The best preparation for an essay examination is a good lower division composition course. Studying grammar books is not useful because one merely learns rules without getting practice and help in applying them.
The two biggest mistakes students can make in taking this test are to write below their natural ability or to try to write above it. The student who decides to write too simplistically in order not to make any mistakes will fail—we are testing for college-level ability, not eighth-grade ability. On the other hand, students who try to impress the readers with polysyllabic words and pretentious sentences (“It has been observed by many authorities in the field that . . .”) will often fail because they have misused their big words and gotten tangled up in their sentences and, as a result, haven’t said anything coherent. The best thing to do is write in your own normal style, keeping in mind the principles of organization and development that you learned in your last composition class. Don’t try to do things you aren’t used to doing. Don’t be afraid to begin sentences with “And” or “But” or to end them with prepositions. Don’t be afraid to use “I” or to use contractions, concrete nouns and strong verbs in your sentences.