Exercise 6: Writing an article (Ultimate Guide)

Exercise 6: Writing an article (Ultimate Guide)

Exercise 6 of the Reading and Writing paper of the IGCSE English as a Second Language (ESL) exam (0510/0511/0991/0993) is always a formal or semi-formal writing. It can be an article, a report, or a review.

In this article, you will discover how to write an almost perfect article that impresses the examiner and gets you the highest band.

So, what is an article?

An article is a piece of writing written for a large audience, e.g., a magazine or newspaper, on a particular topic, which is meant to be of interest to the reader. It will express a certain viewpoint or perspective — this can be positive or negative depending on the topic.

The purpose of an article is often to inform and persuade the reader. Articles give information about a certain topic and can either persuade the reader that a certain viewpoint is correct (one-sided article; also called opinion article) or provide a balanced argument that lets the reader make up their own mind about the topic (two-sided article). You have the option to choose between writing a one-sided article or a two-sided article.

The Tone and Register of an Article

In the exam, the article is often for your school magazine or your teacher and rarely for the local newspaper.

If it’s for your school magazine, then the audience of the article is the students at your school and possibly the teachers or parents. The tone and register required, therefore, is rather semi-formal.

If, on the other hand, the article is for your teacher or the local newspaper, then the tone and register required is formal.

So, generally, the tone and register of the article should be more formal than exercise 5 but should be engaging.

Now, let’s discover the ideal format for both types of articles.

The format of a one-sided article

Paragraph 1: Introduction (including your opinion)

Paragraph 2: First point supporting your opinion with an explanation

Paragraph 3: Second point supporting your opinion with an explanation

Paragraph 4: State a counterargument (an idea from the opposing viewpoint) and counter the counterargument (i.e., explain why this counterargument is invalid). In other words, state a point made by people who have a different opinion from yours and explain why they are wrong.

Paragraph 5: Conclusion (including your opinion again but in different words)

The format of a two-sided article

Paragraph 1: Introduction (without your opinion)

Paragraph 2: One side of the issue either in favour or against

Paragraph 3: The other side of the issue either in favour or against

Paragraph 4: Conclusion (including your opinion)

Introduction

The purpose of the introduction is to inform the reader about the main point (topic) of the article and engage the reader to make them interested in the topic and read the rest of your article.

The main components of an effective introduction are:

  1. Topic sentence

Start your article with a topic sentence that introduces the topic to the reader and explains its importance in today’s world. Give forceful statements rather than “I think that”, “maybe” or “perhaps”. For example: “Nowadays, music plays an indispensable role in our lives.”

To write an effective topic sentence, you might use adverbial time phrases and generalizations. Here are some examples of each.

Adverbial time phrases
  • Nowadays/these days/currently
  • Every day/week/year
  • Recently/for many years/decades
  • In the past
  • 10 years ago
  • In the last (few/five) (days/weeks/months/years/decades)
Generalization
  • Almost all
  • Most/many
  • A large number of / The vast majority (of)
  • Several/some
  • Not many/hardly any/ few
  • In almost all cases
  • In the majority of cases
  • In a large number of cases
  • In most cases
  • In some cases
  • On the whole/ Overall
  • Students
  1. Rhetorical question(s)

Use rhetorical questions (questions that don’t require an answer but make your reader think) to get the reader interested in the topic and encourage them to read on. For example:

  • How would you feel if you had two hours of homework every night?
  • How much longer do animals have to suffer?
  • Could you live with yourself if you missed out on this opportunity?
  • How could we possibly stand the …?
  • What would happen if …?
  • Could your conscience cope with …?
  • Is it really worth …?
  • Do you want to be part of …?
  • Have you ever thought about the positive impact you could have on the world by becoming vegetarian?
  1. Your opinion (if it is a one-sided article)

If you are writing a two-sided article, DO NOT give your opinion in the introduction.

If you are writing a one-sided article, give your opinion (whether you support or oppose the viewpoint expressed in the statement).

