30Writing in 30 minutes!

by Danny K. Howard, EAP Associate Director

It happens all the time. When you enter NIC... When you take TOEFL... When you take IELTS (a test for studying in the U.K.)... What happens? You have to write a short writing in 30 minutes! Your writing has a very big influence on your leveling and scores. Every student has to do this to enter NIC, so I was very surprised when I noticed I had not given any advice on this topic. Here is some advice to make a better writing in 30 minutes.

Step One: Read the topic & brainstorm it!

Time: Spend no more than 5 minutes!
Brainstorming was introduced to you in the March 15th “Getting an A in Writing” article. However, you only have about 5 minutes to read, understand and brainstorm the topic. Using a quick circle outline (3/15/05) is a good fast idea. You can also simply list ideas for writing. Here is an example of Listing:

Topic: Is it important for Japanese students to learn English?
Listing: Yes, it is!

English is the international language
Traveling abroad is easier
Better job opportunities
Make more friends
Learn more about your own language

After you do listing (or a circle outline), you can choose which ideas you want to use for the writing.
Listing: Yes, it is!

English is the international language
Traveling abroad is easier
Better job opportunities
Make more friends
Learn more about your own language

Step Two: Start writing!

Time: Spend at least 20 minutes doing this!
After 5 minutes, everyone’s pencil should be moving. If you are still thinking of ideas, you are moving too slowly. I recommend that you begin with a sentence that tells your opinion. This sentence is called a topic sentence. Next, use one of your ideas from the “listing” above as a supporting sentence. Then give an example of it. Repeat this at least 2 more times to make a good paragraph. Finish your paragraph with a concluding sentence. This simply retells the topic sentence using different words. Using the same topic, look at this example:

Topic: Is it important for Japanese students to learn English?

Step Three: Check your writing!

Time: 2-5 minutes
Use a little time at the end to stop and check for mistakes in your writing. You cannot use a dictionary for this, but do your best. The main grammar mistakes to look for are:
Subject and verb agreement      (example John are      John is)
Spelling mistakes      (Engrish      English)
Articles                   (I went to store.      I went to the store.)
Capitalization                         (I visited ireland.      I visited Ireland.)

Some students know how to write essays, and that is OK as well. But it is too difficult to teach how to write an essay as a study tip. This study tip is so important because a student with good writing can get even higher scores on the entrance exam! We are always impressed by students who follow good study tips for writing. Good luck and practice this on your own, too!