This is a guest post by Sam Pealing. Make sure to visit his website EnglishForStudy.com for more academic English help!
I admire international students. Seriously. If you’re a non-native English speaker doing a degree or doctorate in English, then I take my hat off to you.
I get a lot of questions about writing essays, and I’ve taught hundreds of students how to write effective essays (which get good grades). One of the most common mistakes that I see is a lack of opinion.
Most of the time, students describe a situation, but they don’t give their opinion or stance. This can really damage your grade because lecturers are always looking for ‘critical thinking’. If you don’t give your opinion in your essays, your lecturers can’t see your critical thinking.
To put it simply: If you don’t put your opinion or stance in an essay, then you’ll probably lose marks.
In this article, you’ll learn 10 effective phrases that you can use to give your opinion in your essay. I’ve also created a free lesson pack which will help you to practice the phrases in this article. CLICK HERE to download it.
Introducing the Phrases
If you’re looking for a quick fix for your essay, these phrases should help you to start putting your own opinions in your essays.
But, before you rush over to your essays to start putting these phrases in, there’s something you need to know.
If you’re writing an academic essay, you will need to support your opinions with strong evidence. This is especially true if you are using some of the stronger phrases.
This evidence can be a journal article, a lecture, a textbook, or something else which is a trustworthy source of information.
In a more informal essay, like one in an IELTS or TOEFL language test, you don’t need to support your answers with strong evidence. Your experiences or opinions will be enough.
Quick note: I know! You’re ready to see the phrases.
This won’t take long and it’s really important.
1. For these phrases to be really effective, you’ll need to review your grammar. Shayna has some great videos on her Espresso English Youtube channel.
I recommend these:
2. If you want to know the structure of a good essay paragraph, check my post here.
Informal English Phrases
These phrases are suitable for language tests such as TOEFL or IELTS. In an academic essay, these phrases will probably be too informal because they are too personal.
“In my opinion, + [your sentence]”
- In my opinion, a good education is more important than a good car.
“I believe that + [your sentence]”
- I believe that schools should encourage students to walk or cycle to school rather than drive.
“In my mind, + [your sentence]”
- “In my mind, no-one should have to pay for medical care.”
More Formal Academic Phrases With ‘That’
These phrases are more suitable for academic essays. If you are unsure whether you should use an informal phrase or an academic phrase, use an academic one. If you think your writing might be informal, read this post to learn more.
The patterns here are quite straightforward. Just add your sentence after ‘that’.
“It would seem that + [your sentence]”
Use this when you support your opinion with evidence.
- “It would seem that children learn best when they are feeling comfortable.”
“It could be argued that + [your sentence]”
Use this when you want to challenge an existing opinion.
- “It could be argued that the benefits outweigh the drawbacks in this situation.”
“This suggests that + [your sentence]”
Use this when you don’t want to fully commit to an opinion. You’re giving yourself some distance.
- “The evidence suggests that people who speak more than one language have more job opportunities.”
“This proves that + [your sentence]”
Use this when you are confident with your opinion. This phrase is quite strong*
- “This proves that the best way to lose weight is through a controlled diet and a good exercise program.”
“This supports the idea that + [your sentence]”
Use this one when you are supporting an opinion that you have already made.
- “This new research supports the idea that successful English learners look for opportunities to use English.”
Other Ways to Express Opinion
“Although [idea you disagree with], [idea you agree with]”
Use this when you want make your opinion seem balanced.
- “Although reports suggest that cigarettes could help people to lose weight, there are too many serious health problems associated with smoking.”
Note: The ‘although’ pattern is very effective because it shows two sides of the argument. In the example, I support the idea that smoking is bad for your health –BUT- I recognise that it could have some benefits.
Structure your ‘although’ sentence like this: Although, [weaker argument you disagree with], [stronger argument you agree with].
Using Adverbs, Adjectives and Nouns
You can use adjectives to show your opinion.
- “This research was poorly conducted with a lack of control.”
The adjective and nouns in the example are negative. You can get some good ideas from this video on Extreme Adjectives. Note: try not to use any emotional adjectives.
Make Your Own Phrases!
Of course, these phrases aren’t the only ones that you can use! You can find more –or– you can create your own by combining different patterns.
Here’s an example of #7, #9 and #10 used together.
“Although it is difficult for older adults to learn a second language, an important study by Smith (2014) proved that the elderly can successfully learn new languages.”
What Should You Do Now?
So now you should have a better idea of how to include more opinions in your essays. But that’s not all; there are probably some new words here that you don’t know.
So here’s what you should do:
- Choose three of the opinion expressions and phrases that you want to try.
- Practice writing sentences using them (if you don’t have a topic, try this: should students do homework? You can see examples of this in the lesson pack)
- Get the Lesson Pack for this lesson (which contains the vocabulary and the phrases from this lesson) CLICK HERE to download it.
About Sam Pealing
Sam Pealing is an English language coach who specialises in two important areas: 1. helping you to get great grades at university, and 2. helping you to become an effective and confident English user. If you’re feeling frustrated or confused with English, Sam has created the perfect email course for you! You can join his course here –or- you can read more by him on English For Study.
13 Sentences to Glory! (The GMAT Analytical Writing Assessment, Part 2: Issue Essay)
The GMAT Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA), which consists of two 30-minute essays (Analysis of an Argument and Analysis of an Issue), is the least important part of the GMAT and the least important part of your application to business school. Still, read on.
First off, you should know that the AWA score is completely separate from the Math/Verbal (200-800) score. Second, a high AWA score won’t offset a low 200-800 score—in other words, you’re not going to “AWA-your-way-in” to business school. Third, as long as you’ve got the 200-800 score you need, a low AWA score probably won’t hurt you. Still, you don’t want such a low score that admissions committees will take notice.
