- Misunderstanding or misreading
In recent test administrations, the LAST writing assessment
has required a candidate read two opposing points of view
on a particular topic. Each reading will offer an
argument for why its take on the issue is justifiable, but
will also incorporate discussion of counter-arguments, a
consideration of points that the opposition might offer.
Often students misunderstand these points as supportive
of the larger argument. For example, if a person was
trying to convince another that being a vegetarian is a
positive diet and lifestyle choice, the arguer might engage
and explain away other viewpoints on the topic. Just
because an argument considers its opposition does not mean
it accepts that point of view.
To protect against misreading the arguments, just remember
the arguments will almost always be opposed to each other.
One side will advocate one response to the issue (a "yes"
side), and the other side will support another response
(usually the "no" side). To put it another
way, a question might pose, "Should school teachers
be required to re-certify every five years?" If you
saw a topic/question like this one, you could assume that
one position would offer "yes" or "pro"
reasons for forcing teachers to re-certify, and that another
position would offer "no" or "con" reasons
on the topic.
- Misrepresenting or just
re-presenting the excerpts
Connected with ensuring that you understand the arguments
that you read in order to write the essay, you must present
those arguments--in your own words--in an accurate way.
In a sense, you need to imagine you are writing about the
argument to friends or classmates who have never heard the
arguments before, and you have to do it in a way that matches
what the writers say. Understanding how to paraphrase
is critical--for more information on paragraphing from Purdue
- Flawed or insufficient
development of paragraphs or the essay in general
While most examiners will not publicly admit it, the size
and development of essays does influence the scores they
receive. Short, minimal essays pale in comparison
to long, well-developed essays. Unless you write unusually
small or in an elegantly concise manner, writing less than
two pages in the booklet likely will not garner a passing
score--there's typically not enough to make a judgment.
Shooting toward three to four (of the four available sheets)
is a more reasonable goal; however, the examiners are well-aware
of schemes to write big or to skip lines to make the essays
seem bigger than they actually are.
Besides sufficiently developing the whole essay, a candidate
must have a concern for appropriate paragraph development.
An essay with just one to two paragraphs covering a couple
pages is problematic, while short, choppy sentences comprising
three to four lines poses problems too. Generally
speaking, paragraphs should have three and six sentences
and should also have topic sentences that bring unity and
focus to the paragraph's main idea. For more information
on paragraphing, click
- A lack of Sentence Variety
Among the more critical skills to learn for the LAST is
the ability to write sentences with a variety of structures.
While most of us speak in everyday discourse with a high
level of syntax sophistication, something about writing
under the pressures prompts us to use rather simplistic
sentences--those with only one thought presented.
Better performing essays often use sentences that deploy:
A) compound sentences--combine two otherwise simple sentences
with a coordinating conjunction (and, yet, but, or, so).
B) complex sentences--combine one sentence that could stand
alone, with another that is dependent using a subordinating
conjunction (when, titlehough, as, if, etc.)
C) compound-complex sentences--combine two sentences that
could stand alone by using a coordinating conjunction with
one thought that is dependent using a subordinating conjunction.
For more information on sentence variety, click
- Sentence-level error (syntax,
grammar, and punctuation)
Most sentence-level error is not egregious, but the incidence
of it can have a cumulative effect on your essay score.
In most cases, the types of error you make are individual,
so reflecting on your past writing feedback from professors,
supervisors, or friends can be helpful. Follow the
link at the bottom of the page of the frame on the other
side of this page to get some feedback from one of the center's
tutors if you are unaware of the types of error you make.
Though we cannot offer a complete or comprehensive assessment,
we can start a conversation there. Otherwise, a general
strategy for editing your writing can be helpful.
For more information from Temple University's OWL, click