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MCAT Writing Sample. Lesson #1. Strategies and Tips for Writing Sample Preparation. What are medical schools looking for with your writing sample? An indication of strong reasoning/critical thinking skills. Evidence of excellent written communication skills.

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Strategies and tips for writing sample preparation
Strategies and Tipsfor Writing Sample Preparation

  • What are medical schools looking for with your writing sample?

    • An indication of strong reasoning/critical thinking skills.

    • Evidence of excellent written communication skills.

  • What do graders expect from your writing?

    • Reasonable/logical, thorough, and well-written responses to a three-task prompt.

    • The sample is one of the first things an admissions official will see.

      • The essay is often read by most schools.

    • The essay is often used to make final decisions about admission.

      • Essay results could be critical if they’re “on the fence” about you.


Strategies and tips for writing sample preparation1
Strategies and Tipsfor Writing Sample Preparation

  • How will graders evaluate the writing sample?

    • Holistic scoring.

      • Scale of 1 to 6 converted to an alphabetical rating ranging from J to T.

    • Graders, however, do realize writers are under time constraints and that effective writing is typically the product of careful attention and thoughtful, persistent revision work.

      • Therefore, there is allowance for a certain number of mistakes.

    • Graders usually spend around a minute or so evaluating your writing sample.


Strategies and tips for writing sample preparation2
Strategies and Tipsfor Writing Sample Preparation

  • What skills are rewarded in the writing sample?

    • Developing a central idea.

      • Generating a controlling idea or thesis statement unifying the essay by stating it at the beginning of the paragraph when you first address the 3rd writing task.

    • Considering a claim from an opposing perspective.

      • Offering a counter-point and relevant counter-example.

    • Synthesizing ideas.

      • Combining thoughts and ideas, especially seemingly divergent claims/positions as your controlling idea in the final writing task.


Strategies and tips for writing sample preparation3
Strategies and Tipsfor Writing Sample Preparation

  • What skills are rewarded in the writing sample?

    • Presenting ideas cohesively and logically.

      • Making sure ideas are clear and concrete along with smooth paragraph transitions (effective topic sentences).

    • Writing clearly, concisely, and accurately.

      • Providing a sample with a minimum of errors.

    • Drafting efficiently with speed and control.

      • Learning how to manage your time effectively so that there’s balance between each writing task.


How to prepare for the writing sample
How to Prepare forthe Writing Sample

  • Do not underestimate this portion of the test.

    • Do not assume applying everyday writing skills will suffice.

    • Practice test -specific strategies and tips frequently.

  • Realize the close connection between VR and the writing sample.

  • Apply critical thinking skills to both sections.

    • Realize the VR often asks you to analyze arguments and the writing sample requires you to both analyze claims and craft your own.

  • Establish and adhere to a practice schedule.

    • Work to internalize writing sample methods, tips, and strategies.

      • Revisit notes frequently.

      • Practice, practice, practice.

    • Last minute cramming is a recipe for disaster.


How to prepare for the writing sample1
How to Prepare forthe Writing Sample

  • Practice writing essays.

    • Practice under test conditions as much as possible.

    • Learn to evaluate your own writing.

      • Four self-evaluation criteria for the writing sample.

        • Did you address the prompt and tasks accurately?

        • Have you carefully structured/organized your essay coherently?

        • Have you developed your ideas carefully and revealed excellent critical thinking capability?

        • Have you exhibited polished writing skills?

      • Take the time to meta-reflect on your writing process.

        • Read over past writing samples and think about their strengths and weaknesses.


How to prepare for the writing sample2
How to Prepare forthe Writing Sample

  • Make it a habit to engage in outside reading.

    • Find journal articles from various disciplines and respond to the following questions:

      • How would this have sounded ten years ago? 50 years ago?

      • What groups or people would disagree, and why?

      • What philosophy underlies this?

      • What would be an even more extreme restatement of this?


The kaplan method for the writing sample
The Kaplan Method for the Writing Sample

  • What you can do to:

    • Quickly come up with content.

    • Develop key details.

    • Synthesize details and content.


The kaplan method for the writing sample1
The Kaplan Method forThe Writing Sample

  • Ultimately produce a unified, balanced and thoughtful essay.

    • Realize the WS statement is extreme and thus difficult to address.

    • Determine your “first task.”

      • Which one is easier? Task I (original statement) or Task II(counter-statement)? Note: this applies only to pre-writing. You do NOT want to write out the counter-statement first in the final draft of your writing sample.

    • Recognize the critical importance of pre-writing.

      • Develop a habit and a procedure for sketching out ideas before you write for real.

    • Begin by determining reliable criteria upon which to base your reasoning.

      • Reliable criteria to consider:

        • Survival/safety.

        • Time.

        • Size/demographics.

        • Education.

      • Can you think of any other criteria that might work?

        • Moral convictions might work but be very careful here.

        • Avoid the trap of strong, emotional convictions.

      • Establishing criteria can improve your pre-writing.

        • Helps stimulate more ideas.

        • Allows you to coalesce your thinking and unify your writing.


Applying the kaplan method
Applying the Kaplan Method

  • 1st step is to read and annotate—30 seconds or so.

