1) What is your goal in writing an in-class essay or essay exam?
When you write an in-class essay, your audience is typically the instructor. With that audience in mind, you should attempt to accomplish the following:
Prove that you command the information and/or vocabulary of the subject material.
Show that you can analyze and interpret information and discuss relationships among important concepts.
Show that you can use information to provide examples and support whatever points you make.
Demonstrate your writing skills.
To do well (a significant percentage of your grade may depend on it)
2) What contributes to your successful performance on an in-class essay or essay examination?
Effective pre-writing: Careful attention to the questions, carefully planned and organized answers
Effective writing: Specific support, adaptation of your writing to the in-class essay situation
Effective re-writing: Allowing time and space
3) Pre-writing strategies for writing an in-class essay or essay exam:
Read each question carefully.
Underline any key words in the question. For example, words like describe, analyze, classify, compare, contrast, discuss, evaluate, define, explain, and persuade may clarify what you are supposed to accomplish in your essay. Other key words might be telling you what topics you need to cover.
Break the question down into parts or into the different writing tasks you are being asked to accomplish.
Construct a thesis that echoes the question and sums up your answer.
Make an outline, at least of the major points you need to cover.
Plan ahead. Read over the entire question or list of questions, estimate the time you can give to each question, work with your eye on the clock, and stick to your schedule.
4) Writing strategies:
In the first paragraph of each answer or essay, preview your major points and include your thesis statement. In other words, give a summary answer to the question in the first paragraph. If you donít complete the essay because you run out of time, the opening paragraph should make it possible for a reader to construct what your essay would have looked like if you had finished it.
Treat one major idea per paragraph and work to state the main point of each paragraph in the first sentenceóa topic sentence.
Provide transitions, such as first, second, third, consequently, as a result, in contrast, and so on.
As much as possible, provide specific supporting evidence and examples for what you are discussing.
Use the terminology and names you have heard in lectures and come across in your readings.
If possible, donít end with your weakest point (if you have one). Save it for the middle of your essay. You want your reader to enter the essay noticing a strong point and to exit the essay thinking about a strong concluding point.
Answer the question the instructor asks, not the one you might have been hoping for.
Donít pad your answers or wander from your topic. Youíre probably better off with a focused, shorter essay than a long, rambling one.
5) Re-writing strategies
Leave enough time to revise and edit, even if it's just one quick re-reading.
If you are handwriting, feel free to change, correct, cross out, and rearrange elements of your essay. Such changes show you are thinking. If necessary, use arrows or balloons to insert or relocate whole sentences or paragraphs. Be as neat as possible (and check with your instructor to make sure such re-writing marks are acceptable).
If you are answering multiple questions, leave spaces at the beginning and end of each answer so that, if you have time, you can go back and add more information as it occurs to you. Leaving space at the beginning also allows you to revise the opening paragraph to better reflect what you have written in the rest of the essay.
6) Final advice:
Just because you have less time, donít forget the writing processópre-writing, writing, and re-writing. Think about writing an in-class essay or completing an essay exam as requiring you to compress the writing process, not abandon it.
Maximize whatever information you are given about the essay or exam and whatever opportunity you have to prepare.
Donít panic. Simply do the best work you can with the topic youíre given and the time you have.
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