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English Essay Exam Prompt Option 1

IUP English Placement Essay

Option 1: Reflecting on Your Experiences with Writing

Instructions:

  1. Think about a time when you wrote something you considered “good.”
  2. Read the three passages* below
  3. Then, use your own experience, as well as ideas from the passages, to explain what you consider to be good writing.
  4. Plan to work on your essay for the entire period and write as much as you can, but also leave time so you can make changes to your draft. As you work on your essay, be sure to:
    1. use details in your description
    2. use at least one idea from the sources below to develop your explanation
    3. elaborate your points

Passage #1:

“Students often resist writing and writing teachers, and such resistance can be either healthy or unhealthy.... For example, with hours of drill on lie/lay and sit/set, tests on the eight comma rules, fill-in-the-blank questions about the ways to develop a paragraph, five points off for every misspelled word, students are probably right to resist such mindless “drill and kill” exercises often associated with being taught to write.

“Of course, usage, punctuation, paragraph development, and spelling are important in writing well, but we think that students realize that heavy emphasis on these issues by teachers often deflects attention from what students are thinking and saying.

“Unfortunately, schooling sometimes teaches students that the teacher is the enemy and that school work is irrelevant and alien to their concerns.”
—Art Young and Beth Daniel

Passage #2:

“I am a writer today because I believe that I would never have been able to make this kind of sense of my life and my world if I hadn’t kept at writing and kept at it for my own reasons and my own purposes. That’s the payoff. That’s why writers write. Since writing is often hard and always takes considerable time and energy, there has to be some trade-off. I have to get something from writing. What I get is the unexpected.

“I enjoy discovering things about myself and my world(s) that I had not known, and could not know before I wrote. Without tries at writing, I know I could not ever have discovered precisely these things. It’s the recurring attempt, that try, that is what writing is all about.”
—James Zebroski

Passage #3:

"The acquisition of new structure and forms [of writing] comes about through the use of language for meaningful communication… not through memorizing rules, and acquisition depends upon experimentation and risk taking.

“[Learning to write] is like other learning. People learn a new language or dialect and generate hypotheses about what that new language is like, about what its rules are, based on the data of what they hear and read.”
—Eleanor Kutz

*These passages originally appeared in the anthology The Subject Is Writing, edited by Wendy Bishop, and are used with the permission of Heinemann Publishers.

Download a copy of this prompt in Microsoft Word.

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