Questions about text types, purposes, and production make up 60% of your Praxis Core Writing score. This includes the Praxis Core Writing Source-Based Essay. And it includes the Praxis Core Writing Argumentative Essay. (Praxis Core Writing revision-in-context questions also fall under the category of text types, purposes, and production.)
Today, we’ll look at a practice Source-Based essay question for Praxis Core Writing. This practice essay will include a full prompt — directions and two source passages. The passages will both cover the same topic from different perspectives. This prompt will be followed by a model Praxis Core Writing source-based essay that earns the full 6 points. (Both the Praxis Core Writing Source-Based essay and the Praxis Core Writing Argumentative essay are scored on a scale of 1-6.)
Example Praxis Core Writing Source-Based Essay Prompt
The following assignment requires you to use information from two sources to discuss concerns that relate to a specific issue. When paraphrasing or quoting from the two sources, cite each source used by referring to the author’s last name, the title, or any other clear identifier.
Automatic teller machines (sometimes called ATMs or ATM machines) allow people to withdraw cash from their bank accounts remotely. ATM users insert their bank cards into the machine and request cash. The ATM then dispenses the cash and makes an electronic withdrawal from the user’s bank account. In this transaction, additional money is also drawn from the ATM user’s bank account in the form of ATM service fees. Both of the following sources address the relationship that ATM use has with bank accounting, and particularly whether ATM fees place an unfair financial burden on the people who use them.
Read the two passages carefully and then write an essay in which you identify the most important concerns regarding the issue and explain why they are important. Your essay must draw on information from BOTH of the sources. In addition, you may draw on your own experiences, observations, or readings. Be sure to CITE the sources whether you are paraphrasing or directly quoting.
Adapted from: Nym, Alex. Legal Theft: How Financial Service Fees Inhibit Capitalism. Madison, Wisconsin: Vanity Press. 2015. 81-82. Web. 13 Jun. 2016.
It seems incredibly unfair to have to pay money just to access your own money. Unfortunately, this form of highway robbery happens millions of times every day at ATMs across the nation. What makes ATM fees the most frustrating is their unpredictable costs. The costs themselves can vary widely. One ATM may have charge cardholders three or four times as much as another ATM. While these variations might theoretically create healthy competition among different privately owned ATM stations, in reality, consumers don’t have the time to explore every ATM in an area and find the best deal.
It seems that the ATM’s particular brand of legal theft is on the rise. Since ATM owners first began charging the bank account holders who use their machines, prices for ATM use have risen astronomically. To make matters worse, the actual bank that issues the bank card will often charge an additional fee to its hapless cardholders. This means that when someone uses an ATM to withdraw money from their bank account, they are not just charged a fee by the owner of the ATM. They pay a fee to the bank where they have their account. With this double charge, a small twenty dollar ATM withdrawal can have an additional cost of ten dollars, and sometimes more.
Aside from being unethical, ATM user fees are also financially harmful to consumers and to businesses. High ATM fees discourage people from spending money, and this means lower sales volumes at stores, restaurants, and other establishments.
Adapted from: Eincer, Brenda. Un-Nickeled and Un-Dimed: Financial Health for Individuals and Industry. Boston: Nosredna Publishing. 2014. 81-82. Web. 31 Mar. 2015.
People are quick to complain about the fees they pay at the ATM. But these fees are a small price to pay for the benefits of ATMs. These machines are helpful to both consumers and businesses.
Withdrawing money from an ATM has many advantages in spite of the potential fees. It’s easy to forget that any use of money from a bank account comes at a cost. Alternatives to ATM cash withdrawal also cost money, in the form of fees for payments made with cards, interest paid on credit card purchases, fees for writing checks, and so on. And bear in mind, those bank fees only are just the ones that impose costs on individual consumers. When people pay with a card, merchants themselves pay additional costs, in the form of “merchant service fees.” Merchant service fees are fees that sellers have to pay to the bank in order to process bank card transactions. These fees for receiving non-cash payments can be a real burden to business owners, but are avoidable when the customer pays in cash. Ultimately, ATMs may actually help customers and businesses save money.
Some claim that ATM fees have greatly increased in the last few decades, but this statement is only partly accurate. Yes, average fees have risen at ATMs that charge fees. However, there is a growing trend of no-fee ATMs. Increasingly, restaurants, stores, and other retail businesses are purchasing their own ATMs and offering cash withdrawals without fees to their customers. This practice allows businesses to reduce the merchant service fees they pay because their customers pay in cash. This is a win for consumers as well, as they are able to minimize ATM fees by patronizing certain establishments.
Sample Praxis Core Writing Source-Based Essay
ATM fees, the fees people pay to access cash from their bank accounts via automated teller machine, raise a number of socioeconomic issues due to their increasingly high costs. In his essay, Alex Nym complains of the “unfair” nature and “unpredictable costs” that people face when they want to access their personal funds through an ATM (“Legal Theft: How Financial Services Inhibit Capitalism”). Nym claims that average fees for ATM use have risen a great deal in the last 30 years. He also notes that many customers get double-charged when they use an ATM; first, the owner of the ATM charges a fee for ATM use. Then, the bank where the money is withdrawn from charges an additional fee for removing the cash from the account. Nym suggests that ATM fees are bad for the economy as a whole because they discourage people from taking out money and spending it.
