Friday, March 30, 2018

What do I do with the sample writing found on this blog?

This blog contains a number of sample pieces of writing for a variety of exams because throughout the years, I've seen that the writing section of English language assessment examinations is most likely the area candidates, regardless of age, find the most daunting. Let's be honest -- many students hate writing assignments given as homework, so writing under exam conditions with the image of a scrupulous marker hovering in their mind is not what I'd call their cup of tea.

Hence the sample essays, letters, reports, proposals and the like that have been uploaded. Exam candidates need to read something someone else has written to get ideas, and not just get back a marked assignment of their own with a few comments interspersed here and there among the monstrous red ink corrections.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

What is Literature and why is it a science?

When I first started teaching students in preparation for university studies, I felt the need to explain to them why Literature isn't just a course you could do in the library, like some story-hour session with a kindergarten teacher. Many students had already seen what a Literature course was like in their mother tongue, and unfortunately next to no one saw the value of studying texts. That may have had to do with the way public and private school teachers had been directed to cover the subject matter since they were preparing students for nation-wide college admission examinations, but I'm digressing. 

Whatever the case may have been, I was surprised to find that none of the students I'd had, had been asked to ponder the question of why anyone would add Literature to the list of 'scientific' university courses offered and why, in spite of all contradictory opinions regarding its worth, someone would choose to major in this field of knowledge.

This last question was not part of the essay topic I used to give students as a first assignment (probably because, knowing what bright yet bored students in their late teens are capable of, I was dreading the idea

Tobias Wolff - Powder (Overview)

https://argutelegacy.blogspot.com/2018/03/tobias-wolff-powder.html

"Powder" is a short story intended to quickly state the obvious - a father's bond to his son is always a difficult thing to forge when parents aren't on good terms with each other.

The level of difficulty in achieving this increases as fathers aren't used to explicitly explaining to their sons that they are trying to forge a stronger bond at a particular moment in time to begin with. 

Accordingly, the complications the father in this particular story is required to overcome are not only the time constraints the mother has placed on the trip as a whole or the mistrust towards her husband she has allowed her son to bear witness to which the father feels he must compensate for, but also the disparity in character traits that father and son exhibit. 

Having read the story for the first time, students predominantly respond to the query "What was the story about?" either with "I didn't get it. Some father and son skiing" or "Something about there being lots of snow in the end and the roads were blocked." The fact of the matter is that "Powder" is somewhat hazy because the focus in the second half of the story is the powdery snow, its whiteness covering and wiping out as it were the raw features of our world as they are meant to be perceived by us mere mortals. By extension, when all engrained perceptions of life are dimmed -- or in this case whitened by the snow -- our experiences take on a different path, leading to better knowledge of self and of others. This is what the narrator in the story realizes as he remembers that night he spent driving on a road with no delineations or boundaries.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Cynthia Ozick - The Shawl (Overview)

https://argutelegacy.blogspot.com/2018/03/cynthia-ozick-shawl.html
Slightly over 2,000 words is all it takes to portray the bestiality of mankind. This is what Cynthia Ozick manages to achieve in her short story "The Shawl" set in World War II. 

Putting the enormity of the Holocaust into words is too difficult a task for any author and yet in this piece, Ozick accomplishes just that. The recipe? Simply three main characters, no convoluted dialogue, events based on detached or semi-detached descriptions either from the mother's point of view or a third person narrator who blends fact with stream of consciousness, and the predominance of short, circumspect, succinct sentences.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Grace Paley - Mother (Overview)


https://argutelegacy.blogspot.com/2018/03/grace-paley-mother-overview.html
When you read Paley's "Mother" for the first time, you think, "Okay, so why would anyone give this to students to read when there's so much more that can be squeezed out of other short pieces of writing?" Why not give them Lawrence or Joyce to help analyze 159 facets of human relationships? Slap them with some Chopin or Woolf, both of whom produced slightly longer short stories through which you'd be able to demonstrate how a short story works and get a nice discussion going about relationships to boot.