Here are some opinion phrases to help you express your opinion.

  • In my opinion
  • In my view
  • I concur/agree
  • I believe that
  • I think …
  • I admit …
  • It seems to me that
  • I am in favour of
  • I am against the idea of
  • I am strongly opposed to
  • I disagree / I cannot accept

You may also kill two birds with one stone and begin your article with a rhetorical question that introduces the topic to the reader, thus acting as a topic sentence. Here is an example.

“Have you ever thought how school life would be if the school day started later? In my perspective, this will have countless benefits.”

Body

The structure if you are writing a one-sided article:

Body paragraph 1: First idea supporting your opinion with an explanation

Body paragraph 2: Second idea supporting your opinion with an explanation (should be different from the first idea)

Body paragraph 3: State a counterargument (an idea from the opposing viewpoint) AND counter the counterargument (i.e., explain why this counterargument is invalid). In other words, state a point made by people who have a different opinion from yours and explain why they are wrong.

When introducing the opposing argument in the 3rd body paragraph, use any of the following phrases.

  • Opponents of this idea claim/assert/argue that …
  • Those who disagree/are against these ideas may say/insist that …
  • Some people allege/argue that …
  • Some people may suggest/point out that …
  • A common counterargument is that …
  • It can be argued that …

When countering the opposing argument in the 3rd body paragraph, use any of the following phrases depending on the context.

  • While this may be true to some extent, …
  • While it is true that …, it is important to consider…
  • While some may believe that … recent studies have shown that …
  • What this invalid argument misses is …
  • What these people fail to notice/take note of is …
  • The evidence, however, disproves this argument because …
  • However, upon closer examination, it becomes clear that …
  • However, a closer analysis reveals that …
  • However, this flawed argument overlooks the fact that …

The structure if you are writing a two-sided article:

Body paragraph 1: One side of the issue either in favour or against (mention 2 different ideas)

Body paragraph 2: The other side of the issue either in favour or against (mention 2 different ideas)

General guidelines for both kinds of articles:

  • Read the question carefully and draft a plan for your article in the blank space below the question using a pencil. Here are some steps to follow.
  1. Separate the blank space into two parts, one for and one against.
  2. Jot down any points that come to your mind in the correct part, along with any interesting vocabulary or expressions suitable for the task. Remember to write briefly and in bullet points.
  3. Decide whether you will write a one-sided article or a two-sided article. Weigh up the two sides and see which one has stronger and more convincing arguments. If one side clearly has stronger and more convincing points, write a one-sided article. If you see that both arguments are equally strong or that no side has more compelling arguments, then write a two-sided article and choose four statements (2 for and 2 against). It’s also worth noting that while a two-sided article is easier to write, a one-sided article is the preferred option as it’s more persuasive.
  4. Consider how you will begin your article and how you will engage the reader at the start. For example, write some variations of the topic sentence and rhetorical questions that you could use.
  5. Choose the most effective ones and begin writing. Remember to spend no more than 5 minutes on the plan.
  • You can use the few prompts given in the question, but it is better to use your own ideas if you want to get higher marks. If, however, you are out of ideas, use the ideas in the question and make sure to paraphrase them (write them in different words) and develop them well.
  • Support your ideas with reasons, evidence, or examples, and use persuasive language features. Remember that you should not just describe the problem but should be convincing in getting the audience to choose a side. Also, the examiner knows that the evidence or examples will be made up and doesn’t expect these to be correct.
  • Keep to the topic (don’t wander away from the main subject of the article). Remind yourself constantly by looking again at the question.
  • Use a variety of linking words and cohesive devices (mainly formal) to create a smooth and logical flow in your writing. Here are some examples.
When presenting the first point (used in the 1st body paragraph of both one-sided articles and two-sided articles)
  • The main argument in favour of/against is
  • The main point/reason is
  • The most important point/reason
  • The first point/reason
  • First of all
  • First and foremost
  • Firstly
  • In the first place
  • On the one hand (used only when writing a two-sided article)
When adding more points (used in the 2nd body paragraph of a one-sided article and both body paragraphs of a two-sided article)
  • In addition,
  • Furthermore,
  • Additionally,
  • Moreover,
  • Not only … but also…
  • As well as.
  • And
  • Another noteworthy point is …
  • Apart from that
  • What is more
  • Besides
When contrasting ideas (used in the 2nd body paragraph of a two-sided article)
  • However
  • Nevertheless
  • Even though
  • Although
  • Despite
  • In spite of
  • On the other hand
  • On the contrary
  • By contrast
  • In comparison
  • Alternatively
  • Another option could be
  • But
When giving examples
  • For example
  • For instance
  • One clear example is
  • Such as
  • Namely
  • To illustrate
  • In other words
When reasoning:
  • Results and consequences: as a result, consequently, therefore, thus, hence, for this reason, as a result (of), which means that, etc.
  • Reasons and causes: owing to, because (of), on account of, due to, since, as, etc.   
When highlighting and stressing
  • Particularly
  • In particular
  • Specifically
  • Especially
  • Obviously
  • Clearly

