Essays in an Hour

Essays in an Hour
Tips and Techniques
Writing an Essay Exam is like…
Unknown ingredients
Time Pressure
No Recipe
The 6 P’s
O Preparation
O Prediction
O Prompts
O Planning
O Production
O Proofreading
Preparation: Know Your Stuff
Prediction: Know the
Prediction: Know The
Thinking Techniques
O I’m studying Deborah Tannen’s theory of
genderlect, or male/female speech
differences. What sorts of essay questions
could I get?
Thinking Skills
O Explain or define _______________ and give
an example.
Compare __________ and ___________
Contrast ____________ and ___________
Apply ___________ to a set of data (Use
_______ to interpret data)
Evaluate/agree/disagree/weigh the merits
of __________________
Thinking Skills 2
O Classify the types of ____________
O Explain the development of _______
O Analyze the causes of _____________
O Analyze the effects of _____________
O Explain the steps in the process of ________
O Trace the history of __________________
O Most of the work of writing a successful
timed essay comes BEFORE you ever get to
the class.
O “If I had eight hours to chop down a tree, I’d
spend six hours sharpening my ax.”
Abraham Lincoln
Prompt: Survey the Situation
What are you working with, and what do you
have to do?
Prompt: Analyze the Job
O Read the prompt carefully. Find out you
have to do and what facts you need to work
O Explain, define, compare, contrast, analyze,
illustrate, classify, apply, evaluate, argue,
give reasons, discuss
An Example from History
O Analyze various ways in which technological
developments contributed to the expansion
of state power in the period 1450 to 1600.
O Analyze the origins and development of
slavery in Britain’s North American colonies
in the period 1607 to 1776.
An example from Psychology
O For each of the pairs below, use an example to
show how the first term in each pair affects or is
related to the second. Definitions alone without
examples will not score.
• Serial-position effect . . recall
• Functional fixedness . . problem solving
• Operational definition . . replication
• Double-blind research . . bias
• Operant conditioning . . superstition
• Reinforcement . . overjustification effect
• Myelin sheath . . neural impulse
An example from English
O In a novel by William Styron, a father tells his
son that life “is a search for justice.”
O Choose a character from a novel or play who
responds in some significant way to justice
or injustice. Then write a well-developed
essay in which you analyze the character’s
understanding of justice, the degree to
which the character’s search for justice is
successful, and the significance of this
search for the work as a whole.
Planning: Know the Endpoint
O Take 3-4 minutes to plan:
O Answer the question (THESIS): Have a dish in
O COVER the requirements of the prompt: use
the ingredients required
O Be realistic: work within the time given
O Leave time to re-read: plan for a taste-test
and some final seasoning
If you don’t plan…
O You get a “knowledge dump”: you are
asking the professor to find a meal in your
If you don’t plan…
O The essay won’t be finished…
Production: Stick with The
O Write your essay, following the outline you
made at the beginning.
O Develop one point per paragraph
O Show the relationships between ideas
O Focus on content and specifics. Don’t go for
flair or style to cover up a lack of substance.
Pretty presentation can’t hide a bad flavor!
Finish Well
Proofread: The Final Taste
O Take 3 or 4 minutes at the end of the
session to re-read your work.
O Don’t make major changes at this point.
Focus on editing and clarifying what you
have already written.
O Check spelling, punctuation, and sentence
Final Advice
O Write sample questions
O Practice in short bursts
O 10 minute paragraphs
O Use note-cards strategically
O Make sample outlines
O Use instructor feedback for improvement