Secondary Student's Guide: 5 Ways To Master Expository Essay Writing

Posted by Denise Lee on June 20, 2018

Contributed by Jenna Wong, Head of Secondary English, United Square.

Even though students are introduced to expository essay as early as in primary school, many secondary school students still find this essay type daunting. This article shares 5 ways to help secondary school students master expository essay writing. 

Why Students Tend To Shy Away From Expository Essays

Unfamiliar with the format and hesitant about what content needs to be written, many students prefer to stick to the tried and true forms of narrative or descriptive essays. Ultimately, students are afraid they may not score well for the expository essay. However, there are ways to overcome these hesitations. 

"How do I start my essay?"
"How do i know what to write about?"
"What should I include in my content paragraph?"

These are some of the questions that stump students who are just learning how to manage the expository essay. 

To answer these questions and more, here are 5 ways to help students see that there is a systematic, effective approach to planning and writing this essay type. In addition, we will explore some writing techniques students can adopt to improve their writing. 

1. Understand The Structure Of An Expository Essay

What Is An Exposition? 

The expository essay seeks to inform the reader about a particular subject or issue. One way to help students cope with this essay type is to help them build a firm understanding of the structure of an expository. 

Understanding the structure gives students a ‘template’ to adhere to, ensuring that there is a logical, coherent flow to the essay as they inform the reader about the particular subject or issue. 

An expository essay is comprised of 3 main parts:

•  an introduction
•  the content body
•  a conclusion 

What Is An Introduction? 

The introduction gives readers an overview of how the main topic or idea of the expository essay question will be addressed. This includes definitions or an analysis of the key terms given in the question. 

Such definitions help the reader understand the parameters within which the writer discusses main ideas.

These definitions help students when they may begin to write out of point — they can refer back to the definitions they’ve set for themselves and continue writing appropriate content. 

Additionally, it will also include the thesis statement — a single or several short sentences that respond(s) directly to the question, outlining the points that will be covered in the essay.

What Is The Main Content Of An Expository Essay?

The content paragraphs form the main ‘body’ content of the essay. Each paragraph will elaborate on and explain one key point that responds to the essay question. 

Students are typically expected to write three content paragraphs for each expository essay. 

What Is The Conclusion? 

The concluding paragraph wraps up the entire essay and reminds readers about what was developed in the essay. 

Great essays also end off with a ‘wow’ factor that will set readers thinking about the topic that has been discussed.

Related Article: 3 Common Challenges That Lower Secondary Students Face


2. Identify The Requirements Of The Question

An easy way to understand the requirements of the question is to analyse the key words of the question. 

Looking At The Directive Word

It is important to identify the directive word in the essay question, as it will confirm that the essay is indeed an expository essay question, and not a descriptive nor an argumentative essay. 

This will ensure that students meet the question requirements of the expository essay.

Common directive words for expository essays include: “what”, “explain”, “identify”, and “outline”. Each key word signals the way students should approach the essay. 

Explaining Additional Key Words 

Apart from identifying the directive word of the question, it is important for students to identify and analyse the other key words within the question. 

Students should be mindful of seemingly insignificant words that change the scope of the question. Such words include “you”, “some”, “majority” and “today”. These words have a great impact on the content.

For example, the word “you” requires the student to take on the use of strong personal voice and hence, the student may cite personal observations, tied to facts in the content body. 

Meaning and Implications Of Key Words 

Upon identifying these key words, it is also important for students to consider the meaning and implications each word has. 

For example, the key word “change” requires students to think about the concept of comparison — identifying change between two different time periods or situations and identifying the turning point. 

Furthermore, students need to think about whether this “change” has had a positive or negative impact on the situation. 


3. Establish An Effective Essay Map

An essay map is a plan that will guide students in writing their essays. Specific to the expository essay, an essay map requires three topic sentences that outline he three points of the essay. 

Moreover, students can also cite examples that they may use to support each point.

When crafting the essay map, it is important to ensure that each point answers every key word of the given essay question. 

Why Is An Essay Map Important? 

It is important to have an essay map planned out before writing the essay as it will help students develop a logical piece of work that shows depth of thought. 

Taking time to write out the essay map will ensure that students have a firm plan to constantly refer back to while writing the essay. The essay map is an extremely valuable tool to help students avoid writing off topic. 

Would You And Your Child Like To Learn More?

Download our full guide on “5 Ways To Master Expository Writing” where Jenna shares more about setting the right tone in the introduction and crafting a strong content paragraph. Click here or on the image below to download the full guide.

The Learning Lab's 5 Ways To Mastery Expository Writing

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Topics: O Level Seminar, secondary school, Secondary English