Top tips for effective essay writing

Writing in English is an important skill for everyday life and also for your English language exams. In your exam, you may have to write an essay. There are many techniques and strategies you can use to write an effective essay. Here are some essay-writing tips and tricks you can use next time you need to write an essay. 

Tips for different essay types 

There are different types of essays that you may need to write during your English language journey. These include:

  • Argumentative essays: These essays present the advantages and disadvantages of a particular topic or issue. They require you to provide well-reasoned arguments and evidence to support your point of view.
  • Persuasive essays: The aim of persuasive essays is to convince the reader to eventually adopt your point of view or take a specific course of action. These essays rely on strong arguments, logical reasoning and persuasive language.
  • Expository essays: Expository essays focus on explaining or clarifying a concept, idea or process. They require you to provide clear and concise information with supporting examples and evidence.
  • Narrative essays: In narrative essays, you tell a story or narrate an event. These essays use descriptive language, and engage readers through vivid details and a compelling narrative structure.
  • Descriptive essays: Descriptive essays aim to paint a clear picture of a person, place, object or experience. These essays utilise sensory language (e.g. colourful, crowded, dark, cold etc.) and figurative devices to evoke emotions and create a picture of the scene and people in the reader’s mind.

Tips for essay structure 

When writing an essay, you need to think about several key elements:

  • Organisation and structure: Make sure your essay follows a clear and logical structure. Your essay should start with an introduction explaining what your essay is going to be about, followed by paragraphs containing the main points you want to express. Each of the paragraphs in the main body should address a single main idea. Finally, you should end with a conclusion.
  • Paragraphing: Divide your essay into paragraphs to make it easy for the reader to follow and to make it coherent. Start each paragraph with a topic sentence that introduces the main idea of that particular section.
  • Main ideas with supporting arguments and evidence: In the main body of your essay, clearly state your main ideas and support them with relevant arguments, examples, facts, or statistics. Use these supporting details to strengthen your overall argument.

More essay writing tips

Essays typically maintain a formal register, so it is important to use appropriate language. Here are some examples:

  • Formal language: In an essay, try to avoid using contractions, e.g. They are instead of they’re. Try to avoid using the personal pronouns I or we – instead, you could use a passive structure. Do not use colloquial expressions or idioms, and try to use more formal words for everyday language, e.g. show – demonstrate, find out – discover, give – provide, point out – indicate.
  • Linking words: Use cohesive devices and words and phrases to connect your sentences to improve the flow and coherence of your essay. For instance, use words like however, in addition, furthermore or on the other hand to connect ideas. You can also create smooth transitions from one idea to the next by using sequencing language such as firstly, next, following this etc.

Final tips for essay writing

To produce a well-structured and coherent essay, think about the following:

  • Make a plan: Before you start writing, create a plan outlining the main points you want to include. Refer to your plan regularly to stay focused and maintain a logical flow.
  • Use varied language: Use a variety of vocabulary, sentence structures, and sentence lengths to make your essay more engaging and interesting.
  • Proofread and edit: After completing your essay, carefully review it for grammar, punctuation, and spelling errors. This is particularly important in an English exam.

Knowing how to write an essay in English is an important skill. Understanding the different types of essays, organising your ideas effectively, using appropriate language and linking words, and following a plan can significantly improve your essay writing skills. By incorporating these tips into your writing routine, you will feel more confident the next time you write an essay in English. 

For more information about different types of writing in the Oxford Test of English, read this blog and download our detailed guide!


Decide whether the statements about essay writing are true (T) or false (F). 

  1. In an English exam, you usually do not have time to proofread your essay. T/F
  2. Your essay should always start with an introduction and end with a conclusion. T/F
  3. Persuasive essays ask you to present both points of view with evidence to support. T/F
  4. You should make a plan before you start your essay, then not refer to it again until you finish writing. T/F
  5. You should use language to help you sequence your ideas where necessary. T/F
  6. You could start your essay with, In my opinion… T/F


  1. False. In an English exam, you should always leave some time to proofread your essay when you finish to check for any errors and correct them. 
  2. True. The middle part of your essay is the main body that contains your main arguments and key points. 
  3. False. Persuasive essays require you to convince the reader to eventually adopt your point of view or take a specific course of action. Argumentative essays require you to present the advantages and disadvantages of a particular topic or issue. 
  4. False. Refer to your plan regularly whilst writing so you can stay focused and maintain a logical flow. 
  5. True. Use sequencing words and phrases to help you structure your essay and improve its flow. 
  6. False. Try to avoid using personal pronouns. 

Author: Oxford University Press ELT

Every year we help millions of people around the world to learn English. As a department of the University of Oxford, we further the University’s objective of excellence in education by publishing proven and tested language learning books, eBooks, learning materials, and educational technologies.

3 thoughts

  1. Thank you for sharing valuable resources with us. It is inspiring and motivating. I really find everything, especially the webinars, extremely useful.


  3. Thank you for very valuable tips. Will definitely use them with my students who are preparing for FCE exams.

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