Need to write a letter of application for your dream university? Want to get an A+ on an essay about literally any topic you can imagine? We’ve got the right tips to make it easy.
Our students tell us that one of the most challenging English skills to master is writing an essay. You need to be highly competent at writing essays in English for many high-stakes tests. Migration applications, university admissions, and academic essays all need you to clearly articulate your thoughts and ideas.
Whether it’s an IELTS, PTE or TOEFL English exam or an essay for school, there’s a simple essay structure you can use so that you ace it, every time.
Do you prefer audiovisual content? Check our video on how to write an essay in English about any topic.
Step 1: Answer the Question
Many people get caught up and make a critical error before even putting pen to paper. Before you do anything, read the question and make sure you understand it. Then, in your essay, answer the question. Don’t get distracted or go off-topic; simply answer the question.
Think about the following essay question: Success is different for everyone. Some people measure success by their wealth and possessions. Do you think success can be measured in financial terms?
Here, you simply need to state if you think wealth is an accurate measure of success, and why you have this opinion.
Step 2: Understand the Purpose of a Paragraph
Each paragraph should clearly express one particular point or thought. To do this thoroughly, each paragraph has three parts:
- Introduction: Communicate to the reader what you’re going to tell them
- Body paragraphs: Tell them
- Conclusion: Tell the reader what you told them
The paragraphs are all interconnected, the reader knows what to expect, and then finishes reading the essay with a clear understanding of your opinions or ideas. It seems very repetitive, but it makes the essay clear, gives it a great structure that flows, and connects all your thoughts in a logical way.
Step 3: Make a Plan
Never start writing without thinking about the question, and setting the direction you intend to travel in. By formulating your main thoughts before putting pen to paper, the overall essay flow will be a lot better. You’ll also save yourself time and lessen the risk of writing redundant paragraphs you end up deleting anyway.
In our example essay, we want four paragraphs. There’s an introduction, a conclusion, and two body paragraphs. So, for each body paragraph, you need one thought, opinion, or idea. For our example, if you don’t think wealth is a good measure of success, you need two reasons why. It could be that wealth is often inherited rather than earned, and that money can’t buy you good grades at school.
Step 4: Create a Three-Step Introduction
There are three parts to a great introductory paragraph:
- Write a broad background statement. When doing this, assume your reader knows nothing about your topic and you’re giving them the context for the whole article. It should be very obvious. For our example, something like: ‘Some people think success can be measured by wealth and material possessions’.
- Rewrite the question in your own words. The essay prompt we have is: ‘Success is different for everyone. Some people measure success by their wealth and possessions. Do you think success can be measured in financial terms?’
You want to re-write and paraphrase this, using different words that mean the same thing. Something like ‘Different people have different views on what constitutes success’.
- Write what you think the answer is, your ‘thesis’ statement. In our example, it could be something like; ‘I disagree, and do not think money is what makes someone successful. In this essay, I argue that money is often inherited and not a reward for success, and that typical markers of achievement such as good grades cannot be purchased’.
Step 5: Write the Body Paragraphs
This is where you tell your reader about your thoughts. This is a simple four-part process. It can be as many sentences as you need, although four is a minimum.
- First, you introduce your idea, that wealth is inherited. As with the introductory paragraph, make this first sentence super clear so the reader immediately understands what this paragraph will be about.
- Then, give an example of this; thinking about a celebrity who inherited a lot of money and was famous for this only.
- Then, give another example, such as a child who inherits a lot of money, starts a business that fails yet still has money.
- Finally, summarise your ideas.
It could read like:
‘Wealth is often inter-generational, and often those inheriting it have done nothing to earn it. They could have done nothing successful with their lives, and still be the recipient of millions of dollars, such as Paris Hilton. Consider also someone who starts a business using inherited wealth, and that business fails, but yet they remain wealthy. The wealth that is inherited is no marker or sign of success.’
Now, write the second paragraph. Repeat the same four-part structure.
Step 6: Write the Conclusion
This should be easy to write; you’re not adding anything new or trying to develop your arguments further, you are simply repeating what you’ve already said. It has a two-part structure:
- The first part is ‘This essay discussed/ compared/ showed….’ And re-state your main idea.
- Then, the second part, you give your opinion.
An example here is:
‘This essay discussed how some people think that wealth is a sign of success. I personally think this is untrue, as wealth can be intergenerational and unrelated to the success of an individual. Money also can’t buy traditional markers of success, such as good grades.’
Want to excel at writing in English?
While this simple essay formula lends itself to almost any topic and any situation, you will need to practice and be mindful of the structure until it becomes second nature. If you’re serious about better written English, better grades, and better outcomes, you need to put in the work.
E2 Test Prep gives you a wide range of solutions and resources if you want to improve your writing. Follow our E2 YouTube channel. There are great resources here and we cover everything from the basics through to those final tweaks that put you a cut above the rest. You can also listen to our E2 Everyday English podcast, learning while you exercise, cook dinner, or drive to work.
If you’re not sure where to start and you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed, take our free E2 English placement test. This 15-minute test gives you feedback, telling you what level of English you’re at.
If you are preparing for a specific test like IELTS, OET, PTE or TOEFL, you can choose from the right level of assistance from our teaching packages.
- Our bronze package includes live classes, a mock test, one tutorial, and assessments
- The silver package offers live classes, more assessments, two tutorials, and a pre-test strategy session
- Our 12 month gold package offers live classes, even more assessments, three tutorials, and a pre AND post test strategy session.
All these packages give you one on one feedback from our teachers, helping you to find your strengths and weaknesses. We build an action plan tailored to you and help to increase your overall score by a significant amount. If you’re not sure you’ll benefit from our training, try our free 30-day access to both our platforms before diving in.
If you specifically want assistance with English writing, our intensive writing package gives all the support, training, and feedback you need to improve your skills. This three-month program will give you the skills you need to ace your written English essays, applications, and reports. Don’t waste money and time sitting these high-stakes written English tests until you know you’re prepared.
We are a world-leading education provider, with a proven track record of helping our students ace their English tests. Contact us today if you want superb results that propel your education to the next level.