Bristol Community College

Bristol Community College

Planning your response

Again, you are scored on the quality of the essay you produce, but how well you plan and follow the plan for composing your essay may be the difference between a focused, organized and developed essay and one that is not so strong in these key areas. Many students agree that taking the time to develop a quick topic sentence outline improves the final product.

To develop a topic sentence outline, you need to come up with your main point (in short, a sentence that answers that question you are being asked) and a few (three or four should be fine) supporting points, and a concluding idea.

These supporting points will serve as the topic sentences for your supporting paragraph.

For example, if you were writing in response to Topic Option A, your outline could look like this:

Main idea: When I was a high school student, I witnessed a situation in which two young men got into a fist fight because neither one wanted to back down.

Supporting Point #1: Lou spilled a coke on Manny in the cafeteria.

Supporting Point #2: Manny was surprised and embarrassed by what happened, and although Lou apologized and said it was an accident, Manny took it personally.

Supporting Point #3: Even though Lou seemed sorry at first, when Manny pushed him, he pushed right back and even threw the first punch.

Supporting Point #4: Both boys were being egged on by their friends and other onlookers in the cafeteria.

Concluding idea: Although neither of these boys ended up dead or in prison as a result, the situation is similar in that they both got suspended because neither one was “man enough” to walk away and risk being perceived as weak.

If you were writing in response to Topic Option B your outline could look like this.

Main idea: In American society, we expect boys and men to be unemotional, financially successful and physically strong, but often these labels limit men the same way that the labels that women have been fighting against restrict their roles in society.

Supporting Point #1: Some men take the hurt they feel and turn it into anger because they feel that is more acceptable than crying.

Supporting Point #2: Some men are nurturing and better suited to stay home and care for their children than their wives, but are often ridiculed when they take on this nontraditional role.

Supporting Point #3: Boys who are intellectually strong, rather than athletic are sometimes harassed by other kids while it is more acceptable for a girl get good grades rather than be good at sports.

Concluding idea: Some of these “traditional expectations” are so deeply ingrained in us that we might not realize we are perpetuating these stereotypes that restrict the way that men and woman can live in our world.

Notice the first outline sketches out a story that makes a point while the second one makes three distinct points that will be developed with details and examples as you compose your essay.

Exam Tip: Developing you quick topic sentence outline should take you 10-15 minutes.