Meanwhile, after reading "Mother" for the first time, the main aspect that stays with readers is an overwhelming sensation of nostalgia and sadness bordering on melancholy. Whyever would any author write something this condensed to simply express despondency over a deceased parent? Can this story be that over-simplified?

And then you re-read Paley's piece (because you have to give students some information on it so they don't feel the academic hour was for nothing) and realize that there is much more to it than meets the eye: there is method and depth and forethought. To reach that overwhelming sensation, Paley effortlessly glides from one memory to the next, creating snapshots of life which -- pardon the cliché -- speak louder than words, as is often the case with photos. As was the case with "The Cranes", a vignette is adeptly sketched.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Choosing a Course of Studies and University



I’m a high school graduate and I don’t know what career I want to follow or what university to go to




Many students reach that crucial stage in their lives when they have to decide what career path to follow, where to study and how to choose what’s best for them and their future. 

And they're stuck.

Even though they've done well in all their classes throughout high school, no particular subject has 'clicked' with them or they with it. In other words, they have absolutely no idea what career path they want to follow, what they'd like to study and where to go and study that thing they have absolutely no idea about yet.

Well, here’s a quick checklist to follow that ought to help you narrow down your options and set you on a path towards tertiary education.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Arturo Vivante - Can-Can (Overview)

https://argutelegacy.blogspot.com/2018/03/arturo-vivante-can-can-overview.html
Husband, wife, mistress. Your stock relationship fit for platitudinous movies, soap operas, and the romance series from Harlequin Enterprises (small aside: An Unexpected Amish Romance -- are they serious?). 


Arturo Vivante's "Can-Can" could have foundered in one of these genres, but being a short story, it gets to the point quickly enough and leaves so much to the reader's acumen that it is impossible as a reader to feel intellectually insulted by the tripe that would have naturally emerged had the story jumped ship to become a soap opera or longer romance novel.

No, this is no tripe. This goes to the heart of all human relationships and asks questions like "What

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

B2 Writing: The Basics

This overview gives you the basics to letter and essay writing primarily required for the Examination for the Certificate in Competency in English (ECCE) awarded by the University of Michigan but can, nonetheless, be used for writing at B2 level for other ESL assessments as well.


This blog post is a starting point to help teach candidates the tricks to passing a test at B2 level and a springboard for writing tasks at subsequent levels (C1 and C2). 

In any case, some of the pointers mentioned herein are so crucial to writing in an academic environment that if you grasp them, then you can transfer them onto any type of writing you may be asked to produce, no matter the level or context.


The first main area to cover has to do with general pointers:


  1. Learn to use set phrases from sample essays provided in self-study textbooks or found here (look under the B2 or ECCE labels or follow the link from the key words category under 'letter', 'essay' or 'writing' on the blog's home page)
    • examples of these could be 

Monday, March 19, 2018

B2 Sample Writing 3 (Letter - School Fund Raising Event)

https://argutelegacy.blogspot.com/2018/03/b2-sample-letter-school-fund.html





To get the most out of these sample essays and letters, please read "What do I do with the sample writing found on this blog?" before reading this blog entry.

The following letter is an example of how examination candidates could tackle the subject of planning a fund raiser. The sample has been modeled on the University of Michigan Examination for the Certificate of Competency in English (ECCE) Task 1 question of the Writing section available on page 110 of the Hellenic American Union's ECCE Practice Examinations book (Book 1).  

The rubric has informed candidates the one of the poorest countries in Africa, Mozambique, has been devastated by floods, with hundreds dead and thousands homeless and starving. The newspaper The City Times has set up a relief fund welcoming donations of money, food, clothes and medicine.

Candidates are to write a letter explaining how their school or workplace is planning to raise money for the newspaper's flood relief fund through fund raising events they have decided to organize.

The letter should begin with "Dear Editor".


