topic: Paths to Success, Winning vs. Journey

Collegeboard 2011 May Official Test
Sat Essay Prompt: Do rules and limitations contribute to a person’s happiness?
Sat Essay Topic: Constraints, Individual vs. Group

Sat Essay Prompt: If people worked less, would they be more creative and active during their free time?
Sat Essay Topic: Modern society, Creativity

Sat Essay Prompt: Does every individual have an obligation to think seriously about important matters, even when doing so may be difficult?
Sat Essay Topic: Individual responsibility

Sat Essay Prompt: Is real succes achieved only by people who accomplish goals and solve problems on their own?
Sat Essay Topic: Individual vs. Group

Collegeboard 2012 January Official Test

Sat Essay Prompt: Is it wise to be suspicious of the motives or honesty of other people, even those who appear to be trustworthy?
Sat Essay Topic: Realism vs. Idealism

Sat Essay Prompt: Does improvement or progress usually involve a significant drawback or problem of some kind?
Sat Essay Topic: Paths to Success

Sat Essay Prompt: Is it wrong or harmful to motivate people to learn or achieve something by offering them rewards?
Sat Essay Topic: Paths to Success

Sat Essay Prompt: Should people be treated according to what they are capable of achieving instead of what they have actually done?
Sat Essay Topic: Paths to Success

Collegeboard 2006 October Official Test
Sat Essay Prompt: Do people achieve more success by cooperation rather than by competition?
Sat Essay Topic: Paths to Success, Individual vs. Group

Collegeboard 2007 January Official Test
Sat Essay Prompt: Should people take more responsibility for solving problems that affect their communities or the nation in general?
Sat Essay Topic: Individual responsibility