The full list of official SAT Analysis of Issue questions can be found here.

Click on a number to jump to the corresponding essay:

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These essays are not “perfect” answers, but represent what could be done in a 30-minute period to get a score of 5 or 6.

Analysis of Issue # 1: Radio and TV Censorship

In some countries, television and radio programs are carefully censored for offensive language and behavior. In other countries, there is little or no censorship.

In your view, to what extent should government or any other group be able to censor television or radio programs? Explain, giving relevant reasons and/or examples to support your position

Sample Response

The censorship and regulation of broadcast media for offensive material involves a conflict between the freedom of expression and the duty of government to protect its citizenry from potential harm. I believe that our societal interest in preventing the harm that exposure to obscenity produces takes precedence over the freedoms of individual broadcasters.

Firstly, I believe exposure to obscene and offensive language and behavior causes people to mimic such behavior. There is anecdotal and scientific evidence to support this contention.

Secondly, I believe that obscene and offensive behavior is damaging to a society. It weakens moral character and weakens human relationships and it promotes a tendency toward immoral and antisocial behavior. These effects weaken the civil cords that hold a democratic society together.

Some argue that free speech is the basis of a democratic society. However, the founding fathers never intended the constitution to mean an unrestricted license to wanton profanity. Advocates of free expression might also point out difficulties in defining “obscene” or “offensive” language or behavior. But, however difficult it may be to agree on standards, the effort is beneficial insofar as it helps to maintain the civil cords of a democratic society.

In conclusion, government should take a role in regulating speech, but only speech that is patently offensive. Regulation of media may infringe on freedom of speech, but it is worthwhile if it can restrict the exposure of damaging offensive material.

Analysis of Issue # 2: Energy Sources and International Effort

“It is unrealistic to expect individual nations to make, independently, the sacrifices necessary to conserve energy. International leadership and worldwide cooperation are essential if we expect to protect the world’s energy resources for future generations.”

Discuss the extent to which you agree or disagree with the opinion stated above. Support your views with reasons and/or examples from your own experience, observations, or reading.

Sample Response

The statement argues that international leadership is necessary to conserve energy for the future. The passage makes the reasonable assumption that individual nations will not unilaterally cut their energy usage, and that international cooperation is necessary to conserve resources. However, the sub text of the argument, that resources are diminishing and that international regulation is the only way to protect resource availability may not be valid. This calls into question the legitimacy of the statement.

It is reasonable to expect that many individual nations will act in a rational (self-interested) manner. Some nations, such as the U.S and the E.U. may cooperate to reduce resource depletion, but rogue nations such as the P.R.C. and North Korea will likely not comply with cuts on a volunteer basis. Thus, an international organization would indeed be necessary to apply sanctions and compel compliance. In this respect, I agree with the argument.

However, the argument is too vague and fails to define (1) what resources are approaching depletion and (2) if regulation restricting usage is the most effective means of conservation. Oil reserves, for example, have been increasing, not decreasing, over time because of improved technology used in drilling has allowed greater access. In addition, if technology can improve access to resources, provide access to renewable resources (such as solar power), and improve conservation (energy efficiency), then regulations that could impede technological advancement could exacerbate the situation. Thus, an international regulatory regime may not be effective at maintaining adequate resource supplies.

In sum, it is likely true that an international regulatory regime would be required to regulate global resource consumption. However, it is unclear that such a regime would be necessary or effective to maintain adequate resource supplies globally.

Analysis of Issue # 3: Flat or Pyramid Organization

“Corporations and other businesses should try to eliminate the many ranks and salary grades that classify employees according to their experience and expertise. A ‘flat’ organizational structure is more likely to encourage collegiality and cooperation among employees.”

Discuss the extent to which you agree or disagree with the opinion stated above. Support your views with reasons and/or examples from your own experience, observations, or reading.

Sample Response

The author tries to argue that corporations should use a “flat” structure and eliminate salary grades. This, according to the author, would benefit worker morale and encourage camaraderie. I disagree with the author because it is likely that such a corporate structure would diminish corporate profits and potentially decrease worker morale.

The principal flaw with such a structure is that it fails to incentivize workers and reward them for their own performance. Without individual merit, workers have no self-interest in their own performance and results. In a dynamic business environment, workers must be able to take initiative and effect change. In a flat organizational structure, such behavior would be indirectly discouraged because the risk-taking necessary to catalyze change would not be rewarded. Thus, companies with such a structure would likely have less motivated and entrepreneurial employees.

The speaker also assumes that such a flat structure would increase camaraderie. While it is true that such a structure may reduce envy among employees by reducing inequality, it is not clear that such a structure is conducive to decisive leadership. In a organization where all are equals, there are no leaders. Without leaders, there are no arbiters in times of disagreement or leaders in times of change. Thus, the flat organizational structure may devolve into an anarchistic one.

In sum, the opinion that a “flat” organizational structure conducive to collegiality and cooperation is likely inaccurate. Such a structure would probably reduce profitability and create a chaotic work environment that lacked a decisive decision-making capability.

