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The First WELL of the Excellent Essay:

WELL-STRUCTURED

 

The Importance of Structure

·       Just starting to write as soon as you read the essay prompt is a BAD STRATEGY! Unfortunately, this is how many students approach the test. Why do they do this? Because most students do not realize that THE TEST GRADERS ARE EVALUATING YOUR EFFORTS BASED IN LARGE PART ON THE ORGANIZATION OF YOUR IDEAS.

·       Taking 2 minutes to OUTLINE YOUR ESSAY enables you to CREATE A ROADMAP for your essay.

·       Writing your essay without first creating a general outline is like taking a car trip without first having any sense of the directions you’ll need to follow in order to arrive at your destination.

·       Without a map travelers get lost. Without an outline, student essays ramble.

·       Take the two minutes to create a map of your essay – it is time very well spent. (And NOT, contrary to popular misconception, time wasted.)

 

Success Secret for the Test

ESSAY GRADERS ARE LOOKING FOR

SOLID STRUCTURE

 

QUESTIONS ESSAY GRADERS WILL ASK THEMSELVES:

·       Is there a sensible progression of ideas?

·       Does the student logically move from Point A to Point B?

·        Does the essay have a Beginning, a Middle and an End?

 

KEY POINTS TO REMEMBER ABOUT OUTLINING:

·       It creates Focus.

·       It saves time. (Really, it does. When you know where you are going, it’s a lot easier to get there.)

·       It provides an intelligent Road Map that prevents rambling.

 

Reminder:Those who outline tend to succeed in writing focused, well-structured essays. Those who do not, tend to ramble and run out of time.

 

What to do before you write your essay:

·       Understand what the essay prompt is asking of you.

·       THINK before you write. (Thinking is good – just writing is bad. Unfortunately, too many students do NOT think before they begin to write.)

·       TAKE TWO MINUTES TO OUTLINE YOUR THOUGHTS because outlining provides focus, structure, purposefulness and clarity – all of which are elements students will be evaluated on by the Test Graders.

 

How to Create an Outline:

The Four Paragraph SAT Essay of Excellence

 

NOTE:Being that this is a timed test, students WILL NOT HAVE TIME to elaborate upon every possible aspect the question touches upon. Test Makers know this. Test Graders know this. Students who score well know this, too. By coherently and intelligently responding to the essay prompt in four well-written paragraphs students will enable themselves to earn an excellent score on the Essay Writing Section of the SAT.

 

There are Four Main Sections a student wants to outline before they begin to write their essay.

 

·       Paragraph 1The Main Idea (including a Thesis Statement)

·       Paragraph 2Supporting Paragraph #1 (Point A)

·       Paragraph 3Supporting Paragraph #2 (Point B)

·       Paragraph 4The Concrete Conclusion (re-connecting to the Thesis)

 

Outline these four Big Points in two minutes BEFORE YOU BEGIN!!

 

NOTE:Yes, this is a formula - a formula for success on the SAT. With only 25 minutes to complete a well-written essay, strategy is a HUGE factor for success on this test.

 

Put yourself in the shoes of a Test Grader.

If a Test Grader sees that you can write four well-structured paragraphs that progress from Point to Point, including a Thesis Statement and a Conclusion, you are on you way to an excellent score. Remember, all you need to do is write four paragraphs – there is no time for a 33 page doctoral thesis on the essay prompt - so do NOT try to write one.

 

PITFALLS:Watch out!

·       Avoid the temptation to skip the outline process.

·       Avoid the temptation to abandon the outline after taking the time to create it.

 

Samples Outlining Activities:

Sample #1

DIRECTIONS: Please explain the following quote and whether or not you agree or disagree with the statement.

 

Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm. (Ralph Waldo Emerson)

 

Two-Minute General Outline:

Paragraph 1 - You must care about something in order to really create greatness.

Paragraph 2 - I agree, being negative will never result in producing amazing results.

Paragraph 3 – Examples exist everywhere proving this point.

Paragraph 4 – Without genuine passion, excellence is unattainable.

 

Sample #2

DIRECTIONS: Please explain the following quote and whether or not you agree or disagree with the statement.

 

The person who lies for you will lie against you. (Harry Truman)

 

Two-Minute General Outline:

Paragraph 1 – A liar is a liar.

Paragraph 2 – Betrayal will eventually happen.

Paragraph 3 – Honesty is a principle without exception.

Paragraph 4 – People who lie for you reveal their true character so beware.

 

 

Though these are only rough statements, one can see that these essays now have a clear sense of direction – and as a result they will be MUCH EASIER to write because a road map is now in place telling us where to go and what to accomplish.

