I have been following the SAT Cheating Scandal pretty closely since the beginning. I don’t check in on it every day or anything, but I have a Google Alert set up, so when news breaks, I peek in. Apparently Sam Eshaghoff, the kid who took the test for all those other people, is getting his 15 minutes of fame now, and recently taped an interview with 60 Minutes. He’s just as charming as you’d expect a morally bankrupt person to be. Money quote:

I mean, a kid who has a horrible grade-point average, who no matter how much he studies is going to totally bomb this test, by giving him an amazing score, I totally give him this… new lease on life. He’s going to go to a totally new college. He’s going to be bound for a totally new career and a totally new path on life.

Assignment: Are achievements diminished when they are accomplished dishonestly? Plan and write an essay in which you develop your point of view on this issue. Support your position with reasoning and examples taken from your reading, studies, experience, or observations.

Yep, that’s right. It’s an essay contest. But I don’t want pages and pages here. I want an SAT-length composition. Ideally, I’d like you to complete it in 25 minutes, but I don’t have any way to check you on that, so I guess we’re on the honor system. Think for a minute about how appropriate that is, given the prompt. I just got chills.

Post your essays right in the comments; I’ll accept entries until Monday. I’ll score them all, and I’ll send a free copy of the Math Guide to my favorite one. Obviously, to win, you can’t be anonymous.

UPDATE: You’re all winners. I won’t make a habit of this because I can’t afford it, but all three of you who took the time to write essays this time will get a copy of the book. See my specific comments below.

Comments (12)

pwnthesat essay contest

Dylan Catlow


The definition of an achievement can takes many forms. For some, an achievement is competing against themselves, others compete to be the best; but how does one define an achievement? Is the achievement of doing well on a test the score, or the studying behind it? Is success in life measured by how high one gets, or how hard one tries? When one artificially changes their scores on a test or achieves something dishonestly, people still treat them as if they had done it honestly. The score on the test doesn’t change, but the impact or influence of that score does. Achievements are diminished if they are achieved dishonestly as it is the road taken to success which counts, not the result.

For instance, if one cheated on his SAT and got a score he would have never normally achieved, the implications could be negative. Say this cheater gets accepted into a very difficult university, as the admission staff honestly thought he was as ready as his scores appeared to make him. The cheater is jubilant at his “success” and scoffs at his friends for not cheating with him. On the first day of the semester, he is completely stupefied at the difficulty of his classes, and by the end of the semester has a 1.5 GPA and drops out. Now he has mountains of student loan debt and no college degree to pay them off. He now has learned that an achievement isn’t the end result; it is the road one took to get there.

The motivation to win dishonestly is to protect one’s ego from reality. For instance a contestant at a swimming competition jumps in a second before the shot is called and wins by less than a second. What has this contestant achieved? He isn’t faster than the rest of the contestants, which is what the competition is testing; he just won. So what motivated this contestant to cheat? Was it the praise he would receive, because it couldn’t be the feeling he would get from winning honestly. He hasn’t achieved anything yet he wants to see the illusion that he has.

Is what a society defines as dishonest what dishonesty really is, or is there an absolute definition? If a society defines a “cheater” as someone who hides Jews from nazis as dishonest, should they be looked down on, or is it up to individuals to question the definition of dishonesty and challenge it? Fighting a dysfunctional system with dishonesty is sometimes appropriate and it is up to the individual to decide when it is. 

Achievements are diminished if they are achieved dishonestly, as it is the road taken not the result that defines an achievement. The motivation to win dishonestly is to protect one’s ego from reality with an illusion of winning. Reality will always conquer illusion as it is the medium in which illusion takes place.

Hi Dylan,

This is pretty good! A few tips: Don’t take so long to get to your point in the intro. I know it’s tempting to start off with a discussion of the definition of achievement, but you should really just jump right to your thesis.

Also, you should try to use at least one concrete example in your essays. The examples you use are clearly thought out, but it’s easy to come up with a scenario in your head that supports your argument. SAT essay readers want to see you apply examples from your studies or your own experiences to the question. Annoying, I know, but that’s the way it is. 


thanks for taking the time to read and give constructive criticism and advice to all of these essays, oh and thanks for the book too=) I now have my SAT book collection complete consisting of yours, Ultimate guide to SAT grammar, and Dr Chungs’s. You are the best!

When achievements are earned through dishonest means, it  devalues the achievement and brings dishonor to the cheater. Even when the dishonest individual is the only one who knows the offence took place, it is still shameful. They can never honestly say that they achieved true mastery of something, other than developing a mastery of manipulating the system to meet their selfish wants and desires.

An author’s dishonesty on Amazon about their SAT preparation book is an example of how lying can bring down an accomplishment. People see that this book has received rave reviews on Amazon, receiving exclusively five star reviews soon after its release. Because of this they invest their hard earned money hoping that it will help them achieve their dream score on the test. Then upon receiving it one week later they discover that the material has been copied word for word from online resources which they have already gone over. Not only that but the positive reviews this book received on Amazon were written on alternate accounts by the author himself. The students who buy the book feel disappointed, and the author’s only achievement was having five star ratings on Amazon for a short period of time. After they are disillusioned, the negative reviews flow in exposing this act of deceit, destroying any positive reputation the author had.

