ACT Writing Sample Prompt 1


Our society admires individuals such as lawyers who work pro bono for wrongfully imprisoned individuals, or doctors who work with the poor. But while such actions require extreme compassion and, often, great personal sacrifice, they are in reality acts of reputation-building that do not stem from pure selflessness. Though we praise people who commit seemingly selfless acts that benefit others, should we take a closer look at the motivation behind such acts? In our materialistic, capitalistic society, perhaps we should re-examine the intentions behind such generosities.


Read and carefully consider these perspectives. Each suggests a particular way of thinking about the motivations behind humanitarianism.

Perspective One: There is no such thing as a truly selfless act. Anyone who takes action in order to help another human being only does so in order to promote his or her own reputation.


Perspective Two: Human beings are essentially good, whether their ethics comes from an internal sense of morality, a collective conscience, or a structured religion. As long as we have a purity of intent, then it is acceptable to benefit from our compassionate actions, even if that benefit is monetary.


Perspective Three: No good deed goes unpunished. Even a purely selfless act can sometimes have unintended consequences. It may be that our intentions to help others are pure, but the results of those intentions are often muddy.


Essay Task

Write a unified, coherent essay in which you evaluate multiple perspectives on the motivations behind humanitarianism. In your essay, be sure to:

  • analyze and evaluate the perspectives given
  • state and develop your own perspective on the issue
  • explain the relationship between your perspective and those given

Your perspective may be in full agreement with any of the others, in partial agreement, or wholly different. Whatever the case, support your ideas with logical reasoning and detailed, persuasive examples.


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