how to write a first class essay

How to Write a First-Class Essay

How do you write a first class essay? The problem with essay writing is that, unlike subjects like maths, there is no correct answer. Essays are much more open to interpretation and are judged by their quality, creativity and depth. This is why so many students dread having to write essays.

With so many students enrolling in university every year, it can be hard to make your essay stand out from the pack.

Every university lecturer has to grapple with the task of reading and assigning grades to hundreds of student essays on a regular basis. This can be a wearisome task, especially when there is little to distinguish one paper from the next.

As a student aiming for a first class grade, your challenge is to submit a piece of work that really stands out from the pile and captures your examiner's attention.

Amongst other things, this means that:

  • your introductory paragraphs must be clear, concise and compelling;
  • the central thesis of your paper should be clearly stated so that the reader knows where your argument is heading;
  • every step in the argument should be clearly signposted so that the reader is never left wondering why a particular point is being made.
  • you make adequate use of primary and secondary sources are displayed to support your key points

Essay Preparation

It takes longer than you think to write an essay. While writing an average undergraduate essay can take between two and four hours, first class essays will take a little longer.

The key to getting the best marks in your essays is in your preparation. Before you start hammering at the keys, make sure you understand the question properly. If you are unsure, check with your lecturer. This will ensure that you are on the same page and they know what to expect from your work.

Next, do your research. Your essay may touch on a variety of issues or subjects, but it must present one clear idea. As you research the essay question, arrange your sources and supporting references in a way that compliments your central thesis.

Remember, bring everything back to your original idea.

Finally, pay attention to any guidelines established by your examiner or course in addition to any reading list you have been provided with. Commonly, these will be stylistic considerations, but some go into further detail. Writing your essay in the correct way from the start will save you having to restructure it later.

Writing A First Class Essay


As you would imagine, the base of a 1st class essay starts with the introduction. Your introductory paragraph must be clear, concise and compelling. You need to lay out the journey you are about to take and the process of how you arrived at the destination.

Body Text

The main body of your essay contains the paragraphs that principally answer the question in part, so the conclusion can bring everything together as a whole. To this end, each paragraph should contain one idea or supporting piece of evidence. This will be well researched and relate directly to the question.

Depending on the type of essay question , the content of your work will be different. Expository essays will be full of facts and carefully curated research. Persuasive essays will use sources to support one side of a complex issue. Regardless of the content, all first class essays are compelling to read.

Mastering the segue is essential to good essay writing. First class essays are written in a way that flows naturally, engaging the reader and making it impossible for them to stop reading.


The fastest way to write the strong conclusion that any engaging essay requires is to take the summary points of your body text paragraphs and bookend them with your introduction. After all, that is what a conclusion is: a summary of your points are a reaffirmation of your central thesis. Using this structure as a jumping off point, you can create a concise conclusion that works in harmony with your essay.

12 Things All Examiners See in Bad Essays

You can learn more from a bad essay than a good essay. Fortunately, undergraduate essays are full of bad essays. Among the most commonly cited weaknesses of undergraduate essays are the following:

1. poor planning

2. weak structure

3. failure to address the question

4. lack of a clear thesis

5. deviation from the topic

6. summarising without elaboration

7. lack of critical analysis

8. insufficient development of ideas

9. failure to present opposing arguments

10. statements unsupported by evidence

11. lack of background reading

12. poor transitions between paragraphs

If you want to write a first class essay, avoid these common pitfalls!

12 Signs That You've Written a First Class Essay

The best undergraduate essays, regardless of subject, have a number of shared qualities. Bear in mind that not only do these essays include a deeper understanding of the subject, but they are written in a compelling, considered way. Amongst the qualities most indicative of a first class essay are the following:

1. comprehensive and effective answer to the question

2. strong structure and clear signposting maintained throughout

3. precise, focused argument

4. lucid style and outstanding professional standard of English

5. wide-ranging knowledge and exceptional understanding of relevant material

6. sound apprehension of context and rationale of ideas

7. awareness of the academic debate surrounding the subject

8. critical appraisal of a variety of relevant sources

9. confident handling of analytical terms and critical concepts

10. evidence of independence of thought and/or original thinking

11. accurate analysis and effective criticism of others' arguments

12. professional presentation, with footnotes and bibliography of a professional, scholarly standard

This brief guide will help you take your first steps toward writing first class essays all year long. For more information and handy tips on essay writing, check out our Advice & Guidance section.

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