Conclusion

The purpose of the conclusion is to sum up what you have said and express (or re-express) your opinion.

In the conclusion:

  1. Sum up your main points concisely using concluding phrases. Here are some examples.
  • In conclusion
  • To conclude
  • To sum up
  • To reiterate
  • On the whole
  • All in all
  • All things considered
  • After weighing the benefits and drawbacks
  • It can be concluded that …
  • I believe that …
  • Thus, I am of the opinion that …
  • Given these points

Remember to use different words from those used to express the points in the body.

  1. Give your final opinion (regardless of whether it’s a one-sided or a two-sided article) and any solution or suggestion if applicable.

The solution or suggestion might be part of your opinion if you’re writing a two-sided article and want to take a balanced view on the issue rather than siding with one side. For example, “In conclusion, it is evident that fast food is a double-edged sword; thus, I strongly believe we should strike a balance between eating fast food and incorporating other healthier options in our diet to mitigate its negative effects.”

Use the opinion phrases stated earlier in the Introduction section to express your opinion, and if it’s a one-sided article, make sure to use different words from those used in the introduction.

  1. Include your audience by any of the following ways:
  1. Using pronouns like we, us, and you (this is the easiest). Notice how this was used in the previously mentioned conclusion example (bold and underlined)
  1. Using rhetorical question(s). For example, “To conclude, I wholeheartedly believe that everyone should pursue higher education. Why not embrace this invaluable opportunity to fast-track your career, build your confidence, and broaden your social circle?”.
  1. Leaving the reader with something to think about. For example: “After weighing the benefits and the drawbacks, it is apparent that convenience food, while palatable, may negatively impact other areas of your life. Think about this before you reach for your next snack!”.

Points to keep in mind

Dos:

  • Organize your article into 4-5 paragraphs (4 if it’s a two-sided article and 5 if it’s a one-sided article). Leave a line between paragraphs or indent the first line of each new paragraph. Don’t do both!
  • Take care of spelling, punctuation, and grammar. This is important as the examiner will look at the accuracy of your language.
  • Use a combination of simple, compound, and complex sentences. A series of long sentences will make your writing difficult to read, and a series of short simple sentences will make your writing boring to read. Balance is the key.
  • Use a wide range of formal vocabulary, including some advanced and less commonly used ones.
  • Use a wide variety of formal linking words. Examples have been mentioned earlier.
  • Use advanced punctuation sparingly (1-3 in the whole article), for example, colon (:) and semicolon (;).
  • Aim to complete towards the maximum word limit (approximately 200 words for the current syllabus and 160 words for the new syllabus). Exceeding the word limit slightly (15-20 words) is fine as long as you write accurately and complete the task within the correct time. If you exceed the word limit by any number of words, be it even 100, no marks will be cut directly, but you increase your chances of making more mistakes and spending more time than required for this exercise, which may affect your mark indirectly. If you write towards the lower limit or below, you are highly unlikely to achieve the highest band for Content as your content is not well developed.
  • Spend about 30 minutes on this exercise: the initial 5 minutes for planning and the last 2-3 minutes for checking your work for simple spelling, punctuation, and grammatical mistakes.
  • Include your audience throughout by using pronouns such as we, us and you.
  • You could give a suitable attention-grabbing title (first letter of each word capital), but it’s not necessary. In fact, many students waste a lot of time trying to come up with a title and end up with their own version which does not match the rubric. As a result, the content is not always focused correctly and tends to follow the direction chosen by the student, rather than the specific requirements of the topic, thus affecting the content marks.
  • Passive voice could be used but not too much.
  • Write legibly

