4 Ways to Score Better in English Composition

4 Ways to Score Better in English Composition

Composition writing is an oddity in exams. Few students fail composition, but at the same time few are capable doing well – the majority of students are always stuck at a B average. In this article, we look at some simple ways to reach that elusive A:




Caveat: We are assuming basic proficiency

In order to use the methods below, a student must have attained basic proficiency. These methods might be a stretch for students who are still struggling to pass, as they require at least adequate grammar and vocabulary.

If your child has trouble passing English, contact us on Facebook instead. Our NIE trained tutors have a proven record of resolving such issues.


1. Expand on Abstract Nouns

An abstract noun refers to any intangible “thing”. For example: fairness, laziness, and laughter are all abstract nouns – they are things that cannot be touched.

Abstract nouns provide a good opportunity to raise the word count meaningfully. All you have to do is add a statement or two that describes the abstract noun. Here’s how it works:

Judith was a clever student.

The word “clever” is the abstraction here. Now, we will expand on that sentence by describing what “clever” means:

Judith was a clever student. She was always at the top of the class, and she won first prize in every science project.

The bold text expands on how Judith was a clever student. This is what English teachers refer to when they talk about mimetic (showing) methods of writing.



2. Describe the Setting

One of the main distinctions between top compositions and average ones are the descriptions of settings.

It is not enough to just write “it was a sunny day” or that the character is “in a school”.  Embellish it with more detail – describe the 30 degree temperature of the day, the way the wind felt like gusts of hot air from a hair dryer, and how everyone’s uniform was soaked in sweat.

Describe school’s whitewashed walls, the discoloured tables in its canteen, or the shrill shriek of the school bell.

This paints the scene for the reader, and showcases your vocabulary (and you must have a good vocabulary to use this technique. We have custom teaching services that can focus on this aspect).



3. Make the Main Character Involved

Have the main character do something in the story. Too many students use the narrator as a passive observer – the character simply sees what’s going on, and reports it.

Better compositions adhere to the rules of story structure. Something in the story goes wrong, and the main character must do something to fix it. Rather than just see someone put out a fire or return a wallet, the main character should be the person taking all the action.

Students also tend to forget the “I” in stories does not refer to themselves – it refers to a fictional persona. They can write from the role of an older person, or someone who is a teacher, firefighter, doctor, etc.

Of course, this requires greater confidence and research – but like any other subject, acing English requires hard work.




4. Replace Adverbs with Stronger Verbs

An adverb is anything that modifies a verb (action). Most adverbs – not all – end in the letters “ly”. This has Germanic origins, the term lich which denotes a form. For example, laughing is a verb, and laughing loudly involved an adverb (loudly).

If this confuses you, keep things simple – try to replace words that end in “ly”. In the process of doing so, you are often forced to either find a stronger verb, or be more descriptive.

For example, “roaring with laughter” is much stronger than “laughing loudly”. Or we could also write that a character “laughed until she cried”. Both are preferable to using the adverb “loudly”.

This is a process that should happen during revision – take note of the words ending in” “ly”, then cross them out and try to find better replacements.

On a related note, many filler words (unnecessary words) tend to end in “ly”. Words such as really, basically, suddenly, and immediately can often be removed without changing the meaning of a sentence:

He really needed to get to school on time

He needed to get to school on time

At tertiary levels of education, as well as in business English, this is considered bad writing. It’s best for students to weed it out a young age.

What are your favourite tricks for acing composition writing? Comment and let us know.

Image Credits:

Sarah Reid, max max, merickson pangilinan, greeblie