Essay-writing and reasoning are two key skills every student needs to thrive academically in the UK.
Journalist Jesi Bailey moved to the UK from Southern California when she was 16. In an article for the Business Insider, she writes that it took her many failed essays to adjust and score well in her exams. She points out that in the British style of essay-writing the writer needs to follow a strict, well-defined structure and outline concise and evidence-based arguments without being too wordy or flowery.
Here are some tips from the UK universities on how to write a perfect English essay:
Plan your essay
Poor structure and incoherent writing are some of the main reasons for lower grades for academic essays. It can be avoidable by planning before writing – summing up what each of your sources/authors from your reading list argues in a way that will allow you to revise later, highlighting logical links and core themes, identifying the best evidence to support your points, and, finally, formulating the main argument of your essay in a couple of sentences. A good essay consists of an introduction, a main body and a conclusion.
Briefly outline the main points in the introduction
Many people struggle with the beginning of their essay. However, the main purpose of the introduction is simple: you need to briefly (in less than 100 words or so) explain what your essay is going to be about and how it will be structured. Give a direct answer to the question asked, describe the issues your essay will address, outline your main argument, and cite the sources you will be drawing upon to support it.
I would argue that... According to <the name of the cited author>... I will be arguing that...
Dr Matthew Williams from Jesus College, Oxford points out that many not-so-good essays first and foremost suffer from a lack of focus on a topic at hand. You need to carefully read your assignment title and make sure that your piece of writing answers a central question posed by the title, without veering off course or generalising too much.
Reading too little and reading too much are both common problems. Although it's important to have a solid reading list and sometimes look beyond it, the quality of your sources matters more than quantity. Don't get bogged down in your reading – only gather and write down things that are relevant and interesting. And, of course, your essay shouldn't be a simple compilation of what others have written on the topic – you should read everything with a critical eye and look for gaps that you can explore and evaluate on your own.
The best essays are born out of a thoughtful, critical analysis – digging into the nuances and complexities of your topic and sources and actively interacting with them. Don't be intimidated by the expert opinion and afraid to add something of your own to the conversation. Share your insights – this is what essay-writing is essentially about!
Want to know more about what it's like to study as an international student in the UK and how to become one? LEO International Online School offers a diverse and intensive two–year A-Level programme designed to prepare students for entry to universities in the United Kingdom. Learn more about this programme and our other courses here, and don't hesitate to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.