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What Must We Do To Truly Understand Ourselves Sat Essay

Essay #1

Assignment: Is it important to question the ideas and decisions of people in positions of authority?

Ascendency. Power. Control. Historically, the authorization of those with esteem and influence has seldom been challenged. While authority can be useful to keeping peace in society, it may sometimes be detrimental. This occurs when those in positions of power take advantage of their knowledge and exploit inferior persons to maintain dominance over others with less command of their fate. Both literature and current events provide a myriad of cases in point that demonstrate that, intermittently, authority should at times be challenged. As stated by a prominent author, “Sometimes it is necessary to challenge what people in authority claim to be true….it can even correct old errors in thought and put an end to wrong actions.” A paradigm illustrating a time when authority was properly questioned was in the science fiction work by Suzanne Collins, called the Hunger Games. Another instance where authority is challenged is in the real-life example of Jerry Sandusky. Here, both fiction and real life examples support the notion that authority can be challenged at times.

In the science-fiction work by prominent novelist and American writer Suzanne Collins, the protagonist, 16-year-old Katniss Everdeen, resides in the post-apocalyptic dystopian nation of Panem, where the countries of North America once existed. In The Hunger Games, the authority is the government of Panem and they control all of the events that happen in the arena such as creating fires or sending out wild dogs to attack the competitors. The Capitol, a highly advanced metropolis, exercises political control over the rest of the nation. The Hunger Games are an annual event in which one boy and one girl aged 12–18 from each of the twelve districts surrounding the Capitol are selected by lottery to compete in a televised battle to the death. Unbeknownst to Katniss and Peeta, some of the other tributes in the 75th Games were part of a conspiracy (which also involved some high-ranking officials from the Capitol) to escape from the Games and help initiate a new rebellion orchestrated by the survivors of District 13. Katniss and Peeta defy authority and both win The Hunger Games. Instead of one winning and one dying, they both survive. At the end of the book, when Katniss and Peeta are the only two left alive, the game makers announce that there can only be one winner, implying that one of them has to kill the other. Neither of them wants to die or wants the other person to die, so, in defiance of the game makers, they both eat poisonous berries at the same time so that they will both die and there will no winner. Since there has to be a winner, the game makers tell them to stop and spit out the berries and that they are both the winners. In this example, the willingness of Katniss and Peeta to go against authority saves both of their lives and eventually starts a revolt against the Capitol. Thus, sometimes it is vital to question the thoughts and pronouncements of those in power.

While the story of Katniss and Peeta in the Hunger Games is a fictional example, a real-life archetype of why authority should sometimes be questioned is demonstrated in the case of Jerry Sandusky. Gerald Arthur "Jerry" Sandusky was a prominent American football coach who abused his authority and later became a convicted serial child molester. At the peak of his career, Sandusky served as an assistant coach for at Pennsylvania State University under Joe Paterno. He received Assistant Coach of the Year awards in 1986 and 1999. Sandusky authored several books related to his football coaching experiences. In 1977, Sandusky founded The Second Mile, a non-profit charity serving Pennsylvania underprivileged and at-risk youth. After Sandusky retired as assistant coach at Penn State, he continued working with The Second Mile at Penn State; even maintaining an office at Penn State until 2011. In 2011, following a two-year grand jury investigation, Sandusky was arrested and charged with 52 counts of sexual abuse of young boys over a 15-year period. He met his molestation victims through The Second Mile, who were children participating in the organization, and several of them testified against Sandusky in his sexual abuse trial. On June 22, 2012, Sandusky was found guilty on 45 of the 48 remaining charges. Sandusky was sentenced on October 9, 2012 to 30 to 60 years in prison. Sandusky was in a position of authority as a football coach at Penn State where football is the most important sport. In addition, he also ran a charity to help underprivileged boys. Because no one questioned his power even when they knew what he was doing to the young boys, many children were abused for years. If people had questioned Sandusky’s actions, he would not have been able to abuse as many kids as he did.

As evidenced above, sometimes it is necessary to challenge what people in supremacy claim to be true. Because the protagonists Katniss questioned authority and went against the dominant rules, she saved not only her life, but also her friend’s. Furthermore, Jerry Sandusky was exposed only after a child came forth to question his authority to touch her inappropriately, later exposing perhaps one dozen years of child sexual abuse.

Key Synonyms:

1. “authority”: use instead: ascendency, authorization, charge, clout, domination, dominion, mastery, prerogative, supremacy, weight

2. “sometimes”: use instead: at intervals, consistently, intermittently, periodically, recurrently, frequently, Now and Again, occasionally

3. “example” : use instead: Archetype, instance, case in point, exemplification, paradigm, precedent, prototype, representation, specimen, symbol.


Paragraph 1 outline:

Sentence 1: Massive vocabulary

Sentence 2 & 3: Rephrase assignment

Sentence 4: we are saying we will (taken from the assignment) “support our position”

Sentence 5: We are quoting the box, saying someone famous (“prominent”) said this.

 Sentence 6: Introduce example 1

Sentence 7: introduce example 2

Sentence 8: Restate thesis

Essay 2

page 451

Assignment: Should people take more responsibility for solving problems that affect their communities or the nation in general?

Accountability. Albatross. Amenability. Many individuals contend that answerability is a concept of the past. In fact, it has been noted that, “our government should do more to solve our problems … yet expecting that the government rather than individuals—should always come up with the solutions to society’s ills may have made us less self-reliant, undermining our independence and self-sufficiency.” While it may seem easier to simply hold the government accountable for society’s woes, citizens should hold themselves culpable for problems in their community and actively seek ways to ameliorate them, because not doing so can be detrimental to communities as a whole.  One example which illustrates why people should take more proactive steps to solve problems within their community is with regards to eliminating pollution, because not doing so can not only affect our short-term health, but also that of our long-term. Another instance where community members can make a positive impact within their neighborhood is by finding ways to diminish crime. This will help them protect not only themselves, but also the families and loved ones of others.  

