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.
The 5 paragraph essay is considered to be the standard essay writing assignment. It is used in most exams such as TOEFL, IELTS, and the SAT. Since most of these exams limit the student time-wise in the "Writing" section, students are trained to memorize this format. This allows the student to answer the exam prompt quickly and efficiently. The format’s plasticity allows students to experiment with various essay styles. Persuasive, Argumentative, Expository, Narrative and Cause and Effect can all adapt to this format. As a result, perfecting the 5 paragraph essay is a practice that often turns rookies into experienced essay writer.
Table Of Contents
Good Example Topics
- Can one learn a life lesson from an experience that they didn't have? Can you learn from other people's mistakes?
- Is animal testing ethical?
- Should same-sex marriage be allowed?
- Should laws on gun-control be more strict?
- Should the death penalty be abolished completely?
- Should marijuana be legalized?
- Should education be free for all students?
The paper topics listed above are some of the most common topics students write essays about. Of course, they are not limited to only these. Before choosing a topic and start the writing process, students should look to come up with a catchy title. The reason for doing so is centered around grabbing the readers attention right from the get go.
This type of essay has a very specific outline; It starts with an Introduction, goes to Body Paragraph 1, Body Paragraph 2, Body Paragraph 3, and sums things up with a Conclusion. Each body paragraph serves a specific purpose, and the essay is in the form of a keyhole. This means that it starts out very BROAD, gets more NARROW and finishes out BROAD.
Introduction: 3-5 Sentences
- The introduction sets the structure for the rest of the essay, with the first sentence being the HOOK sentence.
- The Hook Sentence is kind of like the spark to a flame; It grabs the reader's attention.
- The Hook is usually either a rhetorical question or some life example or a stunning fact
This is a rhetorical question, meaning it does not need an answer because it is obvious.
Brief Introduction of Supporting Arguments (1-3)
Here you are taking your supporting arguments and briefly introducing them to the reader without revealing too much information.
Tip: Think of it as a trailer for a movie, like it should be exciting but can’t give away the “PLOT”.
- The most important part of your entire essay; .
- This statement will be the basis for the rest of your custom essay
- Since we are talking about nature preservation, an example of a good thesis would be:
- “The preservation of our planet is the most important aspect of keeping Mother Nature in check and avoiding draconian disasters.”
Quick Tip: if you find that your body paragraphs have nothing to do with your thesis, you can go back and change the thesis.
Body Paragraphs 1,2,3 (5-7 Sentences)
- This is the “meat” of your 5 paragraph essay, where you explain the side you are defending (Thesis Sentence)
- Structure of the body paragraphs is usually: Intro sentence (1), Supporting Argument
- Explanation (3-5), Concluding Sentence (1)
- Intro sentence should briefly bring out your argument without revealing too much information
- Supporting Argument and Explanation: This is taking the topic and going into detail, while still most importantly DEFENDING YOUR THESIS!
- The Concluding Sentence should be the opposite of the intro: instead of introducing your argument, you are briefly concluding your argument, transitioning into your next one.
THE FORMAT FOR ALL 3 BODY PARAGRAPHS IS THE SAME
- The arguments should go in this order:
- First body paragraph should be your second strongest argument
- Second body should be your weakest argument
- Third body should be your strongest argument
To give our readers a nice keyhole format visual, we have a picture of a standard Graphic Organizer below.
Conclusion (3-5 Sentences): This is the “mirror” of your intro
- Restating Your Thesis (Sentence 1): You take your main argument (thesis) and restate it in a conclusive way. You are paraphrasing it in an assertive manner to show that you have “proved your point.”
- Concluding your supporting arguments (1-3 Sentences): This is taking your supporting arguments (your body paragraphs) and rephrasing the main points you made in one sentence per paragraph.
- If some of your supporting arguments are similar then you can combine them into one sentence to keep the good structure.
- So for example,
Concluding Hook Sentence (Optional)
A good way to end an essay is something unexpected, to surprise the reader.
Create a second hook, but this time it should be a hook that SUMS things up in a few words, rhetorical questions are good for this.
This gives the 5 paragraph essay some spice at the end and makes the reader question your statement.
General Grading Rubric
Several schools and universities worldwide use several different types of rubrics, but one of the most standard rubric styles is the 5 point style, where it is broken down into 5 segments: Focus, Organization, Conventions, Style, and Content.
- Focus: Did the writer spends his time proving his thesis? Did he accomplish his goal?
- Organization: Was the essay fluid and were the transitions in between paragraphs smooth? Did the writer follow the proper outline and not diverge from the set structure?
- Conventions: Did the writer make many grammatical mistakes? Did they have run on sentences?
- Style: Did the writer use high-level vocabulary, were words rarely repeated, how creative were his sentence structures?
- Content: Did the writer properly prove his argument? Were his statements logical and factual? Did he create strong arguments?
Essay Writing Advice From Our Professional Writers
Best Brian, fromEssayPro
A five paragraph essay is the first big writing assignment that your teacher will have you do in middle school! If you’re a beginner essayist, then my tip for you is to learn how to ensure that each paragraph has its own unique idea. Once you’ve mastered that, you can practice making your paragraphs flow into each other with transition sentences. Later on, in high school and college, this will be a very valuable skill to have. Connect your ideas together so your readers can follow along with ease. While writing, always keeps in mind what your next paragraph is about and try to lead up to it. In the first essays that you write, using words like “Firstly, Secondly, and In conclusion” is acceptable, but later on, you will need to find ways to separate your ideas without those linking words. Don’t make them a habit. Good luck with your writing!
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