Just think—we expect athletes to practice constantly and use everything in their abilities and situations in order to achieve success. Yet, somehow many students are convinced that one day’s worth of studying, no sleep, and some well-placed compliments (“Gee, Dr. So-and-so, I really enjoyed your last lecture”) are good preparation for a test. Essay exams are like any other testing situation in life: you’ll do best if you are prepared for what is expected of you, have practiced doing it before, and have arrived in the best shape to do it.
You may not want to believe this, but it’s true: a good night’s sleep and a relaxed mind and body can do as much or more for you as any last-minute cram session. Colleges abound with tales of woe about students who slept through exams because they stayed up all night, wrote an essay on the wrong topic, forgot everything they studied, or freaked out in the exam and hyperventilated. If you are rested, breathing normally, and have brought along some healthy, energy-boosting snacks that you can eat or drink quietly, you are in a much better position to do a good job on the test. You aren’t going to write a good essay on something you figured out at 4 . that morning. If you prepare yourself well throughout the semester, you don’t risk your whole grade on an overloaded, undernourished brain.
You present a persuasive argument for the abandonment of the 5-paragraph essay and suggest a new format for presenting an argument... However, you did not provide much information on what is expected to go in between your introduction and conclusion? You suggested this format opens the essay to compare/contrast, cause/effect, analysis, etc... but how do you suggest students structure an essay with these approaches in practice? Any piece of writing needs some structure and main ideas that are then supported with various pieces of evidence (whether you are writing a historical thesis or a persuasive essay)... If you are abandoning a "main idea followed by supporting evidence" format, what do you propose should take its place? Or perhaps my understanding of the 5-paragraph essay you are speaking of is incorrect?