Preparing for a writing skills test? Take a look at these helpful tips from Ann Arbor, MI teacher Elaina R. to calm your nerves…
Writing skills tests are a very real part of life. They come up in grade school, in college entrance exams, and even in employment applications. Fortunately, writing skills tests are formulaic. Once you know what is on them, the prospect of taking them periodically throughout life becomes less daunting. Here are the basic elements of a writing skills test – and how you can successfully prepare for one.
Elements of a Writing Skills Test
Writing skills tests usually consist of one or more of the following components.
- Identifying and Correcting Errors
Error identification questions are often multiple choice. They test your grasp of English writing rules. In these questions, a sentence is presented, and you need to determine whether or not it contains an error. If there is an error, you’ll need to identify the error and show how to correct it.
Some errors in a writing skills tests have to do with punctuation, grammar, and sentence structure. Others have to do with rules like plural agreement and illogical comparison.
- Short Answer
For short answer responses, you’ll be asked to respond to a prompt in one or two paragraphs. Here, you’ll be evaluated on the basis or rhetorical skill, style, and overall response as well as on correct usage of the English language. You must also demonstrate the ability to understand the prompt.
- Essay Writing
As in the short answer category, you’ll be asked to respond to a prompt. However, in the essay section, you are expected to write a full-length essay rather than just one or two paragraphs. Overall essay structure, focus, and quality comes into play here, on top of rhetorical skill and proper grammar.
How to Study for a Writing Skills Test
- Research Your Test
Do some research to find out exactly what you are facing. If there isn’t a short answer section on your test, for instance, you don’t have to bother to focus on short answer questions.
Studying is easier if you break it down into categories. You need a good grasp of punctuation, grammar, sentence structure, and common English language rules for every section on the test, so focusing on these skills is important. Try studying one or two specific skills (such as comma use or plural agreement) each day.
To produce good writing samples, you need to hone your rhetorical skills. Practice structuring short answers so that the first sentence clearly states your case and the following sentences explain it further. Practice using your knowledge of punctuation and other basics here.
For the essay section, structure is your best friend. Practice writing outlines that include a clear thesis statement, an introduction, clear topic sentences for each paragraph, and a sound conclusion. Direction and organization mark the difference between success and failure in the essay section. Never start writing without developing an outline first, and take care to stick to the topic at all times.
- Take Practice Tests
There are multitudinous study guides available for writing skills tests. If possible, choose one that was designed specifically for your test. Online practice tests are also a great option, since they often feel like games and make studying more fun.
- Hire a Tutor
A private tutor is your most solid means of preparing for a writing skills test. He or she can make sure that you cover every aspect of the test and are well-prepared for the rigors of a timed testing experience. A tutor can also guide you on what to study on your own, which can be a relief for those daunted by the volume of material at hand.
Preparing for a writing skills test doesn’t have to be stressful. With a proper understanding of the test itself, coupled with appropriate study and help from a tutor, you are sure to do well. Plus, studying for a writing skills test has a silver lining: your emails, letters, and Facebook posts will suddenly be poignant and error-free!
Elaina R. is a writer, editor, singer, and voice teacher based in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Her book Slaying Your Admissions Essay Dragon shows how to write application essays that are actually fun to read. Elaina has served as an editor for several notable books as well, including NFL great Adrian Peterson’s autobiography Don’t Dis My Abilities. Learn more about Elaina here!
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