Note: You are encouraged to either print this page or have it otherwise accessible in a computer window as you practice essay writing with us.
We can’t, of course, give you actual prompts used on a particular test, but we can show prompts that are very similar to ones you might encounter on test day. Writing prompts vary widely on different tests and these samples have been written using the same format as that on the actual test. Taking some time to actually practice the writing skills on which you will be assessed will not only ease any “writing anxiety” you may have, but should help you perform better when you take the actual test.
First, finish reading through the general information here. Then click on your test below and you’ll be guided through our suggested process for practice.
You’ll find all sorts of valuable information about the type of writing expected on that particular test, including any standard instructions given for every prompt and all the information we have about how your writing will be scored. It’s important to read and understand all of that before trying any of the sample prompts.
If the writing test is timed, set up a timer to keep you within the limit. If the test is computer-administered and you will be expected to type your response, set up a document on a computer that is ready to go. If the essay will be hand-written, gather some ruled paper and writing instruments. Most of all, be sure you are in a quiet space where you won’t be interrupted. Remember that most essay tests do not allow the use of any references, spell-check-type features, or other electronic aids.
We suggest focusing on one prompt at a time and then moving to the next step. You probably won’t have a choice on the actual test, but for practice purposes, especially the first time, choose the prompt with which you feel most comfortable. Maybe it involves a topic you already know something about or piques your curiosity, either of which should motivate you to write.
Writing can be tough and we want you to feel confident in your ability to deliver the type of writing expected on this test. After you complete a prompt, go back to the information given under How It Is Scored and compare what you produced to test expectations. If we show an actual “scoring rubric,” you can print several of them and actually mark your score or check off each skill tested.
If you didn’t quite meet the expectations, try another prompt and reassess. And even if you seem to be on track for a solid performance on this essay, it couldn’t hurt to try one or two more prompts, just to be sure.
After completing all of the above, if you’re still unsure of your writing skills, try one or more of these suggestions:
Try making up more prompts yourself. You’re familiar with the type of prompt used now and more practice on this specific type of prompt can help.
Seek out a good writer. Some of your friends, fellow students, or family members may be good writers. They may be able to help you improve or even write additional prompts for you to use.
Find an expert. If you have access to an English or writing teacher or professor, ask for help from such a person. They’re often glad to read students’ work and offer suggestions. They might even be willing to write some new prompts.
Try to relax! Remember that, while writing is important, it’s not the whole test—just one part of it. Also, remember that the scorers are not looking for perfection. Most of the time, they score writing using a rubric (a list of skills to look for) and check off those they see when assigning a score. You’re bound to display at least some of those required skills. So, unless you just don’t write anything, a score of zero is highly unlikely.
For additional pointers about writing, check out the following study guides in our English Basics Test. They can help you with specific writing issues and the whole process of effective writing.
For some reason, writing is not a favorite task for many people, but it can be an important contributing score among your test results. Just like most other pursuits, you tend to get better as you practice and you should also feel more confident as you improve. By using our sample prompts and suggested process, you’ll at least know what to expect on test day and will be better prepared to perform.
Armed with the information above for reference, just choose your test and let’s get started honing your essay writing skills.
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