Previous SAT Essay Topics Grouped by Theme

I’ve taken essay topics from 2008 onwards and grouped them by theme. Here they are:

Individual vs. Group

  • Is real success achieved only by people who accomplish goals and solve problems on their own?
  • Is it better for people to learn from others than to learn on their own?
  • Do the demands of others tend to make people more productive than they would be without such pressure?
  • Should all people’s opinions be valued equally, or should only informed opinions be taken seriously?
  • Do people succeed by emphasizing their differences from other people?
  • Should originality always be more highly praised than conformity?
  • Are people better off if they do not listen to criticism?
  • Does every individual have an obligation to think seriously about important matters, even when doing so may be difficult?
  • Is there any value for people to belong only to a group or groups with which they have something in common?
  • Is it always better to be original than to imitate or use the ideas of others?

Decision-Making and Consequences

  • Should people change their decisions when circumstances change, or is it best for them to stick with their original decisions?
  • Are decisions made quickly just as good as decisions made slowly and carefully?
  • Should people let their feelings guide them when they make important decisions?
  • Do small decisions often have major consequences?
  • Do incidents from the past continue to influence the present?
  • Is compromise always the best way to resolve a conflict?

Paying Attention

  • Do people put too much importance on getting every detail right on a project or task?
  • Is it a disadvantage to pay attention to details?
  • Do people have to pay attention to mistakes in order to make progress?
  • Do people make the greatest discoveries by exploring what is unfamiliar to them or by paying close attention to what seems familiar?

The Cost of Progress & Technology

  • Are there benefits to be gained from avoiding the use of modern technology, even when using it would make life easier?
  • Does improvement or progress usually involve a significant drawback or problem of some kind?
  • Has today’s abundance of information only made it more difficult for us to understand the world around us?


  • Is it wrong or harmful to motivate people to learn or achieve something by offering them rewards?
  • Do highly accomplished people achieve more than others mainly because they expect more of themselves?
  • Are people’s actions motivated primarily by a desire for power over others?


  • Does planning interfere with creativity?
  • If people worked less, would they be more creative and active during their free time?
  • Is it absolutely necessary for people to study the creative arts?


  • Are people overly influenced by unrealistic claims and misleading images?
  • Is it wise to be suspicious of the motives or honesty of other people, even those who appear to be trustworthy?

Dealing with Hardship

  • Should people accept unfairness and find ways to make the best of it?
  • Is striving to achieve a goal always the best course of action, or should people give up if they are not making progress?

Journey vs. Destination

  • Does the process of doing something matter more than the outcome?
  • Is the effort involved in pursuing any goal valuable, even if the goal is not reached?

Judging Others

  • Should people be treated according to what they are capable of achieving instead of what they have actually done?
  • Are people best defined by what they do?

Realism vs. Idealism

  • Should books portray the world as it is or as it should be?
  • Is an idealistic approach less valuable than a practical approach?


  • Do rules and limitations contribute to a person’s happiness?

Past vs. Present

  • Should people always prefer new things, ideas, or values, to those of the past?


  • Should we pay more attention to people who are older and more experienced than we are?


  • Is it better for people to act on their feelings than to talk about them?
  • Does money lead to selfishness?
  • Do advertisements contribute to unhappiness and dissatisfaction?
  • Do people need discipline to achieve freedom?
  • Is talking the most effective and satisfying way of communicating with others?
  • Should the government be responsible for making sure that people lead healthy lives?
  • Is it important for people to spend time outdoors and to learn to appreciate their natural environment?

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