Writing - Outlining the Essay for CBEST Exam Study Guide (page 2)

Updated on Mar 29, 2011

Outlining the Narrative Essay

The process of outlining a narrative essay is similar to that of outlining a persuasive essay. You should still plan on taking the first four or five minutes for this process. The following steps will show you how to tackle a topic like the following:

Sample Narrative Essay Question

  1. Describe an event from your elementary school years that has affected the way you live your life today.
  2. Minute 1

    In order to answer a question like this, you need to search your memory and pick out an event or a person that had a significant impact in your life. Although you can use a made-up person or event, it may not be to your advantage. A familiar person or event is easier to write about. You will be able to visualize the details and communicate them to your reader.

    You should also try to choose an event that has had a significant impact, will grab your reader's attention, and will make them feel or grow along with you. Writing about someone who inspired you to be a giving person or helped you overcome shyness is preferable to someone who taught you to avoid poison ivy or improve your penmanship. Something with a greater, more profound impact on your life is preferable to something trivial.

    Minutes 2 and 3

    Once you have chosen your topic, try to remember the events as they took place. Consider these questions:

    1. What about you then was different than it is now?
    2. Who were the principal actors?
    3. How long did the situation last?
    4. How did the event start, when did you first meet the person, or when were you first aware of what was happening?
    5. How did you feel in the beginning?
    6. How did the scene unfold?
    7. What did you see, hear, taste, touch, and smell during the process?
    8. What were the events that led up to the climax, and how did the climax take place?
    9. How does the situation still affect you today?
    Minutes 4 and 5

    Place your thoughts in logical sequence on your paper. One logical sequence might be chronological order: Describe each of three parts of the event in detail and give your reactions, if necessary, as you go along. Alternately, if there are three actors, you might want to give each of them a paragraph of their own. Or you might want to write in the first paragraph about the event itself; in the second, talk about ways in which the situation affected you immediately, and in the third, explain how the situation affects you today. Any logical sequence will work. Jot the main ideas of your three subtopics down in your test booklet and refer to them as you write. Try to limit your time to just five minutes each.


    Try outlining the following essay topics using the hints you've learned.

    • n In the last three decades, environmental issues have received increasing amounts of attention. Teaching materials on this subject are abundant and some are even offered free to school districts. Given that some environmental issues should indeed be covered, do you believe too much emphasis is being placed on environmental issues in our schools?
    • Many times in life there are choices to make. Sometimes people find themselves at a fork in life's road. Tell about such a time in your life and how you chose what road to take.
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