The Praxis Core Writing Exam has two essay prompts at the end, after the 44 multiple choice questions on the assessment. In the first of these two essays, you’ll be asked to express a personal opinion on an important social issue. A possible Core Writing Argument Essay prompt might look like this:
Read the opinion stated below:
“Motor vehicles are one of the main causes of pollution and climate change. To address this problem, governments should work to regulate automotive emissions. World leaders should also subsidize public transportation to that people will drive less.”
Discuss the extent to which you agree or disagree with this opinion. Support your views with specific reasons and opinions from your own experiences, observations, or reading.
Your answer to a prompt such as this one will be graded on a scale of 1 to 6, with 6 being the best score and 1 being the worst. With any luck (or really with any skill), you won’t have to worry about getting a 1. But you’ll need to rise to a number of challenges in order to get a six.
Challenge # 1: Forming an opinion
The Praxis chooses Argument Essay topics that many people have strong opinions on. But you may or may not have a strong opinion on the topic you’re presented with. Looking at the example above, perhaps the issue of climate change and car emissions is one you’re familiar with, but not especially passionate about. You may even feel underinformed on the issue. This is perfectly understandable—not everyone is a climate change expert!
Or perhaps you may normally have some definite feelings about the issue, but draw a blank when you try to tap into your personal feelings on the test. This is understandable too; under the pressure of a timed teacher certification exam, your feelings on social issues may be the last thing on your mind.
It’s important to understand that your true personal opinion doesn’t actually matter to the Praxis scorer. What matters is that you can take a position and defend it in writing, using a well-constructed evidence-based argument. The position you take doesn’t have to be your true position, and you don’t even need to have an opinion in “real life.” You just need to choose a position and make a case for it. The “right” opinion is whichever one you think will be the easiest to write an essay on.
Also bear in mind that the makers of the Praxis Core don’t expect you to be highly educated on the issues. In fact, because this isn’t a research-based essay with external sources, it’s perfectly OK to just use common knowledge—things about the issue that anyone might know—in your argument.
Challenge # 2: Constructing the argument
According to pages 29-36 of the official free study companion for Praxis Core Writing, a 6-point argumentative essay displays a number of important qualities.
The position you take should be stated very clearly. You don’t want your readers—the Praxis Core test scorers—to have any doubts about your position you’re taking on the issue. For clarity, it’s best to present your statement early on, ideally within the first paragraph. The longer someone has to read your essay before they understand your point of view, the less clear your thesis will seem to be.
To get a top score, be sure to also state the supporting details for your thesis strategically. Choose evidence that supports your argument, and supports it completely. Also make sure that all of your key ideas and supporting evidence unfold logically. Your ideas should appear in an order that’s easy to understand, with smooth transitions from one idea to the next.
Challenge #3: Following the conventions of academic writing
Finally, Core Writing test-takers must demonstrate fluent use of written language in their essays. Sentences should show variety in terms of grammar structures and word choice. Awkward wording, poor parallel structure, and errors in grammar and mechanics should also be kept to a minimum.
Having to express an opinion about an important issue can seem daunting. Even in a relaxed conversation with friends, many people feel put-on-the-spot if they’re asked to explain how they feel about some sort of contentious social issue. But you really don’t need to feel anxious about this task. It’s not necessary to sound like a brilliant political pundit or a learned scholar. You just need to create an essay that’s well written and supports your stated opinion in a way that seems complete and logical.