Responding to the Essay Question
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Essay exams are very common on the college level. First of all, it is assumed that you will attend class regularly, take accurate notes, and complete all reading and writing assignments. It is even a good idea to take notes on your assigned readings and notes on your notes! However, there are some easy steps to help you prepare for the inevitable essay exam:
Step 1: Before the test day, predict probable questions.
Step 2: Prepare and memorize an informal outline answer for each question.
Step 3: At the actual test, analyze the exam question carefully to determine an approach for developing an answer. Be certain that you are answering the stated question and not the question you "wished" had been asked.
Step 4: Prepare a brief, informal outline or graphic organizer before writing your answer.
Step 5: Write a clear, well-organized essay which includes the following essentials:
- An interesting introductory paragraph which contains your thesis statement and controls, if appropriate.
- A body which contains facts, quotes, examples--proof of your thesis statement and proof that you have actually done the readings.
- Use lively, clear words and a variety of sentence types.
- Employ transitional sentences between paragraphs and "connecting" words to guide your reader through the essay.
- A conclusion which restates your answer to the question (your thesis) in an insightful manner and perhaps draws any further conclusions or predictions.
- Watch your time so that all parts of the essay are completed in time for you to proofread your writing. (When making corrections, you should make them neatly.)
Analyze: to divide something into parts to see how each part works.
Choose one of the following questions and respond in essay form. Begin with a prewriting activity (outline, web, or jot list); compose a first draft with appropriate introduction, body, and conclusion; proofread for sense and mechanics. Complete a final draft. Be sure to include an interesting title. Turn in all parts of the assignment.
1. Choose a person you admire. Analyze how this person inspires you and why?
2. Analyze your senior year as a period of growth and maturity.
3. Consider an area in which you have achieved at least moderate success, for example academics, sports, the arts, social relationships, or family relationships. Analyze how you have achieved success in this area.
4. Think of a situation in which you failed miserably. Analyze how this failure occurred. Did you learn anything from this experience?
Illustrate: Provide examples to support a main point.
1. Illustrate Robert Frost's use of end rhyme in "A Snowy Evening."
2. Illustrate how Americans are infatuated with violence.
3. Illustrate the responsibilities of a college student.
Step One: Develop a thesis statement. Example--Americans are infatuated with violence.
Step Two: Brainstorm examples that actually support your thesis--
- relevant facts
- personal experiences
Step Three: Organize each paragraph of the body of your paper by grouping several examples that support a particular point in separate paragraphs or use one extended example (an incident or story) that may take up a full paragraph. Save the paragraph containing the most vivid, convincing, or important examples for last.
Step Four: Conclude with a summary paragraph which restates your thesis and ends with a persuasive or insightful statement.
Choose one of the following statements and respond in the form of an illustration essay. Begin with a prewriting activity (outline, web, or jot list); develop a thesis statement with controls; compose a first draft with appropriate introduction, body, and conclusion; proofread for sense and mechanics. Complete a final draft. Be sure to include an interesting title.
1. Our lives would be improved without the automobile.
2. Looking for a job can be a stressful process.
3. If you look hard enough, you can see complete strangers being kind to one another.
4. High school seniors are excellent models for the underclassmen.
When you are asked to prove something you are expected to show something to be true by giving facts or reasons. It is your goal to persuade your reader of your point of view.
There are several organizational strategies available to you when you write a persuasive essay:
Using Order of Importance
One of the most common and effective methods of organization in a persuasive essay is order of importance. One way to use this method is to rank and discuss your evidence from most important to the least important. Then refute any arguments against your evidence by showing how or why these arguments are illogical, impractical, or unsound. Finally, end with a strong ending that your reader will remember.
|Thesis Statement||Most Important Evidence||Next Important Evidence||Least Important Evidence||Refuting Opposing Arguments||Conclusion|
Refuting Opposing Arguments First
As an alternative to stating your own position first, as in order of importance, you might begin your persuasive essay by analyzing and refuting the arguments of the opposing side. This organization pattern is especially effective with highly controversial issues. By debunking the opposition first you make your audience more receptive to your ideas. After you refute opposing arguments, clearly state your own position and support it with evidence.
|Refuting Opposing Arguments||Thesis Statement||Most Important Evidence||Next Important Evidence||Least Important Evidence||
The word interpret in a question asks for you to give the meaning, message, theme, or significance of something. (This is usually a step beyond the analysis of a work, which implies that you will look at the various aspects of a work. For example, in a poem you would analyze the rhyme, rhythm, figurative language, stanza form, historical period, to mention only a few.)
- Provide an interpretation for the symbol of the road in Robert Frost's "The Road Not Taken."
- Interpret the meaning of Poe's "The Raven."
- Interpret what is meant by this statement: "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself."
Step One: Read your literary work to find a "focus" around a dominant or universal theme. (Theme: the central or dominating idea in a literary work. Examples: jealousy, love, pride, courage, hate, values, growing up, freedom, loss, discovery, imagination, humor, satire, generations.)
Step Two: State this universal theme in the form of a thesis statement (for a longer paper) or topic sentence (for a paragraph). (Thesis: An attitude or position on a problem taken by a writer or speaker with the purpose of proving or supporting it.)
Step Three: Show the overall development of the work in light of the thesis statement. Always use quotes and examples which support or prove your thesis statement (your original interpretation).
Step Four: End by asserting the significance of the thesis and the work you have just discussed. (This should be a natural outgrowth of your paper. It should not be something that is just "tacked on" to the end of your paper.)
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