I remember that one of the biggest challenges I faced when tackling the SAT essay was having a wide variety of examples at my fingertips. Although the SAT essay is intended to measure your writing and argumentative skills, and not your knowledge of any particular subject, it is necessary to use good examples in your SAT essay to create a persuasive argument. Many of the essay prompts given on the SAT tend to be open-ended questions with multiple perspectives one can take. Almost all of these essay prompts deal with basic moral, social and psychological issues such as the meaning of freedom or courage.
[Continue reading to find out how to develop useful SAT essay examples…]
Often, the biggest challenge of the SAT essay isn’t poor writing, but coming up with relevant and good examples within the short 25 minutes that you are given for the essay section. Someone told me that during her SAT test, she panicked after reading the prompt because no good example came to her mind and so she made up an example using her “cat”. After the test, she realized that her example had been really far-fetched and its link to the prompt hadn’t been the most relevant. She realized that one key thing she should have prepared for was good SAT essay examples.
[Continue reading to find out what to avoid when writing your essay…]
Last week we discussed some key elements of the academic essay in Writing Academically: A Lexicon. For the next few posts in my series on academic writing, I will be narrowing in on these elements. Today we’re talking structure.
Structure formulates your essay’s line of reasoning or argument. You can focus on successfully structuring individual paragraphs (even sentences!) in addition to structuring your essay as a whole. You have most likely heard of the five-paragraph essay format—great! You’re already on the way to understanding structure. But read on. Believe it or not, there is more to essay structure than five well-engineered and oiled paragraphs.
Oh man…my SAT is in a month’s time and I haven’t started preparing for it. In addition to my normal school work, extracurricular and the hundred other things I have to do, how am I supposed to even start preparing for perhaps one of the most important tests in my life? Unsurprisingly, with most of the SAT dates during the school term, albeit during a Saturday, many students see the SAT as another enormous challenge placed smack center amidst all the other commitments they already have. Many of these high school students are already barely sleeping 6 hours and are stressed out from trying to achieve high exam scores/class rankings.
Preparing for the SAT thus seems like an additional insurmountable challenge, where you face off thousands of students from all over the country who will contribute to your eventual score and ranking. Sometimes, the seeming difficulty of the SAT causes students to put off preparing for it till much later because “it just seems too hard and tiring to start right now”. Yet, taking a daily approach for the SAT is probably the best thing you can do to prepare for it!
Make it a point not to take days off! This is the first most important thing you have to take note of! Even if you only have 10 minutes on the bus or right before you fall asleep, study 10 new vocabulary words everyday and that tiny bit of work every single day will add up to a great deal in the long run.
[Continue reading to find out how to prepare daily for the SAT…]
Last week’s blog post, “What’s the Point?”, hopefully convinced you in some small way of the significance of academic writing. Now it’s time to focus on the most important elements of the academic essay. I’ve already covered a few of these in previous posts, particularly the thesis statement and motive. But of course, there are so many more! What terms are crucial to the genre of academic writing? What do you need to know to write a convincing, elegant academic essay?
Let’s look at A Writing Lexicon, a list of the essential essay elements, to find out.
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?
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.
Imagine presenting the court case of the century, a trial whose outcome will impact people for decades to come…. without any evidence. The big-wig judge calls on you –the prosecutor– to approach the bench and present your case, and you have no forensic data, no eye witness accounts, nothing. Sound ridiculous? So should writing an essay without textual evidence.
The truth? You can’t handle writing the truth without textual evidence!
No matter how eloquent, no matter how grammatically sound, no matter how organized, no matter how correct– without evidence, any and all argumentation will fall flat.
Textual evidence is evidence, gathered from the original source or other texts, that supports an argument or thesis. Such evidence can be found in the form of a quotation, paraphrased material, and descriptions of the text.
The paragraphs that follow provide all the information you need to locate relevant textual evidence and to use it in your writing as a direct quote. Throughout this post, you’ll find step-by-step instructions and an example from the start to finish of the process.
[Continue reading to learn how to find terrific textual evidence!]
Integrating textual evidence is one of the most challenging, and yet, one of the most rewarding aspects of an essay. A well presented quotation can truly make or break an essay, so merely finding the right evidence isn’t enough. Imagine the timing and finesse of great lawyers, and channel this. (See Finding Purposeful and Specific Textual Evidence for more information on choosing what textual evidence to use.)
Textual evidence, the first defense of the writing.
Once you have some words to highlight you must determine how on earth to include them in your essay. As discussed earlier, Peeta using the word “sweetheart” in itself isn’t funny, so there is some explaining that must be done. And, as it turns out, carelessly plopping the word into your essay with quotation marks around in the spirit of abstraction won’t do either. At this step you must consider the following two questions: How can I introduce the quote? And how can I integrate it into a sentence?
[Read on for step-by-step instructions on how to introduce and integrate your textual evidence into your essay!]
Your copy of David Copperfield has more highlighter marks than your younger sister’s hair; you’ve been staring at your computer screen so long your eyes are changing color; and you may or may not be able to see pink streaks of dawn outside your bedroom window. Essay writing, you tell yourself, should not be like this.
Need help from something other than SparkNotes? I’m gladly here to give it. Follow these essay TLC tips and no matter where you are at in the writing and editing process, your paper will automatically improve. They cannot guarantee an “A” grade—that is ultimately up to you!—but they will make your paper stronger. And the good news: you don’t need to pull an all-nighter to follow them!