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The Five-Paragraph Essay
In this video, we’re going to look at the Five-Paragraph essay. This is a very common, very important type of essay in the, the American Education System. It’s possible that in your country, you don’t use the five-paragraph essay, and you’ve never heard of it, you never learned it. Maybe you’ve seen it many times, and it’s boring and old for you.
In either case, it’s very helpful and very important for the TOEFL. So, we’re going to look at this structure, before we talk about the TOEFL specific writing tasks. All right, let’s talk about what paragraphs are first. For the TOEFL, we’re going to consider a paragraph about two to five sentences. Again, that’s for the TOEFL, in the real world, in real writing, a paragraph can be one short sentence, or a paragraph can be many pages of writing.
But, you’re not going to try that in your essay. Two to five sentences gives enough writing to explain an idea or a thought, which a paragraph should represent. Each paragraph should have one clear topic or thought. Paragraphs are absolutely necessary for the TOEFL. If you’re writing looks like this, and there is no break, no change, no pause, then you have a problem.
You need to separate your thoughts into paragraphs. It’s possible that you can also do it this way, of course. If the first line of each paragraph goes in like that. Okay, so what are the four, sorry five, paragraphs on your essay? The first paragraph will be, of course, an introduction. This just gives a general idea of your main point, your main thought, your main opinion, or the main idea that connects a listening and a reading.
After the introduction, you move to the body paragraphs. Now, we call these body paragraphs because it’s where everything important happens. This is the main part of the essay. We say it’s the body of the essay because it is what the essay is. The introduction just tells us what will happen in the real essay. The body is the actual essay, so the body is made of three paragraphs.
Body 1, will give a support for the main idea that the introduction said. After that, you’ll give some more support in Body paragraphs 2 and 3. These will be on three different topics. Three different details, three different reasons. But, they will have the same general main idea, that links them. After you finish the three body paragraphs, the fifth paragraph is the conclusion.
The conclusion is similar to the introduction because it’s also general. But be careful, it is not just repeating the same words from the introduction. You’ll give the main idea, but you’ll do more than that. You’ll talk about why that main idea is important. That helps you to not just say the same words again. It’s a bad idea to use the same sentence twice, never do that.
There are weaknesses for the five paragraph essay, there are problems. The first weakness is that it’s too simple. In a five paragraph essay, you only have one side, one main opinion. You never explore the more complicated, real world situation. Besides that, it’s also hard to plan, sometimes. It’s hard to think of enough reasons to give three paragraphs about your idea.
We’ll talk about this more in later lessons, but for now, just realize that this is hard to plan. And besides that, it’s boring. Many native English speakers have seen the five paragraph essay, tens or hundreds of times. Seeing the same structure again and again, isn’t very exciting.
It’s not very fun to read, but, it’s still good for the TOEFL. Why? Well, most importantly, it gives clear communication. The TOEFL is about communication. The five paragraph essay makes it easy to show your opinion or your ideas. It’s a very common format, as I said, native speakers have seen this many times.
So they know what will happen, they know what to expect. That makes it easy to understand. It saves time, you don’t have to plan the structure too much. You have to plan the specifics, you have to plan the reasons, but you don’t have to plan the relationships between paragraphs. It’s easy to learn, it’s a very simple structure, and after writing a few essays like this, you’ll become a master of the five paragraph essay very quickly.
And what’s more, it’s easy to adapt. Adapt, meaning change for different situations, change for different questions. You can use this five-paragraph idea in many different ways, and to tell the truth, that’s what we’re going to see on the TOEFL. Most people will not write five paragraphs, they’ll write four paragraphs or possibly even three paragraphs in an essay.
The general structure is good to know, but you might change it. Okay, that’s all for the five paragraph essay, and we’ll see more in upcoming lessons. Thank you.
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