Katelyn’s 10 essay (in the comments)

Because even though you only get one score, your essay can fail or succeed along 5 axes. The above is something I’m working on to try to help people understand a little better how, even if their grammar is perfect, for example, their essay score might not improve. It may or may not factor heavily into an Essay Guide I may or may not be working on.

Because I want to see if this works and makes sense, the first 3 practice essays left in the comments on this post will be scored and represented with a similar star. My favorite of the three will receive a copy of the Math Guide. Please note that, by submitting an essay to here, you are giving me permission to take it apart and use it as an example. Criticism will likely be involved. I won’t be mean about it or anything, but still. Be forewarned. 😉

Here’s your prompt:

Greed, for lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right. Greed works. Greed clarifies, cuts through, and captures, the essence of the evolutionary spirit. Greed, in all of its forms—greed for life, for money, for love, knowledge—has marked the upward surge of mankind and greed, you mark my words, will not only save Teldar Paper, but that other malfunctioning corporation called the U.S.A.

-Gordon Gekko, Wall Street

Assignment: Can acting in one’s own self interest make the world a better place? 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.

Here are a few more star charts for the essays in the comments section.

Edgar Allen Iverson’s 10 essay.
Rajat’s 7 essay.

Comments (28)

I’ll take a shot at it for fun and some good practice 🙂

In an age dominated by technology, entertainment and
materialism, greed cannot be avoided. To
put it best, greed is a virus. Although not every member of our society is
infected, it only takes a few people to nurture and foster our inherent feelings
of greed before it spreads to others and poisons society. Consequently, as we embrace
greed, we become superficial and so engaged with self-indulgence that we become
disillusioned and apathetic to the worsening global crises around us, leading
to the degradation rather that the betterment of our society.

The rise of consumerism is by far the prime cause of the ever-increasing
presence of greed and self-indulgence in our society. The media and the
entertainment industry through advertisements and product placement brainwash
our culture into desiring the latest Apple products and fashion trends as
reality TV and sitcoms continue to drown us in triviality. As a result, programs
such as documentaries and news programs that educate the public and foster awareness
are overshadowed. This triviality and materialism lays the foundation for
creating a generation not only dominated by greed but also disillusioned into believing
apathy is acceptable, both of which cause bright young minds to act in self-interest
rather than harnessing the tools we have to better society. If we are not
careful, we will end up so self-absorbed that our society will evolve into a
dystopia such as the one presented by Ray Bradbury in Fahrenheit 451 where books
are burned and families are replaced by TV and radio shows.

Many people would argue, however, that self-interest and
greed are not detrimental to society. Millionaires, especially those which are philanthropists,
believe that with self-interest, we in fact encourage individuals to invest and
build up their self-worth which that in turn alleviate our global economic
crisis by creating a stable economy based on healthy competition and confident investment.
In addition, the new wealth would allow people to allocate more of their money
to charities and programs that indirectly contribute to a better society.

However, these people are victims of disillusionment. The reality
is only a few wealthy people such as Bill Gates can help better society their seemingly
endless amount of money. While these can have impact on the short term and
immediate crises in our society, in the long term, we cannot hope to solve all
of our problems by merely throwing money at the problem. Instead, we must
educate our society so that individuals are not only aware of the problems but
also so that we can harness tools such as social networking to unify us and
provide solutions to problems such as global warming and the spread of AIDS in destitute

Thanks Katelyn! You display an impressively developed comfort with the English language in this essay. Your sentences structure is varied–there’s a nice rhythm to your prose. Your use of advanced vocabulary is appropriate and doesn’t feel forced. Grammatically, the essay is pretty good, but there’s room for a little improvement. Let’s have a look at a sentence:

“This triviality and materialism lays the foundation for creating a generation not only dominated by greed but also disillusioned into believing apathy is acceptable, both of which cause bright young minds to act in self-interest rather than harnessing the tools we have to better society.”

I’d reword that. You use the singular conjugation of to lay but you’re really saying triviality and materialism (two things) lay a foundation. Further, you shift from talking about bright young minds in the third person to using the first person when you say “the tools we have.” You’re clearly a bright young mind, but you should avoid switching between third and first person when you’re talking about the same group of people.

Your biggest opportunity for improvement, though, is your argument. The prompt asks whether acting in one’s own self interest can be good. Your argument is, generally, that it cannot, but it takes you a long time to get there and by the time you state your position, you don’t have much time to support it with examples. The one example you do cite at the end is Bill Gates, who seems to be the counterexample to your claim.

