August 31, 2009 general instructions

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Make-Up Freshman Essay Evaluation

August 31, 2009


The evaluation consists of two equally-weighted essays. Scores on each essay will reflect the style, organization, and thoughtfulness of responses, as well as adherence to the rules of grammar and punctuation. Failure to address each essay question specifically is likely to result in a significantly lower score. Remember that you are writing for an informed audience who will evaluate your writing ability in terms of your analytical and organizational skills and your general proficiency in written language. In writing your essays, try to use ordinary words that accurately express your meaning. Sometimes you may need to use rare or fairly technical terms, but you should do so only when those words are necessary. The best writing tends to use ordinary, unpretentious language.

Write your NAME and ID NUMBER in the space provided on each of the test forms. Write the final draft of Essay 1 on the Yellow form marked ESSAY 1. Write the final draft of Essay 2 on the White form marked ESSAY 2. Please DO NOT skip lines. Use the extra paper provided for scratch paper and first drafts. You may use the standard dictionaries provided.
You have a total of two hours to write both essays. You may apportion your time as you see fit. However, make sure that you spend sufficient time on each essay.

Essay 1 – Analytical Summary Essay (use yellow form)

(This question counts as one-half of the total Freshman Essay Evaluation Score)

Read the two short articles on the prospects for manned versus unmanned space exploration. Write an essay of at least 300 words that summarizes the main points in the articles. Although these articles are arguments for and against manned space exploration, your task in this assignment is to inform your readers about the central points of the articles, not to persuade them to take a particular side. Furthermore, you are not being asked to evaluate the relative merits of the ideas expressed in the articles; your approach to the material should be objective, not opinionated. Be sure to synthesize the information from the two articles based on subtopics; do not summarize text by text.
Assume your audience is a group of your peers who have not studied or researched this topic. For the purpose of writing this essay, do not draw on any previous knowledge you have on the subject.
You should include, at most, two or three direct quotations. Most of the information from the articles should be reported by paraphrasing (see below) the authors’ words. You should document all direct quotations through parenthetical documentation that uses the document letter (e.g. “Document B”). You do not need to formally document paraphrased sources, but you must always clearly identify the source of any information or opinion taken from the readings (e. g. “As Dillon reports . . .” or “In Document C . . .”). Do not add a list of Works Cited.
Scorers of your essay will be primarily looking for evidence that you can:

  • extract the most essential information and ideas from the readings;

  • structure the essay logically and coherently, avoiding random lists of points or a text-by-text structure;

  • paraphrase the authors’ language concisely and accurately;

  • write clear, correct, engaging prose.


Essay 2 – Argumentative Essay (use white form)

(This question counts as one-half of the total Freshman Essay Evaluation Score)

Read the excerpt from Malcolm Gladwell’s essay “Brain Candy.”
Write an essay of at least 300 words with a clear thesis that defends, challenges, or qualifies the claim that pop culture is making people smarter. A strong essay will contain a clear and identifiable thesis summarizing the position, which will be supported by reasoning, evidence, and consideration of counterarguments. Be sure to support your arguments with detailed and specific evidence from your own experience, the essay, or historical knowledge. If you defend the claim, do not merely repeat Gladwell’s arguments and evidence; you need to provide supplementary arguments and evidence.
Scorers of your essay will be primarily looking for evidence that you can:

  • briefly yet clearly summarize Gladwell's argument;

  • clearly state a position on Gladwell’s claim that pop culture is making people smarter;

  • use the essay to argue for your position, providing solid evidence and reasoning to support your points;

  • consider counterarguments or possible objections as a means of strengthening your argument and revealing the advantages of your position;

  • structure the essay logically and coherently, while avoiding a mechanical 5-paragraph essay structure.

  • write clear, correct, engaging prose.

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