The biggest problem faced by most beginning writers is dealing with choosing a topic. This is complicated further by the seemingly endless piles of topic questions that have been approved for use in the common essays and for the Regents' Exam. This fear should be minimized by the simple fact that these questions ask only for something you have an endless amount of: YOUR OPINION.
Examine, for a moment, some of the questions that have appeared on recent essay exams:
All of these are asking for either your opinion or your experience and opinion. For that reason, you should have no trouble addressing any topic given to you. Remember, you opinion cannot be wrong. The only way you can mess up is to poorly support your opinion.
The topics search for your opinon by asking three specific types of questions: questions of fact, value, and policy. If you can identify the question type, then you know how your response should be shaped. Being able to identify what the question is looking for should help you to quickly construct and answer and frame it into your essay.
Questions of fact are those which ask you to answer whether or not something is. These questions are always answered either "Yes" or "No" and then you must construct body paragraphs to support the facts as you see them.
Questions of Value address the relative merit (goodness or badness) of a thing. Here you are usually asked to choose between things, ideas, beliefs, or actions and explain why you choose in the manner you did.
Questions of Policy ask the writer to explain what they would do. The key word in these topics is usually "should" as in "what should we do....". The question asks the writer to create a plan of action to solve some sort of problem. The answer is a breakdown of the plan and a justification that it fixes the problem.
Once you have identified the question type and constructed your answer, you've nearly gotten the essay written.
To continue, head to Division and Organization.