If you haven't already done so, read this post B2 Writing: The Basics

Peter Meinke - The Cranes (Overview)

https://argutelegacy.blogspot.com/2018/03/peter-meinke-cranes.html
If there were a definitive checklist of prerequisites that need to be satisfied for a short story to be rightfully called a short story, then Peter Meinke's "The Cranes" would tick all the right boxes on that checklist.

His story is short, can be read in one sitting thus capturing the reader's full attention with details given to pique interest, foreshadow events leading to an overwhelming climax and leave readers with questions that need to be addressed. 

His story is as stately as the characters that inhabit it, be they human or faunal, progressing steadily, constructing a lifetime of conjugal experiences piecemeal in less than 1000 words -- the perfect vignette to kick off class discussions about death, suicide, dignity, love, loyalty, perseverance.


Sunday, March 18, 2018

Woody Allen - The Kugelmass Episode (Overview)

You either are a Woody Allen fan or you aren't. 

Or rather, you either are a Woody Allen fan or you have little sense of humor, don't see the value of sarcasm and satire or are too full of yourself to grasp how cathartic self-deprecation can be.

Woody Allen the Director has proffered a consistent outpouring of titles revolving around similar if not quasi-similar themes which time and again satisfy his fan base.

Woody Allen the Author of Short Stories has been upstaged by Woody Allen the Director, unfortunately eclipsed to a great extent by the public's preference for moving pictures over written texts, which is why I was much delighted to see his short story "The Kugelmass Episode" in a recent textbook assigned to 11th graders. Naturally, my next reaction was to lament those students who would read and not understand the references to Emma Bovary in the slightest, because let's face it, how many school curricula list Flaubert as compulsory reading?

But no more harping on this. Let's turn our sights on "The Kugelmass Episode" itself. Mr. Allen's work incorporates the absurd into reality, bringing the whole endeavor to a catastrophic end, leaving the reader with nothing but snippets of charred truths to ponder.

B2 Sample Writing 2 (Letter - Banning Smoking from Public Places)

https://argutelegacy.blogspot.com/2018/03/b2-sample-writing-1-letter-banning.html

To get the most out of these sample essays and letters, please read "What do I do with the sample writing found on this blog?" before reading this blog entry.



The following letter is an example of how examination candidates could tackle the subject of banning smoking in public places. The sample has been modeled on the University of Michigan Examination for the Certificate of Competency in English (ECCE) Task 1 question of the Writing section available on page 86 of the Hellenic American Union's ECCE Practice Examinations book (Book 1).  

The aim of the task is for candidates to write a letter to The City Times newspaper to express their opinion on the National Medical Association's (NMA) proposal to ban smoking in all public places. The information the rubric gives candidates is that:


  1. non-smokers who live with smokers face great dangers to their health (for example, serious respiratory problems)
  2. children whose parents smoke are at a higher risk of suffering from asthma, bronchitis and frequent colds 
  3. the public places the NMA proposes to ban smoking in includes parks and beaches

Candidates have been instructed to begin their letter with the words "Dear Editor".


If you haven't already done so, read this post B2 Writing: The Basics


B2 Sample Writing 1 (Letter - Teen Drunk Driving)

https://argutelegacy.blogspot.com/2018/03/b2-sample-wrting-1-letter-teen-drunk.html

To get the most out of these sample essays and letters, please read "What do I do with the sample writing found on this blog?" before reading this blog entry.

The following letter is an example of how examination candidates could tackle the subject of drunk driving among teenagers. The sample has been modeled on the University of Michigan Examination for the Certificate of Competency in English (ECCE) Task 1 question of the Writing section available on page 62 of the Hellenic American Union's ECCE Practice Examinations book (Book 1).  

The aim of the task is for candidates to write a letter to the editor of the The City Times to offer some solutions to the problem of young people driving under the influence of alcohol as a result of being more and more involved in accidents of this nature. Candidates have been instructed to begin their letter with the words "Dear Editor".


