Exercise 6: Writing an essay for examination from 2024 (Ultimate Guide)

Exercise 6: Writing an essay for examination from 2024 (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, an essay, a report, or a review.

In this article, you will discover how to write an almost-perfect essay that impresses the examiner and gets you the highest band. So, are you ready? Let’s dive in!

So, what is an essay?

An essay is a short piece of writing on a particular subject. The purpose of an essay is to present an argument or point of view about a particular topic and give examples or reasons to support it. The topic will be a question or an issue which people generally have different opinions about.

The essay could present both sides of the argument, or just one, depending on the instructions given in the task. So, if the instructions ask you to give your opinion, you can address just this one point of view, or you can discuss the arguments for and against. But if the task instructions state that arguments for and against should be included, then you should address both points of view.

The Tone and Register of an Essay

In the exam, the essay is usually for your teacher, so the tone and register should be formal or semi-formal. Therefore, it should avoid language that is too idiomatic and colloquial.

Now, before diving into the details of how to write a successful essay, let’s first explore a few differences between articles and essays.

Differences between an article and an essay

An essay is very similar to an article with only a few key differences.


An article is usually published in a newspaper or a magazine, so as far as the exam is concerned, the audience is often students at your school (school magazine article), or sometimes your teacher or the local newspaper.

The audience of an essay is often your teacher (who requested the essay in the first place).


An article is generally written to inform and persuade the reader that a certain viewpoint is correct.

An essay is generally written as a response to a question or a proposition (often by your teacher). It presents an argument or point of view about a particular topic and gives examples or reasons to support it.

Tone and style:

Articles generally have a more objective tone and style, focusing on presenting information in a neutral or balanced manner.

Essays are generally subjective, reflecting the writer’s opinion and perspective.


An article may have a heading to grab the reader’s attention (though not compulsory in the exam).

An essay does not require a heading.

The format of a one-sided argument essay

A one-sided argument essay can have two formats, depending on whether you include a counterargument from the opposing viewpoint or not.

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)


Paragraph 1: Introduction (including your opinion)

Paragraph 2: One or two points supporting your opinion with an explanation

Paragraph 3: One or two points (different from those of the previous paragraph) supporting your opinion with an explanation

Paragraph 4: Conclusion (including your opinion again but in different words)

The format of a two-sided argument essay

Paragraph 1: Introduction (without your opinion)

Paragraph 2: One side of the argument

Paragraph 3: The other side of the argument

Paragraph 4: Conclusion (including your opinion)


The purpose of the introduction is to inform the reader about the main point (topic) of the essay and engage the reader to make them interested in the topic. The main components of an effective introduction are:

  1. Topic sentence

Start your essay with a brief topic sentence that outlines the argument that the essay will discuss. Give forceful statements rather than “I think that”, “maybe” or “perhaps”. For example, “Teenagers love fast food.”, “Nowadays, music plays an indispensable role in our lives.”, etc.

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)


  • 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
  • Teenagers
  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 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 …?
  • Should students do sport at school?
  • Should teenagers completely avoid fast food?
  • We all love convenience food. But is it the best thing for our waistlines, our wallets and our world?
  1. Your opinion (if it is a one-sided argument essay)

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

If you are writing a one-sided argument essay, you MUST 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/view
  • From my perspective
  • From my point of view
  • I concur/agree
  • I believe/think (that)
  • It seems to me that
  • I am in favour of
  • I am against the idea of
  • I am strongly opposed to
  • I disagree/cannot accept

You may also kill two birds with one stone and begin your essay with a rhetorical question that introduces the topic to the reader, thus acting as a topic sentence. Here are some examples.

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

“Should students do sport at school? This is a question which people have different opinions about.”


One-sided essay structure:

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.


Body Paragraph 1: one or two points supporting your opinion with an explanation

Body Paragraph 2: one or two points (different from those of the previous paragraph) supporting your opinion with an explanation

When introducing the counterargument 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/contend that …
  • Some people may suggest/point out that …
  • A common counterargument is that …
  • It can be argued that …

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

  • Although true to a certain extent, …
  • 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 …
Two-sided essay structure:

