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SAT Essay: medium-scoring student example #1

SAT Essay score 3/3/3: Learn why this student received a medium score

These sample SAT Essays are real, scored student responses with an explanation of each score.

SAT Essay Prompt

As you read the passage below, consider how Paul Bogard uses
  • evidence, such as facts or examples, to support claims.
  • reasoning to develop ideas and to connect claims and evidence.
  • stylistic or persuasive elements, such as word choice or appeals to emotion, to add power to the ideas expressed.
Adapted from Paul Bogard, “Let There Be Dark.” © 2012 by Los Angeles Times. Originally published December 21, 2012.
At my family’s cabin on a Minnesota lake, I knew woods so dark that my hands disappeared before my eyes. I knew night skies in which meteors left smoky trails across sugary spreads of stars. But now, when 8 of 10 children born in the United States will never know a sky dark enough for the Milky Way, I worry we are rapidly losing night’s natural darkness before realizing its worth. This winter solstice, as we cheer the days’ gradual movement back toward light, let us also remember the irreplaceable value of darkness.
All life evolved to the steady rhythm of bright days and dark nights. Today, though, when we feel the closeness of nightfall, we reach quickly for a light switch. And too little darkness, meaning too much artificial light at night, spells trouble for all.
Already the World Health Organization classifies working the night shift as a probable human carcinogen, and the American Medical Association has voiced its unanimous support for “light pollution reduction efforts and glare reduction efforts at both the national and state levels.” Our bodies need darkness to produce the hormone melatonin, which keeps certain cancers from developing, and our bodies need darkness for sleep. Sleep disorders have been linked to diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease and depression, and recent research suggests one main cause of “short sleep” is “long light.” Whether we work at night or simply take our tablets, notebooks and smartphones to bed, there isn’t a place for this much artificial light in our lives.
The rest of the world depends on darkness as well, including nocturnal and crepuscular species of birds, insects, mammals, fish and reptiles. Some examples are well known—the 400 species of birds that migrate at night in North America, the sea turtles that come ashore to lay their eggs—and some are not, such as the bats that save American farmers billions in pest control and the moths that pollinate 80% of the world’s flora. Ecological light pollution is like the bulldozer of the night, wrecking habitat and disrupting ecosystems several billion years in the making. Simply put, without darkness, Earth’s ecology would collapse. . . .
In today’s crowded, louder, more fast-paced world, night’s darkness can provide solitude, quiet and stillness, qualities increasingly in short supply. Every religious tradition has considered darkness invaluable for a soulful life, and the chance to witness the universe has inspired artists, philosophers and everyday stargazers since time began. In a world awash with electric light. . . how would Van Gogh have given the world his “Starry Night”? Who knows what this vision of the night sky might inspire in each of us, in our children or grandchildren?
Yet all over the world, our nights are growing brighter. In the United States and Western Europe, the amount of light in the sky increases an average of about 6% every year. Computer images of the United States at night, based on NASA photographs, show that what was a very dark country as recently as the 1950s is now nearly covered with a blanket of light. Much of this light is wasted energy, which means wasted dollars. Those of us over 35 are perhaps among the last generation to have known truly dark nights. Even the northern lake where I was lucky to spend my summers has seen its darkness diminish.
It doesn’t have to be this way. Light pollution is readily within our ability to solve, using new lighting technologies and shielding existing lights. Already, many cities and towns across North America and Europe are changing to LED streetlights, which offer dramatic possibilities for controlling wasted light. Other communities are finding success with simply turning off portions of their public lighting after midnight. Even Paris, the famed “city of light,” which already turns off its monument lighting after 1 a.m., will this summer start to require its shops, offices and public buildings to turn off lights after 2 a.m. Though primarily designed to save energy, such reductions in light will also go far in addressing light pollution. But we will never truly address the problem of light pollution until we become aware of the irreplaceable value and beauty of the darkness we are losing.
Write an essay in which you explain how Paul Bogard builds an argument to persuade his audience that natural darkness should be preserved. In your essay, analyze how Bogard uses one or more of the features listed in the box above (or features of your own choice) to strengthen the logic and persuasiveness of his argument. Be sure that your analysis focuses on the most relevant features of the passage.
Your essay should not explain whether you agree with Bogard’s claims, but rather explain how Bogard builds an argument to persuade his audience.

