What are essays actually for?

Essays test a wide variety of skills, including your ability to absorb and analyse information.

Before we get into the nitty gritty of how to write an outstanding essay, we need to go right back to basics and think about what essays are actually designed to test. Only by understanding the purpose of an essay can you really begin to understand what it is that tutors are looking for when they read your work.

No matter what the academic level of the student is, essays are designed to test many things:

– Knowledge – fundamentally, essays test and help consolidate what you’ve read and learned, making them an important part of the learning process, particularly for humanities subjects.

– Comprehension – they test your ability to make sense of and clearly explain complex concepts and issues.

– They test your ability to understand the question and produce a considered response to it.

– They evaluate your ability to absorb and condense information from a variety of sources, which will probably mean covering a lot of material in a short space of time; this necessitates appraisal of which bits of material are relevant and which are not.

– They test your ability to write a balanced and coherent argument that considers a number of points of view.

– They showcase your level of written English skills.

– They even put your time management to the test – essays are a part of your workload that must be planned, prioritised and delivered to a high standard, to deadline.