This essay gets a 10, easy. But you’re clearly a gifted writer, so I have no problem saying that you could be writing 12s if you focus on structuring your essays a bit more around your argument. Let your skillful use of language compliment your argument, not supplant it.

Despite the eloquent assertions of Mr. Gekko his fundamental conclusion about the benefits of acting solely for personal gain is flawed. History and literature are rife with examples of the pitfalls of putting selfish objectives above the benefits to mankind. One such example is Aduff Hilter, which one can juxtapose to the example of Martin Luthor the King.

Hilter overwhelming self interest and radical jingoism is a glaring example of how selfish ends ultimately lead to negative consequences for the world at large and the selfish individual. Hilter was the military leader of Germany who put for an agenda of radical nationalism and racism that eventually plunged the world into the second World War. Hilter rallied his nation behind the idea that they represented the pinnacle of human development and as such were entitled to dominate inferior races. This attitude and the actions that stemmed from the attitude eventually led to wars that spanned nations and continents. This war cost millions of lives and billions of dollars resulting in a profound and lasting damage to the world.

Martin Luthor the King on the other hand professed a philosophy of brotherhood and togetherness that was a stark counterpoint to the individualism of Hilter. King sought to shelve his petty desires and encouraged his fellow man to do the same. He professed that only by seeking that which is good for all mankind above that which is good for yourself would we have unity, end war, end famine, and engender growth as humans. Kings actions and belies sparked the end of segregation in the United States and brought about an era of prosperity and harmony, clearly demonstrating that when we seek objective that benefit the world as a community we achieve the greatest good.

Examining the lives, belief structure, and impact of these two figures clearly demonstrates not only the benefit of acting for more than one’s own self interest but also demonstrates the drawbacks of working for selfish gains.

Score: 10.

I’m not sure the Hitler example really makes the point you’re trying to make. You don’t convince me that his actions were selfish—you just convince me they were bad.

Your second example is stronger, because it makes the argument that selfless actions are good, which supports your thesis.

Also, this is minor, but you’ve got two errors with possession, which are distracting. “Hitler overwhelming self interest…” and “Kings actions and beliefs…” should be “Hitler’s” and “King’s.”

Lastly, I know we’re just having fun here, but please don’t use false names on purpose on the real SAT. You don’t want your graders not to take you seriously.

I like your star chart.. I think it’s an interesting organizational structure for the scoring rubric. I agree. As I was in the airport writing it I got distracted and lost the thread of what i wanted to say with Hitler, he was a little harder to make the selfishness argument for.

Greed is definitely important, because it is the upmost necessity for self improvement. For growing in life, greed is must. Greed is needed for ambitions, to look for opportunities, and to set our goals. Greed makes a man feel lack of something he might want to have in his life and in the this process, he starts searching for ways, and hardworking to achieve it. Being taken on a positive way, greed proves to be the most important aspect for a man’s growth in life.

On the other hand, greed can even lead to destruction of one’s life if directed in a wrong way. It is rightly said that greed works, but only when the negative aspects of greed are eliminated.
Greed is good only till one does not destroy himself, others, his family, society or culture in order to gain something without making efforts for it.
Greed in a way to snatch something out is not appropriate. Greed in someone who is not ready to work, can harm him, as well as even make him harm others, just to fulfill the greed. Such greed ends people becoming thieves and robbers who take the wrong path, just to fulfill their greeds.

Greed should just be used as a motivation to improve oneself on an individual level.
Greed helps in developing new ideas and new ways to achieve our goals. It leads to planning and organizing ourselves in order to make ourselves the way it is needed to match our wants.
Greed directly affects one’s self interests, and point of views about something. 
Looking at someone having something you might want, makes you feel greedy, and sometimes jealous. This jealousy, and greed makes one try his best to gain what he wants. In this way, he improves himself and his life. In totality, he improves the world.

It is absolutely true that greed leads to prosperity in life and acting on one’s own self interest can make this world a better place.
A man is a small part or say a piece of this world, and if slowly, each and every piece tries to improve itself, it will lead to a great puzzle, the world.
Also, by making his own life better, a man will improve his surroundings and the society and will set a culture for the next generation.

