English Compositions: Best Writing Guide for O-Level

Table of Contents

Writing English Compositions can be a fairly easy task if you remember the Golden Rules. 

You have to know the different types of composition genres and what is required for each one of them. Once you are able to identify with each one, practice every week and the English Composition exams will be an easy hurdle to cross.

Make sure that you find out about these genres and practices early enough so that you can have a good headstart in your practice.

Select Your English Composition Genre

Selecting the correct genre for English Composition is of prime importance.

Whether it is argumentative or descriptive, knowing the difference and choosing one accordingly can make all the difference.

First, identify the genre of the essay question. Is it asking you to choose a side? Or is it simply about recounting something that goes on in your society? The former is argumentative and the latter is reflective.

Looking out for the type of essay you are more suited for will be the first step in writing an essay. English Composition. As soon as you have made a selection, move on to thinking about the content. Actually, content planning is a fairly straightforward task.

The first step is to organise your facts in point form. All you need would be 4 points in writing an expository or reflective essay. You will need 3 pros and 1-2 rebuttals for an argumentative essay. Once you have defined what you want to say in English Composition, the rest is easy.

Unlike a narrative and reflective essay, you will need evidence to back up your points. The more current your evidence, the better it will be for you. You may start with the most important point first and support it with evidence from a media source or observation. The evidence has to be clear, relevant and accurately written. 

For reflective and narrative essays, anecdotal or story form of writing is the norm. Writing clearly is just as important but you will need to think of a strong plot. The plot, which will be explained in the later chapters, has to be watertight. The resolution should offer a way out of the difficulty for the main character or protagonist. There should also be a moral or sense of value being imparted at the end.

The narrative or reflective essay will only help a student to score well in English Composition if both an imaginative plot and value of the lesson learnt is written clearly. If the story is flat and boring, the composition fails to make its mark. So, choosing the correct genre for your English Composition exam is very important.

Every English Composition is accompanied by a guided practice with answers, notes and vocabulary guide. If you follow the steps outlined for every practice, you will be sure to excel in your writing.

english composition

Important Tips For Writing Descriptive Essays

1. What is descriptive?

It is the observation of people, places or circumstances and padding it with one’s personalised style of describing it.

2. How do you start writing a descriptive essay?

Examine the keywords and zoom in on the main word or phrase.

3. How to write the Descriptive Introduction?

The Introduction is the most important paragraph as it tells the marker if you have understood the question or not.

Always start by mentioning the location or the time. If not, start with the most personal feeling you have about the subject or happening. 

Elaborate slightly on the effect and a general truth or some words of wisdom regarding it. Keep it brief.

Then lastly, write about how you managed to balance it in your life. This will prepare you to write on the good and bad effects of the object or event you are going to describe.

This also means you will not run out of content in English Composition.

Narrative Writing Techniques

How To Write A Good Story

Writing a good story entails 3 main features:

  • A good protagonist (the main character)
  • A protagonist who has a problem which is unusual and intriguing
  • A suspenseful climax

Reflective Essay Techniques

These essays reflect a personal experience through which one gains insight and depth in one of the areas in one’s life. One of the most important aspects of a reflective essay is the mature tone and the value it imparts at the end in English Composition. 

A reflective essay is essentially about telling a story which delves deep into the story teller’s experience to provide insight into the values. The extent to which the values are affected and the extent to which the storyteller tells the tale by revealing his deepest psyche is up to him/ her. Every story is told from a different angle and every tale has a truth.

A reflective essay should start by describing the experience and then go on to reflect on the value of the experience.


Value of the experience

English Composition Techniques for Writing Argumentative Essays

An argumentative essay relies on 5 main factors:

  • The hook
  • The thesis statement
  • The pros
  • The cons (rebuttal)
  • The conclusion

The Hook

You need a good hook to start the essay. The hook should be the first sentence which shows that you have understood the question and it should reflect the way you have interpreted the question. 

A good hook should grab the attention of the reader. For example, if the question is about whether people should eat organic food, a hook could be as follows:

Turn your back to pesticide ridden vegetables and fruits packed with chemical sprays and welcome naturally grown food. 

This is a good hook in English Composition and grabs the reader’s attention straightaway.

The first step is to analyse the question carefully and understand what is required. All argumentative questions ask for a clear stand so you have to decide which side you are on. What is the best way to decide your stand?

It does not really matter whether you believe in the side you are taking though if you do so, it will help.

What really matters is that you decide to write on the side which has more points. This will depend on the current information available in the media, your reading depth and your ability to link it to the question. 

The thesis statement is very important as it tells the examiner what you feel about the essay. It should reflect your stand on the English Composition topic. Do you agree or disagree? You may say that you agree to a large extent. This leaves you with the flexibility to mention the opposite side in your rebuttal.


For example, if your English Composition essay is about why it is beneficial for people to eat organic food, you will need to think of 3 pros to support your argument. 