Common folk need to address the problem of air pollution because it greatly affects not only a community, but also our nation. There are consequences to ignorance. While it is easier to close one’s eyes and ears to ailments in an environment, doing so results in much more harm than good. Air pollution is the introduction into the atmosphere of chemicals, particulates, or biological materials that cause discomfort, disease, or death to humans, damage other living organisms such as food crops, or debilitate the natural environment. The atmosphere is a complex dynamic natural gaseous system that is essential to support life on planet Earth. Stratospheric ozone depletion due to air pollution has long been recognized as a threat to human health as well as to the Earth's ecosystems. Indoor air pollution and urban air quality are listed as two of the World’s Worst Toxic Pollution Problems in the twenty- first century. People can certainly take more charge to curtail air pollution. One fundamental way is to plan trips and conserve gasoline. In the summertime, people can fill gas tank during cooler evening hours to cut down on evaporation and avoid spilling gas and not "top off" the tank. When possible, individuals should use public transportation, walk, or ride a bike or consider joining a carpool or vanpool to get to work. If each person takes these simple steps, society as a whole can benefit.

Another menace that plagues communities that of violent crime. If community members work together, vehement crime can be significantly reduced. A violent crime is an offense in which the perpetrator uses or threatens to use violence or force upon the victim. This entails both crimes in which the violent act is the objective, such as murder, as well as crimes in which violence is the means to an end, (including criminal ends) such as robbery. Violent crimes include crimes committed with weapons. With the exception of rape (which accounts for 6% of all reported violent crimes), males are the primary victims of all forms of violent crime. People can take part in their community to terminate violence. We can definitely prevent violence. One way would be to work with public agencies and other organizations, such as neighborhood-based or community-wide on solving common problems. Another option is to make sure that all the youth in the neighborhood have positive ways to spend their spare time, through organized recreation, tutoring programs, part-time work, and volunteer opportunities. Last but not least, communities can set up a neighborhood watch or a community patrol, working with police. By encouraging the community to build a partnership with police, focused on solving problems instead of reacting to crises, people can take proactive steps to eliminate crime within their community.

To conclude, it is certainly beneficial for people to take more responsibility for the welfare of others in their communities. By finding ways to reduce air pollution, neighborhoods can safeguard the health of themselves and their families. Furthermore, by curtaining violent crimes, the populace can address and prevent offenses against the law and other transgressions. These are just two instances which illustrate that people should take more responsibility for solving problems that affect their communities because doing so can result in immeasurable benefits to protect the safety of the masses.  

Key Synonyms:

Responsibility: use instead: accountability albatross, amenability, incumbency, liability, pledge, answerability, boundness

People: use instead: bourgeoise, the masses, inhabitants, citizens, populace, humankind, human beings

Problems: difficulties, glitches, complications, evils, harms, trouble, tribulations, sins.

Community: use instead: society, hamlet, populace, residents, turf, territory, neck of the woods

Crime: use instead: abomination, atrocity, criminality, offense against the law, delictum, depravity, dereliction, enormity, immorality, infraction, infringement, iniquity, malefaction, malfeasance, infringement, transgression, violation, wrongdoing.

Page 513

Essay 3:

Assignment: Can knowledge be a burden rather than a benefit?

Cognition. Consciousness. Discernment. Enlightenment. For centuries, society has placed great value on the attainment of knowledge as a means for better understanding the universe. As a result, many have made it their goal to gather as much information as possible, assuming that this will bring them status and admiration. However, the attainment of high scholarship does not always coincide with an end-result of happiness. In fact, sometimes, knowledge can be a burden rather than a benefit. This notion has been illustrated throughout centuries of great literature, becoming timeless in the process. “Oedipus Rex,” is a poignant example of just how lethal too much knowledge can be. When Oedipus learns of his fulfillment of a tragic prophecy, this knowledge drives him mad and ultimately ruins his life. A similar concept is introduced in Aldous Huxley’s masterpiece, “Brave New World,” which tells the story of a boy who grows up alienated from his community, dreaming of a better world into which he might fit in. However, when he visits and finds it utterly repellant, the knowledge that he doesn’t in fact, fit in anywhere, drives him to suicide. These two instances exemplify times when knowledge can become an obstruction rather than a blessing.

Sophocles’ notorious play, “Oedipus Rex,” tells the story of a King, Oedipus, who comes to learn that the chaos prevalent throughout his kingdom is the result of a tragic prediction; one that prophesized that he would murder his father and sleep with is mother. Although at first, the prophecy seems absurd, he gradually comes to realize that it is true and has in fact, manifested. This realization ruins his once contented existence, as he comes to the understanding that the blood of his father is on his hands, that his dear wife, Jocasta, is in fact his mother, and that his children are the products of incest. Perhaps even worse is the awareness that the curse that the people of his beloved Thebes have been suffering from was in fact, his own doing. This knowledge tears his life and his family apart. Jocasta takes her own life and Oedipus gouges out his own eyes and is exiled from Thebes, leaving their two daughters on their own. In this literary work, the knowledge of reality served as a burden rather than a benefit.

In “Brave New World,” prominent author Aldous Huxley fashions a utopian society within which everyone and everything has its place. Those who do not fit in are excluded, resulting in the formation of an alternate society on the Savage Reservation, one that is deemed backward and barbaric. The protagonist, John, however, is the product of both worlds, and because of this, doesn’t quite fit in to either. The child of a “civilized” mother who was stranded on the Reservation, John grows up alienated from his community as a result of his different upbringing. The only thing that keeps him going is the idea of another, distant world that his mother has instilled within him, a beautiful world into which he might fit in. However, when he gets the chance to visit this other, better world that he has always dreamed of, he finds himself more alienated than ever. The values and beliefs of this new world completely go against his own, and the knowledge that he has no place in either society takes away his will to live.

As has been demonstrated by scores of literary works, knowledge can often be more of a burden than a benefit. “Oedipus Rex,” and “Brave New World,” particularly provide moving illustrations of this concept. Although these tales were written thousands of years apart, they nevertheless share the same central theme: that of the deadly potential nature of knowledge. Each of these protagonists shared a similar fate; the very fabric of their lives was torn apart and rendered unlivable, all because they simply couldn’t bear to live in ignorance.

