ELA Regents: Session One, Part A

On this part of the exam, you will be asked to write a basic expository essay based on a speech which will be read to you twice during the test session. You will be provided with space in the test booklet in which to take notes during the readings.

The speech will be read twice, and only twice, by an English teacher.
You
MAY NOT ask the reader to slow down or pause during the reading.
You
MAY NOT ask the reader to repeat, spell, or define any words.
You
MAY NOT interrupt the reading for any reason.
You
MAY NOT ask to read a copy of the speech for yourself.
You
MAY NOT ask for the speech to be read again if you arrive late.

Thus, your
notetaking skill becomes essential. You need to write down what you think is important, leave out what isn't, and get a sense not only of the details of the speech but also of its general purpose. The situation and task, as written in the test booklet, will give you a general idea of what the speech is about, but it's up to you to decide what the speaker's point is.

As mentioned, the test booklet will describe a "Situation" and "Your Task." The situation establishes a context for your essay (e.g., "Your school is hosting a film festival. The editor of your school newspaper has asked you to..."), while the task specifies what you are to write; usually a news article or something along those lines covering the contents of the speech.

In your
introduction, you need to establish a controlling idea (thesis) for your essay. Essentially, the controlling idea is whatever you have determined to be the main point of the speech. Remember that the purpose of every essay is to prove something, to support a contention or position, therefore you will need to have one here.

While you can refer to the speaker by name, and even refer to the speech directly, it's not a good idea to do that too often. And, as is the case with any essay, you
never want to refer to yourself:

I listened to a speech by former Pittsburgh Steelers coach Chuck Noll... NO!!!!!!!
In the speech, he said....  He also said..... He also said..... Then he said.... NO!!!!!

You certainly don't want to do either of those things. You can refer to the speaker and/or the speech in your introduction, as you establish your controlling idea, but you should address the speaker's points directly in your body paragraphs, rather than attributing every fact to the speaker or the speech.

Once you establish the main point of the speech in your introduction, your
discussion paragraphs should each provide specific points from the speech that support the controlling idea. Try to group these points together; similar information should go in the same paragraph. Make sure, though, at the end of each paragraph, that you find a way to relate the information in that paragraph to your controlling idea.

One thing that you
absolutely must NOT do is simply dump your notes onto the page in sentence form. When you look at your notes after the speech is read, you are likely to find a random, disorganized list of words and phrases. Before you write your essay, you must first carefully organize this information into categories; in other words, put the information that goes together, together. A graphic organizer, where you draw boxes on the page and fill them with similar information, is one way to do this. Each box will then become a paragraph in the discussion portion of your essay. You'll probably need at least two body paragraphs for this task.

Your
conclusion should sum up the essay and try to relate the information, and the controlling idea, to the context of the "Situation" described in the test booklet.

Avoid injecting your own opinions or impressions into this essay. What
you think about the topic is irrelevant. Your task is to report on the contents of the speech, nothing more. Keep it simple and straightforward. Accordingly, it's essential that you get your facts straight; that the information in your essay is relevant and accurate.

See also General Guidelines for Essay Writing for additional help on this task.

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