Quick Tips for Timed Writing Exams
In the Weeks Before the Test
1) Write practice essays on practice topics available in the Writing Center. Give yourself 75 minutes, and write on the topic just like you were taking the exam. Make an appointment with a tutor to go over your practice essay.
2) Read the editorial pages of the newspaper at least once a week. As you read each editorial, look for the thesis, and look at how that thesis is developed and supported.
On the Day of the Test
(Adapted from Learning Resource Center materials prepared by Laura Topalian)
3) To help prevent anxiety, try to arrive a little early for our test.. Try staying alone--in your car or in a private space on campus--if this will help you to remain calm. Do keep in mind that if you are late, you will not be admitted to the test.
4) Bring your student ID and at least two pencils and two pens with you. The pencils are for bubbling in an information questionnaire before the test. Ink is officially required for the test. Do not bring white-out for the test. (Just cross out neatly with a single line.)
5) Keep track of time while you take the test: 10-15 minutes to brainstorm and cluster ideas; 45 to 50 minutes to write; and 5-10 minutes to proofread.
6) Pay attention to the controlling verbs
in your assignment. These verbs are the commands that give you directions and help you organize your essay. Some controlling verbs are: ANALYZE, COMPARE, CONTRAST, DEFINE, DESCRIBE, DISCUSS, EVALUATE, EXPLAIN, ILLUSTRATE, PROVE, and STATE.
7) State your thesis and summarize your supporting points in your introduction. Make sure your thesis is something that someone could agree or disagree with.
8) State the topic of each supporting paragraph early in the paragraph.
9) Do not introduce new supporting points in your conclusion.
10) Avoid using sarcasm. Attacking the topic or making fun of it is a risky strategy. In general, try to sound sincere and convincing.
11) In your supporting paragraphs, use details to make the discussion of your points convincing and interesting. For example, you could include a person’s name, the time
(which month, which season, which year, which quarter) when an incident occurred, a place name
, and other kinds of specific details. Here are a couple of shorthand devices for helping you generate ideas and supporting details quickly.
: the acronym FRIED was coined by Dr. Karen Russikoff, a Cal Poly Pomona English professor. If you keep the word FRIED in your mind, it can give you cues that are easy to remember on ways in which to develop your supporting points with specific detail. FRIED stands for:
The Five W’s
: Newspaper reporters have to remember the five W’s: Who, What, When, Where and Why
. If you are telling a story to support one of your points, the five W’s will help you remember to include all of the details.
12) Use transition words to connect your ideas together. However, do not force yourself to use a transition if it detracts from the logic of your sentences. Transitions include words or phrases such as also, in addition, on the other hand, besides, and furthermore
13) The GWT essay is a personal essay. Most GWT topics expect you to write about your opinions in the first person (my opinion, I believe, when I was about eight years old, etc.).
14) If you tend to make grammatical errors, be especially careful to proofread for the following kinds of errors: incorrect verb tense or verb forms
, lack of agreement
(singular/plural) between a subject and verb, omission of articles
(the, a, an) or using unnecessary articles, omitting plural
endings (-s) or adding a plural ending to a singular or uncountable noun, omitting periods
(run-on or fused sentence), or using a comma where a period is needed (comma splice). Try to avoid making spelling errors.
15) Ink is preferred even if you need to cross out words, sentences or paragraphs. The graders would rather read an essay written in ink even if there are cross outs. They are not expecting perfection because they know that the GWT is a rough draft. Just cross out with a neat line, because white-out wastes time and interrupts your writing process. Under no circumstances copy a draft over. Write only one version of your essay and make your revisions on it.
16) Leave margins on both sides and write on every line. Most GWT essays are about two pages long.
17) If you don’t have time to write a concluding paragraph, make sure that there is at least some sense of ending. Don’t just stop in mid-sentence. Even writing “Sorry, ran out of time,” is better than no conclusion at all.