How to Practice Essay Prompts for UK Colleges: Guide for ESL Students
Essay prompts are statements (usually 1 to 3 sentences long) that introduce a topic, idea or an issue and are concluded by one or more questions. It can be said that they are more detailed alternatives to topics: a prompt serves as an introduction to the subject matter and is supposed to be a starting point for the student’s written answer to the raised issue. For example: “Many people claim to have gone through some life-changing experience that altered their mindset and outlook on life. Is it true in your case? Tell about such experience and how it influenced you”.
Essay prompts are often used in English writing classes and, most notably, in college entrance exams. Many exams (SAT, for example) post prompts used in their essays online, allowing students to practice writing them before they try to participate in the real thing. It is especially important for ESL students who doubt their command of English is enough to write such an assignment. The best place to find SAT and ACT prompts is PrepSchooler – unlike the official websites it keeps them all organized on single pages, although ACT’s and SAT’s official websites have a lot of supplementary information like samples and preparation tips.
If, however, you ask yourself, “How are these prompts going to help me with my preparations?”, let us give you some tips.
Before you even start practicing paper writing, take some time to research all the prompts used by the exam you are going to take. Chances are, you will notice that all of them share some common ideas. For example, current ACT may cover seemingly different and diverse topics (increasing presence of intelligent machines and ongoing conflict between the interests of public health and individual freedom). But if you think about it, they are very similar: both are argumentative and deal with the rapid changes in modern world and your own attitude towards them. It is intentional – exam organizers want to give writers prompts that would be relevant for all of them. If you single out the core question, your job becomes simple: find an answer to it and apply it to a specific prompt when you get it.
The most important feature about exam essays is that it is usually a pretty short assignment – for example, ACT gives you mere 40 minutes to write a complete essay, including preparation and planning. Which means that anything that can buy you even a couple minutes is going to be of enormous help.
That is why when you practice and test yourself you should always imitate the conditions of the exam as closely as possible. Your writing skills won’t do you much good if you cannot finish your essay on time. Divide the allotted time into segments: planning (no more than 6-8 minutes), writing (about 25 minutes) and editing (whatever is left). Don’t neglect the last part – ask any professional writer, and he will tell you that only by leaving enough time for editing can you prevent many potentially grade-ruining mistakes.
Using Essay Examples
A good sample that can be used as a template is more important for exam essays than for any other type of academic writing, including term papers and narrative essays. Essays written as an answer to prompts usually follow one and the same format and are in general very similarly structured. Samples are especially important for ESL students who may be unfamiliar with writing conventions in British colleges. There are many ways to get your hands on them: ACT and SAT official websites offer a few examples; you can request your college to provide samples written by students in previous years or buy them cheap from a custom essay writing service like TakeAwayEssay.com to stand in an easy way to better grades. After you get those, try to mimic their style and structure in your own writing.
There are many proofreading services that can both check your spelling and grammar and help you bring any assignment, even a dissertation, into agreement with traditional writing conventions. Many of them specialize in assisting ESL students struggling with application and exam essay writing. If you want to see how your practice essays can be improved, try submitting them to such services and listen to the suggestions of experts.
As you see, there’s nothing arcane about mastering essay writing – regular practice does the trick. Keep these tips in mind when you set about practicing, and you’ll do well.