1 of 9

Slide Notes

DownloadGo Live

Qualities of Great Essays

Published on Nov 18, 2015

How to write great IB essays


Qualities of Great IB Essays

The Big Picture
Photo by pgcummings


Make the reader ride your wave
Answer the question with passion and credibility so that the reader is forced to either: 1) agree with your argument, 2) disagree with your argument, but concede it has merit.

How to do this? Your essay needs to build momentum, like a wave building and crashing over a beach. Your introduction sets the scene, repeated credible claims are supported with reasoned evidence, connections are made that build momentum, opposition is brushed aside as counter-claims are refuted and after your wave crests and breaks, it comes to rest satisfyingly in the conclusion, your reader/surfer moved from point A to point B, seeing the world in a whole new way.


The complete package
The greatest essays needs to do all things well. Grammatically accurate, works appropriately cited, credible substance, stylish, organised, with a developed cogent argument.

To do everything well, you must practice, practice, practice. Your writing must be confident and accurate. You must know your material.
Photo by lemonhalf


Develop a memorable voice; stand out.
You need to develop a voice that is yours, that will stand out... in a good way.

Avoid starting sentences with 'This...', vary your sentence starters (try beginning with present participles or infinitives), avoid cliches, consciously vary sentence lengths as you might in a piece of creative writing, use just the right word, keep it simple and clear, let your passion show (and you'll need to find this in the first place!)
Photo by __MaRiNa__


Uncover complexity; go beneath the surface; make connections
Credible claims + discerning evidence + analysis + evaluation = going beneath the surface. Take it to the next level by building connections and considering counter-claims and weighing them up.


Readable, fluid, crystal clear, illuminating
The ABCs of any form of writing are: accuracy, brevity, clarity. Edit for spelling, punctuation and grammar. Don't use more words than you need to. Find just the right word that carries the clearest possible meaning.

Seek to be crystal clear. Clarity allows the reader to see the argument behind your words.


Be Goldilocks - make JUST the right claims, use JUST the right evidence
Don't say everything. Answer the question. Remain relevant. Select the best claims and counter-claims. Select just the right quotes.

How? Careful thinking, truly knowing the material, and relentless, ruthless re-writing.
Photo by violscraper

Be a relentless, ruthless re-writer

Especially crucial for coursework essays. You cannot re-write enough. But be sure it is quality re-writing. Give yourself time and space away from your essay so that you re-read and re-write with fresh eyes.
Photo by chris jd


  • cliché
  • subjective, unevidenced claims
  • spoken, chatty phrasing
  • generalisation (a lot, many)
  • exaggeration (very, just, basically)
And, avoid the following...