Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Study Corner: Writing Timed Essays (and Why They Make My Skin Break Out)

I had a timed essay in my English class today.  At the end, I felt good about what I'd written, but I also had a breakout of hives on my chin from the anxiety of the experience.  Skintervention setback! I guess I broke out because writing a timed essay is stressful, kind of like riding a roller coaster.  Once you're in your seat and the ascent has begun, you know that there's no going back and that you have to get through the ride now, but you can't quite imagine how.  It's a bit terrifying, really, and, unfortunately, I can't give you much advice in the way of the inevitable "drop" without passing out because riding roller coasters is not something I have much experience with.  Writing timed essays, though . . . that's something much more familiar to me.  I'm no expert, but I definitely have some tried-and-true tips for making timed essays feel less like timed essays (if that makes sense).

I definitely did not take this picture, lol, but it goes well with study time :).
  • Take a deep breath.  
    • Read the prompt over once to familiarize yourself with it and then again to find its main point.
    • Ask yourself what the prompt is asking for.  Usually, it wants you to take a stance on something and defend your position with evidence, but there are nuances in the way a prompt is written that can change the way you're supposed to present your argument. 
    • Also--think of your rubric (if you have one). You want to make sure you hit the big points on the rubric.
  • Decide.
    • Once you've figured out what the prompt wants, think of your resources and come up with a general idea for what you want to say.
    • You need to have a general idea of your argument in order to write a cohesive paper.  Find your focus! Center yourself on it, and let your ideas for your body paragraphs stem from it.
  • Make your skeleton.
    • Come up with the "key three."  These are the main body ideas for your essay.  Put them in boxes on your brainstorm paper to help you organize what you're going to write about. You have limited time, but it might help to write a few bullet points in these boxes if you can.
    • Make sure all your boxes relate in some way to your argument!
  • WRITE!
    • Your thesis will go at the end of your intro, but don't get too caught up in the introduction. If you're getting caught up in it, get your thesis down and start your body paragraphs.  
    • Each body paragraph needs 1) an opening, 2) examples, 3) supports, and 4) a conclusion to tie it up (and relate it to the argument).  This is the simplest formula, and it works.
    • Once you get your three (or however many you end up with) body paragraphs down, work on your intro (if you haven't already) and write your conclusion.  Make sure your conclusion doesn't just summarize but instead also carries your argument forward, but remember that the intro and the conclusion aren't as crucial as getting in the key arguments of your essay and your main point, so don't freak if you're running out of time to make the conclusion super fancy.
  • Check it over.
    • Read over your paper (if you have time) and make sure it hits at least most of the points on the rubric.  If you have time, try to get all of them, but if you're running out of time, try to get at least the big ones.
Good luck, loves!!! I hope this is a *bit* helpful. Coming up with a skeleton is probably the tip that helps me the most.  Let me know if you have any study or writing questions.  I'm not an expert, but my tutoring work has helped me come up with some ideas to make school more manageable.

<3 Frances

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