Key Synonyms:

1. “Knowledge”: Use instead: cognition, enlightenment, doctrine, discernment, erudition, dogma, proficiency.

2. “Responsibility”: Use instead: albatross, amenability, authority, boundness, culpability, encumbrance, incubus, incumbency, liability, obligatoriness, onus, subjection.

3. “Burden”: Use instead: Herculean Task, Accountability, affliction, grievance

4. “Benefit”: Use instead: account, avail, advantage, profit, benediction, betterment, blessing, assistance.

Test 4

 page 575:

Version 1: Do Changes That Make Our Lives Easier Necessarily Make Them Better?

Innovation. Modification. Modulation. Society has certainly come a long way from the days of hunter-gathering, with mankind constantly transforming itself throughout history, evolving to keep up with the various types of change it has been forced to face. Indeed, the people of current times, products of an age of rapid technological progress, have, in particular, experienced perhaps more change in the span of a couple of years than the people of different eras have experienced in their entire lives, and as a result, enjoy the availability of luxuries previously thought unimaginable. However, just because a change makes one’s life easier does not necessarily mean that it makes it better. In fact, the opposite can definitely be argued in the case of certain aspects of the advanced mode of life that so many have come to grow used to, such as the easy accessibility of knowledge and the ability for instant, electronic communication.

With the emergence of the computer came the Internet, and with the rise of computer-owners and internet-users came the widespread proliferation of information and the search engine – which allowed for quick, easy access to it. However, although having an instantaneous means of gaining entry to a profusion of information certainly makes life easier and saves time, as with all changes in society, it comes with drawbacks as well. The search engine and the many doors that it opened in regards to the new abundance of knowledge is now a feature of life often taken for granted. A mere decade and a half ago, students had to physically seek out the information they needed in order to write a report or satiate curiosity, which in turn gave them a true recognition for the beauty of knowledge and the attainment of it. Whereas now there has sprung up a spoiled generation that has no reason to attach any worth to the pursuit of knowledge, a generation used to information that is easily and instantly accessible, and thus lacks any real appreciation for it.

Another product of technology that has had mixed consequences is the capacity for instant, virtual communication. This achievement has undoubtedly generated a myriad of positive effects, and the new realms of possibility that it has unlocked in terms of convenience of interaction are undeniable, but perhaps, an important aspect of human relationship has been lost in the process. With the popularity and ease of instant messaging, face-to-face, personal conversations have, to some degree, been rendered unnecessary in forging a relationship with someone – a thing of the past. In many ways, the relationships between members of the younger generation suffer greatly due to a trade-off in real, meaningful interaction in favor of a virtual, instantaneous one.

Living in the twenty-first century, a time in which new technological innovations are being introduced on a monthly basis, it is particularly important to consider the question of whether or not advances that make life easier always succeed in making it better. This has not always been the case, with many vital aspects of humanity being lost in pursuit of convenience. Society has grown spoiled in many ways, losing appreciation and awareness of the value of knowledge now that they have been granted such quick, easy access to information, and forfeiting genuine personal, emotional relationships in favor of on-screen virtual ones. Innovation is not likely to stop anytime soon, but it is important to realize just what it is that society is giving up, and to decide whether or not it’s worth it.

more examples:

The microwave makes our lives easier (heats things up faster) but ultra violet radiation is highly carcinogenic and may kill you.

Escalators help us go up and down much faster, but now we miss out on opportunities for exercise.

Here, the speed and efficiency of microwaves and escalators makes our lives easier but not necessarily better. 

more examples: twitter and facebook


Changes: conversion, diversification, innovation, modification, modulation, permutation, surrogate, variance, vicissitude.

Easy: manifest, evident, facile, mere, wieldy, yielding, paltry

Better: exceeding, exceptional, finer, fitter, prominent, superior, surpassing.

Leisure: intermission, range, repose, requiescence, respite, sabbatical, scope

SAT Essay: Test 5 page 637

Is conscious a more powerful motivator than money, fame, or power?

Aesthetic. Apperceptive. Supraliminal. Although money, fame, and power are motivators for some, consciousness has a greater influence for others. Conscience is a powerful inner voice that tells us what is right and what is wrong. It has been noted, “A mistakenly cynical view of human behavior holds that people are primarily driven by selfish motives, the desire for wealth, power, or fame…Yet history gives us many examples of individuals who have sacrificed their own welfare for a cause or a principal that they regarded as more important than their own lives.” Two excellent examples that illustrate one choosing to do what is right rather than simply be motivated by cash, renown, or control are Mother Teresa and Angelina Jolie.

Mother Teresa is a phenomenal example of a person who chose conscious over fame, money, and power. Known formally as Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, she was born Anjezë Gonxhe Bojaxhiu commonly known as Mother Teresa. She founded the Missionaries of Charity, a Roman Catholic religious congregation, which in 2012 consisted of over 4,500 sisters and is active in 133 countries. They run hospices and homes for people with HIV/AIDS, leprosy and tuberculosis; soup kitchens; children's and family counseling programs; orphanages; and schools. Members of the order must adhere to the vows of chastity, poverty and obedience, and the fourth vow, to give "Wholehearted and Free service to the poorest of the poor". Mother Teresa is the emblem of humanitarian efforts. While some people may have used the connections that Mother Teresa had to gain exorbitant amounts of wealth (signing book deals, making movies, exploiting poor countries for personal benefits), she opted to truly make the world a better place.

