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Good Book To Use On Sat Essay

Order my e-Book about historical, literary, and personal examples to use for the SAT Essay, with quotes, impressive vocab words, and more!

Are your literary examples ready for the SAT Essay?

Many of my students complain about not having enough examples or about not having enough time to “think of stuff to say” when writing their SAT Essay.

If you need help with a similar problem, this post on literature examples for the SAT essay is a mini-preview of my e-Book on the best essay examples to use.

In the book, I give thirty examples to use, not just five, and provide, for each example:

That book can give you or your student some ideas if you worry about “not knowing what to say” when you see the SAT essay prompt.

Literary examples to write your SAT Essay about:

Although we won’t go as much detail in today’s post as in my e-Book, I think this will still get you started on developing your literary examples.

We won’t necessarily have the time to get into those interesting quotes, summary paragraphs, etc that are contained in the complete e-Book version, but you’ll get the basic idea.

Plenty of great books have been written to use for the SAT essay, but I like these five in particular – and you probably have heard of them already.


1) Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare:

The classic love story – betrayals, broken friendships, family rivalries, and resistance to authority build up to shocking tragedy.



  • Revenge: Think of all the revenge killings, e.g. Mercutio.
  • Disobeying vs. following authority: Both Romeo and Juliet defy parental authority.
  • Love, friendship, loyalty: This one’s pretty self-explanatory… these forces can consume us, redeem us, cause us to do things we wouldn’t otherwise do. Romeo abandons his old friends to be with his lover.
  • Individual vs. society: Romeo and Juliet again, engaging in socially-forbidden love.
  • Fate vs. deciding your own path: Is the lovers’ destiny already written, or could they have changed it?

2) The Odyssey by Homer:

 One of the earliest epic stories that humanity has recorded – an series of amazing adventures by a daring hero, stranded with his fighting men, far from home, away from his wife and son.


  • Duty vs. temptation: Odysseus and his men constantly indulge in minor distractions instead of continuing on their journey – e.g. eating the lotus fruit, or Odysseus strapping himself to the mast of his ship because he’s so curious about the song of the sirens.
  • Faithfulness and trust: Odysseus’s wife, who is trying to wait for him to return; the men on the voyage and their loyalty to each other and their leader.
  • Strength vs. cunning: The hero continually outwits his stronger enemies, such as the cyclops, and slays all of his wife’s rowdy suitors by disguising himself. Likewise, his wife Penelope delays her suitors by claiming to weave a burial shroud that she never intends to finish).

3) Brave New World by Aldous Huxley:

 Science-fiction fantasy clashes with human individuality as a “perfect” society slowly crushes anyone who decides they’d rather not take the feel-good pills.


  • Technology: Mainly used as an instrument of control; Soma and entertainment control the population, sleep conditioning controls the social system.
  • Nature vs nurture: John, the outsider, lives more naturally and is able to appreciate Shakespeare’s poetry and see the flaws in the high-tech society, but the others around him are too shallow to understand what he means.
  • Truth vs happiness: It seems that the happiest characters, such as Lenina, are the ones most out of touch with reality, while John, who sees the truth of the world, is bitterly unhappy.
  • Authority vs. the individual: John rebels against and is eventually destroyed by an all-powerful authoritarian society.

4) Animal Farm by George Orwell:

Ever heard someone describe your government as “a bunch of pigs?” Orwell puts ownership of a farm in the hands of its animals, and imagines the consequences.



  • Class in society: Despite mostly good intentions, the animals find themselves organized into higher and lower castes.
  • Exploitation of team efforts: The animals expect their Soviet-style socialism to benefit them all equally, but learn very quickly that the system will be exploited by “pigs” with more power and cunning.
  • Idealism vs. pragmatism: The most idealistic animals, like Snowball, are quickly taken advantage of by less-principled and more-practical animals like Napoleon who don’t truly believe in the rhetoric of the revolution.
  • Questioning leadership: Boxer, for example, never questions Napoleon’s decisions, preferring to keep his head down and assume that all is for the best.
  • Power and corruption: In Orwell’s view, power seems to inevitably corrupt those who hold it.

5) The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton:

A coming-of-age story that pits two rival gangs against each other. The wealthy kids seem to have it all, but the bonds of young friendship make the Outsiders strong.


