There are two types of essay question on the TASC Writing test: Informational & Argumentative. Below is a sample prompt for the Argumentative Essay. After reviewing our TASC Argumentative Essay Guide, you should use this prompt to write a TASC practice essay.
TASC Essay Question
There is an ongoing debate as to whether free speech that may be considered inflammatory or objectionable extends to high school and college campuses. What are the implications for students who use “free” speech to incite hatred? Or wear religious clothing or political propaganda that offends others? What happens when students express views that do not align with the school’s official policies? Has the time come for schools to place stricter limitations on what students can say, do, or wear on campuses, or what students can publish in their school newspaper?
Weigh the claims on both sides, and then write an argumentative essay supporting either side of the debate in which you argue for or against free expression on school campuses. Be sure to use information from both texts in your response.
Before you begin planning and writing, read the two texts:
- Tinker v. Des Moines Case Study
- Here Is Why It’s Time To Get Tough On Hate Speech In America
As you read each text, think about which details you want to use in your essay. Be sure to take notes as you read. After you finish reading both passages, begin organizing your thoughts. Think about the ideas, facts, details, and examples that best support your argument. Consider how you will introduce your topic, and think about what the main topic will be for each of the paragraphs that you will write.
You have 45 minutes to write your TASC Practice Essay. Make sure that you:
- Introduce your argument.
- Support your argument with logical reasoning and evidence from each passage.
- Acknowledge and address the opposing argument.
- Provide a concluding paragraph that summarizes your argument.
- Use transition words to connect your ideas and your evidence.
- Use a formal style.
Tinker v. Des Moines Case Study
In 1965, a group of students in Des Moines made a plan to publicly show their support for an end to the Vietnam conflict. The students decided to wear black armbands during the holidays to show their protest of the ongoing war. Demonstrating their freedom of expression, they decided to wear their black armbands to school as well. The administrators of the Des Moines high school learned of the plan and decided to create a new policy that stated that any member of the student body wearing a black armband would be requested to take it off, with refusal to do so resulting in being sent home from school. On December 16th, 1965, Mary Beth Tinker and Christopher Eckhardt, two students in the group, wore their black armbands around campus, and they were both sent home. The next day, John Tinker did the exact same thing and was also sent home. The students did not return to school until after New Year’s Day, the planned end of the protest, and they were suspended.
With the support of their parents, the students sued the school district for violating the students’ right of expression and requested an injunction to stop the school district from disciplining them. The district court unjustly dismissed the case and held that the school district’s actions were completely reasonable to maintain school discipline. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit affirmed the decision, and the case moved to the Supreme Court.
Luckily, the Supreme Court held by a 7–2 margin that Tinker and the other students correctly had the right to wear the armbands on their school campus. According to the Court’s majority opinion, the armbands represented pure speech, which is entirely separate from actions or conduct. Because the students didn’t actually take any violating actions, the armbands were part of pure freedom of expression. The Court also held that the students did not lose their First Amendment rights to freedom of speech simply because they stepped onto school property.
In order to justify the suppression of speech, the school officials needed to prove that the conduct in question would “materially and substantially interfere” with the operation of the school. They failed, and in this case, it was obvious that the school district’s actions stemmed from a fear of possible disruption rather than any actual interference. The students were absolutely within their Constitutional rights to express themselves freely, even though they were on a school campus. Therefore, students today are able to say or wear anything they want under the First Amendment.
Adapted from Oyez, IIT Chicago — Kent College of Law
Here Is Why It’s Time To Get Tough On Hate Speech In America
Recently at the University of Iowa, a student “artist” put up a piece of art on campus. It was an exhibit that resembled a KKK member and it was covered in newspaper clippings about racial violence. Though the student insisted the work of art was meant to be anti-racism, this is a perfect example of why we need to have strong legislation against hate speech in America, and why we need to stop permitting students from employing hate speech on school campuses and other institutions of learning.
Many other countries around the world have laws against hate speech along with laws against other forms of speech that violate basic human rights. International human rights law actually requires laws against hate speech. Protecting vulnerable minorities from hate speech is one of the most basic and essential human rights obligations, and all human rights organizations worldwide have emphasized this.
But the United States refuses to protect even the most basic of human rights, firmly establishing itself as a pariah state that falls far behind the rest of the world in terms of protecting fundamental human rights and democratic freedoms. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights states: “All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law. All are entitled to equal protection against any discrimination in violation of this Declaration and against any incitement to such discrimination.”
In the case of Hagan v. Australia, the United Nations ruled that anything which offends or insults ethnic minorities is illegal, even if it is not intended to be. What this means it that the KKK piece of art at the University of Iowa was actually illegal racial discrimination under international human rights law. The United Nations has repeatedly stressed that none of these laws restrict, limit, or infringe upon freedom of speech. As a matter of fact, these laws preserve our freedom of speech.
