I think I would like to add something regarding the argumentative essay portion.
To score well for Chinese, I feel that we have to expose ourselves to the language, written or spoken, every single day. Or in the least, try to make an effort to.
Benefits of watching Chinese News daily
1. Over time, you build up a bank of vocabulary without having to deliberately memorise.
2. You get updated to news and current affairs (for your 报章读后感).
3. You get to know the 汉语拼音 of words you do not know straight away, so this saves you the trouble of going to find out the pronunciation again later.
4. This also helps you in your oral (another major component for Chinese)! You will learn the 'correct' way of reading over time (: (语速，语音，眼神交流）
5. Because these TV news are just like newspapers, you get to understand better because news reports on TV are often coupled with videos/images.
Watching the news on TV is also very accessible, because for those who do not order Chinese newspapers, or are too lazy to buy them from the news stands, the television should be right in your home and you can just sit on the couch while you watch.
As mentioned by hiphop2009, writing words you do not know down on a notepad would also help as you watch the news. (: