Read the Prompt

The LAST writing assessment requires candidates to critically explore an issue, either by offering up their analysis of a general topic or theme or by providing their study of two positions on a given topic.  Though the topic will change and the format will shift following each test administration, the core knowledge and abilities that the examiners evaluate generally remain the same and these things are always implicit in the wording of the the prompt.

A typical prompt will ask the candidate to summarize, evaluate, and respond to a topic or a set of short readings on a topic.  The key words here are:

  • Summarize -- Paraphrase the sides or the dominant perspectives on the given issue.  For readings based writing assessments, paraphrase the arguments of each.
  • Evaluate--Discuss the logical reasoning or assess the strengths and weaknesses of each side.
  • Respond--Provide a resolution to bring together the competing positions on the topic, or offer a reasoned position on the topic.

The biggest aspect to remember is that the prompt, the specific directions for writing the essay, often appears at the bottom of the page or in the last sentence of the discussion of the assignment.  The assessment likely will not just solicit your opinion on a given issue; in other words, a successful essay will acknowledge the complexity or "gray area" of any issue and will avoid polemical responses, essays in which the candidate "goes off" or rants and raves.

 

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