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The 20 Minute Essay

Twenty minute essays are REHERSALS for timed writing tests. They help you
practice several needed skills:

 Analyze an essay prompt to determine what it requires you to do in


order to write an appropriate essay.
 Take a position on a subject, write a clear thesis statement
expressing your position, and generate specific and concrete
examples to defend your position (show, don’t tell, remember?).
 Plan and write under the pressure of a strict time limit. (If you can
write an effective essay in twenty minutes, think what you can do
when you have no time pressures!)

This is as easy as 1, 2, 3!

1. PLAN (for 5 minutes AT LEAST!)


a. Carefully study the wording of the question or statement.
Annotate it!
b. Break the question into its natural parts (use punctuation and
paragraphing to help you). What are the key words or phrases
that you need to respond to?
c. Take a position and STICK WITH IT even if other possibilities
come to mind.
d. Create a rough outline. Check the outline against the question.
Does it cover everything?
2. WRITE
a. State your thesis:
i. Take a stance (I agree…/I disagree with…”)
ii. Add a generalization or opinion (because…”)
b. Prove/defend/explain your thesis
i. Present specific, concrete examples
ii. Explain your examples and show their relationship to your
thesis.
3. PROOFREAD (last 2 minutes)

}
a. Sentence fragments
b. Run-on sentences
c. Subject-verb 95% of all student
agreement errors
d. Pronoun reference
e. Tense consistency

© Kathleen Dudden Rowlands 2007


HOLISTIC SCORING GUIDE
20 MINUTE ESSAYS

General Directions:
Reward the essays for what they do well. A poorly written essay should
earn a score no higher than a 3.

This score is for essays which provide an easily understood thesis


statement which directly relates to the assignment. The examples
selected to defend the thesis are well chosen, fully developed, and
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clearly connected to the thesis. The paper is well organized and
free of significant mechanical errors. The paper demonstrates a
strong command of language and style.
The four paper, like the five, has a clear thesis statement which is
appropriate for the assignment. The examples should be apt but
may not be a fully developed as those in the five paper. The
4 examples are clearly connected to the thesis. The four paper is
basically free of mechanical errors and is clearly written although it
may lack the freshness of language and stylistic vigor of a five
paper.
On the whole, these essays adequately fulfill the assignment. The
thesis statement is clear and the examples are appropriate. They
are clearly written. These essays have one or more of the following
weaknesses:
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 The examples are thin, either in number or in
development.
 The examples are not clearly connected to the thesis.
 The essay is superficial in its treatment of the question.
These essays have one or more of the following characteristics:
 They have no thesis statement.
 They provide no specific examples to defend the thesis
2 but instead attempt development through repeated
generalizations.
 One of the examples contradicts the thesis.
 Mechanical errors prevent easy comprehension.
This score is for essays that mention the subject briefly but fail to
1
develop it in any way.

© Kathleen Dudden Rowlands 2007


20 Minute Essay
Peer Evaluation Form

Component Evaluation Comments Score


1-5
Title
Engaging?
Introduction
Clear? Interesting?
Thesis statement
Clear? Interesting?
Connects to prompt?
Example
Clear? Concrete?
Specific? Appropriate
for thesis? Connected to
thesis?
Example
Clear? Concrete?
Specific? Appropriate
for thesis? Connected to
thesis?
Example
Clear? Concrete?
Specific? Appropriate
for thesis? Connected to
thesis?
Example
Clear? Concrete?
Specific? Appropriate
for thesis? Connected to
thesis?
Conclusion
Clear? Strong?
Connected to what
came before?

© Kathleen Dudden Rowlands 2007


20 Minute Essay

“Take chances, make mistakes. That’s how you grow.”


-Mary Tyler Moore

Defend or refute the truth of this statement, using your personal


experience, readings, study, or observations as the basis of your opinion.
Defend your position with clear, concrete examples and illustrations.

© Kathleen Dudden Rowlands 2007


20 Minute Essay

“Things do not change. We change.”


-Henry David Thoreau

Defend or refute the truth of this statement, using your personal


experience, readings, study, or observations as the basis of your opinion.
Defend your position with clear, concrete examples and illustrations.

© Kathleen Dudden Rowlands 2007


20 Minute Essay

“Only I can change my life. No one can do it for me.”


-Carol Burnett

Defend or refute the truth of this statement, using your personal


experience, readings, study, or observations as the basis of your opinion.
Defend your position with clear, concrete examples and illustrations.

© Kathleen Dudden Rowlands 2007


The 20 Minute Essay

“A human being can alter his life by altering his mind.”


-William James

Defend or refute the truth of this statement, using your personal


experience, readings, study, or observations as the basis of your opinion.
Defend your position with clear, concrete examples and illustrations.

© Kathleen Dudden Rowlands 2007


The 20 Minute Essay

“Fear always springs from ignorance.”


-Emerson

Defend or refute the truth of this statement, using your personal


experience, readings, study, or observations as the basis of your opinion.
Defend your position with clear, concrete examples and illustrations.

© Kathleen Dudden Rowlands 2007


20 Minute Essay

The public will believe anything so long as it is not founded in truth.”


-Edith Sitwell

Defend or refute the truth of this statement, using your personal


experience, readings, study, or observations as the basis of your opinion.
Defend your position with clear, concrete examples and illustrations.

© Kathleen Dudden Rowlands 2007


20 Minute Essay

“The impossible is often the untried.”


-Jim Goodwin

Defend or refute the truth of this statement, using your personal


experience, readings, study, or observations as the basis of your opinion.
Defend your position with clear, concrete examples and illustrations.

© Kathleen Dudden Rowlands 2007