|A classic format for compositions is the five-paragraph essay. It is not the only format for writing an essay, of course, but it is a useful model for you to keep in mind, especially as you begin to develop your composition skills. The following material is adapted from a handout prepared by Harry Livermore for his high school English classes at Cook High School in Adel, Georgia. It is used here with his permission.|
See, first, Writing Introductory Paragraphs for different ways of getting your reader involved in your essay. The introductory paragraph should also include the thesis statement, a kind of mini-outline for the paper: it tells the reader what the essay is about. The last sentence of this paragraph must also contain a transitional "hook" which moves the reader to the first paragraph of the body of the paper.
Body First paragraph:
The first paragraph of the body should contain the strongest argument, most significant example, cleverest illustration, or an obvious beginning point. The first sentence of this paragraph should include the "reverse hook" which ties in with the transitional hook at the end of the introductory paragraph. The topic for this paragraph should be in the first or second sentence. This topic should relate to the thesis statement in the introductory paragraph. The last sentence in this paragraph should include a transitional hook to tie into the second paragraph of the body.
Body Second paragraph:
The second paragraph of the body should contain the second strongest argument, second most significant example, second cleverest illustration, or an obvious follow up the first paragraph in the body. The first sentence of this paragraph should include the reverse hook which ties in with the transitional hook at the end of the first paragraph of the body. The topic for this paragraph should be in the first or second sentence. This topic should relate to the thesis statement in the introductory paragraph. The last sentence in this paragraph should include a transitional hook to tie into the third paragraph of the body.
Body Third paragraph:
The third paragraph of the body should contain the weakest argument, weakest example, weakest illustration, or an obvious follow up to the second paragraph in the body. The first sentence of this paragraph should include the reverse hook which ties in with the transitional hook at the end of the second paragraph. The topic for this paragraph should be in the first or second sentence. This topic should relate to the thesis statement in the introductory paragraph. The last sentence in this paragraph should include a transitional concluding hook that signals the reader that this is the final major point being made in this paper. This hook also leads into the last, or concluding, paragraph.
This paragraph should include the following:
- an allusion to the pattern used in the introductory paragraph,
- a restatement of the thesis statement, using some of the original language or language that "echoes" the original language. (The restatement, however, must not be a duplicate thesis statement.)
- a summary of the three main points from the body of the paper.
- a final statement that gives the reader signals that the discussion has come to an end. (This final statement may be a "call to action" in an persuasive paper.)
A Sample Paper
|1Stephen King, creator of such stories as Carrie and Pet Sematary, stated that the Edgar Allan Poe stories he read as a child gave him the inspiration and instruction he needed to become the writer that he is. 2Poe, as does Stephen King, fills the reader's imagination with the images that he wishes the reader to see, hear, and feel. 3His use of vivid, concrete visual imagery to present both static and dynamic settings and to describe people is part of his technique. 4Poe's short story "The Tell-Tale Heart" is a story about a young man who kills an old man who cares for him, dismembers the corpse, then goes mad when he thinks he hears the old man's heart beating beneath the floor boards under his feet as he sits and discusses the old man's absence with the police. 5In "The Tell-Tale Heart," a careful reader can observe Poe's skillful manipulation of the senses.||The introductory paragraph includes a paraphrase of something said by a famous person in order to get the reader's attention. The second sentence leads up to the thesis statement which is the third sentence. The thesis statement (sentence 3) presents topic of the paper to the reader and provides a mini- outline. The topic is Poe's use of visual imagery. The mini- outline tells the reader that this paper will present Poe's use of imagery in three places in his writing: (1) description of static setting; (2) description of dynamic setting; and (3) description of a person. The last sentence of the paragraph uses the words "manipulation" and "senses" as transitional hooks.|
|1The sense of sight, the primary sense, is particularly susceptible to manipulation. 2In "The Tell-Tale Heart," Poe uses the following image to describe a static scene: "His room was as black as pitch with the thick darkness . . ." Poe used the words "black," "pitch," and "thick darkness" not only to show the reader the condition of the old man's room, but also to make the reader feel the darkness." 3"Thick" is a word that is not usually associated with color (darkness), yet in using it, Poe stimulates the reader's sense of feeling as well as his sense of sight.||In the first sentence of the second paragraph (first paragraph of the body) the words "sense" and "manipulation" are used to hook into the end of the introductory paragraph. The first part of the second sentence provides the topic for this paragraph--imagery in a static scene. Then a quotation from "The Tell-Tale Heart" is presented and briefly discussed. The last sentence of this paragraph uses the expressions "sense of feeling" and "sense of sight" as hooks for leading into the third paragraph.|
