PTE test takers can score maximum 2 points for development, structure and coherence. These are easy 2 points, yet we find that most test takers are only able to score 1 for this enabling skill. The reason being that most test takers do not know how to structure an academic essay. They know the basics that there are 3 parts, namely, introduction, body and conclusion in an essay. What test takers do not know or are confused about is, how to compose and present their arguments in a logical manner in these parts in an academic essay. In this blog, we will present you with strategies and tips to clearly express your ideas/thoughts/opinions in an academically coherent way.
It is common knowledge that in an academic essay introduction comes first, followed by body and conclusion. However, it is not necessarily the order in which you plan and write your essay. The order in which you plan and write your essay varies for every individual. Some are able to write efficiently by planning and writing the introduction first and then the body and conclusion while others plan and write efficiently by writing the body and conclusion before the introduction. Both these approaches are correct and have their pros and cons. In this blog, we plan and write introduction first followed by body and conclusion.
Introduction is the first part of your essay that the reader comes in contact with, so you want to make a good first impression. It is here that you give an overview of the subject of your essay, how you are going to develop the subject or arguments in the essay. The object of your introduction should be to help your readers make sense of how you will develop the subject/arguments in the essay.
When you plan and write the introduction, is completely at your discretion. Some choose to plan and write introduction last because they do not know at outset what and how they are going to present the arguments in the body; while others plan the body and then write the introduction first. Whenever you may choose to plan and write your introduction, it should follow the following structure.
Always use the first sentence/part of the introduction to introduce the reader to the subject/topic of the essay. Your object should be to make the reader aware of the subject/topic/problem presented/discussed in the essay. For this part, you may paraphrase the question in your own words. When you paraphrase, take care not to repeat the same words as in the question. Use synonyms, wherever appropriate. For example, for the following essay question
Tobacco, mainly in the form of cigarettes, is one of the most widely-used drugs in the world. Over a billion adults legally smoke tobacco every day. The long-term health costs are high - for smokers themselves, and for the wider community in terms of health care costs and lost productivity.
Do governments have a legitimate role to legislate to protect citizens from the harmful effects of their own decisions to smoke, or are such decisions up to the individual?
The first sentence of the introduction for the above essay question could be "Tobacco in the form of cigarettes has become one of the most popular drug in the world. In the light of the fact that the cost for this habit in terms of health care and lost productivity for individuals and the larger tax paying community is high; the question arises if governments should legislate to protect the citizens from harmful effects of smoking.". Here briefly in two sentences we introduce the reader to the larger problem that is going to be the subject of the essay.
The second part/sentence of your introduction should be the thesis statement. This is where you present your opinion/solution to the problem. If it is a discussion question you write the two opinions that you are going to discuss in the essay. If it is a two question essay, you present the two questions and why they need to be answered. If it is a agree/disagree question, present the viewpoint that you agree with and are going to elaborate on in the essay body. For example in the above "give your opinion" essay question, your thesis could be "This essay agrees that individual actions such as smoking which has high health and financial costs for the larger society need to be regulated by the government.".
The third part/sentence of your essay will be the outline statement. It is here that you briefly present the arguments in favor of your thesis that you are going to present in the body section of the essay. You should present ideally 2 and no more than 3 arguments in your outline and essay because of time and word constraints. If it is a discussion or two question essay, present what aspects related to those opinions/questions you are going to discuss. If it is agree/disagree question, present the aspects of your thesis that you are going to present. If it is a give your opinion essay question, present the reasons for your opinion that you are going to discuss/present in your essay.
The purpose of the body section is to present arguments in support of your thesis using the arguments outlined in the introduction. It is here that you elaborate on ideas/topics/opinions/arguments outlined in the introduction. The ideal length of the body section is 2 paragraphs but do not stretch it to more than 3, given the word and time constraints.
The number of paragraphs should be equal to the number of ideas/topics/opinions/arguments that you are going to present. If your paragraph length is three, it means you can elaborate on 3 ideas/topics/opinions/arguments.
Academic paragraphs have a predefined structure. Any academic paragraph has three parts.
The first sentence of any academic paragraph is always the topic sentence. The topic sentence introduces and clearly states the main topic/idea/point developed further in the paragraph or it will preview the kind of information that the rest of paragraph is likely to contain or it will link back to the previous paragraph. Generally, when academicians are looking for a certain piece of information in an academic text they read only the topic sentence of each paragraph to assess if the information is likely to be in that paragraph and if they should read further.
After topic sentence, comes the body of the paragraph. It is here that the main topic/idea/point introduced in the topic sentence is elaborated further. Elaboration may include description, analysis, implications, inter-relationships exemplification or any combination of these.
Too many PTE test takers, spend too much time thinking real life examples to present in their paragraphs. PTE academic is a test of English not your general knowledge or accuracy of your opinion. The only thing machine scoring system is interested in, is measuring your English language proficiency. So, use your imagination make up examples and statistics on the go to support your viewpoint. You can very well say that research from University of Marlboro has proven that smoking is good for health and society; as long as your English is correct and your essay coherent, the machine will score you well. So, use your imagination, make up examples and statistics on the go. However, do not devote more than one sentence for exemplification.
Conclusion comes after body in an academic paragraph. It is here that the author tries to round off what has been said in the paragraph; or qualifies his views; or links the current paragraph to the next. It is not a must have part. So, you may exclude it if you do not have content. However, if you do include a conclusion in your paragraph, for coherence sake, it should be derivable directly from the content in your paragraph. What most test takers do is end paragraph with an example, which we have found is good enough for the machine scoring system.
Conclusion is the last part of an essay. The goal of a good conclusion is to leave the reader with a sense of clarity and completeness of your arguments. To achieve this, repeat your thesis mentioned in the second part of your introduction and then show how the arguments and evidence presented by you in the body section supports it. If you feel your arguments do not support the thesis completely you may qualify your thesis. However, after the qualification, you must reiterate that the probability of your thesis being right is still high.
Make sure that your conclusion is directly derivable from the content of your essay. Never introduce a new idea in the conclusion section.
If you are ready for practice of essays; you can take the next step in your PTE Preparation by enrolling in one of our PTE preparation courses. You will get to practice your skills in an environment that simulates actual PTE test. You will have the G-Analytics tool to tell you what skills you need to focus on most and personal tutor feedback to help you along the way and get you the scores you need in one attempt. Have a look at our courses section to learn more.