Writing tips

40 Excellent Descriptive and Narrative Essays


Hey everyone, very happy to announce that I’m releasing a brand new compilation of descriptive and narrative essays for your reading pleasure. These essays are tailored to the May 2023 IGCSE 0500 exams and they will be a wonderful companion for you as you discover the wonders of rhetoric and learning along the way.

You can pick your copy up today if you’d like to learn how to score that A*, how to craft an incredible essay for FLEand just how to get a good sense of what good writing is to suit your needs.

Here’s a sample – have a look inside!

If you’d like to purchase the book, you can purchase it here 🙂

Enjoy and have a wonderful week ahead!

Seek First Clarity, Not Impressiveness – An English Teacher’s Opinion.


Recently, I’ve had a lot of students mention in class that they want to learn how to write well by learning more advanced vocabulary.

I find a lot of students who just try their very best to write with flowery words because they’ve been convinced somehow or another that being able to write in an effective and incredible way is about using the most complicated words you know, and as long as they somehow look like they were lifted from a thesaurus or some sort of arcane lexical resource that you could spend hours looking through in order to find the meanings of words that you would never use in your entire adult life, then somehow or another you’d be on the right track to writing excellence.

Excellence capable of captivating entire generations from the touch of your pen; excellence flowing from your keyboard, flowing out onto the streams of the internet; excellence that stems from your fingers, your mind, the touch of your soul, the whatever it is that you are using in order to craft your nobly created works of art for the next generation…?

What a noble thought…

But in my opinion, what a horribly misinformed one.

As a teacher and as a writer, I am terribly conversant with words – and one thing that I know for sure is this:

The impressiveness of a speech or any piece of writing in this world does not come from how many flowery words went into it.

It does not come from the length of time that the author looked at a thesaurus and then somehow or another put in word vomit after word vomit, counting the pieces as they push them into an essay one after another, hoping that somehow or another all the little chunks alien and somehow inappropriate as they were would somehow elevate the essay into something better….

It’s understandable that someone might think that at the outset, considering how many famous pieces of prose are littered with beautiful words like that… But that is the exact same thing that Dr. Frankenstein thought he could do when he assembled his eponymous monster, piecing together body parts in order to recreate life.

When you put together the words from a thesaurus or any sort of lexical resource, what’s going to happen is that if they are not well combined, you’re not going to get an essay; you are going to get a jumbled together mess that seems impressive on the surface only to you because you’re not equipped with the skills necessary to evaluate just how good the piece actually is, and you’ve put something out that intuitively convinces anyone with skill in reading comprehension that you do not understand the English language.

The difference between writing an essay and the Dr. Frankenstein case is though that although you cannot recreate life by assembling together body parts…

You can in fact create a wonderful piece of writing if you know the rules necessary in order to create a piece of clear expression.

You can in fact craft communications that somehow or another make use of an understanding of the rules that go into creating those works, if you pay respect to the way that humans accept information, the way that psychology informs the way we take in knowledge, the way that our emotions rise and fall like tides on the sand, ever so fleeting and yet so dear.

You don’t magically become impressive because you’ve created a jumbled together mess of technical words.

You don’t wow me just because you’ve looked inside a thesaurus and have managed to find a few words that nobody ever uses.

You don’t impress me because you tried to show off and you succeeded in confusing yourself and confusing others.

You become understood when you clarify and you simplify, when you take things down from the heavens of technicality to the earth of simplicity, when you create relatability from the sands of obscurity.

You become a writer of note when your words make not just the otherwise bored examiner but even the small children who are listening to your words become captivated as they listen with the message that you’ve chosen to echo through your work.

You become valued when you give people value through writing that they can understand and that delivers a meaningful message that is valuable to them, and that applies whether you’re writing an essay, a summary, a Writer’s Effect piece, directed writing, or anything else that involves communication between yourself and another living, breathing human being.

It doesn’t require complicated words in order to know how to do that. It just requires you to be able to think of the things that matter and then learn how to express them in a way that conveys your thoughts.

Of course, that can be the work of a lifetime. It can be also the work that you do when you’re faced with an essay problem of course, but hey, that’s what you do everyday, isn’t it?

What’s for sure is that it’s definitely something that you will have to practice over and over again in the numerous scenarios when you write and communicate and somehow express yourself to the audience. It’s what you do. Chances are, it’s why you’re here.

And while you’re doing that, you will encounter this problem again and again – of messages not received, words not reaching their mark – until you face the demons of obscurity and, in conquering them, come forth with the clarity of mind and purpose to convey neither false sophistication nor a pretense of thinking that is predicated upon putting together difficult-looking words.

Rather, when you’ve arrived there, you will find that the most powerful messages are the ones that are most clear to mind.

You will see that what most directly influences the audience is a picture that they can immediately imagine, see, feel as if they were there, in the moment, in the midst of the action, as they share your thoughts, emotions, beliefs, convictions.

Think about that as you write your next essay, and consider how you can simplify and push your work directly into your audience’s heart. Through clarity comes power. Thank you for reading, and I will see you in the next piece!

How to “Evaluate” in IGCSE First Language English.



It’s such an apparently simple word and appears in so many different places, yet it’s one that so many of my students have trouble with.

When they see it, they cringe – many of them don’t know what to do; rather than evaluate, they summarize.

But what does it actually mean to evaluate something?

To evaluate something means to assess it, to justify why you believe it is true.

