Upper Level Essay
The SSAT Upper Level Essay requires students to write either a short story or an essay in twenty-five minutes. The essay topics tend to be broad and varied. In some cases, you will be asked to take a side on an issue (in other words, you will be asked to write a persuasive essay). In some cases, you will be asked to offer a description or show cause and effect (in other words, you will be asked to write an expository essay). Two sentences will be provided, and students are asked to select the sentence they find most interesting and use it as the basis for an essay or a story.
- Make sure your writing appropriately responds to the topic. Does the essay topic require you to take a position on an issue (persuasive essay)? Does it ask you to show cause and effect (expository essay)? Does the topic ask you describe or characterize some subject or topic (expository essay)? Are you being asked to tell a story (creative writing)?
- If you are writing an essay, make sure you have a clear introductory paragraph, two or three body paragraphs, and a concluding paragraph. If you are writing a story, make sure your short story has a clear beginning, middle, and end.
- Budget your time! Make sure to save time at the end to edit for spelling, grammar, and punctuation.
Creative Writing Tips:
- Decide what point of view you will use and stick to it! Sometimes the point of view is established by the sentence provided:
- First person uses “I”: “I couldn’t believe my eyes.”
- Third person uses “he”, “she”, “it”, “they”: “He couldn’t believe his eyes.”
- Decide what tense you will use for your story and stick to it! Sometimes the tense is established by the sentence provided:
- Past tense: I saw, I went, I did.
- Present tense (rarer and more difficult to maintain): I see, I go, I do.
- Establish the setting of your story using vivid description involving sight, smell, taste, touch, and sound.
- In your first paragraph, establish the conflict.
- Conflict is the problem, difficulty, or challenge facing the main character.
- Every story should have a clear beginning, middle, and end (in other words, rising action, climax, falling action, and conclusion).
Persuasive Essay Tips:
- Persuasive writing requires you to argue for or against an idea; to take a side on an issue; to urge the reader to behave a certain way; or to urge the reader to agree to a certain position on an issue.
- Take a side. Don’t sit on the fence.
- Use concrete examples from history, literature, current events, or personal experience to support your position.
Right before you conclude your essay, consider writing a counterargument:
- In a counterargument, you present an opposing view and then show why it is not as strong as the view you have been presenting.
- Imagine an intelligent skeptic reading your essay.
- If you are asked to define something, provide your definition or explanation and then support your definition or explanation with details or examples from history, literature, current events, or personal experience.
- If you are asked to offer a description, think of two or three important qualities that you would like to discuss.
- Make sure you choose a subject about which you are familiar.
- Be as detailed as possible.
- When writing to establish cause and effect, establish the cause, define the effects, and offer solutions or explanations for why this is so.
You have twenty-five minutes to complete each writing sample. Here's a list of essay topics with which to practice:
Schools would like to get to know you better through an essay or story using one of the two topics below. Please select a topic you find most interesting and fill in the circle next to the topic you choose.
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Writing Sample Essays
Write a unified, coherent essay about the increasing presence of intelligent machines. In your essay, be sure to:
- clearly state your own perspective on the issue and analyze the relationship between your perspective and at least one other perspective
- develop and support your ideas with reasoning and examples
- organize your ideas clearly and logically
- communicate your ideas effectively in standard written English
Your perspective may be in full agreement with any of those given, in partial agreement, or completely different.
Get more information about preparing for the writing test.