Consider the following example:
Stimulus: Toads cause warts. I touched a toad last week and now I have a wart; therefore, the toad was responsible.
Question Stem: How would you rate the accuracy of the above statement? Support your position with reasons and examples.
In the first part of the Analysis of Argument topic, the writer tries to persuade you of his conclusion by referring to evidence. Be on the lookout for assumptions and poor critical reasoning used to come to the conclusion.
The Question Stem
Question stems will ask you to explain why an argument is not convincing, and discuss improvements to the argument. For this task, you’ll need to first analyze the argument itself and evaluate its use of evidence. Second, you’ll need to explain how a different approach or more information would make the argument itself better (or possibly worse).
They say: Explain what, if anything, would make the argument more valid and convincing or help you to better evaluate its conclusion.
Translation: Spot weak links in the argument and offer changes that would strengthen them.
SAT Writing Sample Essay Guidelines and Tips
Attack the Argument
Each argument’s stimulus has been intentionally “loaded” with flaws or fallacies that you should acknowledge and discuss. If you fail to see the fundamental problems in the argument, you will not get a high score. Attacking questions with logic means addressing the thought process outlined in the prompt rather than its background or setup information, details presented as fact.
The purpose of the essay is for you to critique the reasoning in the argument. Your personal opinions are not relevant. Instead, your essay needs to focus on flaws in the argument and how the argument could be strengthened.
Taking a Stance Quiz 1: Analysis of Argument
“The temperature in Smithtown averages ten degrees hotter than the temperature in Jonestown during the summer. Numerous studies, meanwhile, confirm a direct link between temperature and thirst. As such, one can expect residents of Smithtown to consume more water than residents of Jonestown.”
A. “It may be true that residents of Smithtown consume more water than those of Jonestown due to increased summer temperatures, but it is not wise to trust this assertion without knowing more information, such as the duration of the temperature comparisons. It is possible, for example, that the temperature study was conducted during a single odd summer in which one city had higher temperatures—when the two cities had equal temperatures every other year. If this is the case, then water consumption is likely to remain equal.”
Incorrect. The temperature differences are presented as facts and not indicative of the author’s thought process. An attack on logic would address the conclusion drawn from these temperatures.
B. “I disagree with the prompt, as it ignores other alternatives that residents of Smithtown might use to cope with the increased heat, such using more air conditioning to lower temperatures (which, according to the prompt, would decrease thirst) or quenching their increased thirst with sport drinks rather than water.”
Correct. This focuses on the author’s use of logic to conclude that residents in the hotter area will use water to quench their thirst rather than using technology to lower the temperature (and related level of thirst) or another liquid to fulfill their thirst. The studies and statistics mentioned in the prompt should be accepted as fact, as they exist only to create a platform to showcase the author’s logic.
C. “While the prompt appears credible at first due to its citation of ‘numerous studies’, it is essential to remember that not all studies are equal. If the studies are dated or linked to unreliable scientists or equipment, then their findings might be wholly inaccurate—and therein have no correlation with the level of thirst in these two towns despite even larger temperature differences.”
Incorrect. This focuses on studies that have been presented as fact, not opinion. An attack on logic would address the conclusion drawn from these temperatures: that they will ultimately lead to increased water consumption in the hotter town.
Chapter 2: Creating Content
Once you’ve identified the proper stance, you must support this stance in your body section using clear examples.
There are two basic types of examples, both of which you must master to succeed:
1) The Real-World Example:
This type of example is drawn from your personal readings and experience.
To develop strong personal examples, your examples must extend outward from their singular nature and should represent universal trends rather than isolated incidents.
2) The Theoretical Example:
This type of example is wholly imaginary and created by you for the sole purpose of supporting or opposing the prompt.
To develop strong hypothetical examples, your examples must remain grounded in reality, meaning that they must still remain logical, plausible, and relevant to the prompt.
Creating Content Quiz 1: Analysis of Issue Examples
“In business, it takes a lot of money to make a lot of money.”
A. “Since Steve Jobs returned to Apple as its CEO, he has significantly grown its market share and profits by reimagining its products. However, this required billions of dollars and would not have been possible had Apple not already had such capital.”
Correct. This highlights a universal truth that most businesses have to spend money in order to make money by investing in products, infrastructure, and personnel.
B. “My uncle won the lottery. His ticket only cost him a dollar (not a lot of money by any measure), and it earned him millions in return.”
Incorrect. This is not only a rare exception that represents an oddity rather than a trend, but it similarly loses connection with the prompt by focusing on income from gambling rather than that of a “business”.