The river is made up of tiny drops, so if each drop is purified, it is certain that the river will be the most pure.
Similarly, if each individual gets greedy, he will try to purify himself, his life and the world around him, henceforth purifying the world and making it a better place to live in.

Thanks for writing in, Rajat! I’d say this essay gets a 7, because while I can imagine a grader giving it a 4, I can also imagine one giving it a 3. So I’ll hedge my bets and assume you’d get one of each.

The biggest problem with this essay is that it’s more of a meditation on the different things greed can mean than it is an argument in which you address the question in the prompt. To the extent that you do address the prompt, you basically say greed is both good and bad.

You also make some claims that you don’t do much to support. For example, you say “by making his own life better, a man will improve his surroundings and the society and will set a culture for the next generation.” But HOW? The reason it’s important to explain that (and here’s where examples from history or literature help) is that I, your grader, might have a counterexample in mind. For instance, I might say that in the recent financial crisis, greed led a few men to make their lives better and it made everyone else’s lives worse.

Remember, the SAT essay is not asking you to simply give your thoughts, it’s asking you for an argument. You need to take a side, and use examples to support your position.

Thank you very much.
It is just the beginning for me practicing essays for SAT
I need to improve more and more.
I will be needing your help
I will be quite frequently asking for your suggestions so please help me..

I realize that I’m a bit late & that you have already critiqued 3 essays, but I thought it might be worth a try to submit mine as well. =)

Acting in one’s own self interest
can indeed make the world a better place. Greed, through cause and effect, can
be turned from a self-profit situation to an integral shift in the lives of

At the dawn of the Industrial
Revolution in America,
one specific businessman led the automobile industry. This man was Henry Ford,
who introduced commercial automobiles, a mode of transportation that allowed
anyone to ride in style. Ford’s main interest was to make a profit, just like
any other businessman. Not only was Ford’s innovation a result of acting out of
his own self interest, but it also changed the world into a more modern,
connected place. His greed, his quest to make money, was incredible change that
most definitely made the world a better place.

As for me, I have seen small-scale
implications of this theory. During my freshman and sophomore years of high
school, I completed community service hours here and there, knowing I would
need service hours for National Honor Society membership and college
applications. At first, I was acting out of complete and utter self interest.
Over time, however, I learned how my work in the community really affected the
lives of others. Now, I jump at nearly every
opportunity to do community service. Even a couple hours can change one person’s
world, and acting in my own self interest was the only way that I was able to
see how a single person, like myself, could make my community a better place.

Both of these examples show
instances of greed which turned into a positive influence on the world. They
support the idea that greed, no matter how grotesque a word it may be, can be a
good thing. Where would we be without the family car or community volunteers?
Without acting out of self interest, we would not be living in the progressive,
modern world that we know today.

Hi Kimberly,

Sorry it took me so long to get to this. I’d give this essay a 10. Your use of vocabulary was good, and it’s clear to me that you’re comfortable and maybe even enjoy writing. You’ve got a few mechanical issues (“His greed, his quest to make money, was incredible change that
most definitely made the world a better place”
Was his greed itself incredible change, or did it lead to it?), but I don’t sense that’s a problem you can’t fix with a little extra caution.

I’d like to see some more development of your argument, though. Your thesis is good and your example paragraphs make clear that you’re focused on it, but you take for granted that your reader will know and understand why Ford’s innovations and your own community service make the world a better place, but I’d like to see some concrete examples. Maybe another industry that applied Ford’s manufacturing principles and makes the world better, or an example of someone’s life you’ve impacted through your service. More specifics. More more more.

Hey, I know I am a little late to the party, but I would really appreciate it if you could still grade this essay. I have not had an essay graded y a professional so it would behoove me to get some help.

Although greed can be a vice, it is ultimately and inherently necessary in a free-market enterprise such as the one we have in America. Greed can cause problems, but if the power of greed is harnessed for good, the possibilities that come from the opportunities brought out by greed are immense. Greed, along with fear and love, is among the greatest motivational emotions known to man and healthy greed is beneficial to not just oneself but to those around him or her.

