Below is a sample response to our TASC Informational Practice Essay. Review this response for an example of a high-scoring essay. This TASC sample essay follows the template that’s in our TASC Informational Essay Writing Guide. Below the example is a short commentary which explains why this is an effective essay and why it would receive a high score.
Student loan debt is an important concern to society today. One side believes that student loan debt is absolutely worth taking on. They describe the loans as a “necessity.” The other side believes that student loan debt is not entirely necessary to take on, and has stated that when it comes to the math of student loans, it “just doesn’t add up.” However, in order for today’s aspiring college students to have a successful college career, there is only one correct plan of action. The best plan to resolve this issue and provide balance is for students to only accept large loans when they know that they will be able to pay them back; because different jobs pay different salaries, loans can prevent career success later on, and mismanaging student loans can ruin credit.
The first step in our plan to only accept a loan if a student knows he or she can pay it back should be to analyze the potential salary earnings of that student. This is beneficial since various college majors have different starting salaries. One piece of evidence from the passage that supports this is the first author’s discussion of Ivy League schools- “Some schools… carry a high price tag, but also provide their graduates with high job placement rates, high earning potential, and a network of people to help them through their career.” If a student plans to attend Harvard Law School, for example, then taking on six-figures of debt may make sense. However, if a student is pursuing a field that does not have many high-paying jobs, then it may not make sense to accept a large loan. Students should consider what the average salary is for their major first.
Next, after considering earning-potential, a student should determine whether having the loan debt after school might negatively impact career success. In the first passage, Walker explains that debt should “be no more than 10 percent of a recent graduate’s gross monthly income” and should be offered under “transparent terms.” A student should take the salary number found in step one, and apply it to step two; 10% of that expected salary should be the maximum amount of a monthly loan payment after graduation. If the loan payment is not fixed, or it is more than 10%, then the student should reconsider taking the loan.
The third step a student should take in order to determine whether to accept a large student loan is to recognize its impact on their credit score. As the first passage indicates, a good credit score is “a shining track record should you apply for bigger expenditures, such as a car or a house.” If you don’t have a credit card that you are using and paying off each month, then taking on a student loan (assuming you can make the monthly payments found in step two), might be a responsible way of building up your credit rating. However, there is no point in taking on a loan ONLY to build up credit, so do not use this as your first consideration. There are other ways to pay for college, such as getting an off-campus job that might just “jump start on building your resume.”
In conclusion, by taking this three-step approach of evaluating your future salary potential, considering whether you can afford the monthly payment of your loan, and weighing whether building credit through loan debt is important to you, this plan will create a balanced perspective for the student. This plan will have appeal to people on both the pro-student loan and anti-student loan sides, and though each side may not ultimately be completely satisfied by a student’s decision, this plan is the best course of action because it will achieve the goal of allowing the individual to make an informed and appropriate decision about his or her financial future, only accepting a loan they know they can pay back.
The TASC Test Essay Scoring Rubric has a score range from 0–4. The essay score is then doubled to become part of the official Writing Test score. This essay would receive a score of 4, and a total of 8. It is a well written example of an Informational TASC essay.
The essay appropriately outlines the issues surrounding student loans, explaining the beliefs of each side. The author provides a clear focus, recommending that “students … only accept large loans when they know they will be able to pay them back.” This provides balance since the outcome could fall on either side of the issue. If a student can pay back the loan, then the loan is a good idea. If a student cannot pay back the loan, then the loan is a bad idea.
The passage is well-organized into 5 paragraphs, starting with an introduction, three supporting paragraphs with details from each passage, and a concluding paragraph. The passage is developed with three specific ideas: (1) salary earning potential, (2) monthly debt payment, and (3) credit. For each body paragraph, the author uses specific quotations from the passage that are relevant to each idea. The passage is balanced because it includes details from both passages and the author does not favor one side over the other.
Transition words and phrases are included that add cohesion to the essay as a whole (“The first step…”, “Next…”, “The third step…”, and “In conclusion…”). Topic sentences are clearly articulated. Furthermore, the language contains no grammatical or spelling errors and is free of cliché remarks. The author includes varied sentence structure and diction. Finally, the conclusion brings the topic to a close and reiterates how the author’s plan will lead to a student making an informed decision on the topic.
You should now be fully prepared for the TASC Informational Essay. To prepare for the Argumentative Essay go to TASC Essay Question. For the rest of our practice questions go to TASC Practice Test.
Wondering about the new SAT essay scoring rubric? We’ve got that, and more!
It’s a fact of academic life that you need to write essays. You’ve done it in high school and you’ll write even more in college. Unless you’re in a creative writing class – and sometimes even then – you’ll be given directions about the format and general topic of the essay, and how well you follow those directions counts in your grade. The same thing applies to the SAT essay. It’s optional, as you know, but we encourage you to write it for some really good reasons; see Should I take the New SAT Essay for more about those reasons.
While your high school and college essays are probably read and graded by the teacher or teaching assistant, your SAT essays are read and scored by professionals who are trained to assess the essay in terms of exactly what the SAT is looking for in a good essay. There’s nothing ambiguous about the scoring criteria; the SAT has it down to a science.
SAT readers/scorers are generally high school or college teachers with experience in reading and grading essays. They’re thoroughly trained, have to pass tests to qualify as SAT readers, and once certified, are expected to absolutely conform to the scoring rubric—no personal opinions, no comments—just a number score from the rubric. Two scorers read each essay and if their scores diverge too much, a third reader scores it as well. Each reader gives a score of 1-4 for each of three criteria, the two scores are added, and the student gets three essay scores ranging from 2-8, one for each criterion.