Note: Is this truly a six essay? Probably not, it fails to provide a real world example or an example from experience.

Analysis of Issue # 4: Power

“Of all the manifestations* of power, restraint in the use of that power impresses people most.”

* manifestations: apparent signs or indicators

Explain what you think this quotation means and discuss the extent to which you agree or disagree with it. Develop your position with reasons and/or specific examples drawn from history, current events, or your own experience, observations, or reading.

Sample Response

This quote states that people admire those who show restraint in exercising power. Rather than a sweeping statement, this statement is sometimes true and sometimes not. The statement’s truth depends on the context of popular opinion at the time.

The most famous example of a man relinquishing power at the height of his power is George Washington. During his presidency he could used his fame to take absolute control of the early United States. But unlike Caesar, George Washington did not destroy the republic to become dictator. Instead, he refused much of the power that was being offered to him. This was one of the few times in human history that a man did this (Napoleon certainly did not) and it set a precedent of governmental restraint that continues to this day in the United States. At the time, people around the world were awestruck and the poet Lord Byron romanticized Washington as the “Cincinnatus of the West.”

However, another great man, Winston Churchill, lost political power for his restraint. In 1946, Winston Churchill, the brilliant war leader during World War II, lost an election for Prime Minister to his socialist opponents who argued for the nationalization of industries. Churchill could have certainly used his prestige to nationalize industries or offer a host of entitlements to Britain’s citizens, but instead he refused to exercise power in such a way and ended up losing an election to a candidate who argued for much greater use of governmental intervention in the economy.

In conclusion, showing restraint in exercising political power is often admirable and romanticized. However, for a politician it may be a dangerous and risky move that could endanger their power. In some circumstances it is appropriate, but often politicians must exercise all the power they have at their disposal in order to retain power.

Analysis of Issue # 5: Decision-Making in an Organization

“All groups and organizations should function as teams in which everyone makes decisions and shares responsibilities and duties. Giving one person central authority and responsibility for a project or task is not an effective way to get work done.”

To what extent do you agree or disagree with the opinion expressed above? Support your views with reasons and/or specific examples drawn from your own work or school experiences, your observations, or your reading.

Sample Response

This author argues that responsibilities should be collective and that individuals are not effective at getting things done. I agree that in certain circumstances a team approach is more effective, but in other instances the flexibility, creativity and accountability of individuals is more effective. Both approaches have strengths and weaknesses.

Complex tasks that require a variety of skills and viewpoints are generally better done by teams. For example, if a project required skills in marketing, computer programming and finance, it is unlikely that a single individual could execute the project effectively. For those projects a team would be highly effective.

On the other hand, tasks that require high degrees of creativity, quick response time and intuition while also requiring tight accountability, should be done by individuals. A good example is stock trading. Traders need to act quickly and decisively to changing market conditions. Often, there is no time to call a meeting and come to a group conclusion about what to do. In addition, by having the responsibility handled by a single individual, there is a high degree of accountability since that single individual is completely responsible for his actions.

In conclusion, the statement makes an inaccurate generalization. Certain circumstances favor teamwork while others favor individual action depending on the responsibilities and duties the position requires.

Analysis of Issue # 6: The definition of success

“There is only one definition of success — to be able to spend your life in your own way.”

To what extent do you agree or disagree with this definition of success? Support your position by using reasons and examples from your reading, your own experience, or your observation of others.

Sample Response

The author of this statement defines success by the ability to “spend life in your own way.” It is freedom to act and the ability to choose your own destiny free from direct accountability. This is highly attractive lifestyle to many people and makes a reasonable definition of success. However, it seems that freedom alone is not an indicator of success.

When we think of individuals who spend life in their own way we think of great people who have earned independence and freedom through their successes. A good example is Jim Clark, who founded Silicon Graphics, Netscape and Healtheon. He is arguably the most successful entrepreneur in history and is in complete control of his life and destiny. He has the ability to create new ventures from nothing and create companies with billion-dollar capitalizations. His life, by this definition, has been a remarkable success.

However, extending the Jim Clark example reveals problems with this definition. He has had many difficulties in his personal life, and in this respect his life has not been a success. Success is often a function of our effectiveness working within a structure, whether that be a marriage or an organization.

In addition, individuals may acquire high degrees of freedom without any accomplishments of their own merit. Many people inherit money or come into freedom through no merit of their own. Thus, freedom itself may not be an accurate indicator of success.

Perhaps the author’s original statement could be qualified. Being able to “spend life in your own way” is not necessarily a definition of success, but a benefit that success often entails.

Analysis of Issue # 7: Giving advice to other people

“The best way to give advice to other people is to find out what they want and then advise them how to attain it.”

Discuss the extent to which you agree or disagree with the opinion expressed above. Support your point of view with reasons and/or examples from your own experience, observations, or reading.

Sample Response

Is the best way to advise people to simply find out what it is they want and help them attain it? This is a sound policy to helping people and should always be the concern when offering assistance. Make sure that you are indeed helping the person rather than your misconception of what that person wants. This approach is usually valid unless the person does not know what is best for him or herself.

