In some courses, tests will be several essay questions. Some teachers may even provide students with one prompt and have them write an essay. As a result, it is necessary for students to know how to prepare for these tests.
- Understand the assignment/question (1 minute). Read carefully. Look for key words like explain, compare, evaluate, or analyze.
- Brainstorm (2 or 3 minutes)
- Select the main idea (2 minutes). After you have brainstormed, look at the ideas written down and then connect the related ideas. What is the main idea to convey in this essay? What is the purpose for writing?
- Write a rough outline (1 minute)
After approximately seven minutes of prewriting, students are ready to begin writing their essays. Make sure to leave at least five minutes to proofread.
Writing the Essay
- Write the introduction.
The introductory paragraph should provide any necessary background for understanding the topic, should attract the reader’s interest, and should clearly state the main idea (thesis) of the essay. The introduction is a guidepost that points the way for the reader. Be sure that it clearly states what the essay is going to be about so that the reader doesn’t get lost.
- Supply evidence for the main idea.
Now that the focus of the paper is stated in the introduction, develop that idea. Usually, that is done by breaking the main idea (thesis) into two or three parts and developing each one by providing details, reasons, and/or examples to prove that the main idea is sound.
* To develop a main idea, divide it into separate aspects and develop each one in a separate paragraph. (Remember that paragraphs contain a statement about the basic idea of the paragraph supported by specific evidence. Paragraphs are generally 5 to 15 sentences in length, but not always.)
* If the main idea is that dogs make ideal pets, provide support/evidence that this is true. So students might discuss three factors that make dogs ideal pets: their loyalty, their playfulness, and their usefulness. Each factor would be discussed in a separate paragraph with lots of details, reasons, and/or examples to support it.
* Organize the essay in any way that is logical. Some writers like to start with their weakest point and build to their strongest point. Others argue that using the strongest points first keeps the attention of the audience.
- Write the conclusion. (Here writers may restate the main idea, summarize their major points, and/or leave the audience with a powerful thought/quote that reinforces the ideas they are putting forth in their essays.)
- Reread for meaning and organization. (Make sure essential information is included.)
- Check the paper for grammar, punctuation, and spelling errors.
For additional assistance, please read the “Proofreading” handout in the “Student Resources” area under “handouts for students” on the Writing Center Website.