I want some help writing essay exams.


Here are some tips which can help you be prepared for essay exams:

  • Look at some exam papers from previous years (look at the Library Resources link on the right, and/or ask your lecturer). What kinds of essay questions have been asked in previous years?
  • Practise writing an essay for these questions, within the time available for the exam.
  • Find out the topics which may be included in the exam, and brainstorm for each one. In particular, think of several ways of analysing the topic (i.e. grouping or dividing the ideas or facts), which you could use to structure the paragraphs of an essay. Some very general examples include: 2 or 3 different theories on the topic; the pros and cons of a particular approach to the topic; some different reasons for your point of view about the topic; 3 different real-world applications of the topic, etc.


These tips may be helpful during the essay exam:

  • Closely analyse the essay question(s) and underline all the key words. What type of essay do they expect?
  • Carefully plan your time, to allow you to create an essay outline before you start writing, and also to proof-read your essay before you hand it in. You will need between 5 and 15 minutes to create an essay outline, depending on the length of the exam. You will need between 2 and 5 minutes to proofread, or more if you are a non-native speaker of English.
  • The outline should include the topic of each paragraph, as well as the main facts, points or examples which each paragraph should include. Write a topic sentence for each paragraph. When you are writing, stick to your outline: do not spend time on extra ideas which are not part of the topic of the paragraph or the purpose of the essay.
  • Make sure that you have both an introduction and a conclusion. Running out of time is not a good excuse. If necessary, budget your time for each paragraph, to make sure you finish the whole essay.

For more on this topic, see the links on the right...