  • The first Pro is the first point in favour of the side you have. So, the argument will begin as, “People will benefit from eating organic food as it is grown without pesticide or chemicals. They will derive the full nutritional benefits of the type of food which is grown. 
  • The second Pro will be the next point to support your argument. People who eat organic food have remarked on feeling and looking more healthy. Longer lifespan and better energy levels are a result.
  • Organic food is also supposed to help people to resist diseases like cancer. Cancer sufferers have also turned to organic food in an attempt to turn their lives back to a more healthy state.

Cons (Rebuttal)

The next step is to think of the cons or the rebuttal in English Composition. You may need one good rebuttal or two. The rebuttal should be a fresh point which opposes the pros mentioned earlier.                                         

  • Organic food tends to be expensive and most people will find it hard to afford it.
  • There is no scientific evidence which states that organic food makes a big difference from food which is grown without pesticides. If one washes vegetables carefully, the chemical coating can be removed.

The Rebuttal should be clear and accurate. If there is only one rebuttal, make sure that the evidence is accurate and up to date.

First Con:

Organic food tends to be expensive and most people will find it hard to afford it. They tend to be priced at nearly ten dollars or more for a small bunch of vegetables. For families who cook a sizable portion on a daily basis, this cannot be an economical choice. Most families will opt for a cheaper option and turn to feed their families. Many people will prefer to buy vegetables and fruits which are grown with pesticides. They may feel that the health risks are minimal. A bag of organic apples costs nearly ten dollars whereas the chemically treated bag of apples may cost only a fraction of it. Cost always plays a large deciding factor for the consumer. 

This rebuttal or con has a point and evidence to support it. The paragraph has many details to highlight the point so another rebuttal may not be necessary. 

Hybrid Essay Writing Techniques

Hybrid essays are a mixture of expository, argumentative and descriptive. It could even be part narrative and part descriptive.

The subject matter could range from an expository topic such as pollution and one could be asked to give one’s opinion based on one’s views of society. So, this will be an expository essay with a descriptive content. Hybrid essays invite one to write with a personal viewpoint so a subjective treatment of a topic which is purely factual is the result.

The Expository and Narrative Hybrid

Eg. Write about your view of how a person should conduct his day to day living if he wanted to save the environment.

This topic invites personal views. So, a narrative version is possible. However, the subject is about saving the environment so there are facts involved.

You will have to write about an average person who should be more conscientious about society by recycling. An average person should not waste food, electricity or water. He should throw his paper and plastic in bins provided for that use. He should think about the future generations. What sort of world will the children of our future inherit? This trend of thought should occupy his mind. 

The Expository part:

Tells the examiner about the factual side of the English Composition essay.

“Saving the environment” means how to contribute to a greener world or efforts to preserve what we have. There are many points which can be raised about recycling, saving energy and using energy saving devices.

The Narrative part:

Tells the examiner the personal side to the English Composition essay. The part about “how a person should conduct his day to day living” can be seen from an anecdotal point of view.

The Argumentative and Descriptive Hybrid

The question is posed with reference to a topic about one’s community for instance.

The hybrid topic does not discuss world topics or factual topics but will ask you to write something rather different.

For instance, you may be asked if there is any value in playing traditional games and how much does it mean to you.

Or, it could be asking you your opinion on the performing arts and why you consider it important for yourself.

Though you may have to defend your view, there is an emphasis on your own story, your own life. You may have to explain your desire for the arts, your need to perform due to your passion. Then there will be a brief anecdote about your stint in the performing arts.

Or you may choose to write about your peers and how they view the performing arts. Why did you decide to learn that skill? If it was playing the cello, why did you choose it? What is the value in it?

How do people see you when you play it? Do they become enriched when they hear you play? Is this the value?

When you answer these questions in English Composition, you will be able to blend both the argumentative and descriptive portions of the essay.

The argumentative part: 

This is where you take a stand. Why is it important? So, you list out the reasons. This may be just for yourself or for your family.

The descriptive part:

This is where you become more introspective. You discuss your own desire for the performing arts. How it resonates within you. Your personal feelings. Does it make you happy? Which part? When you perform or rehearse? Or is it when it is over? 

Reflective or Narrative and Expository

Reflective and Narrative require you to tell a story with your own personal recount. You may write in an anecdotal style about a particular activity and what happened to you. There could be an interesting encounter or something you learnt which is relevant to the English Composition topic.

The expository portion will require you to write in a more objective way. You will need to be more concise and set forth an argument or point of view which examines the question.

Reflective and Argumentative

Reflective: A personal point of view is needed.

Eg. I feel that women should not serve in the national service as it may be too tough for them to handle. There are many of my fellow female students who find it difficult to do the marathon run. We barely manage to make it as we find it painful due to cramps.

Argumentative: Where it involves others.

Eg. Women may be an untapped resource for a country like Singapore where we have limited manpower.

This is the complete writing guide for writing excellent English Compositions for the O-levels. The next step is for you to get started with practising each genre till you reach your goal. 

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