Writer's Studio

The Essay Test

Preparing to take the test

  • Review reading, lecture notes, handouts.
  • Write sample questions covering major points and practice answering them.
  • Familiarize yourself with key terms that may appear on tests (See reverse side of handout.)
  • Read the directions. Look for how many questions must be answered and point value.
  • Answer the question you are most confident about first.
  • Organize before you begin to write. Take time to collect what you know and form a thesis. Use the inside covers of your blue book to list your ideas.
  • Rephrase the question to form an affirmative statement. Example: In what ways did labor unions affect economic growth in the 1980s?

Taking the test

Thesis: Labor unions affected growth in the areas of _____________.

  • Read over each paragraph as your write. Make certain you continue to answer the question.
  • Look over your answer for last minute additions and corrections



How To:

Define: Asks you to determine the qualities of a concept or thing

Define a democratic society

  1. Break the concept down into its parts
  2. Attribute characteristics
  3. Give examples
  4. State the functions

Compare: Asks you to tell how tow things are a like and/or different in specific categories

Compare the Democratic and Republican party platforms on health care.

  1. Break the issue /event into specific parts
  2. For each part, explain how x and y are alike and/or different

Trace: Asks you to relate in chronological order the steps that lead to x; tell how each step is significant

Trace the development of the open-classroom concept in education.

  1. Identify major steps, events, ideas
  2. Show specifically why or how each item changes the concept or leads to the next

Analyze: Asks you to break a concept or idea into its parts

Analyze the plots of the short story "The Lottery."

  1. Break the concept down into its separate parts
  2. Relate how the parts are connected

Discuss: Asks you to determine the most important feature or ideas related to a subject

Discuss the world view of Columbus as he prepared to voyage to the Indies.

  1. Describe the idea in detail
  2. Provide examples
  3. Compare it to something that came before or after.

Agree or Disagree: Asks you to support or refute a statement

Critics claim that television news is poor journalism.

  1. Define the ideal
  2. Ask yourself how the particulars of this case compare to the ideal
  3. Draw a conclusion: this is your thesis