How do I write an Essay?


At GCSE you will need to show that you can write a piece of extended writing (an 'essay') which answers a question.   

       It will need to have a number of points in answer to the question, some facts ('evidence') which prove the point, and arguments which explain and develop how what you are saying answers the question.


It is very easy to write an essay, particularly if your teacher has taught you properly.   

Don’t listen to the people who make it sound complicated.



the first thing to do when confronted by a Essay question is to establish:






Top Tips  


How do I PEE?

There are THREE types of Essay question:

       (click the yellow pointers to find out more)

  • Describe
    • e.g. ‘Describe...’, 'What were...', 'How did...?' etc.
    • IN BRIEF – Simply write down a many facts as you can remember in a sensible order.
    • BEWARE – A 'How...' essay can sometimes be asking you to describe something (ie a 'description' essay). Sometimes it wants you to explain something (ie an 'analytical' essay). Read the question carefully to decide what the examiner wants you to write about.
    • 1st - Facts : Get your facts straight - where you're going to start and finish the story/ have you remembered all the facts (esp dates)/ sort them into a logical order. Arrange your account in a sensible order, e.g.: Beginning - Middle - End.
    • 2nd - Explanation : e.g. As you tell your story, explain how one thing led to another/ identify areas of change and continuity/ detail different reactions to events/ draw links between people and events.
    • 3rd - Judgement : e.g. Briefly, as you tell your story, explore underlying principles/ weigh the importance of different people and events, the pace of events, or the degree of change.
  • Analyse (i.e. questions that ask you to EXPLAIN)
    • e.g. ‘Why...?’
    • IN BRIEF – Think of a number of points in answer to the question and PEE every paragraph.
    • 1st - Points : Think of 4 or 5 points which answer the question. .
    • 2nd - Explanation : e.g. For each point, explain how it answers the question, taking your ideas right through to the question at issue, to demonstratehow the points you are making answer the question asked. Try to think of more than one way each point does this.
    • 3rd - Development : e.g. 'Unpack' each point, using your own factual knowledge to explore anumber of different aspects of each point, and explaining how eachrelates to the question.Develop logical arguments (usingthe words such as 'so',"however", "this meant that", "as a result", "therefore" ).
    • 4th - Linkages : e.g. Draw links/ relationships between the different points you are making, showing how they all connect together in a causal web. Especially, make a link between each paragraph and the next, to make it clear you are developing an argument, not just a string of points.
    • 5th - Judgement : e.g. Weigh the importance of different factors within the argument.
  • Weigh (i.e. discussion/ opinion questions, including)
    • ‘How far...?' To what extent...?’ 'How important...?'
      'Was the main cause of...?'
      Another form of this question poses a statement and asks 'Do you agree?'
    • IN BRIEF – give first the points for one side of the argument, then those for the other side, remembering to PEE every paragraph. Finish with a paragraph saying what seems to be the correct opinion.
    • REMEMBER – In these essays it is VITAL than you introduce each section with the proper logical connectives - e.g. 'It could be argued that...' 'On the other hand/ however...' 'Therefore in conclusion...' or you will just appear to be disagreeing with yourself!
    • DO NOT BE FOOLED – Even if the question asks straight out 'Do you agree', the examiner is NOT interested in your opinion. DON'T just write a paragraph saying what you think!!! Write a regular interpretations essay, explaining both sides of the argument, then presenting your opinion as your concluding comments weighing the two sides.
    • 1st - You write: 'In some ways, it could be argued that the ', then you think up a number of points which promote this idea, supporting them with facts and explanations. (A very good essay here would also point out weaknesses in this argument.)
    • 2nd - You write: 'HOWEVER, it might be argued that the ', then you think up a number of points which promote that idea, supporting them with facts and explanations. (A very good essay here would also point out weaknesses in this argument.)
    • 3rd - Finally, you write: 'In conclusion, therefore, I would say that...' and you come to some conclusion (whatever you like) weighing the things you have said for and against the proposition, assessing the reliability and utility of the facts and sources you have cited, and explaining how you came to your conclusion.



When you have finished each paragraph ALWAYS:


to make sure that you are still answering the question you have been asked (many pupils gradually drift off the question as the essay goes on).

=  MISS A LINE – so the examiner can see clearly where your next point begins.




Examiners loved to dress up questions to confuse you:

=  THINK: 'What is this question REALLY asking?' before you start writing.

=  eg   'In 1935 Mussolini invaded Abyssinia.   Explain why the League failed to stop him'   is more about why the League failed [WAS DUMB], than about Abyssinia.