O-Level Tips #1: Answer the question|| A Small Writing Guide

So I decided to set up a small series of tips and tutorials to help students who are weaker in essay writing based on my experience as a volunteer tutor. Hopefully this will be helpful. I hope ;w;

Okay, so the first thing I always check in a weaker student’s work is if they are answering the question. This may sound obvious and thus unnecessary to students, but I always start there. Why? Because this is the most important element of any essay and this seemingly uncomplicated question actually involves in a lot of the skills you need to write a good essay. As this is meant to be short, I will only touch on question analysis and thesis statement writing.

Question Analysis

Possibly the most important thing for weaker students. Without proper question analysis, students are unable to understand the requirements of the question at hand and thus write poor essays because they cannot grasp the implication of the questions they are trying to answer. Normally, the exercises I do are asking the student themselves to identify parts in the question (in some questions, you have to cover 2 parts while in others, you will only need to cover 1 part) and ask them what the part is asking and consequently, what kind of essay is needed.

eg. How can people live healthier lives?

This question has only one part to it: it is asking for methods on the ways people can lead healthier lifestyles, which make it easy to answer. As such, this question calls for a discursive essay.

eg. Will the use of technology, such as the e-book and online reference sites, mean that the traditionally printed books will no longer be needed?

This question is something you might more commonly see. While there is only one question (will technology make print books obsolete?), there are 2 parts you should cover: The E-book and Online reference sites as they are specifically mentioned in the question. As such, if you decide to go along with the question, there are actually more than 2 possibilities.

1) The E book and the Online Reference sites will make physical books obsolete.

2) The E-book and the online reference site will NOT make physical books obsolete.

3) The E-Book will make physical books obsolete, but the Online Reference Sites will not.

4) The Online Reference Sites will make physical books obsolete, but the E-Book will not.

While the weaker students may not want to deal with the question after seeing the above combinations, they will still have to identify the questions to know what to avoid. Additionally, this question calls for an argumentative essay as well, given that it is a question which requires a stand and which requires substantiation to the stand rather than giving facts.

Okay, so now you’ve selected the question and then go on to write the thesis statement. Excellent! So the thesis statement is like, the part that will make or break your essay. For the student, the thesis statement serves 2 purposes: 1) telling themselves how they proceed and 2) telling the examiner how they proceed. For this purpose, I like the thesis statement to be one clear sentence (at least for weaker students) that answers your question. Normally, I start with a Yes/No approach and then work my way out to introducing a more complex statement.

So for the example of this question: Will the use of technology, such as the e-book and online reference sites, mean that the traditionally printed books will no longer be needed?

I will start with asking: Do you think that it will or not? Answer Yes or No.

A thesis statement at this level will look something like: Yes, the use of technology means that traditionally printed books will no longer be needed.

If I think the student is capable of more complexity in the essay, I will then ask: Do you think that E-Books and Reference Websites are equal? I will then present the 4 permutations on top and ask the student which the student is most comfortable with writing before letting the student do the writing. Chances are this this will not produce the most sophisticated writing but it will help avoid the pitfall of not knowing how to start or what to write.

So yep, that’s my small tip for weaker students: Always ask yourself if you’re answering the question.


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