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How to Write a First Class Essay?

Many students become nervous at the mere thought of writing an essay, because the content is much more subjective than working out a mathematical or physics problem. Unlike many other subjects where the answer is either correct or incorrect, essays are qualitative and require much more creativity. In addition, the marking formats and criteria can vary greatly depending on the specific individual or department marking the document.

The good news is that there are many steps you can take to write a first-class essay, a grade normally categorised by a mark of 70 percent or higher. In order to achieve a first class grade on your essay, you need to pay particular attention to the argument, presentation, structure and referencing of the document. These sections will be discussed in further detail.

Know exactly what is required

One of the first mistakes many students make is failing to identify exactly what criteria you have to fulfill and what the marker is looking for in terms of content and presentation. Never make an assumption, because the person marking an essay for one of your subjects may require completely different criteria than markers for your other classes. Pay close attention to the guidelines established by the person or committee who will be grading your essay. If you have any questions or concerns, be sure to address them before you begin writing your document. This will not only speed up the process, but also increase your chances of achieving a first-class after submission.

Argument and Structure

As an author, you will present one idea at a time in a focused and coherent manner, which makes your essay linear in nature.  However, an argument is defined as a series of ideas so you need to learn how to address both argument and structure in order to achieve a first-class grade on your essay.  The structure of your essay will be based on the particular argument you have chosen or the question you have chosen to answer.  Although the structure will vary for each essay, a well-written essay will contain the following components:

  • Introduction
  • Main body
  • Conclusion


This section of the essay has two main purposes: it is used to capture the reader’s attention so they will want to continue reading the rest of the essay. Many students choose to include a relevant quotation that relates to the main argument, or leads up to the ideas they present. The second goal of the introduction is to explain to readers what you are going to discuss and how you will attempt to convince them to accept your argument. It’s important to remember that essays should contain a concise introduction. There is no need to go into great detail, as you will be explaining and reinforcing your argument in the following section of your essay.

Main body

The next section of an essay is called the main body, and it should contain several paragraphs that each contain an introductory sentence, the point you are attempting to convey, supporting information and a concluding sentence. Although there is no set rule as to how many paragraphs the main body of your essay should contain, this section will always be the longest part of the document. The number of paragraphs required depends on the particular argument you have chosen. Simply put, the main body of essays should be written so that the what, how and why questions of the principal theme or argument can be answered. If you follow this structure, you will greatly improve your chances of achieving a first-class grade.

Answering the What question

This is the main question the reader will want answered, so it should be supported by convincing evidence. You need to evaluate all of the evidence on the claims you make, thus convincing the reader to what extent they can be accepted as accurate and valid. If you want to write a first-class essay, you should answer the what question immediately following the introduction. This is one of the most important sections of an essay, and it will enable you to convey your ideas to the reader. If you devote more than one-third of your entire essay to this section, your document will appear unbalanced, and you risk losing valuable marks.

Answering the How question

The next question you need to answer in order to write a first-class essay is the how; the reader will be interested in discovering whether your claims are generic ones that relate to almost any situation or are valid only for specific, isolated cases. In other words, how will your arguments fare if they are challenged with a counter-argument? Look at the against arguments to make sure your essay is balanced and looks at both sides of the coin.

A first-class essay will normally include a minimum of one paragraph that discusses the how and questions and analyses the arguments you present. For most essays, this section follows the what section. However, a critical essay that is not written to answer a specific question may contain counter-arguments interspersed throughout the document.

Answering the Why question

You should answer the why question within the main body of your essay; with that said, it is also important to mention the scope of your document in the introduction. Failing to answer the why of your essay will cause your document to lack clear intent. Even worse, your essay may appear to be incomplete, which will certainly cost you marks and leave you with a less than satisfactory final grade.

Obviously you should write your essay with your target audience in mind. This means you must know exactly who the readers will be and why they will be interested in the arguments you present. If you fail to follow this guideline, you will have a very difficult time achieving a first-class grade as your arguments may not be relevant to anyone other than yourself. You need to convey why your particular interpretation of the content will interest the reader; this will also ensure a greater acceptance of your claims. Also, never assume understanding. Someone who reads your essay may not be familiar with acronyms or phrases you use as standard, so make them simple to understand.

A well-presented Argument

It’s essential that you learn how to properly present your argument if you want to write a first-class essay. After all, this forms the main section of your document. Many students make structural errors that weaken the argument of their essays. For example, they may adopt a descriptive format, and merely describe or summarise the principal arguments. This will prevent you from achieving a first-class grade.