 

 

TAKE TWO MINUTES TO CREATE AN OUTLINE!!

 

 

The Second WELL of the Excellent Essay:

WELL-SUPPORTED

 

The Importance of Support

·       Test Makers and Test Graders are looking for the strong, solid support of ideas in student essays.

·       An idea without strong, solid support is like a roof without a strong, solid foundation – it is going to collapse.

·       Many students will offer a strong, solid idea but not follow it up -- as a result, they do not earn excellent scores for their efforts.

 

How to Support: Know (and Use) The Umbrella Theory

Think of the four main points of your outline as if each of them were an umbrella.

·       Items properly placed under the umbrella are shielded from a storm of point subtraction.

·       Items not placed properly under the umbrella are at risk of being rained on by a storm of point subtraction.

·       Supporting ideas that are sensible and properly placed will fit nicely underneath the umbrellas of your outline.

·       Rambling statements that shoot off in all sorts of nutty directions will not fit under your umbrella.

 

What to support: Paragraph 1 - THE MAIN IDEA/THESIS STATEMENT

Each Well-Written Essay has a Thesis Statement that needs to be supported.

·       What is a Thesis Statement?

·       A Thesis statement expresses the MAIN IDEA OF THE ENTIRE ESSAY.

·       Why do you need a Thesis Statement?

·       You need a thesis statement because it controls the direction, focus and purpose of the essay.

·       How do you create a Thesis Statement?

·       A great way to create a thesis statement that will ensure you address the question you have been asked is to CONVERT THE QUESTION PROMPT INTO A THESIS STATEMENT.

 

How do you support a Thesis Statement?

·       The well-written thesis statement will be like an umbrella for your entire essay – everything will fit underneath its scope.

·       The TOPIC SENTENCES of Paragraphs 2, 3 and 4 will be the specific tent poles of support for your thesis by the time you are finished. (More on that in a bit.)

·       Remember, support for the thesis statement will be found throughout the entire essay. In one sense, the purpose of the entire essay is to support the thesis.

 

Don’t forget…

THE THESIS STATEMENT GUIDES YOUR ESSAY

HOW TO CONVERT A QUESTION PROMPT INTO A THESIS STATEMENT

 

1.     Read the Question Prompt.

2.     Change the Prompt from a question into a firm statement.

Example:

Question Prompt: Why do you like vanilla ice cream?

Thesis: Many reasons exist for me to like vanilla ice cream.

Question Prompt: Do you agree that the United States should avoid raising taxes?

Thesis: I completely disagree with the idea that the United States should avoid raising taxes.

 

3.     Use this converted statement as the basis for your thesis.

 

More examples:

 

Question:Considering that most teenage driving fatalities occur after dark, do you believe that teenage drivers should be banned from driving at night?

Converted to Thesis Statement:Because most teenage driving fatalities occur after dark, I believe teenagers should not be allowed to drive their cars after the sun sets.

 

Question:If at the age of eighteen a person can join the military and die for their country, do you feel that they should then also be allowed to go into a bar and be served an alcoholic beverage?

Converted to Thesis Statement:If a person can join the military and die for their country, they should definitely be able to enter a bar and be served an alcoholic beverage.

 

Tips to Remember about Thesis Statements:

·       They need to be direct and focused.

·       They need to serve as an umbrella which can be used for the entire essay.

·       They must address a specific topic and put forth a clear main idea.

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What to support: Paragraph 2 - THE TOPIC SENTENCE

·       Paragraph 2 will begin with a TOPIC SENTENCE.

·       This topic sentence will have been generated from your outline.

·       This topic sentence will need to be supported by the paragraph that follows.

 

·       What is a Topic Sentence?

The topic sentence will directly state the focus, direction and purpose of the paragraph.

·       Why do you need a Topic Sentence?

A Topic Sentence is needed for two distinct reasons:

1.     So that the point of the paragraph is clear and precise.

2.     So that the thesis statement is provide with solid support.

·       How do you create a Topic Sentence?

Since you will know what the focus and purpose of Paragraph 2 needs to be (because you did an outline that sketched out the main idea of this paragraph before you started writing this essay… remember section 1, Well-Structured?) you will know what you are going to be writing about and why. Take your topic sentence from your outline. 

·       How do you support a Topic Sentence?

There are 3 Major Types of Support in the Excellent Essay:

1.  Logical reasoning.

EX: If THIS happens, then THAT will be the result.

2. Personal Examples.

EX: Once, when I was younger, I learned THIS the hard way.

3.     Specific, vivid details.

EX: Green slime oozed from the nostril of the dead gazelle.

Remember, topic sentences are also like an umbrella.

