Practice the WSA - Getting Started
To practice the WSA, you will need the following:
- Pencil. You will be able to take two pencils or pens to your WSA session.
- Paper. When you take the WSA, you will be given 3 sheets of 8.5" by 11" lined paper for each of the two
tasks - two pages for writing, and a third page for brainstorming and organizing.
- Timer. When you take the WSA, you will be given 90 minutes to complete the two tasks. Allow about two
hours of time in which to go through this workshop. Download an On-Line Stop-Watch.
- Persuasion Task : You will be asked to persuade a particular reader of your point of view or
recommended action. Your writing should be appropriate for the writer, reader, and situation.
- Position Task : You will be asked to think critically about a given statement and write a unified essay
discussing why you accept, reject, or qualify it. For the Position task, you are addressing a general
audience. Simple, concise, compelling language usually works best for this audience.
You will be able to take two pencils or pens to your WSA session.
Tips and Strategies
- Read the question and directions fully and carefully.
- Take some time to brainstorm, plan and outline a response before you begin to write.
- Take care to organize your ideas and develop them fully, but leave time to reread your response, check it
against the question, and make revisions.
- There is no right or wrong answer, and you don’t need to have any specific knowledge, but you can make
up information if necessary and use examples from your own experience.
- You will be evaluated on how insightfully you think about the task, how well you support your position and
how clearly you organize and express your ideas.
Cracking the WSA: For Students Who Speak English as a Second or Foreign Language
Many students, who did not grow up speaking English as their first language often have difficulty with the WSA. The problems are often related to grammar issues, incorrect or awkward word usage, differences in the way that other cultures develop and organize essays, or simply having a lack of experience writing in English. The following tips and strategies are designed to guide students towards a better understanding of English, and hopefully, a better WSA score.
Writing Fluency: Writing every day, in English, is very important. Having fluency with writing takes time, and the more comfortable you are the easier it will be to complete two essays in 90 minutes. Even just keeping a daily journal will increase your writing fluency in English.
Suggested writing practice: Write one page in a journal every day. Or choose a position or persuasion task (from the internet or the Foster School’s practice essays), and write your response.
Reading: Reading English every day, especially articles that are somewhat similar in style or tone to the WSA, will help you internalize the language so you can be more natural with your writing. Notice how the authors organize their articles, how they support their propositions, how they vary the sentence structures, how they transition from one thought to another, and how or if they relate their points back to the thesis.
Suggested reading: The Economist, Business Week. Or start with something easier, like People or Time.
Practice exams: There is one previously used exam available at the Foster School of Business, and the same one is used in the online workshop you can find on our web site. The Odegaard Writing Center also periodically offers workshops where a couple other previously released exams are available. However, you should not feel that you need to have actual WSA exams in order to practice. You can simply respond to an article in a magazine, or respond to Letters to the Editor in your local newspaper. Each letter to the editor is itself a position statement by the author.
Always take some time to plan content and organization before you write. By doing this you eliminate some of the risks of going off topic or lacking organization. If you spend just a few minutes to write down an outline before you begin your essay, it will save time later when you are in the middle of writing, and can’t remember what you wanted to write about next.
Though time is important, you may want to start practicing without a time limit, and once you start to gain fluency, add in time limits, such as 45 minutes for one essay.
If you can, save 5 minutes at the end of the exam to look over your essay for errors, especially your known errors that you often make.
Grammar: Removing bad habits from your writing requires diligence and lots of practice. How do you know what your common English errors are? You might look back at your first drafts of your essays in your composition courses for a start. Once you have a list of errors, devote time to each of these issues, one at a time. The web offers an amazing amount of exercises on any grammar point. After you have practiced one of these problematic areas, read an article and look for how the author uses this correctly. Spend as much as a week or so on each grammar problem, looking for or listening for correct usage all the time, and concentrating on always getting at least that one point correct whenever you write.
Below are a number of common errors we have seen students make on their WSAs, but this is by no means comprehensive:
Article Usage, (ex. – the, a, my, this, that, etc.)
Suggested practice: There are many websites dealing with these grammar problems. Just type the above terms into a search engine to find any of them, and then begin practicing to fix your problem area(s).
Study Plan 1 (to be repeated as often as possible):
1. Choose a common grammar error.
2. Find exercises online to help remove that error and do lots of them.
3. Read an interesting business-related article, and look for how the author uses that same grammar point correctly.
4. Respond to that article. This could be a position essay about something you agree or disagree with in the article. Or, you might find a point in the article that you can write a persuasive letter about. Remember, the topic is not as important as the practicing.
5. Wait a day or two and review your essay using the grading criteria listed on the WSA handout. How do you think you did?
6. Review your essay and look for usage of the grammar point you are focusing on.
7. If you know a native speaker with strong skills, or a writing tutor, ask for feedback. There is no need to be concerned about the score of the essay with these practice essays. Rather, attempt to make some improvement with each essay you write.
Study Plan 2 (to be repeated as often as possible):
A plan that includes organization, strategy, and development.
1. Choose a newspaper, and find the Letters to the Editor.
2. Write a rebuttal or positive response to one of the letters.
a. Make an effort to stay on topic, and try to ensure you know exactly what the topic is. Often, students who are not fluent in English have a difficult time capturing the essence of the position statement, and end up off topic.
b. Try to arrange your essay by writing an outline first, so that you can ensure a good organization of your paragraphs.
Continue: Practice the Persuasion Task >>