    • How, precisely, does Task II vary from Task I?

    • Are you carefully adhering to the basic instructions?

    • What words need to be defined and highlighted?

      • Consider words that are abstract, subjective or ambiguous.

        • Define/explain these concepts how you see fit.

    • Use words and terms as broadly as possible.

      • The WS does not test specific knowledge.

    • Plan on exploring one or two terms in the statement for depth in your writing.


Applying the kaplan method1
Applying the Kaplan Method

  • 2nd step is to pre-write your 1st task—One minute or so.

    • If you begin with Task II, you will need to:

      • Describe a specific counter-example.

      • Explain the relevance of your counter-example.

      • Use regular transitions to keep the essay unified.

    • Begin by deciding which reliable criteria leads most naturally to a concrete example.

      • Imagine someone annoying makes the claim and you want to disagree.

    • Don’t worry about complete sentences—just word and phrases.

      • Don’t begin writing essay until you’ve done all the pre-writing.

    • Jot down a vivid, relevant example for your counter-point.

      • Can be real or imagined.

    • Jot down the relevance of this example to your counter-point.

    • Jot down brief notes of precise detail you will use.

    • You can skip around during your pre-writing.

      • It crucial to note things before they slip your mind.


Applying the kaplan method2
Applying the Kaplan Method

  • 3rd step is to pre-write your 2nd task—One minute or so.

    • If your 2nd task is Task I, you will need to:

      • Explain what the statement means to you.

        • How do you interpret the statement’s meaning?

        • Jot down a brief interpretation along with explanations of terms/concepts.

    • Describe an example to provide depth.

      • Jot down a real or imaginary example.

    • Use an effective “hook” to get the reader’s attention.

      • Anecdote, question, provocative statement, personal anecdote, etc.

      • Come back to this if necessary.

        • Don’t get bogged down here.

    • Jot down transitional keywords you will use to bridge paragraphs.

    • For additional detail to provide depth:

      • Answer one or two of the following:

        • What is the history of either side?

        • What assumptions underlie either side?

        • What is the relevance of an example?

        • What are the differences between persons or groups holding these opinions?


Applying the kaplan method3
Applying the Kaplan Method

  • 4th step is to pre-write your 3rd task—One minute or so.

    • For Task III, you will need to:

      • Discuss the criteria for Tasks I and II.

        • Jot down your criteria and a brief rationale for it.

    • Resolve the apparent contradiction.

      • Jot down a reasonable synthesis of the information.

        • What reconciles two apparently opposing claims?

        • End with a memorable conclusion.

          • What signals closure to your writing?


Applying the kaplan method4
Applying the Kaplan Method

  • 5th step is to clarify main idea and plan—One minute or so.

    • Before writing the essay, make some decisions:

      • Do you tend to agree with the statement or counter-statement?

      • Will you take a position in-between?

      • Will you remain neutral?

        • Answering will help determine tone and transitional words.

        • Don’t agonize--just present points logically.

    • Where will you discuss any terms in the statement requiring explanation?

      • Occurs usually in the 1st paragraph.

      • Make sure your discussion is relevant to the overall flow of your ideas.

    • What ideas will you reject/cross out as irrelevant?

    • How will you number your ideas for strong essay organization?

    • What transitional keywords will you use?

      • Use keywords from the VR section to help you.

        • Avoid clichéd keywords.

          • For example, thus, etc.


Applying the kaplan method5
Applying the Kaplan Method

  • 6th step is to write the essay—23 minutes or so.

    • Use one paragraph per task but you can provide additional paragraphs if you have time and more examples or analysis.

      • Consider these topic sentences to help you stay focused:

        • The statement means…

        • One example of when the statement is wrong is…

        • The factors that determine whether the statement is applicable are…

          • Only use the above in your mind.

          • Substitute less obvious more interesting language to say basically the same thing.

          • Don’t deviate extensively from your pre-writing.


Applying the kaplan method6
Applying the Kaplan Method

  • 7th step is to proofread/edit—Two minutes or so.

    • Some common problems:

      • Avoid using “I” unless you have a relevant, personal anecdote.

      • Avoid clichés, slang, and unnecessary repetition.

      • Avoid repetitive sentence patterns and lengths.

      • Avoid sloppy handwriting if you’re not word processing.

    • Some English concepts to study:

      • Sentence fragments.

      • Misplaced modifiers.

      • Pronoun agreement and consistency errors.

      • Misused words—homonyms and malapropisms.

      • Spelling mistakes.

    • Don’t be afraid to make edits on your paper.

      • Keep edit marks neat.

      • Try to double-space your writing.


Collaborative activity practice the kaplan approach with other test takers
Collaborative Activity—Practice the Kaplan Approach with other Test Takers.

  • Organize yourselves into groups of three.

    • Look over and discuss the activity handout with the guidelines and then go for it.

  • The purpose of this activity is to have you practice putting together a model writing sample so you can:

    • See how the process works.

    • Practice learning the seven steps to a solid writing sample.

    • See how the essays are evaluated.

    • Become more aware of the grading approach to the samples.


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