Michael's Tips for Succeeding in High School Standardized Writing Exams

  1. Organization and structure. Students need to possess the skill of quickly digesting the given prompt and formulating a thesis with several areas of support.
    The "areas of support" should be supported by credited works of literature, historical events, or other means which allow them to showcase mastery of a particular subject.
    - Students must get into the habit of becoming masters of literature, and this is accomplished one step at a time through referencing credited works they are already familiar with. Empirical or anecdotal support is more often than not futile and weak.
    - It is important for the student to pick a work he or she feels comfortable with. Referring to a strong high school or college reading list is highly encouraged. For example, take a look at https://www.goodreads.com/shelf/show/high-school-reading-list

  2. Writing mechanics.
    - Writing style. Passive tense should be avoided whenever possible. Each student's writing unique style will be individually developed over time.
    - Diction. Appropriate word choice at the student's age level should be encouraged. A high level of vocabulary (when appropriate) is encouraged.
    - Flow. The entire essay should make sense and read easily thoughout. Cadence should be considered. How does the essay read? Is it laborious to read, or does the entire piece flow well?
    - Sentence structure. Basic grammar and proper sentence construction are important. Poor performance in this area is usually indicative of lacking even the most basic writing skills.
    - Transitions between strands of thought. Students should practice the ability to use transitions when expressing similar, corresponding, or contradictory ideas. Words and phrases such as "however," "therefore," "as a result of," "makes clear," "illustrates" are useful tools for making points, switching between ideas, and and drawing conclusions. Students should practice as often as possible using these words in their writing.
    - Perspective. Students should generally avoid using first and second-person words such as "we" or "I" when addressing a serious academic prompt.

  3. Details, details, details. It's important to ask the students to be as specific as possible and go deep into an area of support and relate that area back into the main thesis.
    - In light of the entire essay as a whole, how is a particular detail relevant on a micro/macro level scale?