Essays are formal documents and therefore must be written in a formal style. They are based on discussions on very serious topics such as the economy of a country or the environment.
In the Cambridge CPE writing exam you are given two pieces of text with information on a topic and then asked to write an essay summarising the most important information in the texts. (See an essay sample )
In the CAE exam you are given a task which is usually something like "you've had a class discussion on Global Warming (or any other serious topic), write an essay giving your opinion on the following statement..." (See an essay sample)
There are a number of things you should take into consideration before you write, while you write and after you write an essay:
1. Types of essay
Take into consideration that there are two main types of
essays: Discursive essays and Opinions essays.
In a Discursive Essay you introduce the topic in the first
paragraph. Then present arguments for in the second
paragraph, arguments against in the third and a conclusion in
In an Opinion Essay you give you opinion in the first
paragraph and in the paragraphs that follow you support that
opinion with ideas and examples.
"A discursive ( or for and against ) essay is different from an opinion essay. In an opinion essay, the writer starts out stating his/her opinion; in a discursive essay, the writer gives a balanced view and in the conclusion can either state his/her opinion or give a summary of both sides of the argument." Source: "Speak Out" by Eales Frances and Oakes S.
2. Useful language for essays
Here there are some useful phrases you can use:
Sentence openers :
- The first text suggests that…..
The second text raises the issue of …..
- The writer is of the opinion that….
- Additionally, it is ragued that…..
- The two texts contrast differing views of…..
- According to the first passage…….
- Personaly, i …………….
- The second text put forward……
- I believe that………
- In conclusuon , it is my opinion that……
Linking points and arguments
- As opposed to
- In the sense that…..
- For this reason……..
Making generalisations :
- On the whole….
- In general…..
- For the most part….
- As a rule……
- It is often that….
- It is usually the case that…..
- People to regard…..
- The reality is that…..
- With respect to...
- In the case of...
- As regards...
- In terms of….
- With the exception of…..
- From the ….. point of view….
- They are seen as…..
- As far as ……are / is concerned……
Raising an argument:
- On the question of….
- No one would dispute…….
Giving one side:
- One argument in favour of this is ….
- In support of…..
- It is true that……
Giving the other side:
- At the same time….
- In actual fact…..
- On the other hand….
- In contrast to….
- Set/ weighed against this is…..
- a great deal of...
- to some / a large extent...
- a large number of….
3 F.A.Q: What´s the difference between an article and an essay?(Click to read origial post)
We asked 6 CPEs (people who have successfully passed the Cambridge Proficiency in English exam) and this is what they said to us:
CPE1: "An article is a piece of writing where a topic, either serious or light-hearted, is tackled from a personal point of view, including personal experience or arguments. Its purpose is generally to both inform and entertain. On the other hand, an essay is a piece of writing tending towards the academic: the topic in discussion is of a more serious nature and the writer is expected to provide an idea plus the arguments that discuss it. In doing so, they will have to refer to specific points about the issue in question and will generally have to use more precise language."
CPE2: "Article, informative, based on facts. Essay, develops an argument, involves opinions (so does a for an against article, oops!)."
CPE3: "As far as I´m concerned essays are more academic, you need to analyse both sides of the topic, and provide arguments to back you up, whereas articles are somehow more flexible and can have a more neutral tone."
CPE4: "I think an essay develops arguments and has always your opinion. An article gives information, although sometimes you can write your opinion."
CPE5: "As far as I know, an article is a piece of writing in which the writer chooses a topic and develops it giving his/her own opinion throughout the text. The language used can be fun and eye-catching as usually an article is meant to get as many readers as possible. An essay, on the other hand, is a rather formal piece of writing with a usually 4-5 paragraph structure, where usually the last paragraph carries the writer´s opinion."
CPE6: "Well, I think an essay is normally more academic and analytical, when the writer supports his views usually has to make reference to factual information and other people's or authors' views and findings. An article is basically aimed to inform or entertain the reader, it can be formal or informal depending on the topic and publication it appears whereas an essay is rarely informal. An article is published mainly in magazines or newspapers, for example a school´s newspaper, while an essay is normally a university assignment. Some essays might be of more than three pages, but for international exams we have to keep them short. The tone of an essay is generally serious, compared to the one of an article which might sound more relaxed and include some humour. I hope I have contributed with something."
A good essay is:•
The essay gets straight to the point and utilizes cleararguments. The writing doesn't deviate from the given topic.-Never write something down without explaining its signiﬁcance.•
The most successful writers don't make up the essay as they goalong. They consider the structure and the order in which theywill present their points before they start to write.•
Good essays include points that can be supported by facts or bystatements within the text that is being analyzed.•
Good essays use proper grammar, spelling and punctuation.•
Avoid writing statements about yourself. For instance, don't write"I think" or "The point I will make today is..."
Step 1: Read the question
Read the question and try to understand important parameters:- Type.Decide what kind of essay is, opinion, compare/contrast, problemand solution, cause and effect, or a mixture.- Topic.Sometimes, your teacher or professor will give you a prompt thatyou're required to use. If you do get an option to pick your owntopic, then choose something that you genuinely want to becomean expert about or something you feel passionate about discussing.- Format.The length of the essay, the way the pages are put together and the presentation all matter. Follow the rulesexactly as your teacher gives them to you so that you don't lose points.- Audience.With whom are you trying to communicate? Do you want to persuade your teacher, your peers or a collegeadmissions committee? You'll need to tailor your writing to the correct audience.
Step 2: Underline key words
Underline key vocabulary in the question and look for words like "explain," "identify," "analyze" or "deﬁne."Break down the prompt into components. If you are to "identify" something and then "analyze" it, then write 1paragraph identifying what's requested and a second paragraph analyzing what you identiﬁed.Write synonyms of the key words that you have underlined. This will really save you a lot of time later on. Itwill also help you to avoid repeating words and show that you understand the question.
Step 3: Get Ideas-
Decide if you are for or against the idea. Usually it is best to give both sides (for and against – oneparagraph each) and then to give your opinion in the conclusion.- Write a thesis statement for the entire essay. This statement should identify the point that you will make inyour essay. Make the thesis statement speciﬁc. Write "Ronald Reagan will always be remembered as a greatpresident because he ended the Cold War." Avoid writing "Everyone thinks Ronald Reagan is the bestpresident in history."- Remember: you don’t have to use ALL your ideas, discard ideas that don’t support your main points. Addingadditional ideas will make your writing unfocused.- Do not apologize for what you are saying. An essay is about your opinion.
Step 4: Decide Layout
You should decide on a layout. The easiest is 3773. That means four paragraphs: introduction (3 sentences)one side (7 sentences), the other side (7 sentences) and the conclusion (3 sentences). This will give you 20sentences. An average of about 12 words each, that is 240 words. Perfect!
Step 5: Write!
After you have written your plan, write your essay. Check for fragments, run-ons and comma splices.
Thesis statement: _____
First Supporting Idea (Topic Sentence)1.
Second Supporting Idea (TopicSentence)1.
Third Supporting Idea (Topic Sentence)1.
Restate thesis: _______