Feeding the Beast

(Guest post by a Dual Credit at Home student!)

Okay, so your Dual Credit at Home study plan is bringing up the College Composition exam and you’re nervous. Most people taking CLEP tests express reservations about the College Composition exam. There, that was my practice for understatement of the year. Honestly, there seems to be a rumor going around that this particular CLEP exam enjoys eating students or something. In fact, the only exam that people seem to fear more is the Oral Examination, which everybody knows is a carnivorous monster.

There seems to be something that many people innately fear about essays. Perhaps the problem is that instead of checking boxes stoically, students are instead required to express their thoughts and opinions, and then allow that part of them to be graded and assessed by a removed third party. Many people don’t like that type of personal criticism, and allow that to influence their feelings on the subject. Home school students especially are more rarely to be graded by strangers.

But the removed third party isn’t grading your thoughts or opinions. In fact, they could completely disagree with your response to the prompt. They could believe that you are advocating drowning puppies and shaving kittens and still give you a good grade. This is because there is no right answer to the prompt. As far as right and wrong go, the only wrong answer is not answering the prompt at all.

(Okay, so technically this means that I was wrong. If the prompt had nothing to do with drowning puppies and shaving kittens, then you wouldn’t get a good grade. You also wouldn’t be a very good person and that should concern you more.)

But what about grammar you say? And punctuation? And a properly written thesis? And don’t forget about incorporating assonance and… what’s that word… you know, the really long word that you’ve never learned how to pronounce?

The word is onomatopoeia, and calm down. Unless you plan on being an English major then you can forget about both assonance and onomatopoeia. If you are planning on being an English major then you are most likely already yearning to pour your feelings onto the page with the feverish abandon of the transformed. (Sorry, it’s just way too easy to pick on you guys!).

Sure, grammar, punctuation, and a properly written thesis are all important things. But they come with practice. There, I said it. The dreaded ‘P word.” Because seriously guys, it’s not that hard to accept. That is the only way that you are going to pass. Accept it and move on.

So here are some practice tips.

  • Do NOT ignore the timed nature of the exam. Find a book of prompts, and do two or three a day. Set the timer, read the prompt, and determine how long you need to outline and plan before you begin writing. Then stay within those parameters.
  • Work the prompt from both directions. I wasn’t joking when I said there is no wrong answer. They won’t give you a prompt that can’t be worked from either side, and it helps to feel confident that you can pick either one.
  • Keep writing even when you think you aren’t getting anywhere. You don’t feel the magic in your essay? Keep writing. You think they aren’t going to agree? Keep writing. Your hand is cramping up and you think it might fall
  • Do the essays that are assigned by Dual Credit at Home, because practice, remember?
  • Flights of fancy are not required. You don’t have to be Shakespeare to answer a question and explain how you reached that opinion.

The more you practice you’ll begin to see that you are getting comfortable with the process, and it’s quite possible you’ll even start to like writing!

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Becky Muldrow & the Dual Credit at Home Team
Becky Muldrow & the Dual Credit at Home Team

Hi there! I'm Becky Muldrow, wife to my high school sweetheart, Gene, and mom to 10 great kids! I love spending my days homeschooling the last 4 of them and sharing (on my website and at homeschool conferences) how we do high school differently - by replacing it with college.