Many students struggle with essays from the first day they are introduced in secondary school. If you are not naturally gifted in English, you are likely to learn to hate essay writing any everything about it. Even if the topic is something you could be interested in and relatively knowledgeable about, it can be hard to express yourself well and score good marks. However, this struggle is unnecessary - it is easy to write a top scoring essay once you're familiar with a few basic essentials that will make your teacher smile.
It is always a good idea to study smarter, not harder. If you have no idea about the subject in question - say, a play of Shakespeare - read a reputable study guide online as well as the Wikipedia page before you tackle the primary text. That way, you will understand the progression of the text and have some awareness of the major critical thoughts on it as you read. Obviously, DO NOT simply read the study guides and skip over the primary text - you will be utterly unable to put forward any original thoughts on the text without having read it yourself. However, a good study guide can make your reading of the primary text more effective.
Always map out your essay structure before you start writing. Got 1,500 words? Break it up into segments that fit your argument. Start by first determining what your argument will actually be, by listing your thoughts in a logical dot point form. Highlight premises, sub conclusions and major conclusions in separate colors. Then arrange them so that they are ordered logically and clearly.
Next, determine which points are the most significant. Allocate a target word limit to each point, to be your guide when you get into the thick of writing. A good essay is one that knows where to go into detail, and where a brief summary or succinct point will suffice.
Now you are ready to really begin.
Leave the introduction and conclusion for last, focusing instead on developing your argument and becoming very familiar with the subject as you write the main body. Once you are finished with that, write the introduction and conclusion. Neither of these sections should contain any new points! For the conclusion, simply summarize what you have argued, and state your ultimate conclusion.
For the introduction, first state what you will be writing about and on what texts, then the rest of the paragraph should contain what is academically called signposting. This is very important. The teacher wants to know essentially what you will be arguing and attempting to show throughout the essay (this is why it's best to write the intro last - sometimes your opinions change from when you started out). Signposting should essentially read like this - In this essay I will discuss X. I will argue X, X and X, ultimately concluding X. It's ok to be simple and to-the-point with this. The reader simply wants to know what to expect from your article, so they don't get lost along the way if you take a convoluted path to demonstrating your point.
It is always a good idea to leave your finished draft for a few days, before reading it again with fresh eyes. You may decide to move a few paragraphs around because the essay would flow better another way, or decide to spend less space focusing on one point and more on another, more significant one. These are the adjustments that will mean the difference between a good and excellent mark.
Finally, make sure of your spelling and grammar, as silly mistakes can bring even the best essay down. Don't leave it all to your word processor, as it may not pick up correct spellings of the wrong word variation - i.e. their vs. they're. Iron all these small errors out and you will be left with a strong, logical and well balanced essay - a valuable skill to have, not only for excellent marks, but also for greater employability and a higher salary when you enter the workforce. Excellent essay writing skills will take you a long way in life!