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Some Reflections from your test essays : You, the Writer

Something to debate over perhaps ?

Excerpts :

… Robert Tombs, professor of history at St John’s College, Cambridge, warned that students were “drilled into writing” in a formulaic manner between the age of 11 and 18, leaving them unable to articulate their ideas on degree courses.

… Prof Abulafia said that writing essays involved “making judgments” but too many pupils struggled to cope because of the emphasis on chasing decent exam grades. He said that pupils often “knew the mark scheme by heart and that is how you ensure you get an A”. “That is not what education is about,” he said.

Taken from :

My Own Reflections :

Structure helps, BUT the idea is to be natural, instead of too stylised and rigid/forced.

Rigid / Forced essays force-fit words, phrases, ideas, illustration even though these do not fit.
The essay could lose relevance.
Or the language shifts jerkily from simple to ornate.
This force-fitted material is there because the student has learnt them and wants too badly to use them

Rigid / Forced essays comply with some made-up rule, like you must have 4 points in your favour; then 2 points against.

In actually fact,
– the actual number of paragraphs
– the length of paragraphs
– the arrangement of points (for or against your case)
depends largely on your brainstorm
(which in turn is based on your interpretation of important words in the question)

So how do you move on from the structures that you have ?

(1) You must practise writing to get the hang of what sounds artficial and what sounds natural.

(2) Read. I recommend the ‘Comment & Analysis’ Section of the papers or magazine to know how some professional writers achieve flow.

(3) Do not abandon structure. Professional writers do not string random thoughts. They organise.
But know there is variety. (will try to cover variety in my later posts)

(4) Stay relevant and be genuine in trying to persuade and explain your views to your reader.
This way you become
– less pretentious,
– less long-winded,
– less wishy-washy,
– more precise in your word choice
– more concerned with logic and support
– and you always make links to the issue that is presented in the question as well as to the stand/opinion you are trying to defend.

(5) Do not compromise on sound grammar.
Broken language makes you hard to understand.

And the only thing you really want to be – once you have interpreted the question properly –
is understood.


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