Don’ts:

  • Avoid contractions. However, if the article is for your school magazine, you can use contractions (not recommended).
  • Avoid abbreviations and slang (texting language) such as how r u, OMG, BTW, etc.
  • Avoid using informal vocabulary
  • Avoid listing (firstly, secondly, thirdly, etc.). There is no problem in writing “firstly”, but avoid writing “secondly” and “thirdly”.
  • Avoid repetition of vocabulary and beginning your sentences with the same words. Sometimes, students write 3 or more sentences in a row starting with “The”!

Final note

Practice a lot of past papers and get feedback on your writing. If you don’t have a teacher, reread these notes and check for what you have done right and what you haven’t. Read some of the samples on the samples page to see what you have just learned effectively used and incorporated in an article.

Good luck! Go get that A*!

10 responses to “Exercise 6: Writing an article (Ultimate Guide)”

  1. Syed Abdur avatar
    Syed Abdur

    Does an article require a title because my teachers have told to write a title for article, for example if the topic is about using phones in school or not then the title should be something like “Should Phones be allowed in Schools or not?”
    is the title necessary
    Thank you!

    1. ESL Kings team avatar

      The title is optional. If you can think of a good one, write it. If not, then skip it.

  2. Syed Abdur avatar
    Syed Abdur

    Great resources! How to start an article that is talking about my experience with a school trip, the question is like a report but it’s an article.
    For further context:
    Q) You recently went on a school exchange trip to another country. You stayed with another family and went to school there. Your teacher has aked you to write an article about your experience for the school magazine.
    Thank you

    1. ESL Kings team avatar

      Thank you for your kind words!
      You start it like any other article question: with a topic sentence or a rhetorical question. For example, you could write, “Have you ever wondered what it would be like to embark on a school exchange trip to another country? I was recently given this opportunity, and it was unforgettable!”.

  3. Amr Yosry Ali avatar
    Amr Yosry Ali

    Very helpful resources thank you for providing these notes and samples, however, at school, my teachers have been telling us to write two-sided-articles,and I have been practicing them for a long time now,but you mentioned that its preferred to write a one-sided. So does writing a two-sided article– As I am more familiar with the structure affect the marks I score for this exercise.
    Thank you!

    1. ESL Kings team avatar

      Thank you! We’re glad they’re helpful!
      No, not at all. If you’re more familiar with writing a two-sided article, stick to it. This was just mentioned for people who write both equally well and don’t know what to choose.

  4. mishal avatar
    mishal

    how many words or sentence should be written in introduction part as well in conclusion part if i choose to do two-sided article ,

    1. ESL Kings team avatar

      There is no strict rules to follow, but it’s generally recommended to keep them short (1-3 sentences or 15-40 words).

  5. Kashyav Bhutani avatar
    Kashyav Bhutani

    this was extremely helpful and educational i am an IGCSE Grade 9 litreture student and this is something i have nevar Heard of. was not expecting to see this in fle

    1. ESL Kings team avatar

      Thank you for your nice comment! We’re glad you found it helpful!

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