  • Honor and ethics: The Greasers, perhaps because they don’t fit in to the larger society, must create and follow their own code of ethics. For example, Dally once let himself be arrested for a crime that Two-Bit commited.
  • Group identity: The Greasers identify them through their hair and clothing; the Socs set themselves with cars, rings, and nicer clothes. Each group speaks in a specific way. The clear social markers keep the groups seperate.
  • Similarities between enemies: Ponyboy begins to realize that although they seem very different, the Socs and the Greasers both share adolescent trials such as sadness, loss, and love.
  • Suffering, failure, violence: despite all the gang fights and shootouts, no group ever comes out “on top” – the cycle of violence merely causes losses, pain, and suffering for both sides.

Ready to keep preparing for the SAT essay?

These five literature examples can get you started on your SAT essay prep.

To go deeper into thematic analysis, supporting quotations, and broader selections of evidence, check out the e-Book with 30 more examples to use (the book goes way more in-depth on key vocab words and themes you can use in your own essays)!

Ideally, you should have between five and ten well-researched examples that you feel comfortable discussing.

You don’t want to get caught without something to say, panicking and freaking out while everyone else’s pencil scribbles loudly around you!

Now order your copy of Top 30 Examples to Use as SAT Essay Evidence to get the complete collection of SAT essay evidence, themes, vocabulary, and more!

Further Reading:
Top 5 Historical Examples for the SAT Essay
Why You Should Use Essay Examples You Care About
The Top 10 Tips For Your SAT Essay
How to Write a Great 5-Paragraph SAT Essay

Additional Resources:
Top 30 Examples to Use as SAT Essay Evidence (e-Book)
Write the Best SAT Essay of Your Life (e-Book)
Conquer SAT Vocabulary (Video Course)

Also, sign up for my mailing list to get free SAT-related content sent straight to your inbox!

I'm a professional SAT tutor and 2400-scorer on the SAT. Also, a blogger, website author, textbook-writer, musician, teacher, traveler, and environmentalist :) I love to beat standardized tests with students, because I think it's ridiculous to judge the value of a human being based on an SAT score - it's just a number! I also write for and run an SAT prep website and blog at www.eSATPrepTips.com Stop by and check it out!

Greetings, Magooshers, and welcome back. Writing this article required a first for yours truly. To learn about the College Board Blue Book, I had to take a field trip to my local Barnes and Noble. In the Study Guide section, I found a telling sight. A high school girl was aimlessly poking around the guides. She had the classic ‘deer in the headlights’ look, too. I wondered why until I looked at the books.



Maybe I didn’t notice it when I was in high school, but it seems that for every high-stakes test, there are at least five publishers who want a piece of that sweet study guide action. Borrowing the College Board Blue Book, I hunkered down in one of the bookstore’s hidden corners. This article is the fruit of my research, how you can use the College Board Blue Book to prepare for SAT test day.

Where do I start with this thing?

The College Board Blue Book is a beast. Like the phone books of yore, it’s awkward and heavy. At nearly 800 pages, it includes four full-length practice SATs with essays. Just flipping through it for the first time, I felt a familiar sense of trepidation. Where do I start with this thing?

So I did what came naturally. I started at the beginning. I checked out the table of contents (always a good idea when getting to know a study guide) and then I began to review the first few pages. Then a familiar piece of advice popped into my brain:

“Read the questions first.”



It was like I snapped out of a delusion. The first thing you need to do with the College Board Blue Book is take practice test #1! Whether it’s the SAT or ACT, your journey to test day should begin and end with a full-length practice test.

It’s time to simulate the SAT. Go ahead and take the first practice test. Before you do, though, let me throw in a personal recommendation: skip the essay (for now). Why? We’ll get to that in a bit. In short, it has a lot to do with the changes the College Board has made to the SAT Essay.

When you finish the test, the College Board Blue Book has a nice surprise for you. If you have a smartphone, download the College Board app. With it you can take a picture of your answer pages, which the College Board will grade right away. Isn’t that nice of them?

Using Your Results

The results are in, and they’re probably a mixed bag, especially if this is your first full-length SAT practice test. That’s okay! Everyone’s got to start somewhere. Step #2 begins with you performing an ‘autopsy’ on your practice test. Instead of a scalpel, your instrument is a writing utensil. Whether you used the app or checked the answers in the back of the book, you will see that each question revolves a certain skill/set of knowledge. For each question you missed, write down that skill on a piece of paper. To save time, just add tick marks if you missed multiple questions under the same skill set.

Most likely, the majority of the questions you missed will fall under one or two areas. These areas are now your focus (at least for a while). And what do you know, each skill set has its own chapter in the College Board Blue Book!

‘Reading’ the College Board Blue Book

All of a sudden, an 800-page book has become one or two chapters of necessary information. But how do you best use your study time with these chapters? Let’s find out.