One paradigm in which this case is abundantly clear is in the life and philanthropic works of one of the world’s richest men Warren Buffet. This stock market and business mogul dominated the free market in America to make his fortune. His greed for power, success, and subsequently wealth was one of the largest factors in his meteoric rise to power to financial gain. Buffett, however also saw the destructive power that greed could have. He knew that greed could destroy him much faster than it had helped build him up. This is a “healthy greed,” which means that a he uses it as motivation but does not let it consume him. Buffett had originally acted in his own self-interest, but through his accumulation of wealth and he resources he has helped thousands of people. His impact, however, is not just in monetary value because the jobs and companies that he has helped create number in the thousands. Buffett truly made a world a better place through his selfish greed.

Another paradigm in which selfish motives and greed has helped people in the actions of John L Lewis. This talented investment banker was the epitome of a stock market banker filled with greed. Through his self-interest he had made a fortune, but he wanted more. Consequently, in the stock market crash of 2008, the start the “Great Recession,” he lost nearly everything. He had attempted to double his portfolio and ended up losing. Lewis, however, learned from his mistake and he has since gained much of his wealth back. He is also now an advisor to many young stock market evaluators. The countless young men and women that he is educating on the dangers of greed are benefitting from Lewis. He learned from the greed and his self-interest and proceeded to help others. Greed had made Lewis and greed had Lewis, but he learned and has helped people through what he has learned from his own greed and self-interest.

Greed is a characteristic that young children are taught to avoid. Fables and folklore include a plethora of paradigms and anecdotes to illustrate to young children that greed is a terrible vice, but those children’s stories do not tell the full story. They leave out the fact that greed drives people to do more, work harder, and outlast the competition. Greed runs the economy and the world. Without it, people would not strive to be better than others. Learning to harness the power of greed and acting in self-interest can and often does make the world a better place.

Hi Kd,

I’d give this a 10. Your vocab and variety of sentence structure are quite good. Your grammar is fine, too. The issue is that your point of view is a bit muddled.

Your thesis is that greed can be bad, but it makes the world go ’round, so it can also be good. But it seems like you approach both of your examples from the perspective of “this guy was greedy, realized that being purely greedy was bad, then became better by being philanthropic.” Makes me think that your thesis should be adjusted to be a bit more nuanced. For example, rather than the current thesis, you might argue that greed isn’t inherently good, but some people are both greedy and philanthropic, and that’s a good thing.

Here’s a passage from your essay that I think illustrates this point:

“Buffett, however also saw the destructive power that greed could have. He knew that greed could destroy him much faster than it had helped build him up. This is a “healthy greed,” which means that a he uses it as motivation but does not let it consume him. Buffett had originally acted in his own self-interest, but through his accumulation of wealth and he resources he has helped thousands of people. His impact, however, is not just in monetary value because the jobs and companies that he has helped create number in the thousands. Buffett truly made a world a better place through his selfish greed.”

That’s not particularly well organized, but it also has me scratching my head as to your true position. Greed has destructive power? But people should be greedy? What does “healthy greed” really mean? Why do you create and define a term only to use it once?

You’re clearly a strong writer–I think you can do quite well on the SAT essay. Just be careful and pick a nuanced, easily defensible thesis. That’ll make it much easier not to fall into traps later as you delve into your pieces of evidence.

Thank you so much! This really helps out because now I know that my essays are decent to good based on a real professional’s standards and not just my standards.
P.s. the Lewis example was fake because I couldn’t think of anything else to use. I think it ended up working out fairly well though.

Hi, I was wondering if you could grade my essay. I’m taking the SAT this saturday and was just trying to get an idea of what my essays are scoring.

Modern society has created a very selfish world. Because of technology, greed and priority attitudes have become more prevalent. Being selfish will not make the world a better place because the world is constituted of more than one person and more than one interest.
American government is organized so no one opinion takes importance over another, hence checks and balances, parties, and a balance between decentralized and centralized power. The Articles of Confederation was unsuccessful because it emphasized the interest of one entity, the states; it didn’t account for federal government’s role in society. Congress had no power to dictate taxes, therefor states financially supported the army and federally operated services. Congress also did not have the ability to make laws. When dealing with a more modern topic, the use of Marijuana, if our government still operated under the Articles, California, Washington, and Colorado would not have to fight the federal government, especially the courts, to keep the law they passed for their respective state. This is why the Constitution had to be drafted, for the state and federal governments need symmetrical roles to be able to acting the popular, or major, interest.
If everybody acted in their own interest, society would be very disconnected. A friend of mine started dating my ex-boyfriend. We got into an argument because she didn’t understand boundaries. I didn’t mind her dating him in the sense that I still had feelings for him; I was disgruntled over the pact that on multiple occasion she’d use me to get to bigger and better places and leave me in the dust. Her insensitivity and selfishness left us with a dismantled friendship. Imagine, if that trivial even can end a friendship, what would happen to the world if Nation’s leaders did what they want, when they wanted. Iran would annihilate israel, Russia would most likely attempt to attack the U.S. and the World War 3 would be the beginning of the end.
All in all, technology has made it easier to be selfish and to act with ones best interest at heart. Yet, society constantly denounces those that don’t act or rule with their citizens, family member, or friends interests at heart.

