The main essay features three essential components: an introduction/thesis statement, the essay body, and a conclusion. The introduction/thesis statement should be contained in the first paragraph of the essay. In this paragraph you should state what you will be discussing, as well as, what you hope to demonstrate through this discussion. A clear and concise thesis statement will not only help the reader better follow your presentation in the essay's body, but it will also help you frame your own thoughts. Indeed, a good deal of your exam preparation time should be spent considering and creating a thoughtful thesis statement. When you have analyzed enough study material to create a sound thesis statement you should have no problem bringing in information that will support your ideas.
The body of the essay is where you will bring in the information that will support your thesis statement. Remember what the format of the essay topic is. If it is a compare and contrast essay, then you should include these elements in your paragraph structure. If it is an analyze and describe, then include those elements. Each paragraph should be oriented towards supporting your thesis statement in a clear and coherent fashion. Begin each paragraph with a topic sentence that introduces the main ideas within that paragraph. Follow the topic sentence with specific examples that will support it. This will be the most time consuming portion of the exam. Don't get bogged down with unnecessary details. At the same time, remember to include clear, concise and relevant information that demonstrates your knowledge of course material. The body might be anywhere between seven to ten paragraphs, depending on your efficiency, with a paragraph typically consisting of three to five sentences.
Use the conclusion to summarize your main points and their relationship to your thesis statement. This is the most expendable section in an exam essay. If you do not quite complete it, but do an excellent job in the introduction and body, you will probably be in good shape; at least in this course. However, in any out-of-class essay, make sure to write a strong conclusion. Make sure not to contradict your thesis in your body and conclusion, since this indicates that the thesis was not well thought out. You should spend approximately sixty to seventy minutes on the main essay. The time will go by fast, so bring a well organized outline that will allow you to be efficient. If you are unclear on what constitutes a proper outline, check out this sample outline from the University of Purdue.
Feel free to include quotes or statistics from your text, class handouts or a class video. This is a good way to demonstrate that you utilized a variety of sources in forming your opinion. However, when using a quote make sure to cite your source. In addition, it is a good idea to avoid over-quoting and relying too much on other people's ideas. Putting ideas into your own words is the best way of demonstrating that you understand the course's information. The use of a dictionary is allowed during the exam. The essay evaluation will primarily focus on the fulfillment of topic requirements and the quality of information and analysis. While spelling and grammar will not necessarily be included in the evaluation, a poorly written essay with numerous spelling errors will tend to do a disservice to your ideas.