English Exam Essay Writing Tips

1. Answer the Question.

This is the first and most important suggestion. Answering the wrong question is a common mistake made by students. Unfortunately, it can be a real disaster for the grade you get in an exam. Make sure you understand what the examiner wants; it is highly advisable to refer back to the question throughout the answer. This point may sound like stating the obvious; but, in my experience, answering the wrong question is the biggest cause of a disappointing exam result.

2. Good Introduction.

In an introduction to an essay you should offer a short, concise summary of the main points to be raised. If appropriate, you could clarify key concepts. Introductions go wrong when students go into too much detail, and then repeat their arguments in the main body of the text. Generally speaking, it is advisable to start off with short sentences, rather than complex sentences. This will help create a clarity of thought and purpose.

3. Essay Plan.

A plan can help to gather your thoughts, and make sure you do not forget to mention key arguments. It is an opportunity to brainstorm what you know about the topic. However, it is important not to get into too much detail – writing keywords and phrases are the best solution. I would suggest spending 5 -10 % of your allotted time on creating an introduction.

4. 3 Steps of an argument.

  • The first step is the basic statement and argument; this part tests your knowledge.
  • The second step is to explain your statement. Don’t forget you need to explain in relation to the question. Also, just because you think the explanation is obvious, doesn’t mean you can avoid putting it down.
  • The third step is to look at the argument with critical distance. This is an opportunity to discuss why the basic premise may be wrong or limited. It is an opportunity to show you can think for yourself, rather than just memorise a list of points. This final step, called analysis or evaluation, is the most difficult part, but is required to get the highest mark.

I write this with Economics in mind, but, I’m sure it is relevant to others subjects as well.

5. Conclusion.

In a conclusion you can weigh up the different arguments and decide which are the strongest and most relevant. A conclusion should try to add something new, and not just repeat previous points. For example, you can say why an argument is particularly strong and give justification.

6. How Much To Write?

I often get asked this question by students. So many students will write 1 side and then stop, almost in mid sentence, because they think this means they have finished. There is no right answer as to how much you should write. The important thing is to write as much as you can in the allotted time, but, only write what is relevant. Although it is true quality is more important than quantity, don’t try to do a minimalist style and write as little as possible. Generally speaking, if you write more you have a better chance of getting more points across.

7. Did you answer the Question?

Hopefully you didn’t leave it to the end of your answer to realise you answered the wrong question.

Tejvan Pettinger studied PPE at Oxford University and now works as an Economics teacher at a 6th form college in Oxford. He also marks A Level economics exam papers for Edexcel. Tejvan updates a blog on Economics at Economics Help. He writes about economic issues and also offers tips on writing essays, including: Tips for writing evaluative Essays. Photo: Radcliffe Camera Library, Oxford by: Tejvan

7 Essay Writing Tips To Ace Your Next Exam

By Stephen Holliday

Despite students’ wildest hope of avoiding the dreaded essay exam—one that requires either short or long essay answers rather than multiple choice answers—most find themselves taking such an exam, particularly for subjects like history, philosophy, literature, sociology, political science and others. This type of exam, however, can be successfully managed if you follow a few guidelines outlined here:

1. After the initial panic passes, read through all the questions before you begin to answer any of them, underlining key words and phrases that will help guide you in your answer. In many cases, instructors will incorporate key words and phrases from their lectures in the exam question, so make sure that you focus on these elements in your answer.

2. Based on your comfort level (or lack thereof) with particular questions, after you have reviewed all questions, decide approximately how much time you have for questions that are relatively easy for you to answer and, conversely, which questions will require more time to answer correctly and thoroughly. This is a very important step because it will help you organize your time and effort.

3. Think of each essay answer as a mini-essay in itself, and approach each answer with a shortened version of the process that you’ve been taught to use when writing full essays. If you are used to brainstorming or clustering when preparing to write an essay, go through the same, but greatly shortened, process for an essay answer. The time spent in some form of outlining will save time and effort as you answer the questions.

4. Given the time constraints of most essay exams, you can’t afford to write and re-write answers. From an instructor’s perspective, if a student’s answer contains a great deal of cross outs and perhaps whole paragraph deletions, the instructor will probably conclude that the student is not well prepared. It is critical, therefore, to outline the answer before you begin writing and to follow the outline as you write. Marginal notes of an outline or brainstorming process will probably impress the instructor.

5. The “rhetorical mode” for an answer may be determined by your instructor. For example, you may be asked to analyze, define, compare/contrast, evaluate, illustrate, or synthesize the subject of the question, and you need to focus on answering the question with an analysis, a definition and so on in order to respond to the question appropriately.

6. Just as you do when you draft an essay, try to begin the answer with one or two sentences that answer the question directly and succinctly. In other words, think of the first two sentences as a thesis statement of an essay, and after you’ve stated the answer’s “thesis,” support that thesis with specific examples in the body of the answer.

7. Lastly, one of the most important steps you can take is to proofread your answers and make any necessary corrections neatly and legibly.

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9 Responses to “7 Essay Writing Tips To Ace Your Next Exam”

  • Silvia G.Martinez

    Your tips are really helpful ! I would add that basically practice and more practice in writing everything that comes to your mind is also essential before you seat for an examination.

  • Kirti

    Hello,thanks for very useful and effective writing tips.today I am going to sit nursing entrance exam and your tips like a miles stone for me.I hope it will be helpful to me in the future as well.thanks again

  • Thesis Statement

    Thanks for the tips, very helpful.

  • raviteja

    This Website Rocks Totally And I Have Seen Many Educational Tip Websites But None Were At your Level.Thanks For The Info A Lot!!!!!

  • SAIKOUBA JARJU

    These tips are very important for me as an english specialist at the teacher training college in the Gambia, who after graduation will teach english in schools.

  • Cielo

    I had been struggling for a while with essay-writing; After I started examining questions and outlining my answers with more care as you described here, I’ve been scoring straight As 🙂

    Those methods work like a charm. Highly recommendable!

  • Bryan

    Thanks! This is a big help to me especially since our english class is all about writing.

  • Rebecca

    I scored tests for Pearson and the high school students could use these tips; the writing wasn’t that great.

  • kavitha

    thank you so sweet of your tips

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