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Fifteen Tips on Writing the WPE Essay

  1. Read the short essay carefully, and be sure that you understand the task. Each short reading contains the vocabulary and terms that a college-educated student is expected to know and understand. Make a few notes in order to help you organize your thoughts--and perhaps a quick outline. Don't spend more than fifteen minutes reading and planning.
  2. If you are asked to summarize, do so briefly (no more than one paragraph), or weave your summary into your essay. Do not quote heavily from the article or essay that you're summarizing. Use your own words to show that you understand what you've read.
  3. Once you've made a few notes and you have some idea of what you want to say, begin to write. The best writers tend to write quickly (before forgetting their train of thought); they later reread the essay in its entirety. Don't write too slowly and don't count the number of words. If you write too slowly, it encourages the "critic" who will begin to tell you that what you say is wrong or that some word is misspelled. For drafting, you need the "creator." Bring the "critic" out when you're finished drafting your essay.
  4. Respond to the topic with a persuasive essay. The exam tests your ability to think through a problem and explain your position in writing.
  5. Remember, a good argument contains reasons that help the reader to understand the writer's conclusions. Always use appropriate examples to clarify an abstraction or generalization.
  6. Be sure that every paragraph in the body of your argument develops a point and that your points are tied to the essay's overall controlling idea. Occasionally check to see if a paragraph is pertinent to the topic you are addressing or if it goes off track. A good rule to follow is to have each paragraph begin with a general statement describing what the paragraph will be about (topic sentence). Next, give an example to support your topic sentence followed by an explanation of the importance of your evidence. Don't assume that a five-paragraph essay is all you will need; don't let the form drive the content. Instead, use the appropriate number of paragraphs to prove adequately the position you take.
  7. Avoid long stories or descriptions. Rather, briefly use your experience to prove a point.
  8. The use of first person (I) is acceptable since you are being asked to support your position.
  9. Keep your audience in mind: a room full of Cal Poly faculty members trained to assess your writing based on the WPE Scoring Guide
  10. Use your own educated voice; don't use language of which you are unsure. Focus on clarity and precision.
  11. Although humor and satire are difficult to write, humor is welcome if it serves the topic. Avoid overly satiric writing since it may take away from a focused response to the prompt.
  12. Often students think that a conclusion to a short persuasive essay needs to repeat all of the main ideas. This strategy may be useful for long, technical reports or complicated pieces of writing. However, for short, argumentative essays, don't waste time repeating yourself, and don't insult your readers' intelligence by going over material that you've already clearly outlined. Instead, use your conclusion for an appropriate closing of your essay; it's the last part of your argument that you give your reader, so leave a good impression: make an appeal, give a solution, restate your position more clearly, point to the future, etc. Don't sum up the obvious. Be thoughtful.
  13. Vocabulary, sentence control and sentence variety are important for a university-educated person to master. Avoid writing exclusively in primer prose, such as: I think gun control is a good idea. It is a good idea to educate people about their guns. Guns have caused lots of deaths in the U.S. Congress has to do something about gun control.  Note that each sentence in this example has a certain form--subject, verb, object. There is no variety or complexity in the above sentences, and your WPE essays scorers want to see some variety or complexity in your sentences.
  14. Always allow time to reread your essay. Everyone makes slips on a first draft, and you probably won't have time to recopy your essay. If you write quickly, you should have at least fifteen minutes to make sure you've used appropriate examples, that your paragraphs are in order, that your facts are accurate, etc. Lastly, check for missing words or endings of words, serious misspellings, grammar slips, etc. Crossing out words is ok, but do try to be as neat as possible.
  15. Some errors are spelling errors but some are thinking errors--errors of confusion. For example, "beleif" is a spelling error. However, the following are slips in thinking: advice/advise, who's/whose, conscience/conscious, should of/should have, know/no, loose/lose, chose/choose, to/too/two, they're/their/there, your/you're, whether/weather, were/where, course/coarse, etc. Edit carefully.




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