Writing on Standardized Tests
Many students are familiar with weekly quizzes and tests, although many students also take standardized tests. Standardized tests, like the SAT and ACT, are given to large groups and have strict protocols when administering the test. It is important for students to prepare for standardized tests by becoming familiar with the way the test is structured, the kinds of questions they will be asked, and by practicing the best ways to answer test questions.
Here are four Jump Start Tutors tips to help you get started on writing more efficiently:
- Identifying Sentence Errors
An important part of the writing process is the ability to identify sentence errors when making revisions. When reading over a sentence, are you able to pinpoint any improper grammar, incorrect word usage and word choice? The Identify Sentence Errors section on a standardized test examines a student’s aptitude in this area. Your job is to recognize which part of a sentence, if any, must be corrected. The sentence either has a single error or no error at all. The good news is that you do not have to explain how to correct the error; you would only need to identify where the error is. This task becomes easier if you know which kinds of sentence errors are most common. An example of a common sentence error is improper location or tense of a participial phrase. Be aware of hanging participles too. Hanging participles can reduce a sentence’s clarity.
- Choosing The Better Sentence
Choosing the better sentence on a standardized test can be challenging if neither of the sentences has any grammatical or mechanical errors. At times, there is not a clear problem with the sentence’s structure or effectiveness. This makes it tricky to choose the better sentence. Students can recognize these uncertain sentences when they are prepared and know what to look for. Inconsistency in a sentence can be caught if students are familiar with concepts such as parallelism, sequence of tenses, and noun-number agreement. There are also common sentence errors on standardized tests that involve inappropriate use of conventions and incorrect comparisons or word order.
- Editing & Revising Paragraphs
Many test questions also require you to understand an entire essay. For example, a question might ask about a particular sentence in the context of the paragraph it is from. The questions might provide a variety of editing options and ask which revision is most needed. When there are a few choices that would work, how does the student know which one to choose?
- Improving Sentences
One advantage of standardized tests is that students will know in advance what the question types are. This saves time and improves student’s confidence when they are starting the test. The Improving Sentences section has an unique layout for which it is essential to be prepared. The answer choices are all different variations of one another and are supposed to replace all or part of the original sentence in question. The phrase to be replaced is underlined, and the first answer choice is always identical to it. A common mistake when improving sentences is to select the first answer that makes sense and move on. Don’t allow yourself to do this, there might still be a phrase that fits the choice better.
In addition to the writing section on standardized tests, some students may also be required to write an optional essay.
According to the ACT website, the writing test is a 40 minute essay test that measures a student’s writing skills. Specifically, the writing skills taught in high school English classes and in entry level college composition courses. The test describes an issue and provides three different perspectives on the issue. Students are asked to (1) analyze and evaluate the perspectives given, (2) state and develop their own perspective on the issue, and (3) explain the relationship between their perspective and those given.
Additionally, the ACT writing test complements the English and reading tests. The combined information from these tests tells postsecondary institutions about students’ understanding of the conventions of standard written English and their ability to produce a direct sample of writing. The writing test cannot be taken without first taking all four multiple-choice tests in the same session.
Similarly, the SAT essay shows how well a student understands the passage and uses it as the basis for a well written, thought out discussion. A successful essay is focused, organized, and precise, with an appropriate style and tone that varies sentence structure and follows the conventions of standard written English.
During the SAT essay section, a student will read a passage, explain how the author builds an argument to persuade an audience and support their explanation with evidence from the passage.
The SAT essay section has recently had a makeover. The essay is now optional, however some schools will require it. Students will also have 50 minutes to complete their essay, 25 minutes more than the required essay on the older SAT. Students will also not be asked to agree or disagree with a position on a topic or to write about their personal experiences.
Success on a standardized essay depends on preparation as well as execution. Here are a few test-taking strategies to help students master their writing skills:
- Study Sample Passages and Essay Prompts
To help students understand what will be expected of them in order to achieve high scores, they should take time to review example essay prompts for the standardized test that they are planning to take. As students read through each of the example passages and corresponding responses, they should consider how and why the author used evidence, reasoning, stylistic and persuasive elements.
- Prep with Practice Essays
Students should use sample essay prompts and also set aside the same amount of minutes required for the standardized test they are taking to work through them as they would with the test day prompt. Students should compare their response to that of other student examples provided at different score points to discover possible weaknesses in their reading, analytics, and writing skills that they will need to focus on in their preparations. For more constructive criticism, consider working with a friend, parents, or a teacher.
3. Start with an Outline
Once students carefully read through the provided passage and corresponding prompt, they should take a minute to write their thoughts in a rough outline. Creating an approach for an introduction, body, and conclusion when the content is clear in a student’s mind will ensure that they don’t arrive at the end of their response with holes in their argument. An outline will also help plan their writing by giving them a clear sense of direction when transitioning from one point to the next.
To summarize this blog’s beginning main points. A standardized test’s writing and language section is designed to:
- Assess how well a student can revise and edit a range of texts to improve the expressions of ideas
- Correct errors in sentence structure, usage, and punctuation.
- The passages on the writing and language sections vary in purpose, subject, and complexity.
- Some passages and questions will also include one or more informational graphics, such as tables, graphs, and charts, and students should be expected to use the information in these graphics to inform decisions about revising and editing the associate passage.
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However, tests and exams can be the most stressful events in a student’s educational career. They often play a large role in determining their grades, and subsequently affecting student’s placement in more advanced classes.
The SAT and ACT are the most important tests a high school student will take. A student’s score on either standardized test will determine college entrance and scholarship awardings as well as predict their performance in college. Since many colleges rank standardized test scores as one of the most important factors for college admissions, this can create added stress for students as the stakes are high and staying focused for a three hour long exam can be a challenging task.
Jump Start tutors South Florida can help students get ready for their upcoming test. Since the SAT and ACT covers four years of reading and math material, it is very challenging for students to study on their own.
Jump Start walks students through the process step by step. Every tutor who works for Jump Start must score in the top 10% to be hired, ensuring that students are working with an expert who will help them successfully navigate questions as they are studying for the exam.
Jump Start students are also equipped with our award-winning curriculum allowing students to practice outside of their tutoring sessions with customized games, lesson plans and videos making the process of studying less daunting and more fun.
Our students have the highest increases in South Florida boosting an average increase of over 180 points within the first 10 to 15 tutoring sessions! As a result, we’ve helped families save thousands of dollars on tuition costs while helping students get into their first choice colleges through one-on-one tutoring.
At Jump Start, we also understand that student’s stress levels have increased. Tutoring offers students the opportunity to combat anxiety, recall information faster, and conquer tests with more confidence! That is why we evaluate our students using one-on-one assessment testing to pinpoint their strengths and weaknesses.
Our tutors will help students navigate standardized tests with a hands-on learning experience in-home or online; as they explore question types, passage types, timing and other test prep strategies that will ensure they are successful with increasing their score on all types of standardized tests.
Choosing our online tutoring services includes interactive whiteboards, screen sharing, document sharing and video tools to make online test prep more personalized and fun.
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