Another incredible humanitarian is Angelina Jolie, who is preeminently known as an American actress and film director. She has received an Academy Award, two Screen Actors Guild Awards, and three Golden Globe Awards, and was named Hollywood's highest-paid actress by Forbes in 2009 and 2011. Instead of tanning in the sun all day and shopping at Bergdorfs, Jolie promotes humanitarian causes, and is noted for her work with refugees as a Special Envoy and former Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). She has often been cited as the world's "most beautiful" woman, a title for which she has received substantial media attention, but uses this fame to support her philanthropic endeavors. Jolie has been on field missions around the world and met with refugees and internally displaced persons in more than 30 countries. Asked what she hoped to accomplish, she stated, "Awareness of the plight of these people. I think they should be commended for what they have survived, not looked down upon.” Jolie aims to visit what she terms "forgotten emergencies," crises that media attention has shifted away from. She is noted for not shying away from traveling to areas that are at war. She visited the Darfur region of Sudan during the Darfur conflict in 2004. ]Pakistan with Brad Pitt to see the impact of the 2005 Kashmir earthquake in 2005; Chad during its civil war in 2007; Iraq during the Second Gulf War in 2007 and 2009; Afghanistan during the ongoing war in 2008 and 2011;[79] and Libya during the Libyan revolution in 2011. After more than a decade of service as Goodwill Ambassador, Jolie was promoted to the rank of Special Envoy of High Commissioner António Guterres on April 17, 2012. As Special Envoy, she represents the UNHCR and High Commissioner António Guterres at the diplomatic level and works to facilitate long-term solutions for people displaced by large-scale crises, such as Afghanistan and Somalia. "This is an exceptional position reflecting an exceptional role she has played for us," said a UNHCR spokesman. Jolie is a perfect example of one who chooses consciousness over making money, obtaining superficial fame, and political power. In addition to her work with the UNHCR, Jolie uses her public profile to promote humanitarian causes through the mass media instead of getting richer and richer.

In conclusion, it is not always the case that people choose to ignore consciousness and opt for money, fame, and power. The real-life examples of Mother Teresa and Angelina Jolie perfectly illustrate this point. Mother Teresa is the emblem of humanitarian efforts and Jolie has succeeded in using her public profile to promote humanitarian causes through the mass media instead of gaining more wealth. These are just two instances of conscience acting as a more powerful motivator than money, fame, or power.

Money: to use instead: resource, banknote, cash, coinage

Fame: acclamation, character, elevation, eminence, estimation, exaltation, illustriousness, heyday, preeminence, notoriety, reputation, repute, splendor, stardom, eclat

Power: aptitude, competence, competency, endowment, faculty, qualification


Page 699

Test 6

Can success be disastrous?

Success the accomplishment of a feat or triumph. Oftentimes, success can lead to the attainment of popularity or profit. Even though such achievement is normally good, it can sometimes be a complete debacle. In the play Julius Casear, by notable playwright William Shakespeare, Caesar’s success resulted in disaster because as he rose to prominence, his “friends” grew increasingly jealous and fearful and wound up murdering him.

 The 30 Years War resulted in a numerous amount of people to be killed. Both literature and history provide a plethora of examples that support the idea that success can be disastrous.

Julius Caesar was a great Roman general who had recently returned to Rome after a military victory in Spain. His closest friends and collegues at first welcomed him, but ultimately grew fearful because they did not want Casear to rise to more power. If Caesar were to become king, it would mean the end of Rome’s republican system of government, in which senators, representing the citizens of Rome, wield most of the power. To noblemen like Brutus and Cassius, who consider themselves the equals of Caesar or any other citizen, Caesar’s coronation would mean they would no longer be free men but rather slaves. Although Caesar never explicitly said that he wanted to be king—he even refused the crown three times in a dramatic public display—his actions show that he regards himself as special and superior to other mortals. In his own mind, he seems already to be an absolute ruler. Because of this, his closets friends plotted to and succeeded in killing him. The tragedy of Casears murder by his closet friends illustrates how sometimes success can disastrous.

Another instance where success became disaterous was with the late singer Whitney Houston, who died os a drug overdose after years of struggling with additction despite achieving world-wide fame for her music and acting career. Whitney Elizabeth Houston (August 9, 1963 – February 11, 2012) was an American recording artist, actress, producer, and model. In 2009, the Guinness World Records cited her as the most awarded female act of all time.[1] Houston was one of the world's best-selling music artists, having sold over 200 million records worldwide.[2] She released six studio albums, one holiday album and three movie soundtrack albums, all of which have diamond, multi-platinum, platinum or gold certification. Houston's crossover appeal on the popular music charts, as well as her prominence on MTV, starting with her video for "How Will I Know",[3] influenced several African American female artists to follow in her footsteps.[4][5]

Houston is the only artist to chart seven consecutive No. 1 Billboard Hot 100 hits.[6] She is the second artist behind Elton John and the only female artist to have two number-one Billboard 200 Album awards (formerly "Top Pop Album") on the Billboard magazine year-end charts.[7] Houston's 1985 debut album Whitney Houston became the best-selling debut album by a female act at the time of its release.[8] The album was named Rolling Stone's best album of 1986, and was ranked at number 254 on Rolling Stone's list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.[8] Her second studio album Whitney (1987) became the first album by a female artist to debut at number one on the Billboard 200 albums chart.[8]  The tragedy of Whitney Houston’s death taught a lesson to all of us; success can attribute to disaster. Despite all her money, fame and world-wide success, she could not control her addiction and wound up dying at a very young age as a result, leaving her teenage daughter behind.

more examples:

In conclusion, Macbeth and the 30 Years War support the notion that success can be disastrous. Macbeth’s achievement in becoming king also causes the death of the previous king, Duncan and Macbeth’s good friend, Banquo; when the 30 Years War caused many people to be killed and didn’t solve any of the religious conflicts between the Catholics and the Protestants. These examples prove that success can be catastrophic.


Success: achievement, accomplishment, feat, triumph, attainment, realization

Disaster: tragedy, ruin, adversity, calamity, catalysm, misadventure




(page 761)

Test 7:

Do We Need Other People in Order to Understand Ourselves?

