Understanding the Argument
If the assessment has a reading that accompanies the writing prompt, it usually consists of one to two viewpoints on a current event or issue.  Since these arguments are in the form of editorials, they can be somewhat difficult to understand, but applying general principles of argument can help candidates create a summary of the position(s).

Every argument offers up a claim or thesis, a main point to a viewpoint that one wants an audience to accept.  While many candidates were taught that theses or claims often appear in an introduction in essays, the readings on the LAST often offer implicit claims or state theses near end.  A claim usually can be turned into a question.  For example, a reading on affirmative action might have a thesis that argues, "Affirmative action policies in college admissions lead to greater diversity and make amends for past discrimination."  An implicit question would be: why do (or how do)  affirmative action policies in college admissions lead to greater diversity and make amends for past discrimination?

Becoming aware of the claim or the guiding question of the reading allows a candidate to then think about how the arguer supports his or her argument or how she or he answers the question.  This support or reasoning develops the claim and explains or defends it, and this information provides the majority of the material for the summary aspect of the essay.  Using the previous example, a candidate would search for reasons or support for how affirmative action supports greater diversity or how it makes amends for past discrimination.

For some candidates, underlining and labeling these aspects enables them to write more effectively later.  Notations also keeps them from just repeating or rewriting what they have read, since the examiners place a great deal of value on the candidates ability to show that they can recognize and paraphrase arguments they have encountered.

Once a candidate has recognized the arguments, she or he should quickly think about and jot down notes about the positive or strong aspects of them as well as their weaknesses.  Two to three strengths and weaknesses for each reading provides a candidate with enough material to write about later.

 

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