·       Use logical reasoning, personal examples and specific, vivid details to support your topic sentences.

 

Students will want to include all three types of support for their topic sentences in order to score well on the SAT Essay Writing Section.

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What to support: Paragraph 3 - THE DIFFERENT/OPPOSITE PERSPECTIVE

·       Paragraph 3 will begin with a TOPIC SENTENCE.

·       This topic sentence will have been generated from your outline.

·       This topic sentence will need to be supported by the paragraph that follows.

 

NOTE:For an effective, excellent essay the topic sentence of Paragraph 3 will address A DIFFERENT/OPPOSITE PERSPECTIVE from the one addressed by Paragraph 2.

 

ESSAY GRADERS ARE LOOKING FOR A MULTIPLE OF PERSPECTIVES ON THE SAME ISSUE IN THE HIGH-SCORING SAT ESSAY.

MAKE SURE THE PERSPECTIVE OF PARAGRAPH 3 IS DIFFERENT/OPPOSITE FROM THE PERSPECTIVE OF PARAGRAPH 2.

 

Students encounter problems when they do not address a different/opposite perspective in Paragraph 3:

·       Students who only look at the question from one perspective do not demonstrate the sophisticated thought process test graders like to see.

·       Students who only look at the question from one perspective tend to be repetitive in their thoughts and ideas.

·       Students who only look at the question from only one angle tend to not score as high as those who view the question from a different/opposite perspective.

 

How to Create a Different/Opposite Perspective for Paragraph 3:

·       Think in terms of, “The Other Side of the Coin.”

·       Take the other side of the argument.

·       Play “Devil’s Advocate.”

·       Change sides for a minute to consider all angles.

For example…

·       If paragraph 2 is discussing the need for teenage drivers to stay off the road at night, paragraph 3 can address why teenage drivers might argue that they deserve to be able to drive on the road at night.

·       If paragraph 2 is arguing that being able to fight and die as a soldier in the military has nothing to do with being able to responsibly handle being served an alcoholic beverage in a bar, then paragraph 3 can talk about how silly it is that being served alcohol requires more maturity than being asked to handle a weapon in the army.

 

ADDRESSING A DIFFERENT/OPPOSITE PERSPECTIVE IN PARAGRAPH 3 ADDS DEPTH, SOPHISTICATION AND COMPLEXITY TO YOUR ESSAY IN AN EASY-TO-IMPLEMENT MANNER.

Good phrases to incorporate in Paragraph 3:

·       However…

·       On the other hand…

·       Another way of looking at this is…

·       Opponents might say…

·       While most may agree, there are others who feel…

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 What to support: THE CONCLUSION

 

Each Well-Written SAT Essay has a Concrete Conclusion!

 

Paragraph 1 + Paragraph 2 + Paragraph 3 add up to Paragraph 4 (The Conclusion)

 

What is a Conclusion?

·       A conclusion is a definite ending whereby the reader of the essay will feel that the ideas are tied together and that the essay has been completed.

Why do you need a Conclusion?

·       Essays need endings. Including a conclusion shows the reader you understand the proper structure for the SAT essay and have implemented it successfully.

How do you create a conclusion?

·       Think of your essay as if it were a circle. You started at one point and now (in the conclusion) you need to bring everything back around again to complete the loop.

 

Techniques a student can use to craft a strong conclusion.

·       Restate and re-affirm your position.

·       Offer a solution to a problem.

·       Make a recommendation for a course of action.

·       Summarize your major points.

·       Restate your thesis.

 

Conclusion examples:

1)         In conclusion, teenage drivers are dangerous after dark and should be prohibited from taking the wheel at night. Too many pieces of evidence demonstrate that their general recklessness presents real peril after the sun has set. Stopping them from taking the road doesn’t just protect them, it protects all of us.

           

2)         Of all the crazy laws in our country, the one that says an eighteen year old can die for the American flag but not have a beer in a bar before doing so is the dumbest. Sure, people can argue about how the drinking age being set at twenty-one has some advantages but all in all, if I were thinking about serving my country, I’d find it ridiculous that Uncle Sam will permit me to shoot a man before sharing a glass of wine with him.

 

Keep in mind…

·       The conclusion is the final say.

·       The purpose of the conclusion is to hammer home an idea and make a point.

·       This is no time for wishy-washy language nor unclear positions. Take a side and assert your belief. Strength counts.

 

DO’s for the conclusion…

·       Tie up the major points of the essay.

·       Use strong, forceful language that MAKES A POINT.

·       Give the reader a sense that the essay is completely finished.

·       Hammer home an idea and let the reader know precisely the position the author of the essay has taken on the subject matter being discussed.

·       

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