Below is a sample response to our TASC Argumentative Practice Essay. Review this response to get an idea of what a high-scoring essay should look like. This essay follows the template that we have provided in our TASC Argumentative Essay Writing Guide. Below this sample essay is a short commentary which explains why this is an effective essay and why it would receive a high score.
The protection of our freedom of speech is an important concern in society today. The passages presented explore the popular opinions on freedom of speech in America. On one side, people argue that controversial language and “hate speech” should not be protected, stating that free speech should “not permit the freedom of expression to extend to expression that incites hatred, violence, murder, and genocide.” However, this is not the correct opinion. Americans should support the Supreme Court decision detailed in the first passage that fundamentally upheld the First Amendment, permitting full freedom of expression on school campuses because of the sacredness of our Constitution, the distinction between speech and action, and the uniqueness of American law compared to the laws abroad.
An important reason why the position outlined in the first passage is correct is that the American Constitution is a supreme document that should be upheld. The passage supports this by stating, “students did not lose their First Amendment rights to freedom of speech simply because they stepped onto school property.” Imagine if we decided that Constitutional rights did not extend everywhere in America. We cannot pick and choose which constitutional rights we are going to afford our citizens and where we will protect their rights. The Constitution is the founding document of our country, so to limit students’ free expression is to directly oppose the fundamental principles upon which America was built. What makes us “united” is the states’ allegiance to the Constitution, which is why the Supreme Court’s support of Tinker was crucial. School administrations should take their cue from the Supreme Court and permit free expression on their campuses.
Another reason why students should have freedom of expression is because there is a big difference between what someone says and what someone does. According to the first passage, The Court ruled that the black armbands worn by Tinker and his friends represented “pure speech.” School administrators did not fear the armbands, but rather they feared the potential response to the armbands. However, simply wearing a certain type of clothing is not the same as committing a crime. The second passage misses this point entirely by suggesting that the student in Iowa who created a racially insensitive piece of art was committing a crime. How is that a crime? Suppressing the students’ abilities to express themselves through art stifles their creativity and infringes on their freedom.
Furthermore, the second passage also presents irrelevant information, discussing two international cases of hate speech being banned. The legal decisions of other countries, like those represented in the second passage, have no bearing on the legal proceedings of the United States. The United Nations, NATO, and other international groups within which the United States participates, do not have legal jurisdiction over the United States, and the United States can withdraw from its international partnerships at any time. Therefore, referencing an Australian case in which “the United Nations ruled that anything which offends or insults ethnic minorities is illegal,” is not directly addressing the problem.
The opposing side is well-intentioned, believing that hate speech causes discrimination and “offends or insults ethnic minorities.” And although this concern has merit, the second passage is ultimately incorrect in their limited definition of freedom of expression. The Constitution is a very important document, and when free speech is “pure speech” and not actual action, it is protected by this important document. International laws do not supersede the Constitution and therefore have no bearing on the United States. In conclusion, freedom of expression is a right afforded to all Americans, and the First Amendment protects our students’ freedom to say, print, and wear anything they like.
According to the TASC Essay Scoring Rubric, essays are given a score ranging from 0–4. The essay score is then doubled to become part of the official Writing Test score. This TASC sample essay would receive a Score of 4, and a total of 8. It is an excellent example of a well-written essay.
This essay develops and supports a position—that students should have unfettered freedom of expression. This claim is effectively introduced with a clear thesis statement at the bottom of the introductory paragraph. The writer has included three ideas alongside the thesis, which all support its claim.
Overall, the writer uses logical reasoning and relevant evidence to support the thesis. Each paragraph discusses one major idea and uses one or more specific parts of the passages to help make his/her point. The writer fully explains why the opposing side is wrong and applies the reasoning from one passage (the Supreme Court’s definition of “pure speech”) to the reasoning from the other (why an Iowa student’s art was considered “hate speech”).
The writer effectively uses transition phrases, (“An important reason… Another reason… In conclusion… etc.”) and demonstrates varied sentence structure. In terms of syntax, there are no major errors in grammar or spelling, and the word choice is precise and commanding. Despite the occasional awkwardly-worded sentence (for example, “Another reason why the position that students should have freedom of expression is because there is a big difference between what someone says and what someone does.”), the writer’s personal opinion is clear and the tone is convincing.
Finally, the author provides a confident concluding paragraph that reiterates the thesis and reintroduces all three major examples.
You should now be fully prepared for the TASC Argumentative Essay. To prepare for the Informational Essay go to TASC Essay Question. For the rest of our practice questions go to TASC Practice Test.