In the weeks leading up the SATs, were you taking practice tests and furiously studying vocab words, or were you fist-pumping and GTL-ing along with the cast of Jersey Shore? Thanks to an unusual essay prompt, both activities may have prepared you for the March SAT.
The essay prompt in some versions of the March 12, 2011 administration of the SAT asked test-takers to offer their opinion of reality television. The prompt gave an explanatory introduction paragraph about reality TV and included the question, "How authentic can these shows be when producers design challenges for the participants and then editors alter filmed scenes?"
This prompt is a notable departure from past prompts, which typically ask students to support their opinion of an abstract concept such as success, conflict, or knowledge, with examples drawn from literature, history, art, politics, or their own experiences. Many students study for the essay by memorizing examples such as The Great Gatsby or the Revolutionary War that can be easily adapted to fit whatever prompt they have to deal with on the morning of the test. But how can your knowledge of the British red coats help you write an essay about your favorite Real Housewife of New Jersey?
While unorthodox, high school juniors have largely come out in favor of the essay prompt. Sydney Sadick, a junior at The Hewitt School, says, "I frankly disagree with those who think that the reality TV essay question is unfair. I believe the question was actually quite clever, since reality shows are most definitely watched by the majority of teens around the world."
Kaitie Silk, a junior at Needham High School, agrees with Sydney. "I can see why students and parents think that it is unfair, but unless you live under a rock, you probably know at least a little bit about the concept of Jersey Shore!"
What's your opinion of the controversial essay prompt? Are you in favor of the College Board's attempt to engage students with a familiar topic, or would you prefer to write a more traditional essay?
Sydney Sadick, The Hewitt School '12
Kaitie Silk, Needham High School 12