Remember yesterday when I said that only one essay scored a six on the Blogger SAT Challenge? I’m a little embarrassed to admit that I wrote it.
I think it’s a pretty good essay, but it is a bit suspicious that the person who designed the study just happened to get the highest score (by the way, it wasn’t a perfect score: the first grader gave me a 6 but the second grader gave me a 5). I can honestly say, however, that I didn’t cheat. My plan was to write my essay as soon as I picked the question, so that I didn’t have an advantage over people who saw it for the first time when they participated in the study. I wrote it in just 20 minutes, like everyone else. The graders were unaware of my essay’s identity while they were grading; my essay was presented in the same anonymous format as all the others. My one advantage was that I rejected two questions before I settled on this one — everyone else was forced to write on the question placed before them — and that may have been a significant advantage for me.
So how did I write this essay in 20 minutes? Despite the suggestion of several Slashdot commenters that the essayists didn’t have enough time to make an outline, I did take a couple minutes to write an outline before I started (yes, this counted as part of my 20 minutes). I simply thought of the best three examples I could come up with, then used them to decide whether to argue for or against the Booker T. Washington quote.
My introduction is nothing special, but it does do a couple things that other essays do not. First, it doesn’t assume that readers know what the question is — but it also doesn’t repeat the entire question verbatim. Second, it takes a strong, clear stand on the question.
The key for the body of the essay is that it not only gives specific examples, but also explains how they support the claim. There is a moderate effort to develop transitions between the examples, but I didn’t dwell on this; again, there wasn’t time.
If I had a couple more minutes, I would have written a better conclusion, but I felt it was more important to fully develop my last, best example. The example itself would serve as the conclusion for the essay. I’m guessing the lack of a conclusion is why the second grader gave me a 5.
I think there are several essays in the group that had a more sophisticated line of reasoning or a more original argument than mine. However, I also felt that there wasn’t enough time to fully develop such a complicated argument. In short, timed essays such as this, the direct approach usually works best. Does that penalize some “better” writers? Perhaps, but overall writing skill is not what is being tested here, timed writing is. I also think there were many essays that were cleverer than mine, either in their use of satire or humor. But again, those things weren’t being tested; taking a clear position and supporting it with evidence was.
I will discuss some of these other essays in another post later this week.