Hi Sophie, these days I’m only scoring essays for people who own my Essay Guide, but I didn’t want to leave you hanging before your SAT. This essay has some issues, mostly with organization and focus. Your thesis makes the claim that technology is responsible for selfishness in the world today, but the evidence you cite has very little to do with technology. You also throw a hypothetical in there at the end which doesn’t really help your point: if world leaders acted like your bf-stealing friend, that wouldn’t necessarily result in WWIII.

I hope this helped a bit. Good luck on Saturday!

I live in India and I am not familiar with American history examples referred in PWN the SAT essay guide.
Is it possible to get good essay score if I use examples from Indian history. (I will try to mention some european history examples) BUT I can support my argument better if i use the examples from the background I am familiar with.

*** I am going to ask few other questions in form of another comment because it may be restricted from being published. Although i do not have any intention to write anything considered unfit.

It is MUCH better to use evidence you’re familiar with than to try to cobble together an understanding of stuff like American history if you haven’t been studying it your whole life. You write your best when you write about what you know and care about!

When it comes to ethical prompts..I usually have good arguments to write about but at some point they touch religion related topics. Can Essay graders get offended if they don’t like my argument.

Initially, I wanted to be more clear in this comment but I am not being able to, but since you studied psychology I leave it onto you to guess whats in my mind.

Many Thanks!!

Technically, they are not supposed to let their personal biases get in the way of their objective grading, but I think it’s best practice to avoid being too controversial out of an abundance of caution that you might get a grader who cannot keep his or her biases in check.

Your star scoring system is interesting, but it gives the impression that each of these criteria receives the same weight in scoring. My understanding is that development and support of POV and organization/focus are much more important than the other criteria, no?

I’m not sure—I think each element needs to be there to hit a top score. Take a really well-organized essay with a well-developed thesis, and put a grammatical error in every sentence. There’s no way it gets a high score.

When people think of “Greed” they usually think of it in a negative way, a selfish way.Although being greed should be seen positive as well as negative.But should excessive self interest be seen as a right characteristic?
To be greedy is to be selfish but to be greedy with limits is to satisify oneself. A nonfiction story of an old man shows how he spent his life collecting money because he was greed for money. When he got his salary he hided it in his closet not using it for himself or for his children. He loved money and didnt let his children use it because he wanted to have more and more of it. Such a greed man died poorly refusing to pay for a surgery he had to do and pretending to be poor.However non of his children were sad for him after they found the money he was hiding.The money made them forget about him. I am stating this instance to show that being greed is not always an positive and shouldnt be considered a way of living because being greed can lead one to be excessively thrift.

Another example that shows Greed as a negative quaility is when it is present in the wrong person. In Syria, The people did alot of manifestations to remove the cruel president and to get their rights. The president refused to get off his position because he was greed for presidency. He wanted to be the president forever. Until today he still ruling while most of his people immigrated to other countries seeking better lives. As a result, most of his people died and the friends, families, and neighbors are now seeking revenge from the government.
On the other hand,Acting in one’s own self interest can be so beneficial. The greed for wanting everything to be good ,and the greed of the evolutionary spirit. A greedy leader would love to see his fellows and companions well prepared. An army leader would let the soldiers train, train, and train and wont be satisfied easily. A patriot who cares about his country will keep doing his best to let his country get more developed. A religious person who greedly wants God satisfication will keep avoidin bad habits and sins. All these are positive instances of how “greed” can be a good characteristic.
In conclusion, Acting in one’s own self interest can be both postive and negative. IF one is greedy for his ownself, he or she wont let the world a better place.However, If one is greedy for his own country, for others, for knowledge, and for life,he or she will obiviously let the world a better place.

Thats it =) Thanks in advance hope You read it please no one has graded my essays for a long time so I appreciate your rating and comments please i am taking the october exam.

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