Each of these informational chapters reviews necessary information in order for you to succeed on test day. Beyond the standard practice problems (there are also entire chapters full of practice problems), be sure to pay attention to the ‘Remember’ and ‘Practice at khanacademy.org/sat’ notes that appear in the margins. The latter are especially important, as Khan Academy has provided FREE study materials covering each part of the new SAT. These videos and online guides are especially helpful for Math on the SAT. If you’re anything like me, it takes a lot more than a few practice problems in a book to grasp the more advanced Math topics.

You will discover that ‘reading’ the College Board Blue Book is a mix of reading and reviewing online resources. During this time, you’re addressing your weaknesses and filling in gaps in your knowledge. After you feel satisfied with your studying, feel free to tackle the chapters covering practice problems.

The SAT Essay

Remember how I said to hold off on the SAT Essay? It’s finally time to talk about it. Whether or not you took the old SAT, the SAT Essay requires a completely different skill set than the rest of the test. First of all, it’s writing. Secondly, being successful on the essay requires knowing what is going on ‘behind the scenes.’

Chapter 17 of the College Board Blue Book is all about the essay. Included are practice prompts and example responses that are ‘bad,’ ‘okay,’ and ‘good.’ Let’s talk about how to best use this chapter.

For SAT Essay newbies, I recommend simply reading the chapter up until the example essays. Break out your highlighter, and pay close attention to ‘Differences Between the Original SAT Essay and the Redesigned SAT Essay.’ This section will give you a heads-up on many important facts about the essay. Also, the ‘Remember’ reminders in the margins are especially important in this chapter. They give you bite-sized information on scoring and the type of writing the essay requires.

Most important is the rubric on page 181-82. This rubric is the same document your graders will use when they grade your SAT Essay. Pay attention to what is required to earn a ‘4 Advanced’ or ‘3 Proficient.’ For first-timers, the rubric’s language can be a little confusing. That’s why it’s a good idea to have the rubric on hand as you look at the example essays. Seeing both poor and well-written essays on the same topic will help your mind make connections between the essays and how they reflect the rubric’s requirements. By doing this, you will come to understand what is necessary to write an essay that earns a 3 or 4 in Reading, Analysis, and Writing.

Once you’ve examined the example essays, it’s time to write the essay in practice test #1. When you are done, go ahead and grade it yourself. (Check out our posts for what 8-point, 6-point, 4-point, and 2-point essays typically look like for help with grading.) But remember, since it’s your essay, you’re going to be biased. My recommendation: Take it to your English teacher and ask if he or she would grade it, too. Throwing in a small gift such as a tall Starbucks coffee will no doubt help your case. 🙂



Just like with the SAT practice test, it’s time to focus on your weaknesses. Use those Khan Academy resources to improve your writing skills.

Sharpening Your Mental Blade

Using the rest of the College Board Blue Book is a simple case of ‘rinse and repeat.’ After taking practice test #2 (with the essay this time), use the results in the same way. No doubt you will see that your score has improved, especially in your weakest areas. Even so, take time to review any remaining weaknesses before moving on to practice test #3. As you supplement your study plan with other resources, take some time to hone your skills in areas where you are stronger.

Last, but not least, take practice test #4 the Saturday before test day. The results of this final practice test are an excellent predictor of how you will do on the actual SAT. After that, keep reviewing a little bit each day leading up to the SAT. The Friday night before the test, take it easy. You’ve earned it.

Final Thoughts

The College Board Blue Book is only one of many study guides out there. For you, it may or may not be the best one. As you peruse the various options, look for one that is suited to your needs. For example, if you’re aiming for a perfect 1600, there are study guides out there just for you. It will take some trial and error, but your efforts will be worth it.

Till next time, Magooshers.

About Thomas Broderick

Thomas spent four years teaching high school English, social studies, and ACT preparation in Middle Tennessee. Now living in Northern California, he is excited to share his knowledge and experience with Magoosh's readers. In his spare time Thomas enjoys writing short fiction and hiking in the Sonoma foothills.

Magoosh blog comment policy: To create the best experience for our readers, we will approve and respond to comments that are relevant to the article, general enough to be helpful to other students, concise, and well-written! :) If your comment was not approved, it likely did not adhere to these guidelines. If you are a Premium Magoosh student and would like more personalized service, you can use the Help tab on the Magoosh dashboard. Thanks!

My thoughts exactly.

As a former English teacher, I can say that it would have worked for me!

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