In order to get into most undergraduate programs in universities or colleges in the U.S., high school students will need to take a standardized test like the SAT or the ACT. And this test will inevitably include a timed essay (usually a half hour or less). Before you start sweating about this task, consider these tips to help you write a passing essay for your next standardized test.
Write some practice essays. All essays follow the same basic format, even standardized ones. They’re 5 paragraphs long. They always start with an introductory sentence or two followed by your thesis. Then there are 2 or 3 paragraphs that support your thesis and provide examples from your lessons or readings. And then the last paragraph ties together all your points and completes your essay on a strong point. By the end of your high school career, you’ll have written dozens of essays that follow this basic format. But just to be sure that you can write a passing essay for your next standardized test, write a few practice ones and have a teacher or tutor go over the essay with you. (Remember to practice writing it within the time limit too, for a more authentic experience.)
Read the instructions carefully. Although your nerves might be going crazy on exam day, you have to relax. Take time to read over the instructions for the essay carefully. There is a difference between the words ‘state’, ‘list’, ‘review’, ‘discuss’, ‘compare’ and ‘explain’. All of these instructions require a slightly different approach to writing an essay. If you need to, write out a few pointers for yourself so that you won’t forget to include any mandatory things in your standardized essay.
Remember the basics. When it comes time to write the essay, don’t panic. You know the outline for a passing essay. Now you just have to follow it. As you’ve probably heard a million times before in your high school English class, a good, passing essay consists of three main things: a definitive point of view, supported by examples, written in proper English. That’s it. If you can do this, you’ll probably write a great essay on your next standardized test. If you want to increase your chances of acing the essay, follow these other tips too.
Create a quick essay outline. If you’ve only got a half hour to write your standardized essay, then every minute counts. You need to organize your time wisely. So it’s worth it to take a minute or two to write out a brief essay plan. Use 5 jot notes to summarize what you’ll write about in each paragraph. That will give you an immediate overview of your essay, and will allow you to continue writing for the duration of the time because you won’t have to stop to think about your next point. Ensure that your essay plan follows the instructions exactly so that you’ll receive a passing grade for it.
Avoid writing in the first person. Essays written for standardized tests are formal essays, meaning that they should not use the word ‘I’. Unless the essay topic specifically relates to something about you or your life in which you must discuss yourself, avoid using the word ‘I’ at all costs. Your essay will sound much more professional.
Don’t try to impress. Writing a passing essay on a standardized test isn’t so much about impressing your teacher or professor with your big vocabulary as it is about squeezing as much information into each paragraph as you can. As the suggestion goes, ‘write to inform, not to impress’.
Take time to proofread. Even though your time is limited, it is still important to proofread your essay for common errors before you submit it. Your teacher will understand that this is not your best essay writing ever because you only had a half hour to write it. So don’t worry too much about rewording things. Just fix up your spelling and grammar, make sure that you followed the instructions, and then submit what will surely be a passing essay on your next standardized test.