HUNTER COLLEGE HIGH SCHOOL EXAM: HOW TO APPROACH THE ESSAY
Note: These are just TIPS! Not a comprehensive understanding. You need to work on at least 2 dozen practice essays hand-graded by Kweller Prep tutors prior to taking the Hunter College High School Entrance Exam
Format – The essay should be 4-5 paragraphs long; should include: An introduction, 2/3 paragraphs, and a conclusion. REMEMBER THIS ESSAY IS ABOUT YOU, use “I” instead of you.
Spatial Awareness – DO NOT cram words closely together, DO NOT space out words too much, DO NOT write too little (leaving many blank lines on the essay), DO NOT write too much (going past the number of line numbers allotted for the essay). Both QUANTITY & QUALITY are equally important for the essay.
Vocabulary – Use higher-level vocabulary but only if the vocabulary word makes sense to use in the context. Don’t just use a “big” word for the sake of using a “big” word. You need to actually make sure the word fits into the sentence. Only use higher-level vocabulary that you know the definition of. SPELL THE WORDS PROPERLY. Using vocabulary improperly or awkwardly (not the right vocabulary word for the content of the essay) will hurt your essay grade, not help it.
Contractions – Contractions are shortening words such as cannot to can’t. DO NOT use them because they are too informal. Again stay away from “can’t”; instead use cannot. I don't care that you learned them for months at school. Stop using them on your Hunter essays!
Sensory Details – Use adjectives/adverbs to describe parts of your essay. The SHOW DON’T TELL method is key. You need to be descriptive in order to keep the reader engaged, make the reader feel like they are in the essay, experiencing its content rather then just reading it. Know at least 100 adjectives and be comfortable incorporating them into your essay. Hunter is a HUMANITIES based school. The graders spend a lot of time grading the essay.
Figurative Language – Use similes, metaphors, and idioms in your writing to make it jump out at the reader. There are 3,000 students taking the exam, and 3,000 essays that teachers may potentially be reading, so make yours stand out from the competition.
Punctuation – DO NOT use exclamation points or quotation marks. This is a personal essay-- not a play or story, which means NO DIALOUGUE. Kids should especially stay away from drawing any sort of hearts or designs or triple exclamation marks to prove a point (!!!) Watch for semi-colons and commas. Commas are used to separate 2 related phrases that CANNOT stand-alone if the comma was replaced with a period. Semi-colons are used to separate 2 related phrases that COULD stand-alone if the semi-colon was replaced with a period. A semi colon (;) is stronger than a comma (,) but weaker than a period.
Proof Read – You should be able to reread your essay at least twice during the exam. Look out for awkward, unclear sentences, grammar problems, structure and if or not you have followed the tips given to you by Kweller Prep.
Intro: This should take up 3-6 sentences
-Must generalize the topic to a universal audience
-Must answer the essay prompt question
-Must NOT let the reader realize that they are reading an essay
-Must address the supporting paragraph topics without listing them
Body Paragraphs: Each one should be 7-10 sentences
-Must stay on one SUPPORTING topic; if you start another topic then create a new paragraph
-Must refer back to the essay prompt question
-Must use the SHOW DON’T TELL method
-Use figurative language
-Have a clear flow of ideas; Transitions should be smooth from one paragraph to another. Should have topic sentences and a concluding sentence, summing up the paragraph while relating back to the essay topic. DO NOT use traditional transitions too much, i.e. for example, in conclusion, one reason is, another reason…
-DO NOT be repetitive
-Must summarize the introduction WITHOUT repeating the same sentences/phrases used in the introduction
-Must answer the essay prompt question again
-Must NOT let the reader realize that this is an essay and that this is the end of it without saying it outright, i.e. DO NOT use the phrase: in conclusion
-Concluding sentence must clearly indicate that this is the end of the essay without saying it outright, i.e. All in all Christmas is my favorite holiday and I cannot wait for next Christmas to come quickly enough.