The essay section of the PPST Writing Test is 30 minutes long and contains one essay question. You are asked to draw upon your personal experience and observations for information, examples, and generalizations to be used in your writing. The essay question generates a raw score that ranges from 2 to 12. (This raw score is the sum of the scores of two readers who each assign a score of 1 to 6.)

The essay section of the exam tests your ability to read a topic carefully, to organize your ideas before you write, and to write with clarity and precision.

This section requires a basic college-level writing background. Papers are scored on the writer's ability to achieve the following: organization and development of ideas with supporting evidence of specific examples; understanding of the essay's intended audience (for example, a speech urging members of a city council to vote a certain way); comprehension of the assigned task; skillful use of language; and correctness of mechanics, usage, and paragraphing.


In this section, you will have 30 minutes to plan and write one essay on the topic given. You may use the paper provided to plan your essay before you begin writing. You should plan your time wisely. Read the topic carefully to make sure that you are properly addressing the issue or situation. You must write on the given topic. An essay on another topic will not be acceptable.

The essay question is designed to give you an opportunity to write clearly and effectively. Use specific examples whenever appropriate to aid in supporting your ideas. Keep in mind that the quality of your writing is much more important than the quantity.

Your essay is to be written in the space provided. No other paper may be used. Your writing should be neat and legible. Because you have only a limited amount of space in which to write, please do not skip lines, do not write excessively large, and do not leave wide margins.

Remember, use the bottom of this page for any organizational notes you may wish to make.

Analysis of Directions

  1. On the essay part of the PPST, you will have 30 minutes to write on one assigned topic. You will have space for prewriting notes to help you organize your thoughts. (These notes will not be read by the persons grading your exam.)

  2. It is recommended that you use this space to organize your thoughts. Double-check to determine how much space you have in which to write your essay. At present, the test provides two blank sides of lined 8.5" by 11" paper.

General Tips for Writing the Essay

  1. Read the topic twice — three times if necessary — before writing. Circle or underline key words to help you focus on the assigned task.

  2. Use a form of "prewriting" before you begin writing your actual essay. Prewriting may consist of outlining, brainstorming, clustering, or another variation. Spend about five minutes doing this "organizing" before you start writing. A poorly written essay is often the result of inadequate planning.

  3. Don't let spelling slow down your writing. Keep the flow of your writing going; then come back later to correct spelling errors.

  4. Try to leave several minutes at the end to reread and edit/correct your essay. At this time, don't make extensive changes. Simply correct spelling errors and other minor flaws.

  5. Don't write excessively large. Don't leave wide margins. Don't skip any lines.

  6. Double-check your time allotment and the amount of space you have in which to write your essay.

Sample Essay Topic and Prewriting Methods


Teachers can play an important part in our lives. Choose one particular teacher you had during your school years and discuss one of his or her personal qualities which contributed to that teacher's impact on you.

Prewriting Methods

Consider these methods of organizing your thoughts and ideas before you begin writing.


Use clustering as a way of organizing your thoughts before you write. After you choose the "subject" (in this case, person) for your essay, write it down on the prewriting area and draw a circle around it.

For a few moments, think of a few possible "personal qualities which contributed to that teacher's impact on you." Write them down and connect them to the central subject cluster. Now, from these qualities, select the one you can best develop into an essay. That is, choose the circle that you can support with specific examples.

If you find that you can't come up with enough specific examples for the quality you initially chose, then choose another. You don't want to spend a great deal of time in clustering, however — just enough to give you a basic plan of how to write your essay. You can then number the parts of the cluster to give an order to your thoughts.

You don't have to use all of the elements of your cluster. (In fact, you'll be ignoring those headings for which you don't have support.) Clustering provides a way to put all of your thoughts down on paper before you write so that you can quickly see the structure of the whole paper.


Another way of prewriting is outlining. A simple outline for this essay could go something like this.

Mrs. Wolff

  1. Sense of humor

  2. Patience

  3. Curiosity

    1. Didn't know about trees

      1. Looked it up

      2. We were also excited

    2. Watched ants

    3. Saw her at library

      1. She studies Napoleon

      2. I took out a book

Organizing an outline like the one above (it need not be this formal) will help you write a well-structured, well-planned essay. You can readily see that constructing a good essay from the outline above would be much easier than writing it without any planning.

Whichever way you prewrite — cluster, outline, or another method — the important thing is that you think and plan before you actually begin to write the essay.

Pop Quiz!

The solution x = –3 and equation is the solution for which of the following system of equations?

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