Top Tips for Writing your Opinion Essay
If you are not very used to writing longer texts in English, the task of writing an opinion essay as a part of the Cambridge cLASs competition application process may seem daunting. And the topics that we ask you to write on are not easy ones either, we are aware. But this is precisely why we chose them! We want to challenge you and give you a chance to stand out in a positive way from other highly-qualified candidates. The essay is your opportunity to shine! Let us offer you some tips to help you do that:
- Be organised: Success takes some planning and consistency! Make sure you give yourself enough time to research the topic that you decided to write about and prepare a detailed essay plan before you start writing. This will help you identify any gaps and inaccuracies in your argument even before you sit down to actually type it. Also, once you’ve completed your essay, it might be a good idea to put it aside for a day or two and come back to it with a fresh mind to see whether you’re happy with your essay in its current form or would like to make some improvements.
- Narrow your focus: Each of the ten discussion topics that you can choose to write on could be a starting point for an entire book. But, we know we ask you to only use 500 words. Therefore, we suggest that you imagine that you’re writing a chapter of this book. Just one! Choose what you would like to focus on and make sure you let us know in the introduction what your take on this broad topic is. Will you only look at the political impacts? Are you not able to discuss the perspective of the whole society, but you’ll decide to choose three different interest groups (e.g. students, business owners, government) and consider their points of view? Do you want to decide to settle for a specific definition of one of the terms used in the discussion topic to help you maintain focus?
- Back up your opinion: Your task is to write an opinion essay and when we ask you to write it we also say that “You will be assessed based on your ability to present a convincing argument, not based on your opinion”. Keep in mind, however, that in order to produce a convincing argument, you should be able to present to us some facts that support your claims. If your opinion was that the Earth is flat, you’d be unlikely to score high for the essay task. Not because we disrespect your opinion, but because you’d be very unlikely to produce any convincing and scientifically accurate arguments to defend your views.
- Choose your sources of information wisely: When you do your research and read around the topic, make sure that you evaluate the sources of information that you choose. An article from an established publisher will most certainly be more trustworthy than an anonymous online forum thread. Also, pay attention to the kind of information you access. Is it an opinion piece that you’re reading or a report? It’s okay to use different sources (in fact, we highly discourage you from relying on just one!), but it’s crucial to approach them critically. While we don’t expect you to use academic referencing in your essays, your argument will be more convincing if you let us know where you got your information from. For example, you could say, “The latest World Drug Report published by the UNODC states that…” or “According to Malala Yousafzai,…”.
- Be unique: Use your essay to stand out in a positive way. If you read a topic and think, “I’m sure here they expect me to talk about…”, this is probably a thought that crossed other applicants’ minds too. Acknowledge the more obvious and popular ways of thinking, but also feel encouraged to be thought-provoking and innovative in your thinking and writing.
- Follow the rules: We do not expect you to follow any specific academic writing styles and we appreciate the creative approach you might want to bring to this task. Please remember, however, that a good rule of thumb is to start your essay with an introduction and finish with a conclusion. And please do not exceed the word limit. We will have to mark you down if you do that.
- Own it: It’s okay to ask some other people for their advice and proofreading, but at the end of the day, you want to be able to confidently say that the essay that you submitted for the competition is your own independent work. We want to learn more about YOU and the way YOU think!
- Enjoy the process: We hope that at least one of the topics that we chose for this year’s edition will spark your interest and help you explore some ideas that perhaps you have not encountered before. We wouldn’t want you to see it as another piece of homework that just needs to be done and over with.