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I have to write essays in two examinations which will be conducted soon. Those exams need essays to be written in 250 words. The topics are given on the time of the exams and are usually anything based on government schemes, matters of national and international importance, or anything that is often in news, etc. Last year (I think), they asked essays on Ethical banking, Influence of social media, Contribution of unorganised Sector in Indian economy, etc.

Question:

Essentially, this is a test of writing rather than that of knowledge. However, I think it's best if the essay essentially is somehow "complete" covering as many important aspect as possible even if in layman's terms. So, what structure may I follow to write good yet comprehensive essays in the word limits of 250 words?

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    Is this a timed essay (I.e. you have X minutes to write a 250 word essay)? Also, what tools are you using to write this (A computer word processor? Pen and paper? Chisel and Stone (for an archeology exam I guess)?)? – hszmv Jan 20 at 16:24
  • @hszmv Yes, it is timed. 1 hour for an essay and a letter. So, I think I can dedicate 30-40 minutes for the essay. It is a pen and paper based exam for a clerical job. – Severus Snape Jan 20 at 16:27
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    Please rethink your assumption of "covering every aspect" as impossible. Also, is a clerical job really testing your brilliant writing or only for good-enough for business correspondence? – Yosef Baskin Jan 20 at 19:43
  • @YosefBaskin Thanks. You are correct. I think I have to cover as many important aspects as possible and not every aspect. Re: Also, is a clerical job really testing your brilliant writing or only for good-enough for business correspondence? They would give marks out of 50 for the essay and the letter each. I have seen people getting 50-70 (out of 100) usually. I think everyone getting 50-60 writes good-enough for business correspondence. Brilliant writing might give extra points which is always better. I am somehow prepared for the letter, but not for the essay. – Severus Snape Jan 21 at 5:01
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I would take the standard 5 paragraph Essay format but modified for brevity. Your thesis or introduction answer should be your immediate answer to a writing prompt and should be no more than one sentance. Rephrase the question as your sentance (i.e. if the question is "What would be the platform you would run on if you were running for President of the United States?" then your response should be "If I were to run for President of the United States, my platform would address [item 1], [Item 2], and [item 3]."). Your conclusion paragraph should restate the thesis. The three paragraphs in between should briefly address best arguements for your thesis in order of strongest to weakest (for me, my answers would be economic improvement by reworking tax laws, foreign policy that would place the country in step with a more neutral pre-WWII dealing, and an infrastructure modernization program.). A good 3-4 paragraph argument would suffice for each.

Now before I give you my last piece of advise, do keep in mind that this was given to me by a teacher at an all boys high school, so it was tailored to it's audience of teenager boys who naturally have only one thing on their mind at any give momement. It still helps me to this day, and the somewhat crass nature of the analogy hammers it in:

"A good essay should be like a girl's skirt: It should be long enough to cover everything but short enough to keep it interesting."

That is you shouldn't get far into the weeds on your point or points, especially on test essays. Also do not feel the need to hold strictly to the word count other than try to get the 250 word mark (most essays graders will judge by the eye, so a little wiggle room is allowed. Additionally most won't mark down if the essay goes over 250, though again, keep it close... they aren't asking for a Tolkien novel series. Obviously if you have a word counting program (assuming it's typed and not handwritten), don't short by a word and find a way you can squeeze in a fancy adjective that isn't going to be supferlous.

250 isn't a lot to work with. To get an idea, a 500 word essay assumes 5 paragraphs, each 3-4 sentances long and will fill about one 8X11 inche page on a word processor with a 12 inche font and double spaced. To give yourself a guestimate, google some writing prompts and try to answer them with 250 words but less than 300.

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Here is one such format that you could use when constructing your essays:

  1. Have a good opening statement and a little background information that makes the grader want to continue reading.
  2. Once you have convinced your reader, state your thesis statement/claim. Because you only have 250 words and need to incorporate evidence, this would be the end of your introductory paragraph. (50 word intro)
  3. State one way that your claim is supported by the evidence. (I have also found that my teachers have graded me better when I have put in a transition word) Then add a quote and a few lines of analysis, before restating your claim in a new way. (try to limit each body paragraph to 75 words)
  4. Repeat for your second body paragraph. (75)
  5. For the conclusion, keep it simple: you can save words here. Write an extremely short summary of your essay, including your claim, and then finish your piece with any new idea about the topic that shows that you have thought about it and are not just writing mindlessly. (The math would give you 50 words for the conclusion)

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