How To Write A Great Essay

The combination of being new or unfamiliar to a study environment and having to produce an essay for the first time can present a daunting challenge for many learners. To help you we have put together some top tips for essay writing…

#1 Familiarise yourself with the referencing system used by your education provider

It is important that you fully understand the referencing system used by your education provider (usually Harvard referencing) before writing an essay to prevent plagiarism and having to make big changes at the end.

Our top tip is to do your references as you work through your essay, as if you leave it to the end it is easy to become overwhelmed due to the sheer volume of references that may have been used. Plus you won’t risk missing any out.

#2 Understand the Question

Understanding the question is key to knowing how to answer, as how the question is phrased indicates the expectations. Are you being asked to critically evaluate something? Compare and contrast? Evaluate the usefulness of a particular concept? These are some of the most popular phrases found in essay writing.

If you are asked to critically evaluate a particular theoretical approach you must not only gain an understanding of the theory, but also other relevant approaches. They must all be weighed against each other, highlighting the strengths and weaknesses of each theory, and you must form a well-justified and confident conclusion.

How To Write A Great Essay

If you are asked to evaluate the usefulness of something, you don’t necessarily need to go into as much critical depth. You should still acknowledge alternative approaches, and still note some strengths and weaknesses – but the majority of the work must emphasise the practical usefulness of the specified concepts. 

If you are asked to compare and contrast, essentially this is a combination of the above. You need to take a critical approach and evaluate the literature, but your focus should solidly be on the theories that you have been asked to compare and contrast. It is important to show that you understand both or all core theories in great depth.

#3 Draw a plan

It’s important that you allocate enough time to complete every stage of essay writing without rushing before the deadline. Draw a plan that gives you enough time to understand the question, develop an essay plan, collect books and articles, read and take notes, write the essay and proof read. Make sure you schedule in breaks, as regularly study breaks can increase productivity.

It’s also important to plan and map the chapters of the essay. This will prevent you from going off on a tangent and writing things not relevant to the question.

How To Write A Great Essay

#4 Read widely

Before you start writing your essay you should conduct a broad search for literature and read widely around the topic and theories. Databases such as Google Scholar are a great tool for finding academic articles and your education provider’s library will stock a range of academic textbooks useful for essays. As you read through your texts take notes on anything relevant, as ultimately what you read will form the base of your essay.

Don’t rely too heavily on one or a couple of texts as this indicates that you haven’t engaged with the literature.

#5 Be critical

Perfect academic approaches and theories are rare – there’s nearly always arguments and ways to pinpoint flaws. For a higher grade you need to not only be descriptive, but also show that you are able to leverage critical reasoning in your dealing with academic materials. You can contrast the theory with alternative theories, discuss the limitations of the theories and critically analyse the methodology used and how other approaches could give additional depth.

It’s also important that you reference academic texts when you present an argument. Bear in mind you don’t need to always use full quotes, you can also paraphrase to save words.

#6 Stick to the word limit

It’s important that you know what the word limit is and you stick to it. If you don’t you could fail. Some education providers allow you to write to 10% above or below the limit – but you must check this with your tutor.

#7 Proof read

Always proof read your essay at least twice before handing it in. A good tip is get someone else to read it too, as we always struggle to spot our own grammar and spelling mistakes.


Previous article Next article

Watch Our Client Videos

Ascentis helps change the lives of over 170,000 learners each year. Hear about why our staff love working for us, and why our customers love working with us.

See all

Leicester Adult Skills and Learning Service Speaking about Ascentis English & Maths Stepping Stones

Ascentis has a fantastic suite of English and Maths Stepping Stones qualifications which enable learners to focus on specific skills, build their confidence and progress onto further learning. This testimonial video features Leicester Adult Skills and Learning Service who outline the benefits to them and their learners of using these qualifications.

Watch Video

The City of Liverpool College Speaking about Ascentis Access to Higher Education

Access to HE with Ascentis - We Make a Difference. Watch our Testimonial and hear how it makes a difference to learners and the opportunities it brings.

Watch Video

Best Practice People Speaking about Ascentis Short Online Qualifications

The Ascentis Short Online Qualifications are delivered in many centres across the UK and help to support learners’ Personal Development, Behaviour and Welfare. Listen to Ascentis Customer, Best Practice People talk about how effective the Ascentis Short Online Qualifications are and how they successfully aid their NEET learners, improving skills and confidence in turn helping them secure employment.

Watch Video

Join hundreds of happy centres nationwide

Arrange a meeting

What our happy customers say

“We are very pleased that we made the move to Ascentis for all our ESOL exams. The exams are appropriate for our learners, and lecturers find the marking manageable. As an organisation, Ascentis is a pleasure to work with. Our queries are always dealt with quickly and we are extremely well supported by our verifier.”

Waltham Forest

“We have thoroughly enjoyed our first year with Ascentis. There has been support of a high quality throughout the academic year. Support has been provided through a variety of roles including the quality managers, lead EQA’s and subject moderators.”

Bradford College

“We have been delighted with the impact Ascentis Extended Awards in Mathematical Skills (Stepping Stones) have had on our student’s progression towards their functional skills mathematics as well as preparing them for the completion of their GCSE. It has taught them the essential skills in mathematics which enabled them to deal with the practical problems and challenges of life – at home, in education and at work. These skills are valued by employers and further education, and are a platform on which to build other employability skills. We are also very impressed with the level of service and commitment shown by the staff of Ascentis, they are always available to help whenever help is needed.”

Brent Start

“The transparency and support of Ascentis has been refreshing. Our moderation process has been a pleasure and developmental feedback has always been welcomed.”

Kensington & Chelsea College

12th Jun 2024

Ascentis Events

  • AELP
  • CPD Certified
  • FAB
  • Cyber Essentials
  • Natecla
  • Access to Higher Education
  • The Parliamentary Review
  • West Yorkshire Learning Providers
Ascentis customers please login to view full specifications, tracking sheets, sample papers, customer policies and key documents.


Specification Overviews

Key Documents