C. “Many of the best performing investment funds have high minimum buy-in fees, meaning their potential reward is only available to those wealthy enough to afford such minimums.”
Correct. This focuses on a trend across many funds rather than a specific fund, which would fail to universally address the prompt.
D. “A person with a potentially profitable idea, such as founding the next big fast food chain, will need money to build this idea—money to purchase land, pay for food supplies, hire and train workers, and hire businessmen to protect these assets.”
Correct. This theoretical example focuses on costs that will apply to many types of businesses, not just fast food establishments. This proves a need for initial capital across the board.
E. “An entrepreneur can easily take out a loan to pay for his company’s startup costs, spending a bank’s money rather than his own. This would mean he was not spending money in order to make money.”
Incorrect. This is a specific example but illogically ignores the fact that money is still being spent, as the entrepreneur would be spending the bank’s money (in addition to a probable down payment on this loan and eventual monthly payments).
Creating Content Quiz 2: Analysis of Issue
“Space travel is currently too expensive and therefore a poor investment.”
A. “It is theorized that alternative energies such as hydrogen will one day be able to power spacecraft for a fraction of the price of fossil fuels.”
Incorrect. This is a theory, not a fact, and it addresses future expenses rather than the current expenses targeted in the prompt.
B. “Not only has space travel cost hundreds of millions in technological expenses, but it has cost lives as well, which are priceless.”
Correct. Identifying other types of “expenses” will show versatility and creative thinking. The loss of astronauts’ lives is expensive on an emotional level as well as a manpower level.
C. “While space travel is currently very expensive, it remains a strong investment because money spent today will make space travel cheaper in the future. Building the space station, for example, was quite expensive; however, its construction was a one-time expense. The more it is used, the more it will pay for itself—and in the future, it will require only maintenance expenses rather than construction expenses, which will be much more affordable.”
Correct. This stays parallel by addressing current expenses, but uses logic to explain why these expenses will ultimately prove to be a worthy investment.
D. “The first space shuttle launched into space cost taxpayers more than a billion dollars.”
Incorrect. This focuses on past expenses rather than current expenses.
E. “While space travel might not bring back tangible profit from outer space, such as gold and minerals, the pursuit of such has yielded great technological benefits, such as the development of foams and safety equipment that continues to make its way into the lives of ordinary civilians.”
Correct. Financial benefits are not the only reward on an investment. Technological benefits and innovations count as well.
F. All of these examples are appropriate.
Incorrect. Several examples are superior to the others. Try again.
Creating a Strong Argument
Consider the following example:
“It’s going to snow tomorrow, so the university should cancel classes.”
While this example may seem complete, it is missing a supporting link between the claim (“the university should cancel classes”) and the evidence (“it’s going to snow tomorrow”).
Notice the improvement after supporting points are added:
“It’s going to snow tomorrow, which will make the roads slick and dangerous. To avoid injuries to commuting students and faculty, the university should cancel classes until the roads are safe again.”
Quiz 1: Strengthening Arguments
Prompt: “Toads cause warts. I touched a toad last week and now I have a wart;
therefore, the toad was responsible.”
B. “Similarly, it is important to know the author’s history with warts and toads. If, for example, the author has never before touched a toad but has developed warts on a weekly basis, then it is likely that the wart is caused by other reasons, such as a chronic virus such as the human papilloma virus that causes warts to appear regardless of external contact.”
Correct. Adding the example of an internal virus explains why it is important to know the author’s relevant background, as the new wart might have appeared due to a preexisting condition.
A. “Toads may cause warts, but more information is needed to link this particular wart with the toad. For example, it is important to know where the warts developed and what body part or parts came into contact with the toad.”
Incorrect. “This fails to explain why it is important to know this information. A stronger example would explain that warts are spread through direct contact, then highlight the potential absence of direct contact if the wart appeared on the author’s wrist when the author only touched the toad with his or her foot.”
C. “The idea that toads cause warts is a myth. I, for example, have touched many toads and never developed a single wart. Without citing a medical doctor or scholarly study to back this claim, the connection is unsubstantiated.”
Incorrect. You need to address the author’s logic rather than the background or setup information.
D. “It is possible that this particular toad was not a carrier of the bacteria or virus that causes warts. The best way to know would be to find the toad and conduct a scientific test to determine whether or not the wart-causing catalyst was present.”
Incorrect. This is sound advice, but not appropriate for an analysis essay as it fails to address the author’s conclusion from the information given. Rather than pointing out the best way to arrive at a separate conclusion, a stronger example would analyze the logic the author used to arrive at the present conclusion.
E. None of these examples are appropriate.
Incorrect. One example is superior to the others.