On the other hand, a strong argument will convey focus and criticality. The latter is one of the main components of a well-written essay, and it reveals that you have reflected on the material you have read whilst preparing for your essay. In order to solidify your argument, your essay can contain several criticisms of your main argument, which you can then defend.

Two other very common errors students make when writing essays is to adopt a generalised rather than focused argument and failing to include sufficient references or a solid theoretical basis. A first-class essay will not include a general statement that lacks a pragmatic or theoretical foundation. You must directly address the research questions if you want to achieve a high grade on your essay.

Concluding Remarks

A first-class essay will also contain concluding remarks, which will vary according to the argument and nature of the document. Essays may contain a conclusion that summarises or restates the principal arguments that appear within the main body. You can emphasise both the positive and negative arguments, and then issue a final declaration that is based on your initial arguments.

On the other hand, a lecturer may request that the conclusion of your essay merely contain a final summary that reflects the main content. Because the conclusion is not standard, you should consult with your teacher or marker to find out what is expected of you. This will improve your chances of achieving a first-class grade. For most well written essays, the conclusion of the document will both provide the author the opportunity to issue a final commentary as well as summarise the main content.

Proper Presentation

Failing to present your essay properly will result in a lower grade; thus, you need to structure your document in such a way that the reader clearly understands your perspective on the topic or argument presented. A first-class essay will accurately reflect the author’s style or “voice “. However, you should never convey your argument in an informal, facetious or pompous voice; be sure to adopt a professional and academic tone, and ensure your essay is well balanced. You will achieve a higher grade if your essay contains a series of short paragraphs that are clearly linked to the preceding content.

Referencing System

Every essay you write should convey all of your own ideas, and contain accurate and complete references. Failing to reference your sources correctly will cost you marks and prevent you from achieving a first-class grade. You should discuss the referencing system preferred by your particular university or academic institution, as several different systems exist. You want to ensure you use the official referencing style requested by the person or committee who will be grading your essay.

Properly referencing all of your sources will earn you a higher grade; more importantly, it will also protect you from being accused of the serious offence of plagiarism. Be sure to include quotation marks around any words or direct ideas that you have taken from another individual or source, and award them appropriate credit. If you want to write a first-class essay, you should also clearly state if your argument has been constructed based on ideas you have read or seen elsewhere.

Additional criteria for achieving a first class
If you follow the above guidelines, you will have more chances of obtaining a high grade. However, there are some other elements that distinguish a first-class essay from a standard document. For example, you need to convey imagination, style, depth of reading, clarity and originality.

Originality and Imagination

You need to present a well-thought out and original argument that demonstrates your ability to think independently. Originality also helps by making your essay interesting enough to capture the attention of the reader. You must be able to express all of your opinions clearly and confidently throughout the document. You can emphasise the originality of your ideas by incorporating an imaginative perspective that relates to current themes or by including examples that will shed a new light on presented evidence.

Clarity and Style

In addition to originality, you must present your ideas to the reader in a clear manner in order to achieve a first-class grade. Your writing style should engage the reader, and encourage them to read on and find out more. Don’t be afraid compare your ideas to those from other fields; this will also help to solidify the principal arguments of your essay.

Depth of Reading

Markers want first-class essays that reveal a solid depth of reading from the author. They will want to ensure you have a comprehensive understanding and a more advanced understanding of your essay’s subject matter. First-class essays present solid content that is not superficial or rewritten based merely on existing text.

If you truly want to achieve a first-class grade on your essay, you should also conduct some external research to investigate some of the so-called ” tricks of the trade ” related to proper academic writing. There are various techniques you can use to improve the final grade of your essay. Start by visiting your local library for helpful publications and books related to essay writing. You can also conduct an online search as the Internet contains numerous resources that relate to writing essays worthy of a first-class grade.

Unlike the sciences, there is no right or wrong way to write an essay. If you want to achieve a first-class grade, you need to ensure you are familiar with the criteria regarding content and structure. Once you have established the criteria, you need to ensure your essay contains a solid argument, proper structure that flows well and incites the reader to continue to the next paragraph and proper referencing. You must be able to present your ideas succinctly and clearly, and reveal elements of imagination, clarity, style, depth of reading and originality if you want to achieve the highest grade classification possible. Last but certainly not least, talk to your professor; supervisor or marking committee to be sure your essay reflects the learning goals of your particular course.



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Yale University Writing Center 2008, What Good Writers Know, viewed November 12 2008

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