Essentially, you can look at the AWA as a pass/fail proposition: AWA scoring is from 0-6, and scores of 4 or above (not too difficult to attain) are passing. The AWA is a relatively manageable task (much easier than the Math/Verbal for virtually all testers), thus nothing to fret about. However, when you take your GMAT, the first thing you have to do is write the essays, and that hour of writing is an important warm-up for the Math and Verbal sections. Notice that I said “warm-up”—the key is that the essays must not cost you too much mental energy. Whether you’re realistically aiming for a score of 4 (good enough for the essays to be a non-factor in your application to business school) or 6 (the top score, which is good enough for the essays to be a non-factor in your application to business school), the essays need to be easy for you.
No outside knowledge is required for the AWA Essays and there’s nothing you need to study to prepare for them. (Though reading a few samples would be a good idea.) You simply need a template for both Argument and Issue Essays and a little practice. For guidance on the Argument Essay, go here. To make the Issue Essay nothing more than a matter of going through the motions on test day, follow the guidelines below.
Analysis of an Issue Essay: Pre-Writing
The Issue Essay is essentially a short position paper. Before you start writing, you need to decide whether you Agree or Disagree with the Prompt statement. Next, you need to jot down 3 reasons for your position and 1 example to back up each reason (for a total of 3 examples). For examples, draw from current events, history, science and technology, business, literature, etc. Personal and even hypothetical examples are fine, too, as long as they’re relevant and well analyzed. However, you want to have a breadth of examples, so try to use at most 1 personal example. The important thing is that your examples are specific and of import. World War II is of import; a fight you got into in 3rd grade because someone stole your lunch probably isn’t. Once you’ve got three reasons and three examples down, you’re ready to write, as long as you know to use the Outline below.
Analysis of an Issue Essay: Outline
I. Introduction (2 sentences) – Pick a Side; all you need to get across here is whether you Agree or Disagree with the Prompt statement.
II. Body Paragraph 1 (3 sentences) – Reason 1/Example 1/Analysis.
III. Body Paragraph 2 (3 sentences) – Reason 2/Example 2/Analysis.
IV. Body Paragraph 3 (3 sentences) – Reason3/Example 3/Analysis.
V. Conclusion (2 sentences) – Summarize key points and reiterate your position. Stick to the old adage for conclusion paragraphs: “Tell ‘em what you told ‘em.”
- Notice that 2+3+3+3+2 = 13. That’s 13 sentences total, and that’s all you’ve got to write on your Issue Essay. Of course, there’s no reason you can’t write more and there’s no reason to worry about counting your sentences as you write. In fact, in analyzing your examples, you may well wind up with Body Paragraphs that are more than 3 sentences. However, writing more than 13 sentences is not strictly necessary, even if you want to get a 6 (the highest score). Therefore, the Issue Essay is a matter of 13 sentences to glory!
- Stick to the 5-paragraph Intro-Body-Conclusion format because 5-paragraph essays tend to receive higher scores than 4-paragraph essays. Writing 6 or more paragraphs is also fine, of course, as long as you stick to the Intro-Body-Conclusion format.
- Even more than providing reasons for your position, using specific, well-developed examples is the key to performing well on the Issue Essay. Let your examples guide you.
- If you can’t think of a specific example to back up a reason, a general supporting example is better than nothing. But never start simply listing out examples. Remember, 1 example for each reason.
- Stay focused on the Prompt statement. Don’t let your essay stray off topic.
- Stick to one idea per paragraph. Discuss one reason/one example in each paragraph.
- First person (the use of “I”) is fine—use it, it’s easy. You don’t need to be overly formal.
- You also don’t need to use big words or try to be fancy stylistically; good GMAT writing is all about clarity.
- Use explicit transitions and other phrases that highlight the logical structure of your essay. “First,” “Second,” “Third,” “In conclusion,” “For example,” “Similarly,” “However,” etc., are all good. In other types of writing, stilted transitions are not considered ideal; on the GMAT, the important thing is to show that you know that transitions are supposed to exist.
Analysis of an Issue Essay: Process Summary
Performing well on the Issue Essay is a matter of following the directions, structuring your essay properly, and demonstrating solid writing mechanics. Thus, before you do anything else, read the directions to get your bearings and be sure that you’re clear on which essay you’re writing. The Issue Essay will be the second of the two, but you don’t want to confuse them, and there’s no need to rush. Next, be sure to read the Prompt statement carefully; your essay must directly address the Prompt statement (this is essentially another component of following the directions). Other than these basics, follow this process:
a. Pre-Writing: 5 min.
b. Write: 20 min.
c. Proofread: 2-3 min.
That leaves you 2-3 minutes to play with. Keep in mind that Pre-Writing (Picking a Side and Brainstorming examples) is the foundation for a well-written, high-scoring essay. (By the way, you don’t really need to outline your essay because you’ll have the Intro-Body-Conclusion template memorized.) If you apply the basic process above, use the prescribed Outline, and write the essays every time you take a practice test—something you should do for endurance’s sake anyway—you’ll be more than adequately prepared for the Issue Essay. Most importantly, it’ll be simple and easy for you on test day. No sweat!
For guidance on the Argument Essay, click here. If you follow the prescribed formulas for both the Issue and the Argument Essays, you should be well on your way to scoring 5-6 on the AWA. Good luck–it’ll be a breeze!
|Elia is a GMAT Trainer for The Princeton Review. Click here to read more articles from The Princeton Review and to learn more about The Princeton Review's GMAT services.|