Writing is not the only beast to tackle in the writing portion of the TASC Test, but it may be the most challenging portion of the test to study for, as it is not quite as straightforward as the multiple-choice section of the test. Instead, the essay and long-answer questions will focus on your ability to respond to a prompt appropriately, and construct sentences and paragraphs that adhere to writing traditions, communicate effectively, and demonstrate a clear understanding of writing conventions.
Responding to a Prompt Appropriately
To respond to a prompt appropriately, be sure to read every part of the prompt in the question. Many prompts have multiple parts to them and identify the structure and style that you are required to use. Consider the following writing prompt:
“In two paragraphs or less, compare and contrast metaphors and similes.”
This command has several components:
- The length will be graded (two paragraphs or less).
- So will the inclusion of every point in the prompt.
- To compare and contrast metaphors and similes, you will be required to identify the similarities and the differences between the two.
Before you begin writing anything on this portion of the test, make sure you have identified every possible component of the writing prompt.
Writing traditions in essay and long-answer questions involve using active voice, indicative verb mood, parallel structure, and variety in writing. Active voice and indicative verb mood are two styles of writing that keep writing active and descriptive.
The difference between active and passive voice is as follows:
“The dog barked at the woman.” (active)
“The woman was barked at.” (passive)
Indicative Verb Mood
The indicative mood might read:
“He sidestepped the eating birds to avoid riling them up.”
Compare that to the imperative verb mood:
“Sidestep those birds to avoid riling them up!”
Parallel structure simply means to make sure all components in a sentence match one another in terms of form. In a list of verbs, for instance, the verbs should all match one another, as in the following: “singing, dancing, and acting,” instead of “singing, to dance, and act.”
To write an effective and compelling paragraph, writers should focus on creating sentences of different lengths and styles. Instead of writing entirely in short, staccato sentences, for instance, intersperse some longer, more complex sentences among short, simple sentences.
Communicating effectively and using appropriate writing conventions involves using grammar and punctuation correctly, and maintaining consistency in your work. Be sure to pay close attention to the tone you are using in your responses, maintaining formal phrasing, and avoiding addressing your audience directly (using “you,” “we,” or “I” in your writing). Using periods, commas, colons, and semicolons correctly is also necessary to communicate effectively, as they both mimic natural starts and pauses in speech, and create rhythmic paragraphs that draw the reader in to deliver information.
Although writing tests can feel daunting, they do not have to be terribly difficult. Reading and writing on a regular basis leading up to test day can help instill confidence in and comfort with the writing process. To adequately prepare for this portion of the test, read and write as much as possible, go back and edit your work, and re-read your work to make sure it is straightforward, clear, and informative.