In a modern, post-Enlightenment world, much emphasis is placed on individuality. During the eighteenth century, the individual slowly arose and began to develop as an antithesis of the collective agrarian societies prevalent in centuries past. Ever since, the idea that everyone is unique and holds the capacity for self-determination has prevailed – no longer was a person considered merely part of a herd. This is particularly relevant in the United States, with the concept of “rugged individualism” being a trait that has long defined many of the figures Americans most admire. However, an important thing to consider is that without a community to compare and contrast themselves against, what real means does an individual have in truly understanding him or herself. Indeed, other people are integral in providing a means of defining oneself, a notion which is a central theme in the novels “Brave New World,” and “Nickel and Dimed.” Both novels provided the protagonist with the concrete means of figuring out who they truly

Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World” illustrates how one can only truly recognize the virtue and worth of one’s own culture and tradition when placed in an utterly conflicting setting. It tells the story of John, a boy who grows up alienated from the rest of his traditional Native American community, dreaming of living life in the outside, “better” world that his mother had always told him about. However, the rest of the world is a highly technologized dystopia, devoid of any of the values that John holds dear. When he visits and sees life outside of his Reservation, he becomes appalled at just how horrifying and inhumane its society is, and tries to share his beliefs with others, but soon realizes that they are a lost case and standing firm in his convictions, isolates himself from their influence. Had John not visited this society and been put in an extreme, new environment, he might have never been able to realize the worth of his principles or identify who he truly was as a person.

In “Nickel and Dimed,” a journalist goes undercover in order to experience first-hand how “the other half lives,” – to witness the reality of the minimum-wage lifestyle. As she comes across scores of people forced to endure harsh, tiring labor and complete tasks that require more of a mental and physical strain than those in more elite fields just to survive, all her preconceived notions about the working class are shattered; no longer does she view those worse off than she as lazy and uneducated. Just like John, she finds herself in an extreme, new environment that she had no way of expecting, and this in turn leads her to the discovery of several vital aspects of her character that she had previously never known she possessed. Her difficulty in persevering in her new role in society alongside several others who have been working in the bottom-rungs of America for years brought her not only a new understanding and appreciation of the hardships of the working class, but a new understanding of herself.

Despite a prevalent admiration of individuality in society, it is undeniable that ultimately, people define themselves in terms of others. Characteristics like intelligence, beauty, courage, and wit are all determined on a basis of comparison to others. Even the nonconformists of the world have to have a foundation from which to veer off of, an original community or group that they actively decide to act differently from. In “Brave New World,” and “Nickel and Dimed” we are handed two examples of protagonists who define themselves against the backdrops of the societies they find themselves in, exemplifying the degree to which individuality without others there to aid you in the pursuit of understanding just what makes you, you.

Essay 7 page 761: Do we need other people in order to fully understand ourselves?

sample 2

To understand oneself fully, interaction with other people is necessary. In the literary work To Kill a Mockingbird, written by Harper Lee, the protagonist Scout lives in a primarily white community. Scout is able to understand the kind of community she lives in when her father, Atticus, appempts to defend an African American, Tom Robinson, in a court case against a white man. A second example is from the book, Lord of The Flies written by William Golding, Jack, who is a young boy, understands who he is when the only people around him are kids after their plane crashes on an island. Both To Kill a Mockingbird and Lord of The Flies provide an example of a character that understands more about themselves from their community.

In To Kill a Mockingbird written by prominent author Harper Lee, Scout’s father, Atticus, is the lawyer for defending Tom Robinson, who is an African American accused of sexually abusing Mayella Ewell, who is white. When Scout attends the trial, it is clear to her that Tom didn’t sexually abuse Mayella. Later she finds out that he father lost the case. It is clear that in Scout’s community, race is a big deciding factor when it comes to court cases. While Scout is not racist, she understands that just because she knows that Tom didn’t abuse Mayella. Even though Scout knows this, it doesn’t meant that everyone else with change their minds about their racist attitudes towards African Americans. So through her father’s case, Scout understands what kind of person she is and what kind of community that she lives in.

While To Kill a Mockingbird provides an example where a girl understands herself, Lord of The Flies by William Golding provides an example where a young boy, Jack, gets a deeper understanding of himself when he is trapped on an island with other young boys and no adults. When Jack arrives on the island, he wants to be chief over everyone, but the other boys choose Ralph to be their leader. Jack is solely focused on his hunters finding and killing pigs to eat. Later in the book, Jack forms his own tribe to separate from Ralphs group. Jack and his tribe become ruthless hunters who end up killing two of the other boys, Simon and Piggy. From the lack of adults and the fact that there were only young boys on the island, Jack became a killer and understands that he can kill someone, which he didn’t before.

In conclusion, Scout in To Kill a Mockingbird and Jack in Lord of the Flies, find a deeper understanding of themselves when they connect with other people in their community. Whether it is racism, lack of adults, or anything else for that matter, one’s surroundings and interactions with other people can influence one’s understanding of oneself.

Essay 8 page 823: Is the world changing for the better?

The world is changing. While some may say the world is changing for the worse, it is clear that the world is changing for the better. One example of the world changing for the better is the invention of the cell phone has provided a way to contact people no matter where they are. Another example is the invention of theInternet. The computer and Internet has provided an easy way to research topics, or buy new items, or anything really. Both the cell phone and the computer and Internet have altered the world for the better.

Since the cell phone has been invented, it has had many beneficial effects on society.  A cell phone is mobile phone (also known as a cellular phone, cell phone, and a hand phone) is a device that can make and receive telephone calls over a radio link while moving around a wide geographic area. It does so by connecting to a cellular network provided by a mobile phone operator, allowing access to the public telephone network. By contrast, a cordless telephone is used only within the short range of a single, private base station.In addition to telephony, modern mobile phones also support a wide variety of other services such as text messaging, MMS, email, Internet access, short-range wireless communications (infrared, Bluetooth), business applications, gaming and photography. Mobile phones that offer these and more general computing capabilities are referred to as smartphones. From 1990 to 2011, worldwide mobile phone subscriptions grew from 12.4 million to over 6 billion, penetrating about 87% of the global population and reaching the bottom of the economic pyramid.[5][6][7][8] One is that it allows parents to make sure that their children are home safely or if they need to be picked up at school. In addition, cell phones have also allowed people to share information with each other quickly. Cell phones also allow you to have easy access to contacting anyone that you need too. For example, if someone was in an emergency situation and needed help, they could call the police. All of these examples show how the invention of cell phones has changed the world for the better.

