How can I improve my writing skills while writing an essay-type question in English literature from exam point of view?  

Expert Answers
mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Since exams in English literature classes are usually essay questions, you will want to hone your skills at writing paragraph and essays, first of all.  When you are given an essay question on a literary work, for instance, the most important thing is to really answer the question and not write about extraneous matters.  This answer is what constitutes the thesis of the essay or topic sentence of the paragraph that is the response.

Using the paragraph essay [like a mini-essay] as presented in The Practical Writer as the format for your response is a good way to organize.  For instance, if you are asked to discuss the ways color imagery in The Great Gatsby adds meaning, you will make a general statement about this imagery in your topic sentence, then you will support this statement in the body of the paragraph essay.  Here is an example:

In Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby, color imagery works to develop characterization and to create mood. [Usually a paragraph essay has two parts to its topic sentence.] For instance, in the development of the character Daisy, the two colors of white and gold are employed.  Clothed in white, Daisy seems innocent and almost pure, but it is the delusion of Gatsby that she is perceived in this way.  For Gatsby, the pursuit of Daisy is equated with the search for a holy grail, pure and worthy.  However, the color of gold is also used with Daisy, whose voice "sounds like money."  Thus, her innocence is tarnished by money and materialism.  In Chapter --, for example, Daisy demonstrates her materialsm, rather than any inclination towards purity......In addition to the development of character, color imagery is used to create mood.  In Chapter Two, for instance, the grey-white Valley of Ashes characterizes Mr. Wilson who is himself covered with the ashes of dead people. In another example of color imagery which connotes mood, ........[give supporting details] Then, summarize your work with a restatement of your topic sentence.

See the links below for additional form and methods. The how to write an in-class essay should especially prepare you.

munmunlil | Student

The first step in writing an essay is to determine a topic and a point of view. Your essay’s point of view may be to persuade the reader to share your beliefs on the topic, it may try to explain how to complete a certain task, or it may try to familiarize or educate the reader about the topic. Or it could take a completely different approach.

Every good essay should contain the following parts:

  1. Outline of the topic
  2. Introduction
  3. Thesis
  4. Body (Consist of 3-6 Paragraphs)
  5. Conclusion

To create an outline, list your topic at the top of the page. Under the topic, list three to six main ideas, feelings or beliefs about your topic, list these as A. B, C, etc. Then, list a few ideas, opinions, or statements to support the main ideas. The outline will be used to create your essay’s paragraphs. Your outline may look similar to this one:

Topic Idea

A. This idea about topic
1. Info to support this idea
2. Statements to verify this idea

B. This fact about topic
1. Specific info to verify this fact
2. Statement from an expert on your topic

C. This information about topic
1. Statistical information on topic
2. Important dialogue about the topic

Introduction / Thesis

The first paragraph includes the introduction and a thesis statement. The introduction should captivate the reader’s attention and give an idea of the essay’s focus. You may start your essay with an attention-getter such as a bit of fascinating information, captivating dialogue or an interesting fact.

Start with a few sentences that explain your topic in basic terms and lead into your thesis statement. Each sentence of your opening statement should become a bit more specific, until you reach the thesis statement.

The thesis statement tells the reader what the essay will be about and what points you will be making in your essay. Your thesis statement should state the subject of the essay, explain the point of view the essay will take or describe the ideas on your topic that you determined in your outline.

Body Paragraphs

The body paragraphs will explain your essay’s topic. Each of the main ideas that you listed in your outline will become a paragraph in your essay. If your outline contained three main ideas, you will have three body paragraphs. Start by writing down one of your main ideas, in sentence form.

If your essay topic is a new university in your hometown, one of your main ideas may be “population growth of town” you might say this:

The new university will cause a boom in the population of Fort Myers.

Build on your paragraph by including each of the supporting ideas from your outline.


The conclusion serves to give the reader closure, summing up the essay’s points or providing a final viewpoint about the topic.

The conclusion should consist of three or four convincing sentences. Clearly review the main points, being careful not to restate them exactly, or briefly describe your opinion about the topic.