So what are the criteria that readers so rigidly follow?
New SAT Essay Scoring Criteria
- Demonstrates little or no comprehension of the source text
- Fails to show an understanding of the text’s central idea(s), and may include only details without reference to central idea(s)
- May contain numerous errors of fact and/or interpretation with regard to the text
- Makes little or no use of textual evidence
- Demonstrates some comprehension of the source text
- Shows an understanding of the text’s central idea(s) but not of important details
- May contain errors of fact and/or interpretation with regard to the text
- Makes limited and/or haphazard use of textual evidence
- Demonstrates effective comprehension of the source text
- Shows an understanding of the text’s central idea(s) and important details
- Is free of substantive errors of fact and interpretation with regard to the text
- Makes appropriate use of textual evidence
- Demonstrates thorough comprehension of the source text
- Shows an understanding of the text’s central idea(s) and most important details and how they interrelate
- Is free of errors of fact or interpretation with regard to the text
- Makes skillful use of textual evidence
- Demonstrates little or no cohesion and inadequate skill in the use and control of language
- May lack a clear central claim or controlling idea
- Lacks a recognizable introduction and conclusion; does not have a discernible progression of ideas
- Lacks variety in sentence structures; sentence structures may be repetitive; demonstrates general and vague word choice; word choice may be poor or inaccurate; may lack a formal style and objective tone
- Shows a weak control of the conventions of standard written English and may contain numerous errors that undermine the quality of writing
- Demonstrates little or no cohesion and limited skill in the use and control of language
- May lack a clear central claim or controlling idea or may deviate from the claim or idea
- May include an ineffective introduction and/or conclusion; may demonstrate some progression of ideas within paragraphs but not throughout
- Has limited variety in sentence structures; sentence structures may be repetitive; demonstrates general and vague word choice; word choice may be repetitive; may deviate noticeably from a formal style and objective tone
- Shows a limited control of the conventions of standard written English and contains errors that detract from the quality of writing and may impede understanding
- Is mostly cohesive and demonstrates effective use and control of language
- Includes a central claim or implicit controlling idea
- Includes an effective introduction and conclusion; demonstrates a clear progression of ideas both within paragraphs and throughout the essay
- Has variety in sentence structures; demonstrates some precise word choice; maintains a formal style and objective tone
- Shows a good control of the conventions of standards written English and is free of significant errors that detract from the quality of writing
- Is cohesive and demonstrates highly effective use and command of language
- Includes a precise central claim
- Includes a skillful introduction and conclusion; demonstrates a deliberate and highly effective progression of ideas both within paragraphs and throughout the essay
- Has a wide variety in sentence structures; demonstrates consistent use of precise word choice; maintains a formal style and objective tone
- Shows a strong command of the conventions of standards written English and is free or virtually free of errors
- Offers little or no analysis or ineffective analysis of the source text and demonstrates little to no understanding of the analytical task
- Identifies without explanation some aspects of the author’s use of evidence, reasoning, and/or stylistic and persuasive elements, and/or feature(s) of the student’s own choosing
- Numerous aspects of analysis are unwarranted based on the text
- Contains little or no support for claim(s) or point(s) made, or support is largely irrelevant
- May not focus on features of the text that are relevant to addressing the task
- Offers no discernible analysis (e.g., is largely or exclusively summary)
- Offers limited analysis of the source text and demonstrates only partial understanding of the analytical task
- Identifies and attempts to describe the author’s use of evidence, reasoning, and/or stylistic and persuasive elements, and/or feature(s) of the student’s own choosing, but merely asserts rather than explains their importance
- One or more aspects of analysis are unwarranted based on the text
- Contains little or no support for claim(s) or point(s) made
- May lack a clear focus on those features of the text that are most relevant to addressing the task
- Offers an effective analysis of the source text and demonstrates an understanding of the analytical task
- Competently evaluates the author’s use of evidence, reasoning, and/or stylistic and persuasive elements, and/or features of the student’s own choosing
- Contains relevant and sufficient support for claim(s) or point(s) made
- Focuses primarily on those features of the text that are most relevant to addressing the task
- Offers an insightful analysis of the source text and demonstrates a sophisticated understanding of the analytical task
- Offers a thorough, well-considered evaluation of the author’s use of evidence, reasoning, and/or stylistic and persuasive elements, and/or features of the student’s own choosing
- Contains relevant, sufficient, and strategically chosen support for claim(s) or point(s) made
- Focuses consistently on those features of the text that are most relevant to addressing the task
The essay components are Reading, Analysis, and Writing. Reading refers to how well you demonstrate understanding of the text; analysis covers how well you examine the structure and components of it, and writing, as you might expect, assesses your ability to write clear, correct, and cohesive prose.
There’s a lot of detail under each score, but note that for reading, the scores go from the highest, “thorough,” (4) to the lowest, “little or no comprehension” (1). In the middle are “some” and “effective,” scores of 3 and 4 respectively, and probably where most students score. More or less the same scale, with different words, also applies to analysis and writing. It’s worth reiterating that SAT readers are held exactly to this scale and the specific breakdown under each score.
Now here’s a question for you. How long do you think each reader is expected to spend on reading, assessing, and scoring the essay? The answer is a minute or two. What does that mean for you? You’ll have to know and follow directions, read the text with structure and the writer’s elements in mind, think clearly, and write strongly from the very beginning. That’s quite a challenge, but keep checking in this blog site and we’ll give you some really good tips about meeting the challenge and writing a essay with the winning score of 8-8-8.
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