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

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

General guidelines for both kinds of essays:
  • Read the question carefully and draft a plan for your essay 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 essay or a two-sided essay. If the instructions in the question state that you must include arguments for and against, then choose the best 2 points supporting each side and write a two-sided essay. If it’s not mentioned that you must include arguments for and against, then the choice is yours.
  4. Consider how you will begin your essay 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.
  • Start your body paragraphs with a topic sentence rather than just jumping into the advantages or disadvantages (especially if you’re writing a two-sided essay). This helps to organize your writing and makes the purpose of the paragraph clear to the reader. For example, in an essay discussing the advantages and disadvantages of fast food, it is better to start your first body paragraph with a topic sentence like “There are some obvious advantages of fast food. Firstly, …” rather than just getting into the first point and writing, “To begin with, it’s quite tasty.”.
  • 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. Keep in mind that the examiner knows the evidence or examples will be made up and doesn’t expect these to be correct. Yes, you can make up your own statistics! Just make sure it’s not overly unrealistic.
  • Keep to the topic (don’t wander away from the main subject of the essay). 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 essays and two-sided essays)
  • There are some obvious advantages of
  • Those in support of … believe that …
  • People who think … say that …
  • The main argument in favour of/against is
  • The main point/reason is
  • The most important point/reason is
  • The first point/reason is
  • First of all
  • First and foremost
  • Firstly
When adding more points to the same side of the argument
  • 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 (typically used to introduce the opposite viewpoint in the 2nd body paragraph of a two-sided essay
  • Some people argue that …
  • However
  • Nevertheless
  • Even though
  • Although
  • Despite
  • In spite of
  • On the other hand
  • On the contrary
  • By contrast
  • 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


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

In the conclusion:

  1. Briefly summarize your main points 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
  • 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 essay) and any solution or suggestion if applicable.

The solution or suggestion might be part of your opinion if you’re writing a two-sided essay and want to take a balanced view on the issue rather than siding with one side. For example, “Overall, I believe eating fast food occasionally isn’t a problem, but fresh home-cooked food is best.” Use the opinion phrases stated earlier in the Introduction section to express your opinion, and if it’s a one-sided essay, make sure to use different words from those used in the introduction.

  1. End with a strong, impactful statement that leaves the reader with something to think about. This could be a rhetorical question or a statement that encourages the reader to decide what they think about the same viewpoint. 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?”
  • “Overall, I believe eating fast food occasionally isn’t a problem, but fresh home-cooked food is best. Do you not think so?”
  • “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!”

It’s worth mentioning that this step is PREFERABLE. So don’t stress too much about ending your essay with an impactful statement or a rhetorical question. Just make sure that the conclusion reflects the argument presented in the main body of the essay and that your final opinion is clear to the reader.

Points to keep in mind

  • Read the task carefully to make sure that the ideas and supporting information you include are relevant to the topic. Students often lose focus and write about wider, more general issues associated with the topic, which significantly affects their marks.
  • Organize your essay into 4-5 paragraphs. 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.
  • Include a range of topic-related vocabulary to show that you have a good understanding of the topic.
  • Use a wide variety of formal linking words to link ideas in sentences and paragraphs. Examples have been mentioned earlier.
  • Use advanced punctuation sparingly (1-3 in the whole essay), for example, colon (:) and semicolon (;).
  • Include language appropriate for expressing opinions, agreeing, and disagreeing. In addition to mentioning your opinion in the introduction and/or conclusion, your viewpoint can also be included in the body paragraphs (whether it’s a one-sided or a two-sided essay) by:
  1. Mentioning personal examples or experiences (which implies that you agree with this point of view)
  2. Explicitly agreeing while presenting a point in the body paragraph. Here is an example: “People who think sports lessons are a good idea say that students need exercise, and I agree that doing sports helps to make you healthy and avoid getting overweight.”
  • Aim to complete towards the maximum word limit (approximately 160 words). 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.
  • Write legibly
  • Do not write a heading.
  • Avoid colloquial or ‘chatty’ language (which includes informal vocabulary, abbreviations, or slang such as how r u, OMG, BTW, etc.).
  • 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”!
  • Avoid including too many different ideas in your essay. It is better to include fewer ideas and develop one or two in greater depth rather than writing many ideas which are not well-developed.
  • Avoid writing an overlong introduction and conclusion. It would be more effective to utilize the limited word count to develop your ideas within the body of the essay. Also, avoid pre-learned language for these parts of the essay, as this may not be totally relevant or might sound unnatural.
  • It’s preferable to avoid contractions, but they can be used as the essay can have a semi-formal tone and register. In both cases, remember to be consistent throughout. So, if you used contractions, use them throughout your whole essay, and if not, avoid them altogether.

Final note

Practice a lot of past papers and get feedback on your writing. We know that essay writing is newly added to the syllabus, but you can still practice writing essays in response to past years’ article writing questions as they are very similar.

Finally, don’t forget to check out our samples page and if you find this helpful, please share it with your friends.

Good luck! Go get that A*!

