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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.