Student Response

In Paul Bogard’s article “Let there be dark” he’s building an arguement to persuade his audience to preserve natural darkness. Bogard builds his arguement in a few different ways. Bogard uses a personal story, appeals to people’s emotions, and states benefits of natural darkness. By using a personal story Bogard allows his audience to connect to him. If his audience can relate or even understand his story they will be more willing to agree with him. The personal story also shows that the issue of preserving natural darkness isn’t just another topic to write about but something that he is actually passionate for. In his personal story Bogard uses great imagery making the audience picture what he saw and maybe make them want to experience it too.
Bogard uses pathos by stating examples that appeal to people’s emotions. In the article he wrote “Those of us over 35 are perhaps among the last generation to have known truly dark nights.” This statement appeals more to the younger generations emotion. By stating this people who are younger then 35 might feel that they were robbed of the oppurtunity to experience the real beauty of natural darkness. This would proably help his younger audience to agree with him because they might want the chance to see the real beauty of natural darkness.
Bogard writes about the benefits that natural darkness actually produces. In the article he talks about how darkens actually helps the body produce a hormone that keeps certain cancers from developing. He also includes how darkness helps and is neccessary for certain animals. These examples will help his audience see that he is arguing for some benefical for people. This also helps appeal to an audience that might not care for the beauty of darkness but care for their own personal health.
Bogard uses different features in order to persuade his audience. The different features also help him in appealing to a broader audience.

Scoring

This response scored a 3/3/3.
Reading—3
  • This response demonstrates effective understanding of the passage, with increasing evidence as the response continues.
  • In the second paragraph, the writer discusses the personal experience of the night sky that Bogard draws on; although the writer does not recount the experience itself, it is nevertheless clear that the writer understands the story of Bogard’s youth.
  • In the next paragraph, the writer cites and discusses a generational claim that Bogard makes, again demonstrating comprehension.
  • Finally, the writer discusses general points Bogard makes about darkness’s usefulness for both animals and humans, although again, the writer makes a vague reference "that darkness helps and is neccessary for certain animals" without offering any of specific textual examples that Bogard provides.
  • However, across the whole of this essay, the writer demonstrates effective understanding of the text’s central idea ("he’s building an arguement to persuade his audience to preserve natural darkness") and important details.
Analysis—3
  • The writer demonstrates an understanding of the analytical task by first identifying three ways Bogard builds his argument ("Bogard uses a personal story, appeals to people’s emotions, and states benefits of natural darkness") and then developing each point in turn.
  • In the response’s body paragraphs, the writer moves beyond mere assertions to a competent evaluation of how pieces of evidence, reasoning, or stylistic or persuasive elements contribute to the argument. For example, in the response’s discussion of the personal story Bogard opens with, the writer argues not only that the story "allows his audience to connect to him" but also explains the importance of such connection ("If his audience can relate or even understand his story they will be more willing to agree with him").
  • The writer also contends that the use of this personal story shows Bogard’s passion and that the imagery included in the story makes "the audience picture what he saw and maybe make them want to experience it too". The response could have made a stronger point had the writer elaborated on the potential effects of making the audience want to share Bogard’s experience.
  • Nevertheless, in this example and others like it in the response, the writer exhibits effective analysis of the source text using relevant and sufficient support.
Writing—3
  • This essay is mostly cohesive and demonstrates mostly effective control of language.
  • The brief introduction establishes the writer’s central idea and sets up the essay’s three points.
  • The essay then follows a clear, if formulaic, format: In each paragraph, the writer demonstrates a progression of ideas, integrating quotations or examples from the source text into the analysis and connecting ideas logically ("Bogard uses pathos by stating examples that appeal to people’s emotions. In the article he wrote “Those of us over 35 are perhaps among the last generation to have known truly dark nights.” This statement appeals more to the younger generations emotion. By stating this...).
  • Sentence structure is varied, and some precise phrasing is used to convey ideas ("robbed of the oppurtunity, their own personal health").
  • Language control on the whole is good, although there are a few minor errors ("These examples will help his audience see that he is arguing for some benefical for people") that do not detract materially from the quality of writing.
  • Overall, the response demonstrates proficient writing.

Want to join the conversation?

  • female robot ada style avatar for user Deniz Gül
    What would you recommend a student whose English is their second language when it comes to writing? I have four moths to study before the exam.
    (51 votes)
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    • blobby green style avatar for user Natalie Lim
      Hey there, hope this isn't too late. I would say the most important thing in writing is clarity. You should organize your points clearly and convey your point effectively to the examiner. As English is not your first language, I would suggest starting off with simple language.

      Introduction:
      Begin your first sentence by giving an overview of what the author is arguing for/what the author is trying to persuade you of. For example, "In Paul Bogard's article 'Let There Be Dark', he persuades his audience to preserve natural darkness" would be sufficient. Next, you list down the 3 points that you have selected from the passage.

      Body Paragraphs:
      Separate your 3 points into 3 distinct paragraphs. Use signposting such as 'Firstly', 'Secondly', 'Lastly'. This will help to organize your thoughts and give the examiner a clear direction.
      Within each paragraph, begin by writing the point. For example "Firstly, Bogard makes use of a personal story." Next, you provide evidence of how the author makes use of a personal story. For starters, you could simply quote a sentence from the passage where the author recounts his experience. Then, you ask yourself the following questions: What is the purpose of a personal story? What effect does a personal story have on the audience? How does this effect help to strengthen the author's argument? By answering these 3 questions, you would have effectively met the requirements of the essay.