|1Further on in the story, Poe uses a couple of words that cross not only the sense of sight but also the sense of feeling to describe a dynamic scene. 2The youth in the story has been standing in the open doorway of the old man's room for a long time, waiting for just the right moment to reveal himself to the old man in order to frighten him. 3Poe writes: "So I opened it [the lantern opening]--you cannot imagine how stealthily, stealthily--until, at length, a single dim ray, like the thread of the spider, shot from out the crevice and fell full upon the vulture eye." 4By using the metaphor of the thread of the spider (which we all know is a creepy creature) and the word "shot," Poe almost makes the reader gasp, as surely did the old man whose one blind eye the young man describes as "the vulture eye."||The first sentence of the third paragraph (second paragraph of the body) uses the words "sense of sight" and "sense of feeling" to hook back into the previous paragraph. Note that in the second paragraph "feeling" came first, and in this paragraph "sight" comes first. The first sentence also includes the topic for this paragraph--imagery in a dynamic scene. Again, a quotation is taken from the story, and it is briefly discussed. The last sentence uses the words "one blind eye" which was in the quotation. This expression provides the transitional hook for the last paragraph in the body of the paper.|
|1The reader does not know much about what the old man in this story looks like except that he has one blind eye. 2In the second paragraph of "The Tell-Tale Heart," Poe establishes the young man's obsession with that blind eye when he writes: "He had the eye of the vulture--a pale blue eye, with a film over it." 3This "vulture eye" is evoked over and over again in the story until the reader becomes as obsessed with it as does the young man. 4His use of the vivid, concrete word "vulture" establishes a specific image in the mind of the reader that is inescapable.||In the first sentence of the fourth paragraph (third paragraph in the body), "one blind eye" is used that hooks into the previous paragraph. This first sentence also lets the reader know that this paragraph will deal with descriptions of people: ". . . what the old man looks like . . .." Once again Poe is quoted and discussed. The last sentence uses the word "image" which hooks into the last paragraph. (It is less important that this paragraph has a hook since the last paragraph is going to include a summary of the body of the paper.)|
|1"Thick darkness," "thread of the spider," and "vulture eye" are three images that Poe used in "The Tell-Tale Heart" to stimulate a reader's senses. 2Poe wanted the reader to see and feel real life. 3He used concrete imagery rather than vague abstract words to describe settings and people. 4If Edgar Allan Poe was one of Stephen King's teachers, then readers of King owe a debt of gratitude to that nineteenth-century creator of horror stories.||The first sentence of the concluding paragraph uses the principal words from the quotations from each paragraph of the body of the paper. This summarizes those three paragraph. The second and third sentences provide observations which can also be considered a summary, not only of the content of the paper, but also offers personal opinion which was logically drawn as the result of this study. The last sentence returns to the Edgar Allan Poe-Stephen King relationship which began this paper. This sentence also provides a "wrap-up" and gives the paper a sense of finality.|
13 Sentences to Glory! (The GMAT Analytical Writing Assessment, Part 2: Issue Essay)
The GMAT Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA), which consists of two 30-minute essays (Analysis of an Argument and Analysis of an Issue), is the least important part of the GMAT and the least important part of your application to business school. Still, read on.
First off, you should know that the AWA score is completely separate from the Math/Verbal (200-800) score. Second, a high AWA score won’t offset a low 200-800 score—in other words, you’re not going to “AWA-your-way-in” to business school. Third, as long as you’ve got the 200-800 score you need, a low AWA score probably won’t hurt you. Still, you don’t want such a low score that admissions committees will take notice.
Essentially, you can look at the AWA as a pass/fail proposition: AWA scoring is from 0-6, and scores of 4 or above (not too difficult to attain) are passing. The AWA is a relatively manageable task (much easier than the Math/Verbal for virtually all testers), thus nothing to fret about. However, when you take your GMAT, the first thing you have to do is write the essays, and that hour of writing is an important warm-up for the Math and Verbal sections. Notice that I said “warm-up”—the key is that the essays must not cost you too much mental energy. Whether you’re realistically aiming for a score of 4 (good enough for the essays to be a non-factor in your application to business school) or 6 (the top score, which is good enough for the essays to be a non-factor in your application to business school), the essays need to be easy for you.
No outside knowledge is required for the AWA Essays and there’s nothing you need to study to prepare for them. (Though reading a few samples would be a good idea.) You simply need a template for both Argument and Issue Essays and a little practice. For guidance on the Argument Essay, go here. To make the Issue Essay nothing more than a matter of going through the motions on test day, follow the guidelines below.