If you haven't already done so, read this post as well: B2 Writing: The Basics

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Shirley Jackson - Charles (Overview)

https://argutelegacy.blogspot.com/2018/03/shirley-jackson-charles.html
Shirley Jackson is a genius. She had many problems to deal with  throughout her life and it is possibly these very same problems that made her the writer of great stories, memorable stories.

Snubbed by her mother who wanted a slender, socialite, comme il faut daughter, she struggled with her own demons as well as those her community nourished in her. Instead of your average American of the day, Jackson married Stanley Edgar Hyman in 1940, an American Jew whom the FBI had been investigating in the late 1940s -1950s, suspecting him of being a Communist. In an era of antisemitism and fear of the Reds (cf. House Un-American Activities Committee and McCarthyism), Jackson managed to push all the wrong buttons in her New England community. She smoked and drank heavily, was interested in witchcraft and voodoo, and according to accounts, yelled at her children's teachers. Such an unconventional woman was unwelcome in a small provincial town with everything that this might entail. One day on her way home, schoolchildren threw rocks at her, which some believe to be the inspiration for her sublime short story "The Lottery".

Prescriptions of amphetamines for weight loss, barbiturates for her

Friday, March 16, 2018

Norma Fox Mazer - Tuesday of the Other June (Overview)


https://argutelegacy.blogspot.com/2018/03/norma-fox-mazer-tuesday-of-other-june.html
The short story "Tuesday of the Other June" written by Norma Fox Mazer has been included in high school syllabi around the world, mainly because of the relevance it bears to students and the academic environment as a whole. 


Teens who are instructed to read this story are told to do so in order to become aware of the difficulties they either experience or the pain they inflict on one another at that age. Ultimately, teachers hope that the messages this story conveys will sink in with their students and enable the latter to become more aware of each others' feelings, particularities and sensibilities, changing in this way their perception of their peers and their behavior towards them.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Literary Terminology List


The following is a list of terms used in Literature along with definitions. The list is by no means comprehensive.



C2 Sample Essay 16 (Technology & Human Interaction)

If you haven't already done so, before you read this sample essay please read

What do I do with the sample writing found on this blog?


Sample C2 level Essay

The following is a sample essay based on the Examination for the Certificate of Proficiency in English (ECPE) writing section. The question can be found on page 152 of the ECPE Book 1 Practice Examinations textbook published by the Hellenic American Union.








While technology has brought us many great advances, some people claim that it has made us less human. In your opinion, has the increased use of technology made people less able to interact?


C2 Sample Essay 15 (National Examinations)

If you haven't already done so, before you read this sample essay please read

What do I do with the sample writing found on this blog?


Sample C2 level Essay

The following is a sample essay based on the Examination for the Certificate of Proficiency in English (ECPE) writing section. The question can be found on page 152 of the ECPE Book 1 Practice Examinations textbook published by the Hellenic American Union.




 
National examinations at the end of high school force students to study very hard, but are they actually learning or just memorizing? Give your opinion about this practice and its outcome.

C2 Sample Essay 14 (The Internet)

If you haven't already done so, before you read this sample essay please read

What do I do with the sample writing found on this blog?


Sample C2 level Essay

The following is a sample essay based on the Examination for the Certificate of Proficiency in English (ECPE) writing section. The question can be found on page 132 of the ECPE Book 1 Practice Examinations textbook published by the Hellenic American Union.








The Internet has brought the entire world to our fingertips. Some people think it provides us with invaluable access to knowledge. Others think it brings more problems than it solves. What is your opinion? Give reasons and examples to support your views.



C2 Sample Essay 13 (Franchise Superstores)

If you haven't already done so, before you read this sample essay please read

What do I do with the sample writing found on this blog?


Sample C2 level Essay

The following is a sample essay based on the Examination for the Certificate of Proficiency in English (ECPE) writing section. The question can be found on page 132 of the ECPE Book 1 Practice Examinations textbook published by the Hellenic American Union.