Brenda Eincer, author of the book “Un-Nickeled and Un-Dimed: Financial Health for Individuals and Industry,” has a perspective that runs counter to Nym’s. Eincer feels that ATM fees are not unreasonable, and the people get many benefits in exchange for the cost of ATM use. Challenging Nym’s assumption that ATM use raises costs, Eincer points out that that there are also service fees for alternatives to ATM cash withdrawal. She asserts that using a debit or credit card or writing a check also have costs. This author also brings up the issue of the “merchant service” fees that businesses need to pay when they receive payments by card instead of by cash from an ATM. In Eincer’s opinion, ATM fees may be the better deal for both ATM users and the businesses where they shop. Finally, Eincer offers a different perspective than Nym’s with regards to rising ATM fees. She notes that while some ATMs charge more than before, many businesses now host no-fee ATMs to encourage onsite shopping.
Both authors agree that ATM use certainly has noticeable costs and that the highest ATM fees are higher than ever. The real debate is whether these costs are worth it. Nym and others who share his views would argue that the costs of ATM use have risen too high and ultimately discourage economic activity. On Eincer’s side of the debate, it seems possible that ATM costs are potentially cheaper than those associated with card and checkbook purchases. If that proves to be the case, then ATM use may actually benefit both shoppers and businesses.
Commentary on Sample Praxis Core Writing Source-Based Essay
This essay meets the top standards of the official score guide for the Praxis Core Writing Source-based essay. (See pages 35 and 36 of the official Praxis Core Writing Study Companion.)
The organization of this essay shows logic and sophistication. The essay frames the importance of the issue in the very first sentence. From there, the test-taker looks first at the perspective in Passage 1, and then at the views expressed in Passage 2. The person who wrote this essay organized the summary of the passages in a logical “point-counterpoint” arrangement. Eincer’s favorable views of ATM fees in Passage 2 are treated as a possible counterpoint to Nym’s negative verdict on ATM costs in the previous passage. At the end, the essay-writer pulls it all together by stating each author’s core thesis and comparing the rationale and implications for both perspectives.
This sample essay also meets the technical standards required for the full 6 points. The test-taker uses a variety of sentence structures as needed, and demonstrates a good range of vocabulary. Sources are also cited in a clear, consistent fashion.
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There are two essay prompts at the end of the Praxis Core Writing Exam. The first prompt asks you to write about your personal opinions. The second essay requires you to write about the opinions of others. In this second Source-based essay, you’ll read two passages about the same issue. The passages will be written by different authors who hold conflicting opinions about the issue.
The issues in the Source-based Essay are very similar to the issues raised in the Argumentative Essay. In both cases, you’ll be asked to write about an important social issue that some people may find controversial—something like global warming, copyright restrictions, minimum wage, how to help the homeless, and so on. But unlike the argumentative essay, the source-based essay doesn’t ask for your personal opinion. Instead, you simply need to summarize the opinions of the two passage writers.
Many test-takers find summarization to be a bit easier than coming up with an original opinion. Indeed, the task of choosing and defending an opinion on an important societal issue be intimidating. But summarizing multiple sources poses its own challenges as well. Let’s take a look at what you’ll need to do.
Challenge # 1: Getting the facts right
Unless your essay response doesn’t address the topic at all, there’s no such thing as a completely “right” or “completely “wrong” answer on the Praxis Core essays. However, it is possible to summarize the information from the passages in a way that will be “wrong” in the eyes of the ETS scorers who review your Source-based Essay.
As you summarize both readings, be very careful not to misinterpret what’s being said. A clear misstatement of fact can hurt your score a lot. And a failure to understand or properly restate the opinions in the passages can also cost you dearly.
It’s just as important to make sure that you summarize all of the key facts and arguments. Be aware of how both arguments are constructed, and understand the central ideas and evidence each author uses. Include all important information from the original writings in your source-based essay. Again, leaving something important out will make your summary inaccurate and hurt your score.
Challenge # 2: Create a well-constructed argument
As you look at the heading immediately above, you may be thinking “Hey wait a minute! You said to summarize, not make an argument!” Yes, I know that we’re talking about the Source-based essay now, not the Argumentative Essay. But in the Source-based essay, you still need to put forth an argument… in a sense.
As the Praxis Core Writing Study Companion indicates on pages 35-40, you are expected to put forth an argument in your Source-based essay. But in this case, you don’t need to choose your own argument, as you would in the Core Writing Argumentative Essay. Instead, the argument is chosen for you—the Praxis specifically wants you to assert that the issue covered in the passages in an important one. You will further be expected to claim that there is significant public debate surrounding the issue at hand.
To support the argument that the essay prompt issue is an important matter of public debate, you’ll use information from both passages as evidence. The writers of the passages clearly find the issue important—otherwise they wouldn’t be writing opinionated articles about the issue. Look for author-provided evidence of the subject matter’s importance. Then look at the distinct opinions in each piece of writing. Compare these opinions side-by-side to demonstrate the nature of the controversy surrounding the topic.
Challenge # 3: Be objective
Remember that you’re not putting forth your own opinion on this second Core Writing essay. You’re merely summarizing the opinions of others, as seen in separate opinion pieces on the same topic. The idea here isn’t to side with one opinion or the other. Instead you’ll be expected to write a factual report on the issue from the two passages, taking the perspectives of both authors into account. In other words, you’re writing about a social issue and a debate related to the social issue, rather than actually taking a side within a social issue debate.
Never let your personal opinion distract you from the skills being tested in the Praxis Core Source-based Essay: reading comprehension and summarizations. And be sure to consciously shift gears as you begin this second essay task. Many students unthinkingly stay in “personal opinion mode” as they start to write the source-based essay, because they’ve just finished defending their own opinion the inital argument-based essay prompt on the test.
Challenge # 4: Keep an eye on the quality of your writing
On the Praxis Core, the key “good writing” components of the Argumentative Essay are also essential for a top-scoring Source-based Essay. To score well in this second Praxis Core essay, you need to have a logical progression of ideas that is expressed through error-free writing, just as you would in the first Core Writing Essay prompt.
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