Writing a good essay, whether in an exam or at any other time, is a task that many find difficult. Essays are required in most subjects, and your exam results may largely depend on your ability to write them so it is well worth tackling the problem energetically.
Why do we have to write essays any way?
Essays test more than your factual knowledge. They also test your ability to understand the significance of the knowledge you have; to apply it to the solving of particular problems; and to communicate this to someone else. So there are three things necessary to write a good essay, whatever the subject:
1. the necessary information;
2. the use of this information to solve the problem;
3. the ability to communicate in the most appropriate way.
But there is one essential point before you can even begin. You must be quite certain you know what the question means. Even if instinct urges you to start writing immediately, resist it. Make quite sure that you have read all of the question carefully, and 'all' means the instructions as well as the actual content of the question.
When you look at an essay question following are the points you should have in your mind:
Is there just one question or is it an Either ... Or?
How many things are you being asked to do? (Look out for the word 'and')
If more than one thing is required are they of the same kind? Or are they of different kinds (Describe and explain)?
Are you clear in your mind about the meaning of all the terms used?
Once you have got a clear idea of what the question is about, you must start planning your essay. There are two basic steps to planning: collecting and selecting the material and organizing it.
Starting and stopping
Once you have got the general structure of your essay clear, you can start writing. All you need now is a way of getting into it and a way of getting out. The first rule for starting an essay is 'don't put the reader off'. Your opening sentence can refer directly to the question. This is safe and can be helpful to the reader but take care that it is not also too dull. Never repeat the question word for word in your opening sentence. You may also start with an example that is relevant to one or other side of the argument or that simply underlines the question. Whatever style of opening you choose the important thing to remember is that it must lead you smoothly to your first point.
These are easier. Unless you are writing an imaginative essay, the best kind of conclusion is usually one that reminds the reader briefly of your arguments and states your opinions based on those arguments. The important thing is to leave the reader satisfied that the essay has indeed finished and not just stopped.
The style of your essay will vary to some extent depending on whether you are writing a factual or an imaginative piece, but two rules must apply no matter what the subject is:
1. What you want to say must first be clear in your mind or it will never be clear on paper.
2. The language you use must be as simple and direct as the subject allows.
The rule 1 does not mean that you must have every sentence complete in your mind before you start to write it down, but that you must have the thought clear. To achieve the aim of rule 2, you must use proper vocabulary, sentence structure, spellings and punctuation.
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