Many of us dread writing essays. As with any kind of literature, if your writing is perfect, your thoughts coherent, you can write an interesting essay, even if your topic is about the grazing patterns of dairy cows.
If you have four to five essays to write in your exam, it would be best to finish up the short and one-word answer questions first. This would leave you with ample time to tackle all the essays.
Unlike a regular essay assignment, in the essay examinations you cannot mull over, edit endlessly or doodle out your thoughts. You will have to write the introduction, body and conclusion within the stipulated time frame, Alana Frazier, a professional proofreader at Essay4Students, highlights. Your scores will depend on the language used, the arguments put forth and lastly the way you have structured your essay.
Choosing the Right Essay Structure
There are many different types of essay structures – choosing the right one for your essay can be difficult. Should you pick a descriptive essay, or a narrative? Maybe a cause and effect essay would be the most effective; or should you compare and contrast instead? Which one is right for you depends greatly on the topic.
The most common essay structures are narrative, descriptive, cause and effect, classification, and exemplification. There are many different essay structures not covered here, such as dialectic essays which are most commonly found in philosophy. So what are the important characteristics of each type of essay structure?
In the narrative essay, the author will usually write in chronological order to describe, say, an event. The narrative essay would be effective in describing a car accident. It would probably not be effective in describing the difference between two restaurants.
A descriptive essay, as its name implies, describes something, whether it be an event, an object, or an idea. Descriptive essays are often used in academia, and is one of the most commonly found essay structures.
Cause and effect essays describe an event and the causes leading up to them. Opinion pieces often follow the cause and effect format: “Why did the United States declare independence from Great Britain?” A cause and effect essay is the most logical choice here because the effect is already stated: The United States declared independence from Great Britain.
Now the author must fill in the question of cause: why did the United States declare independence from Great Britain? A cause and effect essay is very effective if done well.
For the classification essay, the author will divide a general topic into smaller parts. For instance, the topic may be “describe the ethnic breakdown of citizens in the United States”. It may appear that a descriptive essay would be the best choice, but a classification essay would be more logical here. The general topic would be citizens of the United States. You would then classify them according to ethnic background.
Choosing the wrong essay structure for your assignment could be disastrous. For instance, let’s say your assignment was to describe the events leading up to the civil war. If you try to use a compare and contrast essay examining the differences between the confederate and the union, it would be difficult to describe the events leading up to the civil war.
Instead, the best essay structure for these controversial topics would be a descriptive essay. You would pick the descriptive essay because it would allow the writer more flexibility in answering the topic. The writer would use a chronological approach to describe the events leading up to the civil war.
Making a quick outline, will help you to mention all the points that you want to put forward. Pay extra attention to the introduction and conclusion of the essay, since this would compel the examiner to read through the essay carefully. A weak introduction will only render the essay boring hence the examiner may not take the trouble to read it thoroughly even if you have written the body of the essay rather well. Adding subtitles adds a nice touch to your essays and it is also easier for the examiner to read through the entire essay.
Always make time to read through what you have written. This is an oft-repeated statement made by almost everybody but the funny thing is that it still holds good. Whether we are typing away on the computer or writing away to glory, we do misspell words, omit words and sometimes sentences as well. You will not have time for an elaborate editing session but you can give the essay a quick once-over before moving on to the next question.
Most of us have a dreadful memory for dates, names and places, especially while writing an essay on history. Writing a wrong date is worse than not writing it at all. So here is a small tip to avoid this pitfall. For example, you can write – “Toward the end of the 19th century” instead of mentioning the year 1897 or was it 1898! You will sound a bit vague but it is better to be vague than woefully wrong!
Some write elaborate sentences, repeating the same point in a twisted manner. Do not pad your essays with unnecessary points elaborated to no end. Instead, just write down the points that you do know and make it interesting with a good introduction and conclusion.
One Thing to Avoid
Another thing to avoid would be the “kitchen sink” approach. We dump almost everything in our kitchen, right from pots, pans, spoons, glasses, plates etc in the sink to wash. And it is up to the maidservant to sort out each piece of cutlery, wash and place it in its appropriate place. Some do take the same approach to essays that they write. Do not dump everything that you know about a subject in the essay. Pause and check whether what you write is relevant to the question or not. Your examiner will not mark out the relevant parts of your essay and award you marks. He might just mark you zero. So beware.