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ESL Exercises: How to Write an Essay

by Megan Ritchie, studioD

As a student of English as a Second Language, you will need to write essays for a variety of purposes. To gain admission to university, you will need to show that you can write an academic essay on an English proficiency exam, such as the TOEFL, and once enrolled in college courses, you can expect to write at least one essay every few weeks in many of your classes. The three key components to remember while writing an essay are: the introduction, the body and the conclusion.

Types of Essays

You may be asked to write a variety of types of essays, all of which fall under the umbrella of an "academic essay." You may be asked to write a narrative essay, which tells a story; a comparison essay, which compares two or more things; a cause and effect essay, which speaks about the cause and effect of something, such as air pollution or increased taxes; or an argumentative essay, which aims to convince the reader of your opinion or hypothesis. Defining what type of essay you are being asked to write will help make the following steps go more smoothly for you.


The introduction is generally the first paragraph of an essay and usually consists of a hook, a few connecting sentences and a thesis statement. The hook, or the first sentence, draws in the reader and makes him want to continue reading. The hook is then followed by a few sentences of content, which will serve to connect the hook to the thesis statement. The thesis statement is basically the topic sentence for the entire essay and gives the reader a clear idea of what will be discussed in the body. For example, in Keith S. Folse's "Great Paragraphs," an example thesis statement on the topic of the military is: "Serving in the military offers not only professional advantages but also personal advantages." You know by this thesis statement that the essay will contain at least two body paragraphs: one describing the professional advantages of being in the military and the next describing the personal advantages.


The body paragraphs give content and examples to support your thesis. Each body paragraph contains at the least these three components: a topic sentence; connecting sentences, which contain content and examples supporting the topic sentences; and a conclusion or linking sentence. The topic sentence gives the reader a clear idea of the specific topic of that paragraph, such as: "There are several professional advantages to pursuing a military career." The sentences that follow give reasons and examples to support the topic sentence. The final sentence in the paragraph either concludes that specific topic or provides a connection to the following paragraph, which leads into the topic sentence of the next paragraph and provides cohesion between the topic paragraphs.


The conclusion of the essay should do just that: conclude the argument and bring the essay to a concise end. One important component is to paraphrase the thesis statement, which, based on the thesis statement given earlier, could look like this: "Service in the military can help you reap both professional and personal rewards." The conclusion should end with a short opinion from the writer or an interesting fact with which to leave the reader. The conclusion should never introduce new information, as all new information should be included in the body of the essay.


  • Great Paragraphs; Keith S. Folse; 2010
  • Great Essays; Keith S. Folse; 2009
  • Cambridge Preparation for the TOEFL Test; Jolene Gear and Robert Gear; 2006

About the Author

Megan Ritchie has been a writer for more than 10 years, and has been published in a number of journals and newspapers, including "The Daily Targum" (Rutgers University's daily newspaper) and "The Philadelphia Inquirer." She has a Master's degree in Education from the University of Pennsylvania.

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