May 4, 2017 Nicoletta

Essay Planning

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Academic Director at English One
Nicoletta is the co-founder of English One. She holds a Dip. TESOL (licentiate) from Trinity College, London. She is a passionate teacher and teacher trainer with well over a decade of EFL experience.

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Perfect Essay Planning

Writing an essay takes a fair amount of effort – even for native speakers! When I write anything significant, it takes me the better part of a week to write and then I check it 2 or 3 times. Consider this when you are trying to put an essay together in an hour. Not even hardcore academics can do that, so please don’t. Essays are an important part of learning any language and if you do the due diligence, you will succeed.

You need to dedicate time to it. As with all things that grow, you need to nurture it.

IELTS Writing


The first thing you need to do is analyse the statement or question. What does it ask you to write about? Do you need to write about advantages and disadvantages? Or must you agree or disagree with a point? Is it a problem and solution question? Does it ask you to give your opinion? By understanding what the question asks of you, you will know how to go about answering it.


Now that you understand what you are being asked to do, you need to think of what you want to write about and what your standpoint is. This will provide the focus that you need in building your essay.


Before you start writing you need to prepare the language that you’re going to use. So now you must brainstorm some vocabulary and expressions that will be appropriate to your topic. And also think of some synonyms* for the vocabulary. By using synonyms you will demonstrate your higher English ability.

* A synonym is a word or phrase that means exactly or nearly the same as another word.

I recommend that every time you have a written assignment and you do not know much about the subject, go and do some research. Read up on the topic and note down the keywords that come up. Then use those keywords in your essay. Remember you can have great grammar and organisational skills but if you don’t have vocabulary you can’t write a thing!

In doing this step only use keywords. Don’t simply copy what you see. The point of research is to learn more about the topic/theme and increase your vocabulary – not copy someone else’s writing!

For example: Look at this essay question and the keywords I’d use: Discuss the advantages and disadvantages of learning in a traditional classroom setting or online platform.

  • Education/educate/educator
  • degrees/diploma
  • teach/teacher/professor/tutor
  • instruct/instruction/instructor
  • lecture/ multi-media learning
  • virtual learning environment
  • academic
  • primary/secondary
  • tertiary education
  • attend/attendance
  • graduate
  • assignments/tasks
  • discipline
  • holding down a job
  • studying part-time

Now that you have completed the planning for your essay it is time to start writing.

Essay Writing Guide


The first writing you need to do is the introduction to your essay.  The introduction needs to have these 3 elements:

  1. Paraphrase the question or statement.
  2. Write a thesis sentence. This presents the topic of your essay.
  3. In your thesis statement make sure you write a comment about your position in relation to the topic.

Your thesis statement should tell your reader what your essay is about and also help guide your writing and keep your argument focused. NOTHING MORE.


Now go back to your ideas and vocabulary that you gathered in steps 2 and 3. Take these and divide them into the categories you need, like the advantages and disadvantages, or the problem and the solution.


It’s time to get writing! Write 3 or 4 sentences per idea in each category. Follow these guidelines:

  1. State the advantage
  2. Explain the advantage and its possible result
  3. Give an example

If you have 2 advantages then you need to write 6 to 8 sentences.

Next, write to the opposing points. Usually 3 sentences per disadvantage.

  1. State the disadvantage
  2. Explain why it is a disadvantage and what the possible issue could be.
  3. Give an example.

If you have 2 disadvantages then you need to write 4 to 6 sentences.


At this point you have your ideas and sentences in order. Now, you need to connect them and make sure they are grammatically accurate. Use transitional words to help you link your ideas: 


Now you are ready to write your 2 paragraphs. Go on! Write them!


Write your conclusion in 2 – 4 sentences. This must be a summary of your main points. You may not add any new ideas here.

  • Sentence 1: restate the thesis (in your introduction) by making the same point but using different words (paraphrase).
  • Sentence 2-4: review your supporting ideas: summarize arguments by paraphrasing how you proved the thesis.

Example thesis sentence:

Freshly  ground  Italian coffee  is   far more delicious  than  the instant variety .

Example paraphrase for conclusion:

 Milled  Italian coffee  makes for   the best   type of  coffee.

 icon-info-circle  If you can’t come up with synonyms,  change the grammatical structure .


Read and check. Then re-read and check again. And because you’ve worked so hard on your essay you owe it to read and check one more time just to make sure!

As you can see from the above, writing the perfect essay takes a lot of work – but by following these steps, and persevering, it can be done. Whether you need to write an essay for university or you are doing an essay question in an exam, follow these steps to get the best possible result.

If you need more ideas on how to improve your English writing then contact us. By joining one of our specialized English courses you can develop your English skills quickly. And if you don’t feel like travelling you can have private online lessons. We are here to answer your questions!
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About the Author

Nicoletta Nicoletta is the co-founder of English One. She holds a Dip. TESOL (licentiate) from Trinity College, London. She is a passionate teacher and teacher trainer with well over a decade of EFL experience.