In Part II of the Writing Test, you are asked to write a brief essay. You will have 45 minutes to plan, write, and proofread the essay.

What You Should Know

Your essay will be scored on how well your essay shows

  • An understanding of the topic

  • Clear and logical organization

  • Specific supporting examples and details

  • Proper grammar, usage, and spelling

  • Proper use of a variety of words

Remember: No score will be given to papers that are written on the wrong topic, are illegible (impossible to read), or are blank.

For an essay to be effective, the reader must understand and easily follow the writer's expression of ideas.

What You Should Do

Follow these basic steps:

  • Read the question carefully.

  • Spend a few minutes planning your answer using the scratch paper provided.

  • Write a clear statement of purpose.

  • As you continue writing, keep your purpose clearly in mind.

  • Write a conclusion, or ending, that points toward the future.

  • Reread your essay, and correct any errors you find.

The following section will use an example to carefully explain the techniques in writing a good essay.

A Sample Essay

Sample Topic:

Many people believe that television has changed the world. For some, these changes have been negative, and for others they have been positive.

In your essay, you may write about the positive effects, the negative effects, or both. Use your personal observations, experiences, and knowledge to support your essay.

Analysis and Techniques

Step 1: Read the Question Carefully

As you read the essay question, note the key words. Notice that you must discuss "the effects of television" and that you must "support your essay." If you do not focus on the effects of television or do not support your essay — provide specific examples — you will not receive a passing score.

Step 2: Spend a Few Minutes Planning Your Answer

With only a few minutes to plan, you should jot down information quickly and in an effective way. One technique for doing this is clustering — which looks like the hub of a wheel with spokes sticking out.

  1. Jot down the topic you have been asked to discuss, "effects of television," and draw a circle around this phrase. This is the "hub" (or center) of your wheel.

  2. Draw a spoke (a line) coming out from the hub. At the end of the spoke, jot down a specific example of the effects of television and draw a circle around the example. Continue adding more spokes to the hub as you get more ideas. For the sample topic (effects of television), you could have: video stores profit; brings world closer-news; less use for reading; mind pollution; eat TV snacks; people don't exercise.

    At this point, don't worry about whether your examples are "good" or not; just write down whatever comes to mind.

  3. Number the clusters to show which ones you plan to use and in what order.

Remember that other ideas will come to you as you write. You might want to include these in your essay.

Step 3: Write a Clear Statement of Purpose

Your readers will be looking for a clear theme or position that is supported throughout the essay. To state your purpose, take the topic (effects of television) and give an opinion about the topic that you can support with your examples. For instance:

  • Watching too much television has polluted our minds and weakened our bodies.

  • Because of television, we are all reading less, but we are learning much more.

  • There are both "positives" and "nagatives" about watching television.

After writing your statement of purpose, add a sentence or two introducing the examples you intend to discuss:

Watching too much television has polluted our minds and weakened our bodies. Most TV shows are written at a low level. They are meant to appeal to a low mentality. People who become addicted to these low level shows spend less time in healthy, outdoor activities. They get out of shape and learn very little.

Notice that the opening paragraph focuses on two of the negative effects of television. The question allows you to focus on "the positive effects, the negative effects, or both." Beginning with a purpose statement that promises to discuss both positive and negative effects, you might instead compose an opening paragraph as follows:

The positive effects of television far outweigh the negative ones. Although some people may be reading and exercising less because they watch TV too much, many are learning more about the world than ever before.

Because you are given a choice, either of these openings would be appropriate for the topic.

Step 4: As You Continue Writing, Keep Your Purpose Clearly in Mind

Writing the body of the essay means giving specific details that tell more about the examples you have introduced. Make sure that your details are specific and that they support your purpose. For instance, if your purpose is to show that "watching too much television has polluted our minds and weakened our bodies," every detail should be a particular instance of how television pollutes minds and weakens bodies. The following example repeats one of the opening paragraphs given above and adds a paragraph of specifics.

Watching too much television has polluted our minds and weakened our bodies. Most TV shows are written at a low level. They are meant to appeal to a low mentality. People who become addicted to these low level shows spend less time in healthy, outdoor activities. They get out of shape and learn very little.

Consider a family on a typical Thursday night in a typical American home. They begin by watching the evening news, which contains only short, simple overviews of complicated news stories. Then, thinking that they are "informed on issues of the day," the family switches to game shows and pretends to be smart by watching other smart people answer questions on Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy. Then, along with millions of others, this family sits and laughs at the same old jokes and the same old plots and the same old characters on The Simpsons, Friends, Malcolm in the Middle, E.R., and The Practice. Then one more half-hour of " happy talk" news, weather, sports, and these TV addicts go off to sleep with laugh tracks and commercial jingles in their heads. Of course, they have been munching TV snacks all this time, rather than enjoying the fresh night air, and maybe exercising.

So far, this composition is not perfect, but it is strong in its specific examples and its control of purpose.

Step 5: Write a Conclusion that Points Toward the Future

Rather than writing a conclusion that just repeats what you have already said, you should use what you have said to either tie things together or make a final, new point. To do this, take the information you have discussed and tell how it will probably affect the future. For instance:

If people keep spending more time watching television and less time reading and playing, we will be sorry that TV was ever invented because it will make us a world of out-of-shape illiterates.

Step 6: Reread Your Essay and Correct Any Errors You Find

Always allow a few minutes to proofread your essay for errors in grammar, usage, and spelling. To make sure that you proofread carefully, try this: With your scratch paper, cover all but the first line of your essay. Read that line carefully. Then uncover and read the second line, and so forth. If you find an error, line it out carefully and write your correction neatly. Keep in mind that your handwriting must be legible (easy to read).

Pop Quiz!

If x could be positive or negative, then which of the following is the best way to express the value of equation?


I want to get good grades, so I work hard, but all I ever do is study! Since I never have any time to play, I end up playing during class and get into trouble. I don't even have time to brush my teeth or take a shower I study so much!

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