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Date: Oct 30 2008

Topic: TOEFL, IELTS, Cambridge

Author: nad1a


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Writing an essay or a composition proves to be challenging enough in one's first language, not to mention in a foreign language. So, here are some tips and strategies on how to organize your writing easily and quickly, in order to get full marks for the organization aspect of your essay/ composition when you sit an English exam, such as TOEFL or others. Read on to familiarize yourselves with the basic types of essays and advice on how to structure them.

Tell them ...” on the mountain – A parable to remember on the day of the exam

Once upon a time at the top of a high, high mountain, there lived a wise old retired English teacher who had an incredibly pragmatic approach not only to life but to composition writing. Students would come from far and wide to learn the secrets of his craft. Most listened, scratched their heads and muttered, “Nonsense!” but as Teacher Mary made the long trek up the mountain, she sensed that her journey had not been in vain.

Reaching the top, she greeted him as he gestured for her to sit.

Have you the answer, old sage?” she said, after catching her breath. “Have you got the key to help my students write competent, articulate, well-organized, exam-passing compositions?”

I might,” he said humbly. “Only you can decide.”

Tell me, old sage. I'm all ears.”

It's simple, my child. We all know that a composition needs an Introduction, a Main Body and a Conclusion, but what confuses everyone is what to do when they come to writing each of these parts.”

Yes ...?” said Teacher Mary expectantly, sensing she was about to hear The Truth.

Well, it's simple,” he said, as he wrote in her notebook.

  • Tell them what you're going to tell them.

  • Tell them.

  • Tell them what you told them.

Teacher Mary read the shaky scrawl and gazed up at him in awe. “It is that simple, isn't it?” she said. “No more long, wandering introductions which don't prepare the readers for what's ahead. No more messy conclusions that introduce all kinds of new ideas that the readers aren't prepared for in the last paragraph.”

You are a genius,” she said, radiant with gratitude. “I must go and, well, ... tell them!”



Introduction → Tell them what you're going to tell them.

Main Body → Tell them.

Conclusion → Tell them what you told them.

TYPE 1 Narrative


Restate the topic in your own words and briefly introduce the person or incident you will be writing about.

Main Body

  • Establish the background to what you are about to describe (eg how you met someone, where you were going, what you were doing).

  • Narrate what happened. Break into 2-3 paragraphs: the lead-up to the key moment and the key moment itself in 1-2 paragraphs and the aftermath in a separate paragraph. Use time links where possible.


Discuss the influence the person / incident has had on you and what you learned.

TYPE 2 Problem/ Solution


Restate the situation in the topic in your own words. State simply that the situation involves problems (name them, if appropriate), but solutions do exist.

Main Body

Devote a separate paragraph to each problem.

  • Start with a clear topic sentence announcing the problem, then analyze the problem with a series of reasons, examples and results.

  • Using a clear transition statement (eg, “One way to remedy this would be to ...” or “If I were in charge, I would ...”), present one or more solutions. Use links and elaborate with reasons, examples, results.


Summarize by restating the message in introduction. Close, if possible with a thought-provoking statement about putting solutions into effect.

TYPE 3 For and Against


Briefly restate the issue in the topic. State simply that the issue has advantages and disadvantages or reasons to be 'for' or 'against' it. (Save your opinion for the end.)

Main Body

Devote a separate paragraph to each side of the argument.

  • Start with a clear topic sentence announcing one side of the argument.

  • Develop with 2-4 aspects. Use linking words and elaborate, where needed, with reasons and/or examples.


End by weighing up both sides and expressing your opinion.

TYPE 4 Opinion

This type may ask your opinion about what you would choose in a certain case or about what the key aspects of an issue are. You might also be asked if you agree or disagree with something.


Briefly restate the topic and your opinion (eg, your choices or whether you agree).

Main Body

Devote a separate paragraph to each choice, key aspect or side of the argument.

  • Start with topic sentence announcing the choice, aspect or side of the argument.

  • Develop with several reasons an/or examples to justify your choice/opinion, using linking words to signal each elaboration.


End by restating your opinion and leaving readers with a thought-provoking idea.


  • In the days before the exam, make a careful study of your own work and any models your teacher has given you. Pay careful attention to advice on organizing and developing and on using clear topic sentences and linking devices.

  • On the day of the exam, the examiner will read the topics as you read along. If you don not understand something, you may ask the examiner to explain. When the examiner is certain there are no more questions, you will then be given time to write your composition (30-40 minutes, depending on the specific exam).

  • Although handwriting is not one of the grading criteria for most exams, do your best to write neatly and legibly.

  • Remember your time is limited, meaning that you cannot possibly delve into every single aspect of a subject. What you can do in that time is to treat a topic by mentioning and developing 2-3 points in each paragraph.


  1. In most exams you are given a choice between 2 or more topics. Study the topics and decide which one you can develop more effectively.

  2. Read the questions carefully. Make sure you are clear on what it asks you to do and what type of composition it is.

  3. Take 5 minutes to plan out the composition on scrap paper. Jot down a quick paragraph plan and make brief notes about points to include in each part of the composition (Introduction, Main Body, Conclusion). It is good to jot down any impressive vocabulary or phrases what you might like to fit in. all this may seem like a waste of time, but it could be a life-saver if your mind goes blank while you're writing.

  4. Spare a few minutes to read over your work. When you have finished, proofread what you have written, looking for omitted words and obvious errors in grammar, spelling or punctuation.


  • Introduction-Main Body-Conclusion

  • Clear topic sentences

  • Linking words for logical development

  • General ideas supported with reasons/examples

  • Good range of vocabulary and grammar


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United States

It’s very important to distinguish between the different types of essays. Of course today’s students may want to hire someone to write a research paper, but these tips can be an excellent alternative. This guide can teach you how to write an essay that deserves a good grade.

05:57 AM Jan 23 2015 |

1 person likes this




12:15 PM Oct 28 2011 |




10:19 AM Sep 08 2009 |



it is helpful..

10:17 AM Sep 08 2009 |

Samuel Desfortin


Good explanation. Keep up the good work

02:27 PM Mar 22 2009 |




  • I am going to pass it soon. i can't say that i am too warried about. With your halp a'm shure i'llm pass it on high ranks.Smile

03:22 PM Mar 19 2009 |



i wasnt able to digest everything anyway i will go to it agian a lot of help i think

06:40 AM Feb 22 2009 |



Thankkkksss a lot nadiaSmile

Best wishes  

07:31 AM Feb 19 2009 |



your presentation is very interesting. you are very talented person. thank you for taking the time.

12:24 PM Jan 31 2009 |



where was i to miss all this.  many thanks

05:27 AM Dec 16 2008 |



Saudi Arabia

thx a lot nadia foe this lesson i like it so much
waiting for ur new

10:02 AM Dec 05 2008 |



thank you for taking your time and sharing this with everyone. people take money to teach stuff like that and none of my teachers has ever explained that to me so clearly

03:18 AM Dec 03 2008 |



veeery very illimunating

03:17 AM Dec 03 2008 |



United Kingdom


05:09 AM Nov 12 2008 |




great! hope people love that, cuz i know I do

05:37 PM Nov 08 2008 |




Oh, was it, Eri?

Make sure you also make use of it in your essay before our next lesson ;-)

(just teasing you, you know I love youKiss )

06:26 AM Nov 01 2008 |



thank u Nadia…it’s great and useful

07:35 AM Oct 31 2008 |

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