Analysis of an Issue Essay: Pre-Writing
The Issue Essay is essentially a short position paper. Before you start writing, you need to decide whether you Agree or Disagree with the Prompt statement. Next, you need to jot down 3 reasons for your position and 1 example to back up each reason (for a total of 3 examples). For examples, draw from current events, history, science and technology, business, literature, etc. Personal and even hypothetical examples are fine, too, as long as they’re relevant and well analyzed. However, you want to have a breadth of examples, so try to use at most 1 personal example. The important thing is that your examples are specific and of import. World War II is of import; a fight you got into in 3rd grade because someone stole your lunch probably isn’t. Once you’ve got three reasons and three examples down, you’re ready to write, as long as you know to use the Outline below.
Analysis of an Issue Essay: Outline
I. Introduction (2 sentences) – Pick a Side; all you need to get across here is whether you Agree or Disagree with the Prompt statement.
II. Body Paragraph 1 (3 sentences) – Reason 1/Example 1/Analysis.
III. Body Paragraph 2 (3 sentences) – Reason 2/Example 2/Analysis.
IV. Body Paragraph 3 (3 sentences) – Reason3/Example 3/Analysis.
V. Conclusion (2 sentences) – Summarize key points and reiterate your position. Stick to the old adage for conclusion paragraphs: “Tell ‘em what you told ‘em.”
- Notice that 2+3+3+3+2 = 13. That’s 13 sentences total, and that’s all you’ve got to write on your Issue Essay. Of course, there’s no reason you can’t write more and there’s no reason to worry about counting your sentences as you write. In fact, in analyzing your examples, you may well wind up with Body Paragraphs that are more than 3 sentences. However, writing more than 13 sentences is not strictly necessary, even if you want to get a 6 (the highest score). Therefore, the Issue Essay is a matter of 13 sentences to glory!
- Stick to the 5-paragraph Intro-Body-Conclusion format because 5-paragraph essays tend to receive higher scores than 4-paragraph essays. Writing 6 or more paragraphs is also fine, of course, as long as you stick to the Intro-Body-Conclusion format.
- Even more than providing reasons for your position, using specific, well-developed examples is the key to performing well on the Issue Essay. Let your examples guide you.
- If you can’t think of a specific example to back up a reason, a general supporting example is better than nothing. But never start simply listing out examples. Remember, 1 example for each reason.
- Stay focused on the Prompt statement. Don’t let your essay stray off topic.
- Stick to one idea per paragraph. Discuss one reason/one example in each paragraph.
- First person (the use of “I”) is fine—use it, it’s easy. You don’t need to be overly formal.
- You also don’t need to use big words or try to be fancy stylistically; good GMAT writing is all about clarity.
- Use explicit transitions and other phrases that highlight the logical structure of your essay. “First,” “Second,” “Third,” “In conclusion,” “For example,” “Similarly,” “However,” etc., are all good. In other types of writing, stilted transitions are not considered ideal; on the GMAT, the important thing is to show that you know that transitions are supposed to exist.
Analysis of an Issue Essay: Process Summary
Performing well on the Issue Essay is a matter of following the directions, structuring your essay properly, and demonstrating solid writing mechanics. Thus, before you do anything else, read the directions to get your bearings and be sure that you’re clear on which essay you’re writing. The Issue Essay will be the second of the two, but you don’t want to confuse them, and there’s no need to rush. Next, be sure to read the Prompt statement carefully; your essay must directly address the Prompt statement (this is essentially another component of following the directions). Other than these basics, follow this process:
a. Pre-Writing: 5 min.
b. Write: 20 min.
c. Proofread: 2-3 min.
That leaves you 2-3 minutes to play with. Keep in mind that Pre-Writing (Picking a Side and Brainstorming examples) is the foundation for a well-written, high-scoring essay. (By the way, you don’t really need to outline your essay because you’ll have the Intro-Body-Conclusion template memorized.) If you apply the basic process above, use the prescribed Outline, and write the essays every time you take a practice test—something you should do for endurance’s sake anyway—you’ll be more than adequately prepared for the Issue Essay. Most importantly, it’ll be simple and easy for you on test day. No sweat!
For guidance on the Argument Essay, click here. If you follow the prescribed formulas for both the Issue and the Argument Essays, you should be well on your way to scoring 5-6 on the AWA. Good luck–it’ll be a breeze!
|Elia is a GMAT Trainer for The Princeton Review. Click here to read more articles from The Princeton Review and to learn more about The Princeton Review's GMAT services.|