Answering OSSLT Short Writing Tasks, Part 1

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Each of the six short response questions listed in this post requires a slightly different approach, but all answers should be written in a well-structured paragraph that includes a topic sentence, main idea, supporting details and a concluding sentence.

Read on to learn some of the key differences between the kinds short response questions that have appeared on tests from previous years.

1. Identify one skill that Eric uses to promote the skateboard park. Use specific details from the selection to support your answer. 

To answer this question, you need to identify a skill and show how Eric uses it to promote the skateboard park. The skill you identify is the main idea. Your explanation must include supporting details. The main idea and the supporting details come from the reading selection — state them clearly.

Although the question doesn’t tell you this directly, you also need to apply your own knowledge of what the word “promote” means. If you know this, then it is easier to find details in the selection that support your answer. So, for this kind of question, you need details from the text + your own knowledge of word meanings in order to provide a complete answer.

2. What is the best advice you have ever given to someone? Use specific details to explain your answer. 

You need to choose specific details directly from your own experience to answer this question. Begin by writing a sentence that states the best advice you’ve ever given someone. That’s your topic sentence with the main idea. Next, choose a couple of reasons (supporting details) that explain, prove or somehow elaborate on the main idea. Add a concluding sentence.

This question is similar to the kinds of questions posed for the opinion piece tasks on the OSSLT. This short response question indirectly asks your opinion (what’s the best advice you’ve given someone?) and requires you to explain why. Review the features of an opinion piece here, and find good examples here.

Next week, I’ll discuss some of the other short response questions that may appear on the OSSLT. Until then, here is something to keep in mind as you approach the short response questions.

TIP: When reading a question, pay special attention to the verbs. Words like identify, explain, use, provide, show and prove give you important clues about what you need to do to answer a question in full. I’ll talk more about this in a future post.

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