In the same way that the invention of cell phones have beneficially altered society,The Internet is a global system of interconnected computer networks that use the standard Internet protocol suite (TCP/IP) to serve billions of users worldwide. It is a network of networks that consists of millions of private, public, academic, business, and government networks, of local to global scope, that are linked by a broad array of electronic, wireless and optical networking technologies. The Internet carries an extensive range of information resources and services, such as the inter-linked hypertext documents of the World Wide Web (WWW) and the infrastructure to support email.

Most traditional communications media including telephone, music, film, and television are being reshaped or redefined by the Internet, giving birth to new services such as Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) and Internet Protocol Television (IPTV). Newspaper, book and other print publishing are adapting to Web site technology, or are reshaped into blogging and web feeds. The Internet has enabled and accelerated new forms of human interactions through instant messaging, Internet forums, and social networking. Online shopping has boomed both for major retail outlets and small artisans and traders. Business-to-business and financial services on the Internet affect supply chains across entire industries.

The origins of the Internet reach back to research commissioned by the United States government in the 1960s to build robust, fault-tolerant communication via computer networks. The funding of a new U.S. backbone by the National Science Foundation in the 1980s, as well as private funding for other commercial backbones, led to worldwide participation in the development of new networking technologies, and the merger of many networks. The commercialization of what was by the 1990s an international network resulted in its popularization and incorporation into virtually every aspect of modern human life. As of June 2012[update], more than 2.4 billion people—over a third of the world's human population—have used the services of the Internet.[1]


In conclusion, the inventions of the cell phone and the Internet have altered the world for the better. Overall, the world is changing and while some changes are for the worse, cell phones and the Internet are for the better.

Essay #9: page 885: Do you think that ease does not challenge us and that we need adversity to help us discover who we are?

Adversity is what challenges people and may help people discover who they really are. As demonstrated in the literary work, Lord of The Flies by William Golding, one of the young boys, Jack, discovers who he really is when he is faced with the challenge of living on an island with a bunch of other boys and no adults. Furthermore, in addition to Lord of The Flies, To Kill a Mockingbird, written by Harper Lee, is another literary work in which Atticus, the father of the main character, Scout, has to defend an African American man, Tom Robinson, in a trial that he is bound to lose considering the community that Atticus lives in is primarily white and racist. Both Lord of The Flies and To Kill a Mockingbird provide as good examples to demonstrate that adversity helps people to discover who we really are.

In the literary work, Lord of the Flies, written by William Golding, Jack, one of the young boys, was faced with the challenge of living on an island with other young boys and no adults. In the beginning of the book, Jack wants to be chief but get beaten out for the position by Ralph, another boy. Ralph is now the leader of the boys and Jack doesn’t like that. Later, Jack forms his own tribe and ends up killing two of the boys, Simon and Piggy. From the challenge of living on an island, Jack discovers that he can indeed kill and he likes to be in control and have power over people.

While in Lord of The Flies, Jack faces the challenge of living on an island, in To Kill a Mockingbird written by Harper Lee, Atticus who is the father of the main character, Scout, has to defend an African American man, Tom Robinson, in a trial. This is a challenge because Atticus lives in a primarily white community that is racist. Even though Atticus is bound to lose the trial, whether or not Tom really did commit the crime of abusing a white girl named Mayella, Atticus still tries his hardest to win the case. Atticus lost the case because of racism because it was clear that there was no way that Tom could have abused Mayella. From the challenge of defending Tom in the trial, Atticus discovered that he was doing the right thing by standing up for someone who didn’t do anything wrong.

In conclusion, both Jack from Lord of The Flies, and Atticus from To Kill a Mockingbird, have faced challenges that have led to further self-discovery. Overall, adversity, while it may be a misfortune, enables people to truly discover who they are.

Essay 10: Should heroes be defined as people who say what they think when we ourselves lack the courage to say it?

Heroes can be defined as everyday people who say what they think when we ourselves lack the courage to say it. In the literary work, To Kill a Mockingbird written by prominent author, Harper Lee, the protagonist’s father, Atticus, a white, rich, lawyer, stands up for his convictions by defending a poor, black man in a trial that took place in the deep South during the 1930s. In addition, a historical example can be found in the 16th century, when Martin Luther stood up for what he thought was right when he posted his 95 Theses (complaints) on church doors. In To Kill a Mockingbird and the Protestant Reformation, both Atticus and Martin Luther stood up for what they believed in when others didn’t.

In the novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, written by the prominent author, Harper Lee, the protagonist’s father, Atticus, was a wealthy, white, lawyer who had to defend a poor, black man, Tom Robinson, in a trial where he was wrongfully accused of raping a white woman. Since the trial takes place in the 1930s, there was no technology to detect DNA that could exculpate Tom. Seeing that the community that Atticus lived in was a primarily white, racist community, Atticus knew that he was going to lose the trial, regardless of whether Tom was actually guilty. Even though Atticus knew that it was inevitable he was going to lose, he worked assiduously to prove that Tom was innocent by providing evidence such as the fact that Tom wasn’t even at the scene of the crime and that his hand had become deformed when he was younger, and not because he attacked the victim. Atticus was a heroic figure because as a rich, white man, he defended an impoverished black man, even when people were going to burn his house down in the middle of the night because of what he was doing.

While Atticus in To Kill a Mockingbird is a fictional example, a historical instance is during the Protestant Reformation when Martin Luther posted his 95 Theses (complaints) on the doors of the church. On his list of complaints, Martin Luther stated that he didn’t like the fact that Pope Leo X was selling indulgences, which promised that people could buy their way into Heaven, even if they had killed someone. In his list, Luther went into explicit detail about what he thought was wrong about the Church. Luther essentially felt that the Church was inappropriately exploiting its powerful position in people’s lives for less than altruistic reasons. Luther, as one of the most prominent reformers in history, stood behind what he believed in even though he knew that speaking out against the Catholic church would lead to his excommunication and deemed a heretic. Martin Luther’s heroic efforts ultimately resulted in the creation of a branch of churches where there used to only be one type of church.

In conclusion, Atticus from To Kill a Mockingbird and Martin Luther from the Reformation both demonstrate people that are heroic because they stood up for what they believed in. When others were unable or unwilling to take the risk to be a catalyst for change, Atticus and Martin Luther were selfless and rose to the challenge. Overall, people who stand up for what they believe in regardless of the potential deleterious impact on their own lives are heroes.

