Approach to Writing an Argumentative Piece in Under 15 Minutes for Entrance Exams

Writing an essay or writing piece in exam conditions almost always has a time constraints.  The time constraints for the following exams are:

  • Victorian Selective School (Melbourne High, MacRob, Suzanne Cory and Nossal) is 15 minutes for each writing piece – there are 2 types being creative and persuasive.
  • NSW Selective High School Placement Test has a 20 minute writing test.
  • SEALP and other scholarship tests for Year 6 are usually 20 minutes long (Edutest and ACER).
  • Victoria Police – 1 writing task taking 40 minutes.
  • NSW Police Force – 1 extended writing task taking 45 minutes

An approach to writing a top argumentative/persuasive essay in a limited time frame rests with good preparation and excellent exam technique.

The following crucial tips are taken from my book How to Write an Argumentative Piece in Under 20 Minutes and How to Write an Argumentative Piece in Under 15 Minutes (published in 2011).

The book has been used by students, parents, teachers and other tutors alike.  The book is so popular that even other tuition centres are trying to release similar copies. But, make sure you get the original copy (published 2011) from my website for just $12.99.

Quite simply an approach to writing a good argumentative/persuasive writing piece is a series of 5 steps which are:

Step 1 – Preparation

When? Before the exam.  Why? Build your writing skills and confidence for the exam.  For courses, go here.

The below steps are things to be done in the exam.  The time frame provided is for a 20 minute exam but I’ve also put them in fractional form.

Step 2 – Read and Understand the Questions (1 minute - 1/20)

Why? It will allow you to correctly plan and write to answer the question.  For example, does the question explicitly ask you:

  • Your opinion on one side?  If it does, then don’t sit on the fence!
  • Evaluate ‘global laws on whaling’?  Then look at things from a global perspective, not a local perspective.

Step 3 – Planning (3 minutes - 3/20)

Why? It sets the structure and direction of your writing piece.  Know which way you’re arguing and have your piece clearly mapped out.  Think about the framework or skeleton of a house.  The planning is the map so that the builders can use to make the house.

Step 4 – Writing (12 minutes - 6/10)

Remember to have a solid structure with:

  • Introduction - this should be 1 sentence to introduce the topic and then signposting (3 minutes),
  • Middle  - 2 for arguments and 1 against including a reorientation (8 minutes), and
  • End - conclusion (1 minute).

Have you included key points and elaborated on them?  My rule of thumb is to include 2 for arguments and 1 against including a reorientation in the middle.  Finally, you have your conclusion which can be written in 1 minute that just summarises.  Remember to makes sure that there is NO new information in your conclusion.

Step 5 – Review (4 minutes, 1/5)

Why? To fix up any minor mistakes and polish up your writing and if required, choosing a title that encompasses your whole writing piece.

To practice with free writing prompts alongside a countdown timer and to check out what other people have writing for these exams - head over to


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