FCAT Writing Strategies

Practice writing FCAT essays before the day of the test.

The Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT) tests writing in the fourth, eighth and tenth grades. For each grade level, a different type of essay is required: Fourth-graders must write a narrative, eighth-graders must pen an expository essay and tenth-graders must compose a persuasive essay. Focus, grammar, mechanics and detail are assessed in all three, but when you're preparing for the FCAT, it is important to keep the essay type in mind. While the exact essay prompts may ultimately be different from year to year, the FCAT Anchor Sets provide a valuable study tool. The best way to prepare for the test to write practice essays.

1 Grade 4, Narrative

In fourth grade, students are asked to write a narrative. An effective written response should demonstrate mastery of language and grammar at a fourth-grade level. The prompt, according to the 2010 Anchor Set, is to tell a story about a day students made lunch for the school. In preparing for this test, a prospective student needs to know how to tell a complete story with a tight sense of focus and a descriptive attention to detail. Essay graders are also looking for organizational patterns.

2 Grade 8, Expository

According to the FCAT's 2010 Grade 8 Anchor Set, students are asked to explain how life has changed with the transition from elementary to middle school. Effective essays should create and maintain a sense of focus. The use of effective paragraph transitions should enhance an apparent organizational strategy. Using varied sentence structure also reflects well on the writer. Writers should avoid cliches and well-worn language while aiming for "freshness of expression." All supporting detail should be accurate and illustrative.

3 Grade 10, Persuasive

The 2010 prompt asks students to argue whether a school's library should provide Internet access. Essay traits common to the Grade 4 and Grade 8 essays apply here. A successful essay should demonstrate a sense of focus, an organizational pattern, and a descriptive sense of detail. Along with a sense of focus, essay evaluators will be looking for ideas presented in a logical progression, as well as effective introductory and concluding paragraphs. "Freshness of expression" and "mature command of language" are also listed in the Grade 10 Anchor Set as highly positive qualities.

Richard Ristow has written for journals, newspapers and websites since 2002. His work has appeared in "2009 Nebula Showcase" and elsewhere. He is a winner of the Science Fiction Poetry Association's Rhysling Award and he edits poetry for Belfire Press. He also holds a Master of Fine Arts from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington and has managed an automotive department at WalMart.