BY JOHN HENRY AND MELISSA THE WRITING CENTER WORKSHOPS: In-Class Essays
What is an in-class essay?
An essay written in class, often referred to as an essay exam.
The conditions for in-class essays vary.
Some teachers will give you the prompt beforehand and give you time to prepare, while others won’t.
The purpose of an in-class essay is usually to test your understanding of a certain subject and/or essay writing skills.
A Note on Perfection:
Relieve some of your stress by realizing that your teacher does not expect your essay to be perfect.
The in-class essay writing process:
Understand the prompt and material.
Proofread & briefly edit.
Student Learning Objectives:
Students will learn the proper writing process for in-class essays.
Students will learn how to adapt standard essay formulas for in-class essays.
Students will learn how to perform relaxation techniques.
Students will be given the tools to manage their time more proficiently.
Preparing the night before:
Note: Don’t leave your preparation until the last minute. Give yourself time to prepare.
If you know what the essay will be based on, make sure that you comfortably know the material.
Refresh your mind by studying the material.
Have pleasant dreams!
Preparing the day of the in-class essay:
Eat a nutritious breakfast.
Make time to quickly freshen up on your material before class.
Be on time to class.
You’ve been told all of these tips
many times before, but they actually
Breathing control relaxes tension; breathe easily and deeply.
Listen to calming music (The Mozart Effect).
Drink warm tea (coffee has shown to release stress hormones).
Time management during the essay.
Make sure to leave enough time for all the steps in the in-class essay writing process.
For example, a 30 min essay should look like:
Brainstorming – 5 minutes.
Outlining/Prewriting – 5 minutes.
Writing the essay – 20 minutes.
Proofreading – 5 minutes.
Understanding your prompt.
Oftentimes, teachers are asking for multiple responses in one prompt. Make sure to address every area (ex. “Describe and analyze the plot and setting of…”—one must describe AND analyze both the plot and setting).
Identify key terms (refer to handout).
Usually ask to briefly define or compare/contrast a topic.
Teachers are looking to see if you know the term well enough to define its meaning.
Be very concise and direct in your answer.
Typically ask a student a question (or questions) using course theories, facts, and material.
Often require an analysis.
Tips for certain types of essays:
Prewriting is extremely important; it helps to generate ideas.
Methods of Prewriting:
Freewriting – freely write about anything that comes to mind about the prompt or material.
Clustering – draw a bubble graph including keywords and phrases about your topic.
Brainstorming – ask yourself questions about the topic (i.e. Who? What? Where? When? Why? How?)
Prewriting. Technique Illustrations.
Prewriting. Techniques Illustrations.
Exercise: Essay Prompts
Pick one of the following prompts and use a prewriting technique to generate ideas.
If you have time, try to write a quick paragraph answering the prompt.
Summarize your experience at Los Angeles Valley College and examine the positive aspects of attending a community college versus attending a university.
A well-known football coach once said, “Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.” Do you agree or disagree with this statement? Write an essay in which you discuss your position and support it with convincing reasons.
Compare and contrast two different forms of transportation (e.g. car and walking, bus and subway). Consider issues such as speed, comfort, and expense.
Describe the most important person in your life and explain why they are important to you.
Discuss the positive and negative aspects of being a unicorn.
What is your thesis? Your supporting points? Etc.
Use outlines and frequent note taking to organize your information.
For example, if you’re given a prompt that is asking you to compare and contrast two characters, create graphs listing the similarities and contrasting attributes of each character.
Outlining and notetaking can use any and/or all of the prewriting techniques. Find which methods work best for you!
Outlining/Organization Techniques. Illustrated.
Writing your essay:
Regular essays would usually consist of five paragraphs, but you will not have time to write so many paragraphs during the essay exam.
Two-paragraph essay format—pick a point and explain two sides of it, then begin your essay with a thesis.
Make sure to cover the most important points in your material and to definitely answer the prompt .
Developing a good thesis statement is a good place to begin writing your essay.
Your thesis statement consists of your subject, opinion, and perhaps some supporting points.
Prompt: Compare and contrast the reasons why the North and South fought the Civil War.
While both Northerners and Southerners believed they fought against tyranny and oppression, Northerners focused on the oppression of slaves while Southerners defended their own right to self-government.
If your essay is literature-based, your teacher will want you to integrate quotes into your essay.
Annotate your material prior to the in-class essay so that you will have important quotes already.
Since you don’t know exactly what you will be writing the day of the exam, pick quotes that are close to the theme or quotes you feel are vital for the characters/storyline.
Resist the urge to completely rewrite your essay!
Make sure to leave a little time at the end of your in-class essay to look over your work—a masterpiece with punctuation errors or missing words looks like less of a masterpiece.
Winning Essay Techniques
Use keywords (from the prompt and from your material).
If you prewrite, turn in your prewriting with the essay.
If you know how your teacher writes, try to use their style in your writing.
Relate concepts back to class material (ex. If you learned about setting in class, mention the setting).
Students who can provide their own analysis typically get better grades than those who just repeat the class material.