Large franchise superstores are gradually replacing smaller stores (such as bookstores, music stores, etc.) in many countries. What are the advantages and disadvantages of the arrival of superstores?



C2 Sample Essay 12 (Body Piercing & Tattoos)

If you haven't already done so, before you read this sample essay please read

What do I do with the sample writing found on this blog?


Sample C2 level Essay

The following is a sample essay based on the Examination for the Certificate of Proficiency in English (ECPE) writing section. The question can be found on page 112 of the ECPE Book 1 Practice Examinations textbook published by the Hellenic American Union.









Some people regard tattoos and body piercing as an extreme form of fashion. Why do you think young people are prepared to damage their skin permanently in order to be fashionable? Do you think teenage rebelliousness or peer pressure plays a greater role? Discuss, giving examples.    



C2 Sample Essay 11 (Advertising & Children)

If you haven't already done so, before you read this sample essay please read

What do I do with the sample writing found on this blog?


Sample C2 level Essay

The following is a sample essay based on the Examination for the Certificate of Proficiency in English (ECPE) writing section. The question can be found on page 112 of the ECPE Book 1 Practice Examinations textbook published by the Hellenic American Union.









In most countries in the developed world there is concern over the amount of advertising aimed at children. Should this kind of advertising be regulated and if so, what measures should be implemented? Discuss, giving reasons for your answer.



C2 Sample Essay 10 (Energy Resources)

If you haven't already done so, before you read this sample essay please read

What do I do with the sample writing found on this blog?


Sample C2 level Essay

The following is a sample essay based on the Examination for the Certificate of Proficiency in English (ECPE) writing section. The question can be found on page 92 of the ECPE Book 1 Practice Examinations textbook published by the Hellenic American Union.







Governments are concerned about the depletion of the world’s energy resources, such as oil, gas and coal. How should governments deal with this problem, taking into consideration the needs of society and alternative energy resources?



C2 Sample Essay 9 (Senior Citizens)

If you haven't already done so, before you read this sample essay please read

What do I do with the sample writing found on this blog?


Sample C2 level Essay

The following is a sample essay based on the Examination for the Certificate of Proficiency in English (ECPE) writing section. The question can be found on page 92 of the ECPE Book 1 Practice Examinations textbook published by the Hellenic American Union.





The increasing proportion of senior citizens in developed countries is causing concern to governments and the public. What do you think governments could do to ensure that the older generation receives adequate medical care, financial security and social support?


C2 Sample Essay 8 (Parenting)

Writing at C2 level (Proficient User) on English language examinations is the same no matter the awarding body when it comes to writing essays. If you are a candidate giving an exam in English (IELTS, CPE, ECPE, CELP, LRN, ESB, TOEFL), make sure you read my earlier post What do I do with the sample writing found on this blog? to get the most out of the sample essays provided on Argute Legacy.  

  The topic of this essay is to discuss what the responsibilities of parenting are. If you are not taking an exam but need to discuss this topic, then read on and note down what you deem useful. If you intend to use this essay as part of an assignment, remember to paraphrase so as not to plagiarize.


The topic is similar to what candidates expect in any other C2-level examination in that examiners want to see a well-organized, coherent and cohesive discussion of the issue with arguments and examples written in approximately half an hour. Whether or not you agree with the viewpoint expressed, remember that what yields a higher score is the way a subject is argued, so if you see that you come up with more ideas for the side of the argument you disagree with during the brainstorming phase, it doesn't matter -- simply go ahead and plead that side of the argument.

For those who'd like to read more sample essays and useful essay-writing posts, click on the image below. 


https://argutelegacy.blogspot.com/search/label/writing

Monday, March 12, 2018

C2 Sample Essay 7 (Travelling overseas affects us)

If you haven't already done so, before you read this sample essay please read

What do I do with the sample writing found on this blog?


