How do I write an effective introduction for an English essay?

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The key to writing a good essay introduction is to plan your answer first. This is more difficult in an exam than for a coursework essay, as you have the additional pressure of limited time. As a general rule-of-thumb, you should allocate about 5 minutes of planning time for each hour of the exam. Your plan should be a very rough bullet-pointed outline of each topic you want to cover in your answer. By jotting down a quick plan, you instantly have a structure for your essay.

The Introduction

- Begin the introduction by referencing the question. Don't simply restate the question in different words though! Use the first sentence of your introduction to demonstrate that you understand why the question is interesting and why it is worth answering.

- Then, in a few of sentences, briefly outline the path that your answer is going to take. Don't try and hold back your points so that you can do a dramatic 'big reveal' later in the essay. Once your reader gets to the end of your introduction, they should have a basic undestanding of where your argument is going to go. Obviously this will be a very brief overview though: you will unpack your argument in more detail in the rest of the essay.

- Having said that, you don't need to present your overal verdict in the introduction. Save that for the conclusion. Outlining your argument in the introduction does not mean that you need to make your entire arugment there.


As with everything, the best way to improve your essay introduction skills is to practice. Get some past papers and pick a few questions that interest you. For each one, plan the answer and write an introductory paragraph. There is no need to write the entire answer out for this exercise. If your plan and introduction are good enough, the rest of the essay will be much easier to write.

Sean P. A Level English tutor, GCSE English tutor, A Level English Li...

About the author

is an online GCSE English Literature tutor with MyTutor studying at Manchester University

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