Reading is a skill many people take for granted, but the act of reading and properly comprehending a text is a complex and interactive process. It requires several different brain functions to work together and most often requires one to puzzle through multiple layers of context and meaning. 

Because reading comprehension is so complicated, we can often find ourselves understanding the most basic interpretation of a text, but missing the emotional core or the “big picture.” Or we might just find our brains spinning with no clue at all as to what a text is attempting to convey.

But luckily for everyone who struggles in English classes, on standardized tests, or in daily life, reading comprehension can be improved upon (and it’s never too late to start!). In this guide, I explain step-by-step how to improve reading comprehension over time and offer tips for boosting your understanding as you read.


What Is Reading Comprehension?

Reading comprehension is the understanding of what a particular text means and the ideas the author is attempting to convey, both textual and subtextual. In order to read any text, your brain must process not only the literal words of the piece, but also their relationship with one another, the context behind the words, how subtle language and vocabulary usage can impact emotion and meaning behind the text, and how the text comes together as a larger, coherent whole. 

For instance, let's look at the first line from Jane Austen's novel, Pride and Prejudice:

"It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife."

Now, a completely literal interpretation of the text, just based on word-meaning, would have us believe that 'all rich men want wives.' But the context, word choice, and phrasing of the text actually belie that interpretation. By using the phrases "universally acknowledged" and "must be in want of" (emphasis ours), the text is conveying a subtle sarcasm to the words. Instead of it being an actual truth that 'rich men want wives,' this one sentence instantly tells us that we're reading about a society preoccupied with marriage, while also implying that the opening statement is something people in that society may believe, but that isn't necessarily true. 

In just a few short words, Austen conveys several ideas to the reader about one of the main themes of the story, the setting, and what the culture and people are like. And she does so all the while seeming to contradict the literal words of the piece.

Without practice in reading comprehension, nuances like these can become lost. And so it can happen that someone may find themselves reading, but not truly comprehending the full meaning of a text.

As you can see, reading comprehension involves many processes happening in your brain at once, and thus it can be easy for some aspects of a text to get lost in the muddle. But the good news for anyone who struggles is that reading comprehension is a skill just like any other. It must be learned through practice, focus, and diligence, but it absolutely CAN be learned. 



Why Reading Comprehension Is Important

Proper reading comprehension can be difficult, so why bother? Even though learning how to properly read and comprehend texts is a complicated process, it is a necessary skill to master, both for work and for pleasure. 

You will need to know how to read and interpret all kinds of different texts—both on the basic, literal level and on a more in-depth level—throughout your schooling, in college, and in the working world (as well as in your recreation time!). If we think about "reading" just as a literal or surface understanding of a piece and "reading comprehension" as the complete understanding, a person can only get by in the world on pure "reading" for so long. 

Reading comprehension is essential for many significant aspects of daily life, such as:

  • Reading, understanding, and analyzing literature in your English classes
  • Reading and understanding texts from your other class subjects, such as history, math, or science
  • Doing well on both the written and math sections of the SAT (or all five sections of the ACT)
  • Understanding and engaging with current events presented in written form, such as news reports
  • Properly understanding and responding to any and all other workplace correspondence, such as essays, reports, memos, and analyses
  • Simply taking pleasure in written work on your own leisure time

Just like with any goal or skill, we can master reading comprehension one step at a time. 


How to Improve Reading Comprehension: 3 Steps

Because reading comprehension is a skill that improves like any other, you can improve your understanding with practice and a game plan. 

Dedicate yourself to engaging in a combination of both "guided" and "relaxed" reading practice for at least two to three hours a week. Guided practice will involve structure and focused attention, like learning new vocabulary words and testing yourself on them, while relaxed practice will involve merely letting yourself read and enjoy reading without pressure for at least one to two hours a week. (Note: if you already read for pleasure, add at least one more hour of pleasure-reading per week.)

By combining reading-for-studying and reading-for-pleasure, you'll be able to improve your reading skill without relegating reading time to the realm of "work" alone. Reading is a huge part of our daily lives, and improving your comprehension should never come at the cost of depriving yourself of the pleasure of the activity.

So what are some of the first steps for improving your reading comprehension level?


Step 1: Understand and Reevaluate How You’re Currently Reading

Before you can improve your reading comprehension, you must first understand how you’re currently reading and what your limitations are. 

Start by selecting excerpts from different texts with which you are unfamiliar—text books, essays, novels, news reports, or any kind of text you feel you particularly struggle to understand—and read them as you would normally. As you read, see if you can notice when your attention, energy, or comprehension of the material begins to flag.

If your comprehension or concentration tends to lag after a period of time, start to slowly build up your stamina. For instance, if you continually lose focus at the 20 minute mark every time you read, acknowledge this and push yourself to slowly increase that time, rather than trying to sit and concentrate on reading for an hour or two at a stretch. Begin by reading for your maximum amount of focused time (in this case, twenty minutes), then give yourself a break. Next time, try for 22 minutes. Once you've mastered that, try for 25 and see if you can still maintain focus. If you can, then try for thirty.

If you find that your concentration or comprehension starts to lag again, take a step back on your timing before pushing yourself for more. Improvement comes with time, and it'll only cause frustration if you try to rush it all at once. 

Alternatively, you may find that your issues with reading comprehension have less to do with the time spent reading than with the source material itself. Perhaps you struggle to comprehend the essential elements of a text, the context of a piece, character arcs or motivation, books or textbooks with densely packed information, or material that is heavily symbolic. If this is the case, then be sure to follow the tips below to improve these areas of reading comprehension weakness.

Improving your reading comprehension level takes time and practice, but understanding where your strengths and weaknesses stand now is the first step towards progress. 


Step 2: Improve Your Vocabulary

Reading and comprehension rely on a combination of vocabulary, context, and the interaction of words. So you must be able to understand each moving piece before you can understand the text as a whole. 