When a student cheats on the SAT they not only bring dishonor to themselves but they void the reason we have the SAT test in the first place. The SAT test was created to determine who is intellectually qualified for entrance in to colleges. If people cheat on this test, then they give themselves better chances of getting in to a college that somebody else who scored below them but would be a better fit in to the rigorous curriculum. Cheaters rob other people of opportunities they have earned and that is one of the most dishonorable actions a person can commit.

It is those who are talented and truly work hard to advance themselves who should be proud, not people looking for an easy way to get what they want. There is no shortcut to mastery. Once people are disillusioned of the falsehoods somebody uses to show their mastery, their achievement no longer holds any value.

Not bad! 

Biggest issue here: pronoun agreement. On the SAT, it’s never OK to use “they,” “them,” or “their” when you’re referring to a singular antecedent like “a student.” You have to say “he or she,” or just randomly pick a gender. This is tested all the time in the Writing multiple choice, and graders will kill you for it on the essay. 

You should also try to use concrete examples instead of hypotheticals. When you say things like “when a student cheats” your essay becomes unnecessarily philosophical. Try to keep it more grounded in reality by using actual events, or things you’ve read in your studies. 


I make the pronoun agreement mistake all the time, so I definitely need to work on that before I take the SAT. I’ve always felt like there should be a word that encompasses both genders singularly. Thanks for the feedback!

Achievements are diminished when they are accomplished dishonestly because dishonest achievements do not represent a person’s true abilities. Several examples from my life and recent events prove that deceitfully attained achievements do not hold the same value as legitimately attained achievements.

Through the actions of one of my classmates, it is easy to see exactly how accomplishments achieved underhandedly are certainly less impressive than accomplishments achieved honestly. This student cheated on the first chemistry test of the year, setting the curve and getting a perfect score. His hard working peers lauded him as a “natural” at chemistry and a “genius.” In reality, the student did not actually understand the material. Consequently, he failed the next unit’s test which expanded on what he had previously been tested on and confessed to cheating on the first test. His teacher and peers lost their respect for him as they realized he was a deceptive phony, not the “chemistry genius” they initially perceived him as. Thus, the actions of my classmate prove how accomplishments achieved through cheating are perceived as being less valuable because they do not represent a person’s actual skill.

As demonstrated by Linda Metcalf’s dishonesty in a recent New York Marathon, achievements are certainly diminished when they are accomplished unfairly, as they do not accurately represent a person’s abilities. Metcalf entered the grueling 3o mile marathon hoping to win 1st place. However, as she fell behind, she stealthily entered a local mall where she lounged for four hours while observing the race progress from her cell phone. Metcalf proceeded to call up a friend who transported her to a point near the race’s finish. Metcalf then jumped out of the friend’s car and ran briefly to the finish line, nabbing the coveted gold medal. However, Metcalf felt guiltily for cheating the runners who actually ran the whole race and confessed to cheating the next day, renouncing her gold medal. As a result, the award was transferred to the runner who had rightfully finished the race first, earning him accolades and respect from fellow runners. Therefore, Metcalf acknowledged that she achieved her gold medal through an unfair advantage that did not represent her actual skill as a runner. She herself did not feel that she deserved the honor of first place since her cheating devalued the sense of achievement that came with the award.

After a careful analysis of the actions of my classmate and Linda Metcalf, honesty is indeed crucial for an achievement to be viewed at its full value. When achievements are accomplished dishonestly, their value is lessened because they do not accurately represent a person’s skill in that field.

Very nice! 

Just a few suggestions:

1) Don’t say “prove.” You’re making an argument, and it’s a pretty good one, but you haven’t proved anything. It’s pretty much impossible to prove something in a 25 minute essay. Instead, say your examples support a your argument. 

2) Word choice in general. Don’t try to get too fancy. Use “guilty” not “guiltily.” Try to avoid using “a person” if, in the case of your marathon example, you can be more specific. 

haha Linda Metcalf, as in the person who didn’t really win the New York marathon because she doesn’t really exist? The only backing that example has is as an argument against your thesis as you got the highest score dishonestly. Achievement yet to be diminished.=)

The linda metcalf example is using a structured college confidential essay-guideline.

1. Thesis
2. Can be found in… (A, B, and C)
3. Example paragraphs
4. Conclusion: “After a careful analysis of (A, B, and C), it is evident that (Thesis keyword) is, indeed, crucial to  (thesis argument)

 Oh please.  I’m a member on the CC forum, and if you think that that essay format is new, you must have just fallen off the turnip truck.  We have been teaching that format since the writing section was added.  Xi or whoever it is on CC posted as his/her own, and people have been suckered in to thinking it’s original.  Check RR, The Ultimate SAT Tutorial, etc, and you will see the same format.

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