Personal Responses

What IS a Personal Response?

A PeRT (Personal Response to Text) is an academic composition that fully develops, explores and shapes an idea in reaction to an assigned prompt + a text (you have three choices: a poem, an excerpt from a longer fiction o non-fiction, a visual).

You can respond in any form of prose:

  • Creative
  • Personal
  • Critical analysis of a text in the exam
  • CPU – Critical Personal Universal (a combo of a Personal and a Critical)

You will need to create a “shaped” composition that sustains, maintains and develops an idea. You will choose the lens through which you view the prompts as well as the lens through which you ask your markers to view your work. Markers are most well aware of the nuances of language and can gauge a poorly written piece from a piece written in a simple style for effect. They are not looking for “elitist” writing, just quality expression (be it essay, story, or whatever other well-chosen form you decide upon) coupled with a clearly established purpose, direct and meaningful links to the prompt(s) resulting in a composition which responds fully and carefully to the topic as it is assigned.

Most significantly think about coupling “events”/ “stories”/ “examples” with REFLECTIONS about those elements of life. Therefore, an organized paper will showcase proven ideas just as surely as a critical response will. The difference, though, will be that a CARL deals with interpreting literature that discusses “life”, whereas a PeRT deals with interpreting life in communion with a discussion about a piece of prompting-text.


Genres of writing that you may use:


  • a personal essay which relies on “global knowledge” and (or) philosophy to carry its weight
  • a reflective journal (Ideas + examples + reflection = insight)
  • a personal narrative in chronological order to an insight
  • a critical analysis of the text (either the poem, the excerpt or the visual)
  • CPU – Intro + Critical + Personal + Univeral Human Condition revealed via the critical/personal (Conclusion)

CREATIVE options (be warned…you must still embed REFLECTION, not just “advice” or “feelings”) { you must employ the genre-form, but not superficially}:

  • a letter (not just a friendly or business letter)
  • a speech (not a preach)
  • a eulogy (not merely a nostalgic rampage)
  • a short story (that has ALL the elements of fiction)

What is NOT a PeRT?

  • A “journal” PeRT is not just a meandering diatribe; personal feelings are not adequate to qualify as an academic response. That does not mean opinion or feelings will be negated by your response – just that opinion and feeling alone does not qualify.
  • A “diary” PeRT is not just a list of events; those alone do not speak for themselves. This is probably the most “trite” form of personal writing, unless it can transcend the form and the form actually serves a purpose.  Generally, the “diary” can just seem too teeny.
  • A “story” PeRT is not merely a plot summary of occurrences; events alone cannot speak for themselves. Although it is highly likely that “story” will be embedded in your response, it is REFLECTION on/about story which is required. Be sure to include either a narrator OR the internal musings of your answer to the prompt.  Include explicit connections to the text too.
  • A “speech” PeRT is not merely a fulmination or a tirade. Remember, it’s the reflection about the INSIGHT that matters most, even if (contextually) you must include antecedent detail and prescient matter.
  • A PeRT is never a list; you must speak in whole composition, complete with standard English prose-writing. Lists receive a zero. There are no exceptions to this rule.
  • A PeRT is never a poem or a rambling rant; you (again) must speak in complete standard English prose-writing. Poems receive a zero. There are no exceptions to this rule.

3: What is IN a PeRT assignment?

a) An introduction, a body and a conclusion. Any SHAPED “argument” or “reflective paper” will introduce an idea; defend a position about an idea through the use of specific concepts, supported by specific examples that are contextualized, analyzed and explored in depth; and conclude reflectively based on “learning” that has occurred in the paper.

b) It will have a STRONG personal voice – filled with character and panache. Yes, it should remain formal, but not dry. Wit and wisdom are excellent partners.

c) Specific examples will dominate the discussion, but not in isolation as “mere recall of detail”. Instead, the examples will be explored, discussed, analyzed and penetrated so that the writer is always answering the reader’s question: Why does this matter?

d) Examples must be chosen both from personal knowledge (of life) and from the prompt-text. Ignoring one or the other will harm the effectiveness of the response.

e) As a PeRT is just as important as a CARL for the study of English Language Arts, it must be as free and clear of writing errors and as filled with quality language skills as possible. The standards are rigorous, but fair.

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