If you struggle to understand specific vocabulary, it's sometimes possible to pick up meaning through context clues (how the words are used in the sentence or in the passage), but it’s always a good idea to look up the definitions of words with which you aren't familiar. As you read, make sure to keep a running list of words you don't readily recognize and make yourself a set of flashcards with the words and their definitions. Dedicate fifteen minutes two or three times a week to and quizzing yourself on your vocab flashcards. (Note: for tips to help you study your vocabulary, check out our guide to improve studying, including the best way to use flash cards (coming soon!).)

In order to retain your vocabulary knowledge, you must practice a combination of practiced memorization (like studying your flashcards) and make a point of using these new words in your verbal and written communication. Guided vocabulary practice like this will give you access to new words and their meanings as well as allow you to properly retain them. 


Step 3: Read for Pleasure

The best way to improve your reading comprehension level is through practice. And the best way to practice is to have fun with it! 

Make reading a fun activity, at least on occasion, rather than a constant chore. This will motivate you to engage with the text and embrace the activity as part of your daily life (rather than just your study/work life). As you practice and truly engage with your reading material, improvement will come naturally.

Begin by reading texts that are slightly below your age and grade level (especially if reading is frustrating or difficult for you). This will take pressure off of you and allow you to relax and enjoy the story. 

Once you feel more comfortable reading and practicing your comprehension strategies (tips in the next section), go ahead and allow yourself to read at whatever reading or age level you feel like. Even if feel that you don't understand some of the text right now--or even a large portion of it!--if you enjoy yourself and give it your best shot, you'll find that your reading comprehension levels will improve over time. 


Ultimately, reading should be a fun and functional activity. So try to keep your reading exercises balanced between work and pleasure.


5 Reading Comprehension Tips

Improving your vocabulary and increasing the amount of time you spend reading overall will help you to improve your reading comprehension over time, but what do you do to help you to comprehend a particular piece of text? 

Here, I'll walk you through the steps to take as you're reading so that you can understand the text and improve how you're reading, when you're reading. 


Tip 1: Stop When You Get Confused and Try to Summarize What You Just Read 

As you read, let yourself stop whenever you lose focus or feel confused. Just stop. Now, without re-reading, summarize aloud or in your head what you've comprehended so far (before the place where you became confused). 

Skim back through the text and compare how you've summarized it with what's written on the page. Do you feel you've captured the salient points? Do you feel a little more focused on what's going on now that you've put the material into your own words?

Keep reading with your summation in mind and let yourself stop and repeat the process whenever the piece becomes confusing to you. The more you're able to re-contextualize the work in your own words, the better you'll be able to understand it and lock the information in your mind as you keep reading. 


Tip 2: If You’re Struggling, Try Reading Aloud

Sometimes, we can form a sort of “mental block” that can halt our reading progress for whatever reason (maybe the sentence looks complex or awkward, maybe you’re tired, maybe you feel intimidated by the word choice, or are simply bored).

Reading these problematic passages aloud can often help circumvent that block and help you to form a visual of what the text is trying to convey.


Tip 3: Re-read (or Skim) Previous Sections of the Text

For the most part, reading is a personal activity that happens entirely in your head. So don’t feel you have to read just like anyone else if "typical" methods don’t work for you. Sometimes it can make the most sense to read (or re-read) a text out of order. 

It is often helpful to glance backwards through a piece of text (or even re-read large sections) to remind yourself of any information you need and have forgotten--what happened previously, what a particular word means, who a person was...the list is endless.

Previous sentences, sections, or even whole chapters can provide helpful context clues. Re-reading these passages will help to refresh your memory so that you can better understand and interpret later sections of the text.


Tip 4: Skim or Read Upcoming Sections of the Text

Just like with the previous step, don’t feel that the only way to read and understand a text is to work through it completely linearly. Allow yourself the freedom to take apart the text and put it back together again in whichever way makes the most sense to you. 

Sometimes a current confusion in a work will be explained later on in the text, and it can help you to know that explanations are upcoming or even just to read them ahead of time. 

So skip forward or backwards, re-read or read ahead as you need to, take the piece in whatever order you need to in order to make sense of the text. Not everyone thinks linearly, and not everyone best understands texts linearly either.


Tip 5: Discuss the Text With a Friend (Even an Imaginary Friend)

Sometimes discussing what you know so far about a text can help clear up any confusion. If you have a friend who hasn't read the text in question, then explain it to them in your own words, and discuss where you feel your comprehension is lacking. You'll find that you've probably understood more than you think once you've been forced to explain it to someone who's completely unfamiliar with the piece. 

Even if no one else is in the room, trying to teach or discuss what a passage says or means with “someone else” can be extremely beneficial. In fact, software engineers call this technique “rubber duck debugging,” wherein they explain a coding problem to a rubber duck. This forces them to work through a problem aloud, which has proven time and time again to help people solve problems. So if a piece of text has your head spinning from trying to work through it by yourself, start chatting with your nearest friend/pet/rubber duck. You'll be surprised with how much easier it is to understand a text once you've talked it through with someone. 

Even if that someone is a duck.



The Take-Aways

Improving reading comprehension takes time and effort, but it can be done. Be patient with yourself, work through your reading comprehension steps, and try not to get frustrated with yourself if you feel your progress is slow or if you feel you’re “falling behind.” You will utilize your reading skills throughout your life, so go at a pace that works for you, and take care to maintain that balance between reading for pure pleasure and reading for dedicated improvement. 

As you begin to incorporate more and more reading into your daily life, you'll find that comprehension will become easier, and reading will become more fun. In every piece of text, there are worlds of meaning to explore, and learning how to uncover them can be the ultimate rewarding journey. 


What's Next?

Can't get enough reading? Whether as part of your reading practice or just for fun, check out our picks for the 31 best books to read in high school. 

Problems with procrastination? Whether you're studying for the SAT's or studying your reading comprehension vocabulary check out how to beat procrastination and get your studies back on track. 

Want to earn better grades? Our guide will help you get that 4.0 you're striving for. 


Want to improve your SAT score by 160 points or your ACT score by 4 points? We've written a guide for each test about the top 5 strategies you must be using to have a shot at improving your score. Download it for free now: