Writing good essays in English is a must to get a good mark in the Competitive Exam. We all know how important it is in the Oposición. In the Poppies Foundation Course, it is the first aspect we deal with, once we get to know the organisation of the course.
This post was originally published a few years ago on the Sls Hallam blog. I want to share my views as a competitive exam trainer on the huge significance of the Outline.
The Outline: the first step in writing good essays.
Well, not really the first step as, for me, the very first is producing my mind map on the topic.
But while the mind-map is just for me, the outline is for my readers, mainly.
In this particular case, your readers are the members of the panel who are going to assess your essay. And the outline is so very important because it is a way to show the shape of the ideas in your essay. It’s like a skeleton of your essay, it only needs the flesh (the details to support those ideas).
Before writing the outline:
What we need to consider first is the title of the essay. This will help us decide on the thesis or main idea of our essay.
Produce one, or even two mind maps
- Begin with all the ideas you can think of which are relevant to the topic.
- Then, proceed to by adding in the second one all the important points you want to cover in your essay:
- Group the related ideas together
- Arrange those grouped ideas from general to specific and from abstract to concrete.
- Categorize your points according to their importance, keeping in mind the method of organization you intend to use;
- Provide one main point for each paragraph
- Start with the introduction, under which you will write out your thesis statement and work through logically, point by point, until you reach the conclusion.
- Make clear why one point follows another: each point in your outline should connect with the next; each main category should be linked to your thesis, and each sub-category should be linked to the main category.
- Focus your outline by discarding anything not useful or relevant to your thesis.
So, what makes a good outline?
- A good outline has a balanced structure, which is based on the principles of parallelism, coordination, subordination, and division.
- Parallelism means that if we use a noun as the first, second, third, etc. element in our outline, we should keep on using nouns (or gerunds) for similar elements, if we use verbs, then we should keep on with the verbs, etc.
- Coordination means that we group the items of similar significance with comparable letters or numbers. Coordination is a principle that enables the writer to maintain a coherent and consistent document.
- Subordination: to indicate levels of significance, an outline uses major and minor headings. When ordering ideas, we should organise it from general to specific, from abstract to concrete. The more general or abstract the term, the higher the level or rank in the outline.
- Division: To divide, you need at least two parts: A & B, 1& 2, etc. There are different ways to divide parts, but it is important to use only one basis of division at each rank.
To assess your outline, in preparation for writing an essay, ask yourself whether:
- Each indented line relates to and specifies the line under which it is indented
- All the similar type of lines (capital letter lines, numbers, etc.) contain similar or parallel information
- The information gets more specific as it gets more indented so that there is an overall movement from general to specific.
- There are at least two of each type of line to justify the division.
Whether you prefer to work on your own and draft your own topics or you follow those offered at the Poppies’ Courses or written by one of the academies, we advise you to personalise them and draft them using your own words and following your outline.