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Tips and Tricks

Is there a formula to the writing test?

Yes, there is. There are certain elements that scorers look at while grading:

  • The sentence count for the paragraphs is the following 4-7-7-7-5. (4 sentences for your introduction, 7 for your first reason, 7 for your second reason, 7 for your third reason, and 5 for your conclusion). I encourage my students to memorize this number.

  • Many scorers look for your first and third reasons to be the strongest. When planning, you should try to arrange your reasons so that your third is the most powerful.

  • Solid introductions and conclusions are a must. Be careful writing your introduction! Scorers look for hook sentences that relate to the topic. Memorize this statement - restating the prompt is not a hook sentence!


Here are  list of my favorite writing tips for the NC State writing test:

  1. Build a list of strong vocabulary. What words are strong? Words like zoomed, floated, tumbled.

  2. When planning, read your prompt carefully. Some find it helpful to underline or circle important words.

  3. Develop a solid beginning with a hook. Sound words (or as English teachers like to call them onomatopoeia) make awesome starters - Knock! Knock! Jackpot! Ring! Ring! Splash! Exclamation sentences are also great.

  4. Develop a strong ending. Endings should not merely restate the prompt of the first sentence of paragraph 1.

  5. Use some figurative language, but be careful not to overuse.

  6. Avoid listing.

  7. Plan. Plan. Plan. Planning helps get you in the writing "zone." By planning, especially planning out the details for your reasons, you lessen your chance of having insufficient elaboration. When you plan, you can figure out which reasons will generate the most details.

  8. If you get frustrated, take a deep breath and relax.