How to Ace Written Expression in Scholarship Tests in 2020 & 2021

Private school scholarship testing season generally starts from February to April and in scholarship tests, written expression tests how well your child can write:

  • based on a specific genre - usually persuasive/argumentative writing or creative/narratives),
  • in a very short time frame - usually 20-25 minutes for Year 7 scholarships) and,
  • to a specific prompt – you child may get an image or a phrase where they take inspiration from and have to craft a story around.

While there are multiple exam setting bodies such as ACER, Edutest and Academic Assessment Services, an excellent writing piece will always have great structure, excellent expression and relate to the prompt.

How to ace written expression in your child’s scholarship test?

Here are 3 critical things your child should do:

ACE WRITTEN EXPRESSION TIP #1: Gain clarity in your writing piece and follow your genre’s structure.

Often when I rank and give feedback to essays, the high scoring essays follow a clear structure. For a persuasive writing piece, it’s generally:

  • Introduction (with signposting),
  • First argument
  • Second argument
  • Counter-argument + reorientation
  • Conclusion

For a creative writing piece, it’s a clear plot and I can safely say in one sentence what the story is about and how it made me feel. Some creative writing pieces have too many events without any clear plot line and some have disjointed plot lines that don’t link up together.

ACE WRITTEN EXPRESSION TIP #2: Write according to the prompt.

A 2016 written expression prompt in an exam featured an image of a dripping tap with instructions that requested a creative writing piece. Assume that:

  • Student 1 writes a persuasive writing piece about the conversation of water and why its important.
  • Student 2 writes a story about a boy that had an argument at school and then at home, he realized that the tap had run out of water and that topped his ‘bad day’.
  • Student 3 writes a story about a girl discovering a magical tap

Student 1 didn’t write a creative piece. Student 2 wrote a story about an argument, the dripping tap was only an ‘accessory’ to the main story of an argument. Student 3 wrote a story that was likely to revolve around the tap.

Student 3’s story scored well because it related to the prompt and was a creative piece. This particular student ended up getting an offer into her preferred school!

ACE WRITTEN EXPRESSION TIP #3: “Show” not “Tell” in Narrative or Creative Writing Pieces

If you’ve been crawling the blogs about creative writing, you’ll see this a lot. “Showing” not “telling” is really the difference between a creative piece that’s average and one that stands out.

Here’s are two examples:

I am happy because it’s 2021 - This is a telling sentence because it tells you I’m happy because well… it’s 2021.

My eyes lit up at the sight of dazzling fireworks lighting up the night sky and I grinned from ear to ear as the start of the New Year began - This doesn’t tell you I’m happy but from what you read, you can understand that I’m happy. I show you I’m happy from “eyes lit up” and “grinned from ear to ear”.

How can your child prepare for their written expression scholarship test?

Assuming your child is getting A+ for grammar and spelling and can construct clear sentences, preparation for the written expression part of a scholarship test consists of:

  • Practicing on writing prompts,
  • Fixing up areas in their writing through feedback or self-review (e.g. doing many version and improving each version),
  • Once a high-quality writing piece can be produced with excellent ordering, expression and relationship to the prompt, then it’s a matter of more practice with focus on the time frame.

The easier thing you could do is join our online writing and reading classes or book 1-1 time to get personalised support with an ATAR 99+ tutor.

Next: Scholarship & Selective School Written Expression Examples (Plus 5 Steps to Get Your Writing to this Standard)


Giang August 26, 2018

What is signposting?

Vi from August 27, 2018

"Signposting" is essentially putting down the arguments you're going to use in your introduction. It's used to show the upcoming arguments to the reader. You can learn more about persuasive writing and signposting through our writing clubs:

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