6 Steps to Planning an Effective Essay Response

By Peter Thomas

(Senior Academic Instructor at The Edge Learning Center)

Argumentative or persuasive essay writing is not just a useful writing skill but a necessary part of both the IGCSE and IB MYP curricula. For those not confident in essay-writing, it is important to have a clear approach to writing and organising your thoughts before you begin.

6 Steps to Planning an Effective Essay Response (5 Paragraphs)

STEP 1: Read the question or prompt to ensure that you know what you are writing about. Yes, it sounds simple, yet some students skip over the topic and begin writing straightaway. You need to ensure you truly understand the subject, the audience, and the tone with which you should write.

STEP 2: Identify arguments on both sides of the debate – put these into a T-chart or a similar graphic organiser and make sure you have at least 4 or 5 points on each side of the argument. You will need this to evaluate properly and assess the relative strength of arguments. Remember you are trying to convince or persuade in your essay! You should write the literal point and then write a justification or ‘warrant’ for each – not all points need to be ‘the best’ as you are planning at this stage.

STEP 3: Identify the strongest reasons from the T-Chart and then choose a side to argue for your own essay. You should aim to identify 3 points so that you have the basis for thesis construction. The selection should be based on the quality of each point relative to its justification. If it helps, use criteria: logical, evidence-based, difficult to argue against? You may use a spider diagram or plan out the evidence and support in greater detail to see how rigorous they are before choosing.

STEP 4: Create a thesis statement. Use the three points that you have identified as the strongest and form complete sentences for each one – these will be the reasons that you will argue for in the thesis. You may want to consider the order of points within the thesis and what logically goes first, but also which points are inherently stronger. Write out one to two sentences with those reasons in a parallel structure: ‘Students should read more books because it will improve their general literacy skills, increase their range of expressions and vocabulary and expand their subject knowledge’.

STEP 5: Now that you have a thesis, you will need a hook and background information. For the former, you should aim to create an enticing statement, a rhetorical question or an interesting fact to draw the reader to your essay. For the background, you should aim to write 3-4 sentences to contextualise the topic and the debate in greater detail and lead naturally to your own position – your thesis statement. This will form the crux of your opening paragraph.

STEP 6: Plan the points in greater detail. You can now return to the three reasons and figure out how you will argue the points. A traditional argumentative essay may use a PEE structure wherein ‘P’ is the main claim or point, ‘E’ is the evidence to support the main point, and ‘E’ is the explanation of that evidence and how it matches the point. You may wish to sketch out some of the structure to help you to write the essay more formally later. Now you are ready to put pen to paper and WRITE THE ESSAY!


  • Do you notice how these stages come before the actual writing? This is why planning is so important!
  • Remember to check spelling, grammar, and punctuation (SPAG). Courses such as GCSE provide marks-based incentives for correct language use.

If you are still uncertain how to plan an effective essay response, simply give us a ring or contact us today to schedule a lesson with Peter!


About The Edge

Established in 2008, The Edge Learning Center has grown into a premier one-stop provider of educational services for Grade 7 through Grade 12, targeting students who intend to pursue overseas education. Our three departments – Academic Tutoring, Test Preparation, and Admissions Consulting – offer a broad range of educational services spanning from SAT and IB Test Prep to colleges and boarding schools application counseling. The Edge Learning Center operates in multiple regions including Hong Kong, China, and Vietnam.