The first step in this process is gathering your keywords and concepts. One way to do this is to draw a mind map on a piece of paper (this will be provided for you at the test center). In the center of the oval write down the topic of the task. Do not write down the question. Around this topic write down any and all words that you can think of that are associated with this topic. These can and should include isolated vocabulary, examples, your own experiences with the topic, historical facts, something you’ve read about or watched regarding this topic. Do not hesitate to extend the lines beyond the initial words and concepts, but do be careful not to go off on irrelevant tangents (this means that you should not stray too far from the topic at hand.) The point of this exercise to is to fill your brain with the topic so that you can discuss it in a meaningful and strong way. Remember the first statements? The threat of nuclear weapons maintains world peace. Nuclear power provides cheap and clean energy. The first ideas are given to you. (Some test takers find this part of the essay very difficult; they have a hard time coming up with ideas. Check out our idea bank to help with this.)
Here is an example:
Remember that time is not your friend and you cannot spend too much time on brainstorming. Collect only enough words to be able to start thinking about the two sides of the argument. Do not go too far in the chains of thought. For example, don’t let nuclear technology lead to radiation to mutation to X-men. You risk wasting time on irrelevant ideas and losing your focus.
Planning and Organizing
Now that you have some ideas and even some concrete examples in your mind (and on your scrap paper), it’s time to look at the question. Remember, the question is not about nuclear weapons or nuclear energy. These are merely examples of the practical uses of the topic, nuclear technology. The question is whether nuclear technology is more beneficial or more detrimental, and who or what are we thinking of when we ask this question. Now, write down at least three reasons for one side, and a couple for the other side. As well, think of examples that would support these reasons and write them down as well.
Note: Do not concentrate on what you believe at this point. This is not a test of your opinions; it is a test of your communicative ability. With this in mind, realize that you will write the essay based on the ideas that come quickest and most clearly to your mind now.
These are the main ideas you have pulled out of your brainstorming map in the previous section. The focus seems to lean more toward the benefits of nuclear technology in terms of the human aspect (the environment is there as well, but overall, when looking at both sides of the issue, it would be much easier to defend your opinion from the humanistic aspect).
Guess what? Your essay is done. At least the thinking portion of it is done. What you have above is the map of your essay. You have ideas, you isolated the topic, understood the question, provided reasons for both sides, and you know which side you lean toward and therefore which side you will argue for and which against. Now you have to convert this map into sentences and paragraphs in the remaining time you have for this section. More specifically, however, you need to convert this map into an introductory paragraph that will map out the essay for the reader.