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Tips for Writing a Timed Essay

Tips for Writing a Timed Essay

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Published by Patrick
o A common cause of low grades on essays is simply failing to answer all parts of the question. It is easy to get caught up in responding to the first directive and to forget everything else.
o A common cause of low grades on essays is simply failing to answer all parts of the question. It is easy to get caught up in responding to the first directive and to forget everything else.

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Published by: Patrick on Dec 30, 2009
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03/24/2011

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Tips for writing a timed essay
(or taking an essay examination)1. Come prepared.
 
Know what question (or type of question) you plan to respond to before you arrive (if you’re given options in advance)
Have a "plan of action" in mind for how you want to respond
Reread any notes you've taken and readings you'll want to refer to, either related to aquestion you know or thinking through likely subject matter that will be coveredDon't wait until you come to class to think about what you want to write.
2. Evaluate the question.
 
Read the question
all the way through
and make sure you understand what it requiresof you.
Underline or circle key words and directions and consider what the words mean.
Students often run into trouble by interpreting everything as a vague “saysomething about”
 
o
Verbs
give clues for organizing response
Describe
usually requires specific detail
Analyze
suggests taking something apart to see what it is made of 
Compare and contrast
calls for showing similarities and differences
List
 – Name one by one, explaining or commenting when appropriate
Enumerate
– List in a meaningful sequence
Outline
– Give an overall plan for proceeding in some kind of order 
Design
– Present a more elaborate overall plan than an outline, usingdescriptions, sketches, drawings, or the like
Summarize
 – State the main points in as concise a way as possible,without commentary
Review
– Give a quick survey of several positions, using summaries withcommentary
Interpret
– Explain in detail what something means to you and how youcame to that understanding
Define
– Present in detail the essential traits or characteristics of something and how it differs from similar things
Prove
 – Provide evidence to establish that something is true
Demonstrate
 – Add to your proof examples of applications of what youhave shown to be true
o
Nouns
help determine what you will write about
reason, cause, causes
o
Adjectives
 
main, principal, contributing, relevant, succinct
Circle different
 parts
of the question
 
o
A common cause of low grades on essays is simply failing to answer all parts of the question. It is easy to get caught up in responding to the first directive and toforget everything else.
Be aware of the mode of discourse that the question requires
 
o
Exposition (writing that explains)
o
Argument
o
Personal experience
 
o
Some questions intentionally mix modes: “Analyze the quotation and thenillustrate it by some personal experience.”
What should be most important in a response to this question?
 
Analysis of quotation should be most important; personalexperience should be clearly connected but subordinate
When a question is not clear, it becomes the student’s responsibility to construct aclear question and then answer it
 
DON’T “file dump” everything you know and hope you get lucky
 
DO come up with a plan. Excellent students may not know more aboutthe subject, but they have a plan
o
 
What if you’re given a quotation and the only instruction is “Discuss”?
 
Pause to construct a question before responding so the essay canfollow some kind of organization
 
What is the quotation saying?
 
How does it respond to material in the course?
 
Mark up the quotation
o
Sketch out meanings and connections as you decide on the central idea of your response
If you're unsure about the question, ask!3. Time yourself 
.
Allow time to generate and organize ideas.
Allow time to revise and edit.
Example
: 50 minutes. 10-analyze the question and outline a response, 35-draft, 5-editand proofread
Use all the time allowed for organizing, writing, and editing
Don’t
waste time recopying your draft.
4. Planning and Prewriting.
 
Make notations or draw up a scratch outline
What is my thesis?
What will my main points be?
How will I organize them?
What type of supporting examples or information will I use?
How will I begin?
Which patterns of paragraph development will best suit the response I have planned?(description, narration, example, definition, compare and contrast, etc.)
How will I conclude the essay?
5. As you write:
 
Show logical relationships
State thesis at the outset and support it
Don't just summarize your ideas, analyze
Incorporate appropriate objective data: dates, excerpts of other writings, etc.
Demonstrate your knowledge of a topic

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