English essay writing tips - Improve your IELTS, TOEFL, CAE writing score


Do you need to improve your academic essays

at college or university?

Do you need a higher IELTS, CAE,

or TOEFL writing score? In either case,

you need to follow certain guidelines to maximise

your chances of success.

Hello and welcome, everyone. This is Minoo at Anglo-Link. In today's tutorial, we're going to

look at some general essay writing tips

and some specific tips for three English

language tests: IELTS, TOEFL,

and CAE. By the end of this tutorial,

you will have a good idea of the steps

you need to take to improve your essay writing skills. O.K.

Today I have 8 tips to share

with you.

The 1st tip is: Follow the instructions.

Make sure you read the question carefully so you can

give a relevant answer,

and also make sure you follow the instructions.

A common mistake is to ignore what your teacher or

examiner wants to see. If the rubric says:

Support your opinion with examples,

and you fail to provide examples, you will not

get a high score even if you write

the best essay in the world.

Also, respect the number of words

they have instructed you to write. Too short

is definitely not good, but too long

is equally problematic as quantity may

end up sacrificing quality.

My 2nd tip is:

Manage your time.

Another common mistake is to spend

too little or too much time planning

and too little or no time revising.

Planning involves two things.

Firstly, making brief notes of any ideas

that come to you when you read the question.

Some people call this brainstorming.

And secondly, organising your ideas

into several points

and finding supporting arguments and examples

for each point. This is often called


Revising involves rereading what you have written

for two purposes:

Firstly, to make sure you have organised

your ideas well

and make any changes that will make your answer

easier to read.

And secondly, to correct any spelling,

punctuation, or grammar mistakes that

you may notice.

O.K. Let's look at my 3rd tip:

Always use the standard essay format.

A common mistake is to write your answer

without an introduction or a conclusion.

Always follow this format:

Make the first paragraph the introduction.

Your introduction must have at least two sentences.

The first sentence must introduce the topic

using your own words.

Try to make your topic sentence an interesting

paraphrase of the question.

This sentence is often called a 'hook',

whose purpose is to generate interest in the reader.

The second sentence should present your answer

to the question as briefly as possible.

Don't present any arguments or

examples in the introduction.

Keep your introduction short. The following

two or three paragraphs constitute

the body of your answer.

In each body paragraph, you state

one single point in support of your

brief answer in the introduction.

This is where you present your supporting arguments and

examples for that point.

A 300-word essay would typically include

two body paragraphs.

And, the final paragraph is the conclusion.

This brings us to tip number 4,

which is: Vary your vocabulary

by using synonyms.

The examiner is looking for a good knowledge of

vocabulary. You show this by using synonyms

in different parts of your essay, and

by using appropriate adjectives and adverbs

to strengthen your message. Therefore,

make sure that you use your own words

when you present the topic in the introduction paragraph

your hook,

and also make sure that you use different

words in your conclusion when you

summarise your points and restate your answer.

Tip number 5 is: Use transition and

linking words.

Make sure you master the use of transition words

such as 'first and foremost',

'additionally', and linking words such as

'nevertheless', 'despite', etc.

Using the correct linking and transition phrases is

extremely important in presenting your points

in a clear and easy-to-follow manner. Right,

Tip number 6 is: Improve your


Correct punctuation is like clear pronunciation.

It will make it comfortable for the reader to follow

what you have written.

The most important punctuation marks to use correctly in your essays

are the comma,

the semi-colon, and the full stop.

Another thing that can help your reader is

avoiding very long sentences.

The recommended average length of sentences in a text

is about 20 words.

That's the average length. So, some of your sentences

may be 10 to 15 words, and others

25 to 35 words.

O.K. Moving on to tip number 7, which is:

Improve your grammar.

It goes without saying that too many grammar mistakes

will lower your score.

Watch out especially for mistakes with tenses,

conditionals, subject-verb

agreement, or subject-pronoun agreement.

because these can confuse the reader.

Mistakes with articles, prepositions, and

the gerund are very easy to make

when you write fast, but these are less important

as they do not usually affect the clarity

of your message, so that's why

it's important to leave 3 to 5 minutes

to revise your essay and correct any spelling,

punctuation, or grammar mistakes that you


And finally: Tip number 8: Practice

makes perfect!

If you are new to essay writing for exams,

I'd recommend you follow these steps:

Step 1:

Revise and improve the important areas

I listed earlier, so: linking and transition

words, punctuation, tenses,

conditionals, subject-verb, and

subject-pronoun agreement. Step 2:

Familiarise yourself with the standard essay format

that I described earlier: introduction,

body, conclusion.

Step 3:

Search the official website of the test you want

to take for a list of typical essay topics

and writing samples. Step 4:

When you have found these samples, read as many

of them as you can.

As you read them, do the following:

First, identify the paragraphs:

introduction, body 1, body 2, conclusion.

Then, underline all the linking and

transition words.

Then, circle all the punctuation marks.

And finally, make a note of good vocabulary

and phrases for that particular topic.

Step 5: After you have studied 10 to

15 writing samples,

take each of the topics and spend a few minutes

planning your own answer.

Gradually, bring the time this takes you

to 3 to 5 minutes. Step 6:

When you feel you have become good at planning

and outlining, start writing the essays.

Gradually, bring the time it takes you to write a

complete essay to 25 to 30


Step 7:

Make sure that each time you write an essay,

you revise it and improve it as much as you can.

Initially, take your time to identify

your recurrent mistakes and work on these

weak areas.

Gradually, bring your revision time down to

3 to 5 minutes.

And finally, Step 8:

After having written and revised 10 to 15

essays, when you are satisfied that

you cannot improve on your own anymore,

write an essay on a completely new topic,

and submit it to a teacher.

Then, use your teacher's feedback to improve

areas that may still need work.

Well, that's it for this tutorial. I hope

you have found these tips on essay writing helpful.

If you feel you need to improve important areas of

English for essay writing such as

linking and transition words, punctuation,

tenses, etc., you are very welcome

to join my online self-study course,

where I cover all these topics.

To sign up for my course, please visit


As a course member, you will have the option

of submitting your essay to me for my feedback.

Best of luck, everyone, with your essays and tests.

And, see you again very soon!

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