Here’s what I mean when I say that using memorized content is a bad idea.  Check out this bad body paragraph, in response to a question like “Do you prefer to read books or to watch movies based on the books?”

“To begin with, watching movies based on books will let us know if reading the books themselves is a good idea. As we are very busy, it is a real challenge to read even one or two books in a month. If we watch movies, however, we can get an idea of which books we should read in our limited free time. My personal experience is a compelling example of what I mean. When I was young, the book “Harry Potter” seemed interesting to me, but I didn’t read it because it had too many pages. Additionally, I didn’t have enough time to finish it since I practiced basketball almost every day when I was a junior high school student.  I went to the basketball court in my neighborhood every weekend and practiced passing, shooting and dribbling with my friend, Jim, who I had known since I was in elementary school.  We practiced really hard, and, as a result, we were eventually invited to join a local team.  At the end of that year, the team won a local championship.  Had we not practiced every day, we would not have achieved such success. Several years later, a film based on the novel was released. I went to the local cinema and watched the move because it was only ninety minutes long. After I saw the film, I bought a copy of the novel because the movie showed me that it would be a good use of my limited free time.”

 

Note the stuff in bold, which is just stuff the student memorized before going to the test center.  They have inserted it into the paragraph to increase the word count and to add some slightly more complicated sentence structures.  It’s got parenthetical commas, the past perfect tense and a conditional.  Even a transitional phrase!  How nice!  Sadly, it sticks out like a sore thumb.  The grader can tell it is off-topic memorized junk.  This is an essay about books and movies, not an essay about how to win a basketball championship. 

I constantly get paragraphs that have been stretched out with irrelevant digressions like this.  Sometimes you can get away with using them, but generally it is a bad idea.  My impression is that ETS is working harder than ever nowadays to crack down on this junk.

If you see a warning at the test center saying “do not use memorized examples” this is what the warning is about.

 

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