21 responses to “Exercise 6: Writing an essay for examination from 2024 (Ultimate Guide)”

  1. Ayaan yousuf avatar
    Ayaan yousuf

    Dear ESL KINGS Team,

    Your notes have always helped me, including the samples ofcourse. I have made a number of progress, but there is still some questions I have.

    To begin with, when would it be perfect/suitable for you to start uploading essay samples? My exam is on May 8 and I really do require their needs. I know that article is basically almost like an essay, But I still haven’t seen a proper essay For esl ever.

    Moving on, I wanted to ask that are the International examiners more strict? I am asking this because the samples you have provided have made me totally fall apart as I was shocked by the language required to score top marks. My emails are average on a scale of 13/15 while my formal writings are between 10 – 12, and since I never have experienced the real examiner, I am scared I will even get less then that. It’s my hugest goal to Get around 95 marks from 100 in ESL. For now, If I can estimate I will get around 93 marks which I still don’t find in appeal.

    Please do help me with this.

    Warm regards,
    Ayaan Yousuf.

    1. ESL Kings team avatar

      Dear Ayaan,

      Thank you for your kind words! We’re glad you’re making progress!

      Unfortunately, we may not be able to upload any more samples at the moment as we’re very busy with our exams. However, you may check out Cambridge’s essay sample available here. We appreciate your understanding.

      It’s absolutely normal to feel that your writing is not as good as the samples because they are not a standard every student must follow to achieve good mark. They are just meant to inspire you: you can use any of their vocabulary, ideas or structures in your own writing to improve it. You can still score very good marks with a language below that of the samples. Our advice is to focus now on practicing as much as you can instead of how many marks you will score, and you will be able to get your desired grade inshallah.

      Good luck!

      Best regards,
      ESL Kings team

  2. Muhammad Gamal avatar
    Muhammad Gamal

    Thank you for providing such helpful resources and samples. Your examples are very good and advanced, but I feel my writing isn’t as good. Is this something to worry about, or is it normal? Will the examiners be very strict, or somewhat lenient, considering this is ESL?

    1. ESL Kings team avatar

      Thank you for your kind words!
      It’s absolutely normal to feel that your writing is not as good as the samples. This is completely understandable and actually a good sign because it provides room for improvement.

      We suggest that you get your writing marked by a teacher, a family member, a friend or even yourself; this will give you an idea of where your writing actually stands. And keep practising as much as you can, taking into account the tips we provide in the notes, and you will definitely see progress.

      Examiners know of course that this is a second language exam and they mark based on the criteria mentioned in the mark scheme, which is more lenient than a first language exam.

  3.  avatar

    Appreciate this post! Very helpful to me as a teacher.

    1. ESL Kings team avatar

      Thank you! We really appreciate your positive feedback!

  4. Muhammad Ali avatar
    Muhammad Ali

    Thank you so much for giving us the ideas how to write an essay. Specially, phrases how to begin sentences from each paragraph

    1. ESL Kings team avatar

      You’re welcome 🙂 We’re glad it helped!

  5. Carmela Lamarina avatar
    Carmela Lamarina

    Wonderful materials for my students who are going to take the exam next May. Thank you so much

    1. ESL Kings team avatar

      Thank you so much for your kind feedback! We’re glad our notes are benefiting your students! Good luck to them!

  6. Sara avatar

    Thank you so much for your help! Could you also post some sample essays, it would be very helpful for us!!

    1. ESL Kings team avatar

      Hi Sara, thank you for your comment! We will definitely consider adding them after completing the review writing notes which we are currently working on.

  7.  avatar

    What do you mean by do not write a heading? Do you mean we shouldn’t have a title for the essay?

    1. ESL Kings team avatar

      Yes, an essay doesn’t require a title. Trying to come up with one will use up your exam time unnecessarily.

      1. Omar avatar

        Is there going to be direct deduction of marks if written?

    2.  avatar

      yes no title in essay

  8. AM avatar

    Hello, I’m having my exam in 4 months and I can’t believe I didn’t know about this website before, seriously I wholeheartedly appreciate what you do, I heard there’s a service where you can correct or give feedback on pieces of writings and grade them, is it available?

    1. ESL Kings team avatar

      Thank you so much for your nice comment! We really appreciate it!
      Our marking service was available, but unfortunately, it is now suspended as it requires a lot of time and effort, which we can’t provide at the moment. We apologize for this! And we wish you good luck with your exam!

  9. Abdullah majed avatar
    Abdullah majed


    1. ESL Kings team avatar

      Thank you for your kind words! We’re really glad you found them helpful!

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