No English proficiency test is complete without an Essay type question. In the PTE Academic too you will write one or more essays on a given topic.
This is a comprehensive test of your writing skills but begins with how well you can understand the given topic. Not only should you be able to understand the topic, but also what is asked of you. For example, do you have to write an essay explaining your position on the topic or do you have to compare the advantages and disadvantages of the thing mentioned in the essay topic.
Your score depends upon how well you answer the question prompt, the richness of your language, the structure of your writing and the correctness of your grammar and vocabulary.
Let’s first look at the basics:
|Number of questions||1~2|
|Scoring||Contributes majorly to the Writing score|
|Time to answer||20 minutes for each essay. Unused time does not carry forward to other questions or sections.|
You will have 20 minutes to write the essay. The essay should be between 200 and 300 words. A length of around 250 words is usually sufficient to convey the main points and display sufficiently good English writing skills.
How you use the 20 minutes is very important. A lot of test takers don’t have a proper time management strategy. As a result they end up with a poor quality response.
You should always spend the first few minutes – 1 or 2 minutes on understanding the topic and what is expected of you. Being very clear about the topic will help you come up with good ideas to write.
The next couple of minutes should be spent upon coming up with ideas. If it is an advantages/disadvantages question, you can come up with 3-4 ideas in total. A lot of test takers complain that they are not able to come up with any ideas to write about. This is actually not true. Maybe you are not used to thinking in English, but you can certainly think about the topic in your native language and then come up with ideas, that you can then translate to English.
You don’t need to come up a ton of ideas! Often 3~4 points are sufficient to write a good essay of about 250 words. What is more important is that you make the most of each idea. Get the maximum juice out of it. In your paragraphs, first introduce the idea, then develop the idea in the following sentence or two and finally, add an example. This will ensure you get the maximum mileage out of each idea.
Once you have the ideas, use them to first build a skeleton. This will ensure your essay has the right structure – Introduction, Couple of main paragraphs and then a Conclusion.
In each main paragraph you can include one or two ideas.
A good essay is one which is easy to read and understand. It is the writer’s responsibility to guide the reader. If you jump from one idea to another abruptly you will confuse the reader. Therefore, make sure you connect your sentences and paragraphs properly. Use linking words that demonstrate the relationship between sentences and paragraphs.
Once you have written your essay, leave a few minutes in the end to review the essay and make further improvements. It is almost always possible to improve what you have written the first time. In your final review, look out for these things:
- Check that you have written strictly on the given topic. It is not uncommon for test takers to lose their way after the first paragraph. For example, an essay that is about the overcrowding in big cities, can end up as an essay on pollution or housing problems in big cities. Don’t get into one point so much that you miss the overall picture.
- Make sure you don’t repeat the same point again and again. Discuss an idea in one place only. Once you begin an idea, develop it fully and then close it. Don’t keep jumping to it in the subsequent paragraphs.
- Check for grammar mistakes. Have you used the appropriate sentence structures, punctuation etc.?
- Check for vocabulary usage. You should try to demonstrate a rich vocabulary. A good way to do that is by using synonyms.
As long as you follow the basic rules of good essay writing and construct a well structured response, you should be able to get a good score. Follow these tips and tricks to maximize the score:
Identify the type of essay
In the very beginning identify the type of essay correctly – agree/disagree, advantages/disadvantages, etc. This will guide what kind of information you need to include in the essay. If you want to use a template, this will also help you to select the correct template for your response.
Use templates wisely
Having templates is a good way to write a safe essay. We recommend our students to write as unique essays possible if they want to achieve maximum score. However, templates are very useful in cases where the score target is moderate. But before you write an essay around a template, you should make sure you have the right template. Don’t just prepare one template. Have one template for each type of essay questions.
Don’t start writing immediately
First brainstorm, come up with ideas and put them in a skeleton. Only then start writing around that skeleton. This will ensure you end up with a good structure and don’t have to rewrite parts of your essay.
Pick the safe side
In the essay writing question it does not matter what you personally feel about a particular topic. You should pick the side which is easier to write about. For example, if you support high rise buildings in cities, but think it will be easier to come up with points against high rise buildings, then just pick that side. Often it is easier to take the middle road and acknowledge the merit in both sides. On the one hand this makes coming up with points easier, on the other hand this gives you a chance to use language that illustrates relationships between opposing ideas.
Don’t try to max the word limit
Don’t think that writing as close as possible to 300 words will get you the maximum marks. It is much better to write lesser but make sure that whatever you write is flawless. This is much better than writing too much but making mistakes in the sentences or just repeating the same points again and again.
Diversify your language
In the end simply revisit your essay and replace some words with their synonyms. If you feel a word has been used too often, it is a good candidate for replacement with another word.
Get some reading and writing practice
The more you read, the better you can write! If you read a variety of texts – articles, reports, stories, you will become familiar with a wide range of sentence structures and language usage patterns. Then you can use the same in your writing and achieve a better result. Therefore, make some time everyday to read a bit and then write on the same topic from your own perspective. Any newspaper website is good enough for this, a good example is The Age.