Essay Writing Skills

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Essay Writing Skills

  • Cwong2009


  • Read the question and underline the key words. “Explain…Describe…To what an extent do you think… By close reference to this passage… How far do you consider…”
  • Decide if the question is focusing particularly on themes / characters / plot / writer’s intention / writer’s technique or a combination of the above.
  • Is the question asking you to take a stand? To give a description of something? To recount?
  • Plan your essay – Introduction, Body, Conclusion.


  • Reiterate the question in your answer:
  • Question :
  • What do you think are the broader societal issues raised by Simon Tay in Stand Alone?
  • Several key societal issues are raised by Simon Tay in Stand Alone.

Give your answer to the question in a single sentence.

  • Question:
  • What are your impressions of Sam in “Her Dreams”?
  • Sam is the protagonist in the story “Her Dreams” and it is from his narration that we are given a glimpse of his character through his relationships with the other characters in the story, namely Jackie, his mother and Pete. Thesis statement

If the question asks you to take a stand, then make your viewpoint known before listing your reasons for thinking that way.

  • The concept of “class” is a social construct designed to define and control people and while the government may have tried to create a classless society, that is further from the truth ,(stand) . I will be discussing how in Singapore, the people are divided along the lines of gender, education and wealth. (thesis statement)


  • 1 point: 1 paragraph.
  • Make sure you use one paragraph for each main point.
  • You should have at least 3 main points in the body.
  • Question:
  • Simon Tay often uses personal stories to explore broader societal issues. Discuss this statement in reference to at least TWO short stories from Stand Alone.

Point 1

  • In the story Drive, the characters are “classed” according to their wealth. (Topic sentence) Objects like the model of car you drive, where you live operate as signs and symbols for the upper class and the elite.

Evidence 1

  • We know that the narrator belongs to this well off and elite group as he is a successful university graduate who has the trappings of success associated with him. For example, he drives a BeeM, listens to Mozart as he drives and lives in Bukit Timah. [paraphrasing]In contrast, the RX-7 driver is perceived by the narrator as “from a different world, a different ‘obit’.” He is described as having a “plain face, dark from the sun, no glasses, permed hair….On the right wrist…a thick gold chain.” [direct quote]

Elaboration 1

  • The BeeM driven by the narrator as well as living in Bukit Timah, where landed houses are found, are commonly accepted signs of the trappings of success in Singapore because possession of these would suggest that one has “arrived” as these objects are normally not within the reach of the average, ordinary Singaporeans. [explain significance of BeeM and living in Bukit Timah]
  • In contrast, the RX-7 suggests an affordable Japanese sports car driven by someone who cannot afford a continental model but would still like the speed of one. In other words, a “wannabe”.
  • Furthermore, the RX-7 driver’s face “dark from the sun” suggests that he is one prone to working under the sun, probably dealing in labour intensive work. [explain earlier quote used]
  • Hence, it suggests his lack of educational qualifications. The lack of glasses seems to further suggests his lack of intellectual capacity.

Reinforce 1

  • In conclusion, through the story Drive, the societal issue of class is clearly shown. Simon Tay uses these signs to reinforce stereotypes and cultural assumptions. This sign system functions as an ideological system to keep people defined and classified so that similarities and differences are all at once readily identifiable. [reinforces topic sentence at start of paragraph]


  • Restate your stand and a summary of your main points.
  • Question:
  • Gender inequality abounds in Singaporean society. How far you do agree with this statement? Support your view with reference to at least TWO stories in Stand Alone.
  • In conclusion, gender inequality features prominently in our society [stand] as can be seen in the stories, “Iris’s Rice Bowl” and “Her Dreams”. This inequality persists because there is this perpetuation of inequality by the family, society does not condone the male for being the sexual aggressor and lastly, women themselves allow for this inequality to exist by remaining passive. [thesis statement]

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