The following is a sample essay based on the Examination for the Certificate of Proficiency in English (ECPE) writing section. The question can be found on page 72 of the ECPE Book 1 Practice Examinations textbook published by the Hellenic American Union. 


Many people travel overseas to experience new cultures and learn about the places they visit. How do you think people’s lives are affected by their experience, in terms of their interests in international cuisine, music or history? You may use examples from visitors’ experiences in your own country or your own experiences traveling overseas.


C2 Sample Essay 6 (Genetic Engineering)

If you haven't already done so, before you read this sample essay please read

What do I do with the sample writing found on this blog?


Sample C2 level Essay
 

 The following is a sample essay based on the Examination for the Certificate of Proficiency in English (ECPE) writing section. The question can be found on page 52 of the ECPE Book 1 Practice Examinations textbook published by the Hellenic American Union.


In the future, genetic engineering may allow parents carrying congenital illnesses to produce healthy babies and for wealthy couples to “design” their children. Should doctors be permitted to interfere with the genetic makeup of infants, and if so, to what extent? Discuss, giving reasons to support your answer.



C2 Sample Essay 5 (Surveillance Cameras & Right to Privacy)

If you haven't already done so, before you read this sample essay please read

What do I do with the sample writing found on this blog?


Sample C2 level Essay

The following is a sample essay based on the Examination for the Certificate of Proficiency in English (ECPE) writing section. The question can be found on page 52 of the ECPE Book 1 Practice Examinations textbook published by the Hellenic American Union. 





Many countries have recently adopted the practice of placing surveillance cameras in the streets and other public areas in order to reduce crime. To what extent do you think this is effective and does it conflict with the public’s right to privacy? Discuss, supporting your reasoning with examples.



C2 Sample Essay 4 (Astrology & Psychic Phenomena)

If you haven't already done so, before you read this sample essay please read

What do I do with the sample writing found on this blog?

Sample C2 level Essay

The following is a sample essay based on the Examination for the Certificate of Proficiency in English (ECPE) writing section. The question can be found on page 32 of the ECPE Book 1 Practice Examinations textbook published by the Hellenic American Union. 





Astrology continues to be of great interest, particularly to young people. Why do you think psychic phenomena are so popular in a rapidly developing technological society?
         

C2 Sample Essay 3 (Technological Developments - TV, radio, internet)

If you haven't already done so, before you read this sample essay please read

What do I do with the sample writing found on this blog?


Sample C2 level Essay

The following is a sample essay based on the Examination for the Certificate of Proficiency in English (ECPE) writing section. The question can be found on page 32 of the ECPE Book 1 Practice Examinations textbook published by the Hellenic American Union.

Which of the following technological developments do you feel is of most benefit to society today: telephone, television or the internet? Compare, giving reasons for your choice.


C2 Sample Essay 2 (Waste Disposal)

If you haven't already done so, before you read this sample essay please read

What do I do with the sample writing found on this blog?


Sample C2 level Essay
 
The following is a sample essay based on the Examination for the Certificate of Proficiency in English (ECPE) writing section. The question can be found on page 12 of the ECPE Book 1 Practice Examinations textbook published by the Hellenic American Union. 



Most cities dispose of garbage in landfills, burying it in deep holes in the ground. Many environmentalists, however, oppose this procedure. What is your view? How should societies dispose of waste? Discuss, giving examples.



C2 Sample Essay 1 (Use of Human Embryos)

If you haven't already done so, before you read this sample essay please read

What do I do with the sample writing found on this blog?


Sample C2 level Essay

The following is a sample essay based on the Examination for the Certificate of Proficiency in English (ECPE) writing section. The question can be found on page 12 of the ECPE Book 1 Practice Examinations textbook published by the Hellenic American Union.




Should the use of human embryos be permitted in medical research aimed at curing life-threatening diseases, such as cancer and heart disease? Discuss, using examples to show how society would or would not benefit from this type of research.


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