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Preparing for an Essay Exam Help (page 4)

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Updated on Sep 6, 2011

The Best Way to Achieve a High Score

The scorers of every type of timed essay agree on one significant point: You must support your essay with details, examples, and evidence. Not only will they strengthen your argument, but they will make your writing come alive. Common advice for essay exam takers is to include at least one sentence in each paragraph that begins with the words For example. Compare these sentences:

High school seniors should be allowed open campuses, on which they can arrive in time for their first class, leave during free periods, and come back to school for their other classes. There is no reason to treat high school seniors like children by making them stay in school all day when they don't have classes to attend all day. Seniors can handle the extra responsibility.

High school seniors should be allowed open campuses, on which they can arrive in time for their first class, leave during free periods, and come back to school for their other classes. Seniors are given freedom and responsibility in many other areas of their lives; for example, the ability to drive a car. Seniors are also permitted to vote, and to prepare for their futures through the college admissions process or vocational training.

The first example uses generalizations and unsubstantiated claims ("no reason to treat [them]…," "can handle the extra responsibility"), which weaken the argument. The second uses evidence, such as the responsibility of driving and voting, to make the case for open campuses. Remember to back up what you say with evidence, details, and other types of examples.

In Short

The time you spend planning for and preparing to take an essay exam can mean the difference between a great score and a poor one. Do your homework by researching your exam: Understand how it's scored, what type of prompt(s) you'll encounter, what the directions say, and even how much space you'll be given to write in. Learn how to respond quickly to a prompt by practicing: Come up with a thesis statement and outline in just five minutes or less.

Exercises for this concept can be found at Preparing for an Essay Exam Practice.

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