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.
High school essay examples include a variety of short essays such as the narrative essay, persuasive essay and analytical essay and more. Depending on the essay type, the high school essay format can be anywhere from one to five paragraphs in length.
When choosing a high school essay format, the first step is to identify the type of essay you need to write. Generally essays for school students are much focused and concern one topic or one narrative story. Check out some narrative essay examples. High school essays tend to be shorter and simpler than those for university, but an essay for school students should be clear and concise.
As a second step, “how to write a high school essay?” comes into play. The most common type of short essay format is the 5 paragraph essay. Like all essays, the 5 paragraph essay contains an introduction, a body and a conclusion. For this high school essay, the introduction is one paragraph, the body is three paragraphs and the conclusion is one paragraph. It’s simple and easy to work with.
The goal of an introduction is to capture your reader’s interest and explain what the essay is about. The introduction will also contain a thesis statement. A thesis statement is usually one sentence that shares the main point of the essay. Read any list of tips for writing essays and they’ll tell you that the intro is vital. It lets the reader know if they want to continue.
The main part of a short essay is the body. In the 5 paragraph essay, the body is three paragraphs long. Each paragraph should cover a particular point or claim that relates back to the thesis statement. There should be a main sentence that supports the claim in each paragraph. Transition smoothly from one paragraph to the next. The entire high school essay should flow easily and be simple to read.
The conclusion of a short essay is the most memorable part for a reader. In the conclusion, you can summarize your main idea. Rewrite the thesis statement from the first paragraph and leave the reader with something memorable. This is your final chance to tell them something.
After writing, proofread your essay. Proofreading a short essay involves checking spelling, grammar, sentence fluency and checking the overall flow and readability of your ideas.