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  • Timed Writing (Choose a Position)

    One of the most common questions types is to ask for your opinion with supporting reasons and examples. This type of timed essay is popular because it requires you to understand an idea and to use advanced grammar. In this section, you will learn strategies for choosing a position. Position is similar to the word opinion. The difference is opinion can sometimes be connected to your beliefs. Position is when you choose a side and support it. It does not always mean that you really agree.


    The first thing to remember is that there is no "wrong" opinion. Your teacher is not going to give you a  good grade your writing only if you choose the "correct" position. For example, there is no actual correct answer if someone asks you what your favorite movie is and why. This is why you should not use a lot of time choosing the position that is "best."

    One way to choose is to write about your first thought. It is often easiest to explain your first idea. Maybe you already have information to support that position, which is why it is so easy to think of when you read the question.

    Another option is to write about the position that is easiest to support. This does not mean to lie. It just means that if you do not have a strong personal belief about the question. Sometimes the best thing to do is to explain the opinion that you understand or can think of most clearly in that moment. For example, maybe you personally do not have strong feelings about transportation in Provo, so you choose to explain why we need more buses because it was the one you remember talking about in class.

    Make fast decisions and focus your time and energy on supporting your ideas. This will help you feel less stressed.

    Examples of Choosing a Position

    Prompt 1: What do you want to study in college? Why does that major interest you? 

    • My first thought is to write about studying business. I don't really know what I want to do after I study at the ELC, and there are many different majors I have thought about. I am going to start brainstorming and organizing my ideas about this topic so I can begin writing my paragraphs faster.

    Prompt 2: Describe a teacher who has had a significant impact on your life. Why did this teacher influence you?

    • I know my writing teacher is going to read my answer, and I am worried that he will be offended if I don't write about him. My first thought was to write about a teacher he might know, which makes me uncomfortable. I think it would be easiest for me to write about a teacher from elementary school. This answer is also true, but it was not my first thought.

    Can I use "I" in my response?

    The answer will be different for different assignments. Always ask your teacher or professor before your first essay for that class. You can sometimes know from reading the prompt. For example, if the question is Describe a teacher who has had a significant impact on your life, it would be very difficult to not use personal words like I and my. That question is asking for you to write about your own experience, so it is fine to use those words. However, sometimes the question is about general knowledge like Explain the water cycle. This topic is about a scientific process, so it should not use personal words or experiences to support the main idea. 

    Supporting Ideas

    You will not be able to include as many supporting details, examples, and explanations as in a drafted essay. You also have less time to edit your writing to make sure it is very clear.

    When you choose your suppporting ideas, make sure that they are the strongest points. You do not have the time or space to include anything unnecessary like a story. Be simple, but have a clear reason for each supporting sentence so that your points have an impact on the reader.

    Finally, read the complete prompt more than one time. Is there more than one question? Does it tell you how many words you should have in your answer? Use the prompt to develop your supporting ideas.


    Exercise 1: Timed Writing Discussion

    Discuss the prompt below with a partner. What position would you choose? What strategy did you use to quickly make that decision? Make a list of 2 topic sentences that could support each of your positions.

    Prompt: Which class do you think is most important for high school students: math or art? Explain why you chose your answer.

    Exercise 2: Timed Writing Practice

    You have 20 minutes to respond to this prompt. Your answer should be around 150 words. Make a quick decision and focus your time on supporting your ideas.

    Prompt: Do you prefer to work in a group or alone? Why did you choose that option? You can choose to write about examples from a job or school. 

    This content is provided to you freely by Ensign College.

    Access it online or download it at https://ensign.edtechbooks.org/foundations_c_writin/timed_writing_3.