The US has laws against racial discrimination, but these laws only target discrimination in service and employment. In all other countries, anti-discrimination laws ban the idea of racial discrimination, which means that all forms of racial discrimination — including hate speech — are outlawed. The KKK exhibit at the University of Iowa would constitute illegal racial discrimination in any civilized country, so why shouldn’t it be considered illegal racial discrimination in America? Schools should ban hate speech on campus and not permit the freedom of expression to extend to expression that incites hatred, violence, murder, and genocide.
Adapted from Tanya Cohen, Thought Catalogue
Now use this prompt to write a TASC practice essay. After you complete your essay, you should try to get some feedback from a friend or teacher. You can also review our TASC Argumentative Essay Sample Response.
The TASC Informational Essay requires you to compose a short essay based on a specific prompt. You will have 45 minutes to complete it. You will be scored based on the clarity of your writing, your organization, the development of the ideas presented, and the overall sentence structure and grammar.
For the Informational Essay, your thesis will be your own plan of action based on the topic that is provided. Time management on this section is extremely important, since you will need to read two essays as part of the prompt for each essay BEFORE you can begin to work on your own essay. Break down the 45-minutes in the following way:
- 2 Minutes — Read Question Prompt
- 4 Minutes — Read Passage 1
- 4 Minutes — Read Passage 2
- 5 Minutes — Outline your Essay
- 25 Minutes — Write your Essay
- 5 Minutes — Read and Edit your Essay
We will thoroughly review how to plan out and write your essay. If you spend a full 15 minutes analyzing the prompt and planning your essay, it will be easy to write 5 paragraphs in 25 minutes. You will need to familiarize yourself with both types of prompts and practice writing at least one of each in order to gain the experience you need to succeed on Test Day.
Informational Essay vs. Argumentative Essay
Your approach to the TASC Informational Essay will be exactly the same as your approach to the Argumentative Essay with two major exceptions:
- Because the goal is to provide information with your Informational Essay, you will want to include more details from the two passages.
- For the Argumentative Essay, your thesis will be your own opinion (one side of the topic). For the Informational Essay, your thesis will be your own recommendation or plan of action based on the topic.
For the Argumentative Essay your thesis takes the form:
A is the correct position, because of B, C, and D.
For the TASC Informational Essay, your thesis takes the form:
The best plan of action is A, because of B, C, and D.
TASC Informational Essay: Strategies & Template
The general template provided for the Argumentative Essay will also work for the Informational Essay, although we will need to make some minor adjustments. Instead of arguing why your position is best, you will argue that your recommendation or plan of action is the most reasonable, and you will back up your plan with details from both passages.
The organization of our Informational Essay will (ideally) have five paragraphs and take this format:
- Paragraph 1 — Introduction (Present your Plan)
- Paragraph 2 — Step 1 of the Plan
- Paragraph 3 — Step 2 of the Plan
- Paragraph 4 — Step 3 of the Plan
- Paragraph 5 — Outcome
Paragraph 1 — Introduction
Here is a sample version of an introductory paragraph to the TASC Informational Essay:
________ is an important concern to society today. One side believes ________. They say, “_________.” The other side believes _________, and has stated, “__________.” However, in order for _________ to have a successful outcome, there is only one correct plan of action. The best plan to resolve this issue and provide balance is __________ because of __________, __________, and __________.
In this Introduction template, we accomplish four goals:
- Introduce the topic
- Describe the two sides presented in each passage
- Offer a thesis that describes how BALANCE can be achieved
- List 3 reasons why this plan is optimal
Paragraphs 2, 3, 4 — Body Paragraphs
The body paragraphs can have the following format:
The first step in our plan to _____________ should be to _____________. This is beneficial, because _____________. One piece of evidence from the passage that supports this is ______________, because ______________. Another piece of evidence from the passage that supports this is ____________. By taking this first step of ____________, balance can begin to be achieved.
Additional body paragraphs should discuss the 2nd and 3rd steps of the plan, before moving on to a concluding paragraph that wraps up the essay with what the ultimate outcome of the plan will be. Possible transition words include “First… Secondly… Thirdly…” or “The first step…,” “The second step…” etc. Feel free to alter portions of the template to fit the specific essay you want to write, but do make it clear how each body paragraph connects to its preceding paragraph.
Paragraph 5 — Conclusion
Once you finish your 3rd body paragraph (4th paragraph total, including the introduction), you are ready to move on to the 5th and final paragraph, the conclusion. This will be the shortest paragraph:
In conclusion, by utilizing this three-step approach of __________, __________, and _________, on the issue of _________, a balanced perspective will be achieved. This plan will appeal to people on both sides, and though each side may not ultimately be completely satisfied, this plan is optimal because it will achieve the goal of _________.
Try to devise an ultimate goal based on the specific issue at hand. It could be “creating a better community in our schools,” or “fostering more curiosity in young people,” or “protecting our environment for generations to come.” By expanding the issue-at-hand outwards, you demonstrate that you see the relevance in the topic beyond the confines of the TASC Test.
TASC Essay Practice
Now you’re ready to write a practice essay. Try our TASC Practice Essay 2.