6 tips for writing an essay introduction

“How do I write a good essay introduction for my exam?” I have been working on¬†essay writing¬†with many students in the run up to the exam season and if there is one piece of information that I could give students writing essays for exams, be they GCSE, A level or even degree it is that the introduction is key. A good introduction is perhaps the most important element for an exam essay. It does not need to be long. It does not need to be complex. It does not need to be ‘clever’, but there are a few key things it MUST do to help you get the best grades you can in your exam.

1. You need to unpick and unpack the question

You need to show that you understand your question – first of all, ask yourself, “What is the question asking me to do?”. Rework this and unpick it in the question. Use the language of the exam question in your introduction.

2. You need to create a argument

I don’t mean that you need to have a little verbal fencing match with yourself in your introduction, but that you need to state your position. Your introduction needs to say, “this is the direction my essay is going to take” “this is what I think”. Although do remember that as far as possible you need to be using the passive voice so use statements such as “It can be seen” or “This shows” rather than “I think”.

3. You need to sum up your idea

Your introduction and your conclusion are not as dissimilar as you might think. The introduction is your hypothesis, the essence of what you are going to prove through your essay. Your introduction should state the main thrust of your essay. If you do that here then your points will flow more clearly through your essay. Think of it as the springboard that launches you into the rest of your essay.

4. You do not need to describe what’s on the exam paper

If you have texts or sources, do not just say what you see. You don’t have long to write an essay in an exam and the examiner also has the paper, so don’t just describe.

5. You need to grab the examiners attention

Writing in an interesting and confident, but clear and concise manner will get the examiner’s attention. You want them reading your answer with interest and engagement from the off.

6. You do not need to write much

A couple of lines which sum up the main thrust of your argument before you leap into in (from the springboard that is your introduction) will suffice. Take the main points from your question, make anything implicit in the question explicit in your argument and then move into the main body of the essay.


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