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IEW High School Essay Intensive | Review

Who: Institute for Excellence in Writing

What: High School Essay Intensive, Second Edition

When: Grades 9-12

Why: To review composition skills, to prepare your student for the essay portion of the ACT/SAT, and to guide your student through the process of the Personal Essay.

How much: $79.00

Do you have a high school student bound for college? Have they taken the ACT yet? Have you thought about how to prepare them for taking the ACT or SAT?

Dylan, who is my high school Junior, is scheduled to take the ACT this month. He is not worried about it at all. He's a good test taker, so I'm sure he'll do great. However, I'd like him to at least be prepared for what I think will be the hardest part of the test for him - the essay. With High School Essay Intensive, I feel confident that he will at least know how to approach the tough task of writing the ACT essay.

Institute for Excellence in Writing High School Essay Intensive
Components of the program: 
  • 5 DVDs (6.5 hours) 
  • Student Handouts
  • Portable Walls for the Essayist

You will need a DVD player, a pen for taking notes, and a willing high school student.

The DVDs come in a nice faux leather case with a total of 5 DVDs. Online streaming is also available for direct streaming from your computer or portable device. 

How does High School Essay Intensive work?

There are four main parts to the program:
  1. Part One: General Strategies for Essay Writing
  2. Part Two: Understanding and Preparing for the New ACT Essay
  3. Part Three: Understanding and Preparing for the Redesigned SAT Essay
  4. Part Four: Strategies for the "personal essay"
For each part, your student will watch the DVD lesson while using the student handouts to take notes in.

Student Handouts

The handouts themselves are a small packet of paper (25 pages) stapled together for taking notes during the seminar. They include an outline of the course, note taking exercises, questions to answer, definitions to know, essay structures, notes from the video, assignments to do, and plenty of room to take notes.

Portable Walls for the Essayist is included in the set and is a sturdy trifold that stands up on a table or desk.


It contains models and checklists of IEW's structure and style methods, such as:
  • types of essays and their definitions
  • basic essay models
  • specific essay models (from argumentative to classical rhetoric)
  • outline of the essay writing process
  • what a TRIAC Paragraph is and a sample paragraph
  • strategies for Times Essays 
  • a list of sentence patterns 
  • alist of transitional words and phrases
  • and a list of prepositions 

How did we use this program?

Since my 16 year old will be taking the ACT this month, we focused on Part Two: Understanding and Preparing for the New ACT Essay for this review.


Dylan simply watched the seminar and took notes. Discussion included a review of key points from each section. In Part Two, he got an idea of ACT's general guidelines and had his general questions answered, such as whether the essay portion is required, how much time he has to write the essay, who his audience is, what he will be graded on, and how he can he get a higher score.

Mr. Pudewa talks about the types of essay prompts, how to decide topics and details, how to write an effective outline in less than 5 minutes, and specific, practical, and relevant tips for planning, writing, and proofing your essay.

Mr. Pudewa evaluates the three perspectives of the sample prompt and works through an outline for the prompt just like he does in all his seminars.

I especially liked his background information on who will be grading the essay and tips on how to stand out in a crowd.

It was really an easy program to use, and it wasn't too long so as to lose his interest. At the end, my son simply said, "Got it."

He was challenged to find essay prompts to practice, and he did that research on his own.

Your student will not be overwhelmed with this program. You could do the seminar as a crash course, or you can work at your own pace to give you ample time to apply what you've learned. Since the ACT test is this month, we did this as a crash course.


What did I like or dislike?

The video is done in classic IEW style with Mr. Pudewa teaching a class of students in front of a white board. It's simple, but effective. The information being taught is what is most important.

I did the original TWSS and SWI-A, so I was surprised to see a much older Andrew Pudewa!

I liked when the camera was zoomed in. Sometimes the camera was zoomed out too long when I wanted to see his notes on the board. I found this a bit distracting.

The audio was clear, distinct, and easy to hear.

We had trouble with the video freezing while streaming, so we had to switch to DVD.

While I loved that Mr. Pudewa worked through the sample prompt in Part Two, I would have loved to see a sample essay of the prompt in the Student Handout. 

How did this benefit my homeschool?

While we have not spent a lot of time preparing for the ACT, I am excited that Dylan at least knows what is expected of him when writing the essay!

In fact, he took the ACT during the review period. We will not have his scores back for several weeks, but he feels good about the essay. When asked how the High School Essay Intensive helped, he said what stood out to him most while writing was the part about knowing who your audience is and making your essay stand out from the rest. 

The actual ACT essay prompt was formatted exactly like the sample prompt in the lesson with three perspectives, so I was grateful he at least had some experience going into the test.

While he followed Mr. Pudewa's tips and strategies to plan and write his essay, he did run out of time. He said he wrote a good intro and three solid paragraphs, but he didn't have time to write the conclusion. But, considering he didn't have time to really practice the strategies, he still felt good about how well he did.

Overall, it was a good experience, and the essay wasn't the hardest part of the test after all. I can't wait to see his scores!

Would I recommend it?

General strategies for essay writing will be presented. Types of essays, how to plan, organize, and structure your essay, and more will be covered to help prepare for the ACT, but you probably should have a basic knowledge of the Institute for Excellence in Writing's methods. At the very least, you should know what a topic/clincher is all about and what a sentence opener is or you student might be a little confused. Otherwise, yes, I do recommend it!

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2 comments

Megan Russell said...

I think this would work for my ninth grade! She is very anxious to take her ACT, and this would be great practice. She has only taken a few standardized tests in her life, and isn't a great test taker, although she is very smart. This would be very helpful for her.

Michelle said...

That is one thing my oldest said after he graduated - that he wished I had made him take more standardized tests because he had so much anxiety over taking the ACT. He was so stressed about taking the test that I just had him take the college placement tests and he did just fine.