The main problem with giving advise to other people is that you may confuse what is good for yourself and apply it to that individual. The person you are trying to help, however, may be in a situation you do not understand. The best way to help that person is to first find out what that person wants.

However, the author’s suggestion will often not apply to circumstances where the person being given advice is in no position to judge what he or she wants. For example, an adult should not always advise a child about how to get what he or she wants. In these situation, the best advise is obviously not to find out what a child wants and help him or her attain it, but to instead advise the child on what is best for him or her.

In conclusion, giving advice to people should depend on the person you are trying to help. If the person is capable of determining what is in his or her best interests, then advise should be given to help this person. Otherwise, you should be careful advising someone about what he or she want.

Analysis of Issue # 8: Monetary System

“For hundreds of years, the monetary system of most countries has been based on the exchange of metal coins and printed pieces of paper. However, because of recent developments in technology, the international community should consider replacing the entire system of coins and paper with a system of electronic accounts of credits and debits.”

Discuss the extent to which you agree or disagree with the opinion stated above. Support your views with reasons and/or examples from your own experience, observations, or reading.

Sample Response

This is an interesting concept for changing the world’s monetary system of metal coins and printed paper into a computerized system of credits and debits. However, this system is already largely implemented. The final step would be to create digital cash cards.

Much of the world’s wealth is already tracked digitally. Every day trillions of dollars are shifted digitally around the world. This argument is somewhat confused insofar as it poses its argument as if wealth and monetary transactions have not already been digitized.

The last step in implementing digital monetary transactions are smart cards that contain a chip that links to an account. This would act as a credit card for small transactions. This would provide a wonderful convenience and from a symbolic point, it would ultimately mean that cash would be unnecessary.

However, I believe that technology should never be implemented for technology’s sake. Old fashioned cash and coins have great convenient value. If I want to pay my nephew to mow my lawn, I can’t pay him in a digital manner. Can I tip a coat check girl with a digital card. Indeed, under close inspection it becomes apparent that coins and money have been around thousands of years and should remain for thousands more.

Changing all money to a digital format is inconvenient and represents technology for technology’s sake. Cash and coins are highly convenient and do not need to be replaced by an inconvenient and impractical solution.

Analysis of Issue # 9: Personal Lives of Employees

“Employees should keep their private lives and personal activities as separate as possible from the workplace.”

Discuss the extent to which you agree or disagree with the opinion stated above. Support your views with reasons and/or examples from your own experience, observations, or reading.

Sample Response

Should employees leave their personal lives entirely behind them when they enter the workplace, as the author suggests here? While it is true that employees should not allow their personal lives to interfere with their jobs, the author fails to consider that personal issues can help to foster a workplace atmosphere that helps everyone do a better job.

Bringing in personal interests and activities can help build collegiality among workers. Discussing personal activities helps to establish a rapport with co-workers. Company-sponsored social activities help to produce greater cohesiveness in an organization, by allowing relationships to develop among workers.

However, employees should be aware that personal lives could intrude on job performance. At worst, personal lives could become a distraction to work performance. Romantic relationships between coworkers could create sexual harassment liability and also need to be kept confidential. Another problem with interjecting personal lives into work is that employees who do not share their personal lives could be viewed as aloof and may be resented by coworkers who perceive them as arrogant, unfriendly or uncooperative. Thus, interjecting personal lives into work presents risks.

In the final analysis, employees should strike a careful balance when they mix their personal lives with their jobs. Although there are some circumstances in which bringing one’s personal life to the job may be counterproductive, for many reasons it is a good idea to inject small doses of personal life into the workplace.

Analysis of Issue # 10: Process vs. Product

“In any enterprise, the process of making or doing something is ultimately more important than the final product.”

Discuss the extent to which you agree or disagree with the opinion expressed above. Support your point of view with reasons and/or examples from your own experience, observations, or reading.

Sample Response

The passage states that “in an enterprise the process of doing something is more important than the final product itself.” I wholeheartedly agree with this statement, the process of doing something, if handled properly will insure the final product, in this way, the process is what makes the final product.

The quality of the process will insure the quality of the results. For example, if a company is processing its tax returns, then it must assure the legitimacy of the processes of calculating those results. Were qualified accountants used? Were they given the proper accounting process? What is important is not the final return but the process that leads to the final tax calculation.

In addition, in research the process is often more valuable than the final results. For example, at Bell Labs in the 1940s several scientists were trying to develop transistor technology that could be demonstrable. Instead, while developing the transistor the scientists stumbled upon a design that laid the groundwork for the microchip. The process of research led to a radical new design that was highly cost effective.

Finally, there is an ennobling element to the process associated with any great accomplishment, whether it be winning World War II, building the Hoover Dam, or the Wright brothers development of motorized flight, in each case the value of an accomplishment becomes especially sweet in light of the sacrifices required to make it. When we collectively reflect on these accomplishments, we cannot help dwell on the courage required in the processes to make the final accomplishment.

In conclusion, the process of doing something often is more critical and important than the final product. It is the effort and brilliance in the process that itself produces the result.

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