In many of my blog posts I have made reference to the “academic essay” or to “academic writing.” I’ve discussed the differences between such writing and “creative writing,” listed tips to improve an academic essay, and introduced some of the basic components of such an essay, particularly the thesis statement and motive. Yet I have deliberately neglected answering perhaps the most important (controversial) question regarding the academic essay: What is the point of academic writing?
The five-paragraph essay is practically universal in middle, junior, and high schools. Your English teachers, and most likely your history, science, and philosophy teachers as well, will have encouraged you to form arguments about the subject matter they teach and put these into writing form. College applications demand essays, as do more formal applications for fellowships, jobs, and internships. Papers are the trope of every college course, particularly within the humanities student’s academic career. So what is the point?
Wait, what??? 10 multiplied by 0 isn’t 10… 0! Grrr, and the value 8 wasn’t the radius but the diameter. How did I forget to divide it by 2 before using it in my calculations?? I could have improved my score by so much if I hadn’t made those mistakes… Have you ever been careless on a test? I know I have. If you have too, this post is definitely for you.
“Carelessness” is a condition that people have faced multiple times during test taking and has become a term commonly bandied about. I have often heard friends, and even myself, often say, “if only I had been less careless, I would have gotten a much higher score”. Moreover, the SAT is one test in which being careless and getting a question wrong will penalize the test-taker and cause points to be deducted from your score. Well, being more vigilant is not an unachievable dream. In fact, with a few crucial strategies and test-taking habits, we can all be a lot less careless.
[Continue reading to find out how to avoid careless mistakes on the SAT…]
Although seemingly innocuous, one of the biggest problems everyone faces is anxiety. Multiple students have told me that even though they have done as much preparation as possible, they are still overwhelmed by feelings of stress and anxiety on the night before the SAT. Although they are often told by their parents, teachers and SAT tutors to relax and rest early on that night, many students are often eaten alive by worrying thoughts: What if the three alarms I’ve set don’t work tomorrow? What if I can’t remember anything I’ve memorized come tomorrow? What if I have no idea what the essay question is asking me? What if there are really difficult vocabulary words? What if…? Sometimes, these thoughts force students into insomnia and keep them up till the wee hours of the morning, hurting their performance during the actual SAT.
[Continue reading to find out how to deal with SAT anxiety…]
Is there a difference between creative writing and writing creatively? Believe it or not, there actually is! In my previous blog post I discussed some basic methods for improving and refining your creative writing skills. I’ll talk more about creative writing in future posts, but for now, my task is to convince you that academic writing (all of that formal writing you use in essays!) can also be creative, and better yet—it should be creative. Writing creatively does not mean writing fiction or poetry. It means incorporating what you know about creative writing into your schoolwork. It is the very definition of style, and the answer to being a successful writer in high school, college, and beyond.
I remember looking at the handful of SAT test dates that one can take during a year and worrying about, firstly, how I could fit in more studying and test-taking around my already-packed high school schedule and, secondly, which date would be most advantageous to me given that I would be bell-curved against the other students taking it on that date. Advice such as “June is terrible because every other student will be taking it during summer” or “October is when all the smart kids sit for the SAT” and “December is definitely the best month because the smart ones would not have left it to the last minute so only the average ones will take it then” often inundated already stressed out high school students. Yet, was there really any truth in choosing test dates strategically to gain a testing advantage?
Possess a passion for the written word? Better yet, possess a passion for creating your own combinations of words, ideas, meanings, stories? You’re not alone. Besides being the favorite pastime of this blog’s author, creative writing has enjoyed a renewal of popularity amongst middle and high school students, with good reason. Writing is perhaps one of the greatest channels for creativity, and creativity is quickly earning its place in the classroom as one of the best methods for instruction.
My goal is to help you creative writers out there learn ways to transform your current scribblings into something you might bring in to a college creative writing class. Anyone can write, but few know truly how to write. Here are a few ideas about how to train your creative writing muscle, and train it to do great things.
Last week we discussed some tips for getting started on your college application essay, after debunking several myths about the application process itself. By now, hopefully you have brainstormed enough and are feeling ready to pick up a pencil and begin writing. Grab your ‘First Impressions’ sheet we began last week and let’s get started!