Essay Writing for Standardized Tests: Tips for Writing a Five Paragraph Essay
Most, if not all, high school and college standardized tests include a writing portion. Students are provided a writing prompt and must then write an essay on the topic. Writing for standardized tests can strike fear in the hearts and minds of students of all ages, but it doesn’t have to. If you know what to expect and understand how to write a five paragraph essay, you will be prepared to tackle any essay writing prompt.
Types of Essays on Standardized Tests
When you begin to write your essay for a standardized test, you must first decide what type of essay you are being asked to write. There are many different types of essays, including narrative, expository, argumentative, persuasive, comparative, literary, and so on. The type of essay will determine your topic and thesis. Essays for standardized tests are typically either persuasive, in which you will answer a question, or literary, in which you will write about something you read.
For standardized tests, students usually have to write a five paragraph essay, which should be 500 to 800 words long and include an introductory paragraph, three supporting paragraphs and a concluding paragraph.
The First Paragraph: The Introduction
The first paragraph will introduce your topic. The introduction is the most important paragraph because it provides direction for the entire essay. It also sets the tone, and you want to grab the reader’s attention with interest and clarity. The best way to tackle the introduction is to:
- Describe your main idea, or what the essay is about, in one sentence. You can usually use the essay writing prompt or question to form this sentence.
- Develop a thesis statement, or what you want to say about the main idea. When the writing prompt is a question, your thesis is typically the answer to the question.
- List three points or arguments that support your thesis in order of importance (one sentence for each).
Voila! You’ve just written your introductory paragraph.
The Second, Third and Fourth Paragraphs: Supporting Details
These three paragraphs form the body of the essay. They provide details, such as facts, quotes, examples and concrete statistics, for the three points in your introductory paragraph that support your thesis. Take the points you listed in your introduction and discuss each in one body paragraph. Here’s how:
- First, write a topic sentence that summarizes your point. This is the first sentence of your paragraph.
- Next, write your argument, or why you feel the topic sentence is true.
- Finally, present your evidence (facts, quotes, examples, and statistics) to support your argument.
Now you have a body paragraph. Repeat for points two and three. The best part about introducing your main points in the first paragraph is that it provides an outline for your body paragraphs and eliminates the need to write in transitions between paragraphs.
The Fifth Paragraph: The Conclusion
The concluding paragraph must summarize the essay. This is often the most difficult paragraph to write. In your conclusion, you should restate the thesis and connect it with the body of the essay in a sentence that explains how each point supports the thesis. Your final sentence should uphold your main idea in a clear and compelling manner. Be sure you do not present any new information in the conclusion.
When writing an essay for a standardized test, outline your essay and get through each paragraph as quickly as possible. Think of it as a rough draft. When your time is up, a complete essay will score more points than an incomplete essay because the evaluator is expecting a beginning, middle and an end.
If you have time to review your essay before your time is up, by all means do so! Make any revisions that you think will enhance your “rough draft” and be sure to check for any grammatical errors or misspellings.
Online instruction like the Time4Writing essay writing courses for elementary, middle and high school students can help children prepare for state and college-entrance standardized writing tests. These interactive writing classes build basic writing skills, explain essay types and structure, and teach students how to organize their ideas.
For general tips on test preparation and details about each state’s standardized tests, please visit our standardized test overview page.
Searching For Happiness
Every person is in some way looking for happiness and contentment. We are not born into a world that gives us lasting satisfaction because our world is flawed in so many ways. So, many of us seek happiness in the obvious places such as job satisfaction, wealth, and the praise of others. But many of these results in more discontentment because none of this happiness lasts forever. This essay will attempt to learn from these mistakes so that we can derive the true source of real happiness.
Where we look for happiness
Most of our society searches for happiness through obtaining money. The way these people reason is that money will ultimately buy them things that bring them pleasure. It will also win them the approval of others and perhaps even lead them to more choice in partnerships and friendships. Power is something else people crave, and money often gives them that power. However, ultimately this search results in selfishness, emptiness, and loneliness.
Results of misguided searching
People who run after these things are often left unsatisfied. Some realize sooner than others that real contentment cannot be obtained through having lots of money. Others erroneously think that getting even more money will satisfy their emptiness; but this is also a fallacy. In the end, every person dies; and we cannot take our money with us. So, what are the things that bring real happiness to our lives?
People who find true happiness don’t necessarily have to be poor to do so. In fact, there are many people who are quite wealthy who experience happiness everyday—although it should be noted that their wealth is not the source of this happiness. People who use their wealth to help others, and those who dedicate their time to contributing to society, often gain a lot of lasting satisfaction from such deeds. This is where true happiness can be found.
The best things in life are free, and the act of giving is one of those things. Learning to let go of material goods is one of the most liberating experiences a person can have. People who give are often the type of people who get given more ability to give. So if you are searching for happiness, consider social work with orphans or the homeless. Consider giving your time or your money to helping those who cannot help themselves. That has its own reward: true happiness.