AP classes are college-level courses offered at high schools across the United States. These classes are recognized by more than 90 percent of colleges and universities. In order to receive credit for a class though, students must take an AP exam at the end of the course, which includes an essay for social science, history and English courses.
Students need to show that they have a deep and broad understanding of the subject they are writing about. As a result, students should start studying for the AP exam several weeks in advance so that they can review all of the material that was previously covered in class. The people who review AP essays are looking to see that students can provide specific facts and evidence to support their arguments, and not just general ideas.
Writing a strong essay requires more than just knowing the right facts. AP essays are timed, and students should accustom themselves to writing under these strict constraints. The amount of time for each essay depends on the test, but students should prepare to write most essays in 30 to 45 minutes. Writing practice essays also helps prepare students for the types of questions that they may be asked. The College Board, which runs the AP exams, offers sample essay questions through its website.
Carefully Read the Question
In an effort to begin writing as quickly as possible, students often fail to read the essay question carefully. In order to receive full credit, students need to make sure that they answer all parts of the question completely. Taking the time to reread the question and think about what the test is asking can help students write better essays.
Even though the test is timed, taking a few minutes to write and craft a plan for the essay is time well spent. Students who plan out their essay can help ensure that their writing is clear, organized and detailed enough to answer all parts of the question. This is also a good time to think about the evidence needed to support the essay’s thesis or argument.
Students should begin with an introductory paragraph that clearly states their thesis for the essay. Following paragraphs should make their points clearly and early on in the paragraph to avoid confusing the reader. Each paragraph should directly support the thesis and provide specific evidence instead of broad generalizations. Writing a short conclusion helps sum up the essay’s points and re-emphasize the thesis.
Although students have little time to execute their essays, it’s still a good idea to proofread quickly if time permits. Doing so helps catch spelling and grammar errors that may detract from the essay.
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It’s almost a requirement that you have a third-party read over anything you’ve written prior to submission. In addition to invaluable feedback and criticism, an extra pair of eyes are useful in catching grammar and spelling mistakes you may have otherwise missed. But unfortunately not everyone has the luxury of having someone on hand to read their work. In such times it’s critical that writers learn how to edit by themselves. Here’s a list of five tips that are sure to help you become a better self-editor in the event you are your only proofreader prior to submission:
Wait 24 hours: Recently written words have a tendency to be read in our heads as we intended to write them, making possible mistakes hard to sniff out. Waiting a day or two to edit your own work allows you time to lose familiarity with the writing and better detect errors.
Read it out loud: Speaking your words out loud not only helps you improve the flow of your writing, it enables you to catch grammatical mistakes you could be missing on account of “looking” for errors rather than sensing them as an absorber of information.
Read it backwards: Another clever way to outwit your brain’s habit of scanning over the finer details of writing is to read your work backwards. By separating your work into individual sentences that don’t flow together, you can focus more on the specifics of each written thought or idea.
Know your most common mistakes: Old habits die hard (kind of like clichés) and it’s important that writers remember where their work tends to be its weakest. That way you can be on a look out for the specific errors you make the most. Write a list if you have to, but try and commit it to memory.
Proofread all the time: Whether reading an article in the New York Times or poring over medical coding industry news on your smartphone, always be on the lookout for spelling errors and poor grammar. Not only is it exciting to uncover mistakes in mainstream media and printed literature, it trains you to become a natural editor which in turn helps you better proofread your own writing.
Editing should always be done by somebody else. But the reality for most writers, especially those of you in school, is that proofreading must be done by yourself. If this is the case, then become a better self-editor by incorporating the aforementioned tips into your proofreading plan.
By Jennifer Smith
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An essay is a short composition about a particular topic that is usually written from a personal perspective. Many students balk at essay writing; the mere thought of starting the assignment brings stress and anxiety. Students and instructors have identified common pitfalls experienced or encountered in the writing process. A frequently cited difficulty is writer’s block, a generic category which springs from various causes. Other weaknesses involve content, organization and grammar issues.
Treatment of Topic
Students may claim that the assigned topic is boring, vague or tough. The rebuttal is to be resourceful and creative. Look for an interesting angle. Scale the subject down to a manageable chunk or tweak it to a comprehensible level. On the other hand, if they’re given a choice of topic, students may be undecided, or keep changing their minds and take too long to make a final decision. The practical solution is to pick a topic with which they are familiar, or about which they are passionate or curious to learn more.
Planning and Preparation
Another deficiency lies in inadequate time and effort spent in organizing the outline, conducting research and writing the draft. Too often students dash off the writing assignment at the last minute just to meet the submission deadline. Some students go the other extreme by being perfectionists. They get overwhelmed with too much research and information overload, bogged down with unnecessary detail, or stuck with revising their work over and over. With proper guidance and mentoring, students can strike the right balance to devote just enough attention and energy to the essay.
Content and Value
The substance and quality of the essay can suffer for various reasons. For example, an essay in an argumentative genre requires supportive evidence to prove the writer’s point. The lack of authoritative sources, factual data or concrete examples weakens his position. He fails to convince the readers of the truth of his assertion or persuade them to his point of view. Poor choice of words can also affect the overall impression that the written work makes. Bland, safe words such as “nice” or “good” lack the rich nuances of meanings that imaginative rephrasing can improve. Cliches that have outlived their punch rob the essay of originality. The trick is to research and rewrite.
Organization and Structure
In a coherent essay, the central theme is clearly established in the introduction, developed in the body and synthesized in the conclusion. Without a smooth transition and logical progression of thought from one section to the other, the essay becomes a rambling work, lacking clarity of purpose and focus. Another danger is a lame ending that falls short of nailing down the concepts. These concerns can be resolved by reviewing and revising to achieve the essay’s objective and create a strong impact.
Grammar, which encompasses language rules from syntax to spelling, presents a host of problems. Sometimes the fault lies in simple carelessness. Neglecting to proofread or to pay attention to detail deducts points from an otherwise articulate work. The rubrics of subject-verb agreements and spotting dangling modifiers may not be a student’s strong suit, but with patience and practice he can master these intricacies.
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