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How to improve your essay writing for English!

Updated: Jul 13

We all know how important English or General Paper is as a subject. Yet ironically, it is one of those subjects that most students struggle to make significant improvement in!


Frustrating isn't it?

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In this article, we are going to explore a number of key techniques that can turn your basic level essay to a best-selling novel series! (let us know if you actually do make it!)


Let's dive right in!

Tip #1: Vocabulary Sophistication


Firstly, vocabulary sophistication is essential. If you are going to use primary school level vocabulary, be prepared to get graded like a primary school level essay! The expectation here is not for you to use extremely complex words like 'intransigent' or 'evanescent' (don't worry, I had to google too) but you need to start building a list of more sophisticated vocabulary and expand your range of expressions.


Instead of using common words like ‘do’ and ‘good’, use words like ‘perform’ or ‘execute’ and ‘remarkable’ or ‘impeccable’ instead. Do note that the words you use must be suitable for the context, otherwise it would be prominently problematic to the marker. The 'nominalisation technique' is also helpful – students should use nouns instead of mostly verbs, so as to add variety of the writing style.


You can do so simply by building a mini databank on your phone or notebook and jot down words you haven't seen before and taking deliberate efforts to find synonyms of basic level words when you are attempting your essays. Make sure you are focused on making vocabulary improvement to every essay you write, if not, you are wasting the practice away!


Tip #2: Sentence Variation


Secondly, incorporate sentence variation. Sophistication in the language is not only achieved by the use of good vocabulary, but also by a variety of sentences. Throughout your essay, you should have a variety of sentences that begin in different manner.


Do not always only write active sentences and start with the subject. This is a common style of writing that is going to make our essay look dull. For instance, students would write ‘These opportunities give students…’ followed by the next sentence ‘The career prospects compel people to…’, then followed by the next sentence ‘These attitudes serve to…”. You need to change up your sentence structure!


Two great writing techniques to pick up are passivation and qualification. Instead of always starting in a mundane manner of active construction sentences, you should mix around the possible ways to construct your sentence. We could write in passive construction sentences - 'The diverse range of opportunities given to students…’, ‘The compulsion to be competitively is made apparent by how such career prospects would…”.


Alternatively, we can qualify our sentence with an interesting starting clause to form a sentence like “With such attitudes permeating the minds of multitudes across the nations, they serve to…’.


Learn to infuse more sentence variation so your essay have more diversity and is more exciting to read!


Tip #3: Mastering intra-paragraph structure


Thirdly, you need to be extremely well-prepared in terms of intra-paragraph structure and the individual elements that goes into each paragraph. From introduction, to content paragraphs, to conclusion, there are distinctive elements in each of them and a specific intra-paragraph structure you can memorise to use in the examination. The methods that many schools or assessment books teach are relatively basic and will not make a student’s piece outstanding in the pool of essays. Here, we are going to share some exclusive techniques!


- For expository and argumentative essays, there are two fundamental ones.


The first would be introduction elements:


(1) Micro Hook (where you focus on a specific interesting example using creative writing methods) or Macro Hook (where you focus on a general observation using linguistic sophistication)

(2) Background Context of Topic

(3) Artful Definition of Topic

(4) Thesis


The second would be intra-paragraph structure:


(1) Point

(2) Elaboration of Point

(3) Examples

(4) Elaboration of Examples

(5) Link


Under (2) Elaboration of Point, the tip is to ask yourself ‘What?’, ‘How?’ and ‘Why?’ with respect to keywords found in your (1) Point.


- For narrative and personal recount essays, there are two advices - ideas sophistication and linguistic creativity.


Your storyline must be highly distinctive, and your plot issue must be significant, otherwise your essay will be considerably dull and highly superficial. Besides the specific content paragraph structure to follow throughout your 5 paragraphs, you must also channel your sense of description.


Narrative writing and personal recount essays are very demanding in terms of ideas imagination, attention to details and creative expressions. You must put yourself in the shoes of the character facing those circumstances and observing those occurrences. You need engage your senses and put that onto paper effectively. It cannot be an essay filled with mere statements outlining the happenings. Besides good physical description, you need to weave in moods, emotions, atmospheric description, figurative language, metaphors and artistic expressions in order to do well for your essay.

In conclusion,


To ace your 'O' Level English Language examinations, the things to be done are never arbitrary or a matter of luck. There are salient things to carefully prepare for and thoroughly revise through before you set your mind to confidently put them onto paper.


Making significant improvement for your English language is not going to be an easy feat but there are definitely specific tips and techniques to learn, memorise and replicate during the examination to excel well!


It is important to build the confidence and be ready to walk into your exam hall like this:

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If you are looking for more English Language resources, you can refer to the free notes on our website or consider getting a copy of our English curated notes which covers all techniques and tips in detail, from essay writing to comprehension skills!


Here is a sneak peak of the English curated notes:


If you think you need more help and guidance from our English specialist tutor, do consider signing up for our English crash course this Saturday, 17th July, from 10am to 2pm! The 4 hour crash course will cover:


- Situational Writing: ideal format structure, sophisticated expressions for common text types

- Continuous Writing: 'SAFARI' strategy to come up with excellent ideas, 3-step strategy to craft solid topic sentences, introduction elements techniques, step-by-step 'P.E.E.E.L' content writing method, conclusion elements techniques, sophisticated language expression techniques

- Common Comprehension Answering Techniques

- Useful Summary Techniques

- Oral Skills: Fixed answering format, easy elaboration techniques, common sophisticated expressions


It will definitely be a Saturday morning well spent and will help you take the significant next step towards your 'O' Levels! Do give it a kind consideration!


The fees are only at $140, inclusive of a copy of the English curated notes! Sign up with a friend to enjoy 10% off!


As always, we hope that this article has been helpful and we wish you all the best for your upcoming national exams!



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