Five Paragraph Essay Outline
The Five-Paragraph Essay, one of the most frequently given assignments in higher education, is a fairly simple method of writing composition that most undergraduate students will have to produce many times throughout their academic careers. The purpose of the Five-Paragraph Essay is to serve as a way for students to demonstrate they have read, comprehended and can critically analyze material learned in the course in which the assignment has been given. They are to use this knowledge and skill-set to build an essay that ultimately makes a well-defended argument in the form of a Thesis; some instances may call for the student to only convey information on a given topic in response to a question, but most times an assignment asking for a Five-Paragraph Essay is wanting a student to make an argument and defend it in just five (sometimes more) paragraphs.
Unless a student is specifically directed to write essays that are much longer than five paragraphs, or, for example, if during an exam they are required to respond to a question in just one-paragraph answers, they usually are safe with writing a Five-Paragraph Essay.
Once the student first gets the Five-Paragraph Essay assignment, they are to brainstorm their initial response to the writing prompt or question – the one specified in their assignment. They are to then create an outline that they can use as a guide as they write the first draft of their paper.
Here is a cool piece of infographics that will help you better understand the writing process and manage the entire writing process:
Five-Paragraph Essay Outline Infographics
What follows (below) is the format for a detailed outline, one that most appropriately pertains to the five-paragraph essay assignment given in an English Composition or Humanities course:
Outlining the Essay’s Five Paragraphs One By One
A. Create a topic sentence that will ease the reader into the essay. The point of the topic sentence is to set establish and narrow the focus for the rest of the essay.
B. Thesis Statement – the argument the essay will be making, from start to finish.
C. Three main points defending, supporting and substantiating the Thesis Statement. Each of the following body paragraphs will expound on these three main points, one by one.
First Body Paragraph
A. Transitional phrase – introduces the reader to the first point that will be expounded on that will serve to uphold the essay’s main argument – such as First of all, To start off, Firstly.
B. The first evidence that supports the argument, with a logical explanation as to why the point being made is important and relevant to the essay’s argument, and how it upholds the essay’s original Thesis Statement.
Second Body Paragraph
A. Transitional phrase – introduces the reader to the second point that will be expounded on that will serve to uphold the essay’s main argument – such as Next, Subsequently, Also, Secondly, Then.
B. The second evidence that supports the argument, with a logical explanation as to why the point being made is important and relevant to the essay’s argument, and how it upholds the essay’s original Thesis Statement.
Third Body Paragraph
A. Transitional phrase – introduces the reader to the third point that will be expounded on that will serve to uphold the essay’s main argument – such as Lastly, Thirdly, Also, Finally.
B. The last bit evidence that supports the argument, once again with a logical explanation as to why the point made is important and relevant to the essay’s argument, and how it ultimately upholds the essay’s original Thesis Statement.
A. A conclusion on the essay’s thesis, the point it sought to make, the argument it attempted to defend, etc.
B. Restate the original thesis, as well as the main points that supported it and legitimized it.
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Essay Writing for Standardized Tests: Tips for Writing a Five Paragraph Essay
Most, if not all, high school and college standardized tests include a writing portion. Students are provided a writing prompt and must then write an essay on the topic. Writing for standardized tests can strike fear in the hearts and minds of students of all ages, but it doesn’t have to. If you know what to expect and understand how to write a five paragraph essay, you will be prepared to tackle any essay writing prompt.
Types of Essays on Standardized Tests
When you begin to write your essay for a standardized test, you must first decide what type of essay you are being asked to write. There are many different types of essays, including narrative, expository, argumentative, persuasive, comparative, literary, and so on. The type of essay will determine your topic and thesis. Essays for standardized tests are typically either persuasive, in which you will answer a question, or literary, in which you will write about something you read.
For standardized tests, students usually have to write a five paragraph essay, which should be 500 to 800 words long and include an introductory paragraph, three supporting paragraphs and a concluding paragraph.
The First Paragraph: The Introduction
The first paragraph will introduce your topic. The introduction is the most important paragraph because it provides direction for the entire essay. It also sets the tone, and you want to grab the reader’s attention with interest and clarity. The best way to tackle the introduction is to:
- Describe your main idea, or what the essay is about, in one sentence. You can usually use the essay writing prompt or question to form this sentence.
- Develop a thesis statement, or what you want to say about the main idea. When the writing prompt is a question, your thesis is typically the answer to the question.
- List three points or arguments that support your thesis in order of importance (one sentence for each).
Voila! You’ve just written your introductory paragraph.
The Second, Third and Fourth Paragraphs: Supporting Details
These three paragraphs form the body of the essay. They provide details, such as facts, quotes, examples and concrete statistics, for the three points in your introductory paragraph that support your thesis. Take the points you listed in your introduction and discuss each in one body paragraph. Here’s how:
- First, write a topic sentence that summarizes your point. This is the first sentence of your paragraph.
- Next, write your argument, or why you feel the topic sentence is true.
- Finally, present your evidence (facts, quotes, examples, and statistics) to support your argument.
Now you have a body paragraph. Repeat for points two and three. The best part about introducing your main points in the first paragraph is that it provides an outline for your body paragraphs and eliminates the need to write in transitions between paragraphs.
The Fifth Paragraph: The Conclusion
The concluding paragraph must summarize the essay. This is often the most difficult paragraph to write. In your conclusion, you should restate the thesis and connect it with the body of the essay in a sentence that explains how each point supports the thesis. Your final sentence should uphold your main idea in a clear and compelling manner. Be sure you do not present any new information in the conclusion.
When writing an essay for a standardized test, outline your essay and get through each paragraph as quickly as possible. Think of it as a rough draft. When your time is up, a complete essay will score more points than an incomplete essay because the evaluator is expecting a beginning, middle and an end.
If you have time to review your essay before your time is up, by all means do so! Make any revisions that you think will enhance your “rough draft” and be sure to check for any grammatical errors or misspellings.
Online instruction like the Time4Writing essay writing courses for elementary, middle and high school students can help children prepare for state and college-entrance standardized writing tests. These interactive writing classes build basic writing skills, explain essay types and structure, and teach students how to organize their ideas.
For general tips on test preparation and details about each state’s standardized tests, please visit our standardized test overview page.