      Conclusion:
      Make sure to set aside some time for the conclusion. Conclusion is not optional - it is a MUST. Examiners do not like it if you leave your essay hanging without a closure. Here you reiterate the author's main argument and sum up the techniques that the author has used to build up his argument. At the very least, the conclusion should take up 1 sentence.

      Hope this helps and all the best for your exams.
      (204 votes)
  • male robot hal style avatar for user WAJIH RIZVI
    I wrote an essay in 35 minutes on the topic above, is there anyway I can get it checked on Khan Academy? Should I post it in the comments for feedback or is there any place I can submit it? Please Reply, Thanks :)!
    (23 votes)
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  • leaf green style avatar for user novacket
    This essay was given 3/3/3. Is that out of 5?
    (14 votes)
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  • aqualine seed style avatar for user McKenna
    Hi, this was my first time taking a practice SAT test. I chose to take the essay as well, I scored high on the reading and writing but did not do as well as I would have liked on the analysis. Would you have any recommendations as to how I can improve my analysis skills?
    (5 votes)
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    • blobby green style avatar for user Majd Akkari
      Doing good on the reading and writing means that you have mastered the use of language for this kind of essays and you have managed to understand the means that the author used to transmit his ideas and persuade the audience. So, dealing with the analysis comes from not really understanding the steps that needs to be followed to master this part effectively. Hence, I believe there are 3 main questions you need to answer to present a cohesive argumentative strategy; First, What is the purpose of the element used to persuade (personal story, figures of speech, diction...)? Second, What effect does this element have on the audience? How does this effect help to strengthen the author's argument? By answering these 3 questions, you would have effectively met the requirements of the essay.
      Hope this helped, good luck!
      (30 votes)
  • leafers tree style avatar for user Zach Gonzalez
    Is the Essay the first section or the last?
    (5 votes)
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    • spunky sam blue style avatar for user A Der
      The essay is the last section and it is optional but there is no penalty for wrong answers so if you want to bump up your score, this is a good way. It will also give extra credit with colleges when they see that you did the essay and did not skip it.
      (3 votes)
  • piceratops seed style avatar for user Caleb
    What is a good score for the essay? I got a 5/2/6.
    (1 vote)
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    • aqualine ultimate style avatar for user Lau Sky
      An average score would be a 6/6/6 though I see a lot of students have trouble with the analysis part so more like 6/5/6 maybe. HIgh scoring student would be 8/8/8 which is the perfect score or at least 7/7/7. A low scoring student would be 4/4/4 or lower. How do you work this out you are wondering. Well, actually they have two people scoring your essay and they each can give you at the most 4/4/4 then they add them together to get your total score out of 8/8/8. I'm guessing one of the scorers gave you a 3/1/3 and the other gave you a 2/1/3. That's okayish on reading and writing and comprehending part, but you may want to work on the analysis part, which is super hard. In order to do well in it, you have to show the people reading your essay that you have a good grasp of the passage that you read, and have a great viewpoint or analysis of how he used certain techniques to persuade you. You have to show great understanding and clear opinion and style of writing to show that your analysis of it is at a high level. Hope this helps, I am also struggling in analysis too, so you are not on your own by the way. :)
      (20 votes)
  • blobby green style avatar for user Ibrahim Malik
    does length matter?
    if yes then what is the minimum and maximum length of the essay?
    plus, are spelling mistake taken into account and add up in lowering the score?
    (2 votes)
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    • orange juice squid orange style avatar for user Sudie Bayleh
      Length makes no difference in your response. The main parts are that you understood and analyzed the article adequately, and that you wrote a decent essay. As long as you accomplished those three things you're okay. Whether it took you 1 page or 3 pages does not matter.
      I would think that spelling matters in basics mechanics of writing; so, yes, you probably will lose points for misspelled words.
      (8 votes)
  • male robot hal style avatar for user Sanil
    is this similar to a DBQ in AP World History?
    (5 votes)
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  • blobby green style avatar for user Priya Chilakapati
    Can you also post a low-scoring student example to see what we need to avoid? Thank you!
    (4 votes)
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  • aqualine sapling style avatar for user ikeogunranti
    Can you say Bogard uses examples to convince the readers
    (1 vote)
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    • aqualine ultimate style avatar for user Kenneth D'Silva
      you could say Bogard uses personal anecdotes as well as scientific facts, such as the body's dependence on darkness to stay healthy. basically if you have a god idea of whats being described, try to think of a fancier way to say it. If you dont get any, go ahead with whats in your head
      (8 votes)