In the context of the English language, evaluation means looking at statements, thinking about the ways in which they are justified, and to either accept the statement or reject it based on the evidence and a sound reasoning process, before you write out your thoughts on paper.

For many students, however, this is both vague and foreign, because evaluate requires something more than just the ability to read content – it requires the ability to understand ideas, to synthesize them, and to logically reason with them.

If any of these steps is affected, a good evaluation cannot be produced.

Many students (and perhaps yourself) struggle with producing the kinds of evaluations that are necessary for the highest possible marks, partly because they lack experience in performing evaluations and partly because they don’t understand what to look for.

Sometimes, it is hard to fault them for this – after all, evaluation requires you to demonstrate something that’s not inside the text and to actually think about what it means – and how can you do this, if you’ve never spent any time in your life questioning the meaning of words or how to use them effectively?

This may sound vague for you, and it probably is…

But allow me to clarify.

Let me show you what an evaluation is not.

To do so, I’ll show you an example that one of my students recently wrote in response to Question 1 of Summer 2021, Variant 2.

Here is the insert:

Here’s the question text:

Question 1

Write a magazine article for young people about modern friendship.
In your article you should:

• evaluate the ideas about friendship given in both texts

• explain, based on what you read, to what extent you think social media affects friendship.

Base your article on what you have read in both texts, but be careful to use your own words.

Address both of the bullet points.

Write about 250 to 350 words.

…And lastly, here’s a paragraph written by one of my students below in response to the insert, and to the bullet point “evaluate the ideas about friendship given in both texts”:

The first article I read, “My best friendships happen online but that doesn’t make them any less valid”, discusses the topic of online friendships. In the article, the writer defends the idea of forming friendships on social media. The writer argues that social media allows one to connect, strengthen bonds with others and make new friends, allowing them to help fight the loneliness they feel. Furthermore, social media provides a place where anyone can freely express themselves, just like they would in real life. Additionally, social media is now an important tool for people who find social interaction challenging in real life. 

 On the other hand, the second article I read was “The limits of friendship”. In the article, research done by Robin Dunbar, an anthropologist, presented the importance of genuine friendship and that people who have a small social circle are more capable of maintaining a closer relationship with one another. Additionally, the article discusses the impact of social media on human interactions. It said that the interactions people receive on social media are not as meaningful as face-to-face interactions, because when individuals share an experience together, they can bond better in ways that social media does not allow. 

So, dear reader, what do you think the problem is here?

The student’s response provides a summary of the main ideas from both texts, but it does not fully evaluate the ideas about friendship presented in each text.

The response outlines the points made in the articles but does not go further to assess the strengths and weaknesses of each argument, consider alternative viewpoints, or discuss the implications of these ideas on modern friendship.

In other words, the student has missed the point of what was asked of them altogether and would not earn marks for this evaluation, because…

An evaluation is not a summary.

When you are asked to evaluate, you are not being asked to summarize. These are two completely different tasks.

Summarizing involves taking ideas directly from a text and then repeating them, perhaps in condensed form.

Evaluation entails making judgments – that you not only take in the words that you see in the text, but also contextualize them to your own situation and your own understanding; it entails that you process what is going on and reference it to your own understanding of things.

If you don’t do that… I’m sorry, you don’t have a choice. Either you do that, or you cannot do well.

Does it seem harsh?

I’m sure it does.

I’m sorry, but I don’t have a choice but to tell it to you as it is.

We’re not here to comfort you, to tell you that it’s okay when it’s not – that would be a disservice to you of the highest order, because no matter what, you need to improve.

So that said… Let’s evaluate the texts’ ideas about friendship together!

Let me first highlight the key points of what we are going to do in this next section, which will teach you how to evaluate.

How to Evaluate.

  1. Understand the text.

    You need to understand what is going on inside the text. If you don’t understand what’s going on, then you will have no recourse but to read it again and try to understand it.

    Read it and re-read it. Challenge your mind and your understanding of what’s going on – ask yourself questions about what you see, as you think about what is going on.

    For example, you can ask yourself – how are certain things in one part of the passage related to the rest? What do the pronouns refer to? Always reason, clarify, and verify that what you understand accords with what is going on inside the text by cross-checking.

  2. Logically reason with the content of the text.

    Once you have developed a good understanding of the content of a text, ask yourself how the different parts of the text fit together. Think for a moment – do you agree with the argument overall? Don’t decide yet, though – simply ask yourself the question in advance. Moving forward from there, you can proceed. Are there certain assumptions being made in the argument? Does the applicability of this argument only suit a limited context?

    These are all important questions that you will need to clarify.

  3. Synthesize the text in relation to what you are being asked to do.

    Each of the evaluations that you are going to do will be done in relation to a specific context – it won’t just occur in an isolated situation, but rather will be directly connected to specific questions that it’s going to be your duty to deal with.

    Are you supposed to give a speech or write an article, for example? If you are, then ask yourself: Who is your audience, what register would be suitable to them, and what would be valuable for your audience to hear?

Firstly, we must understand the text.

This means that you should read and re-read the text.

Ask yourself: What are they about?

Here’s a summary for those of you who have been following this.

Text A discusses the positive aspects of online friendships and argues that they are just as valid as face-to-face friendships. The author notes that the internet is often blamed for causing loneliness, low self-esteem, and social isolation, but also highlights how it has enabled many people to form meaningful relationships. The author shares personal experiences of their online friendships, stating that they can be authentic and substantial despite the lack of physical proximity. The text also acknowledges the role of technology and social media in connecting people who might otherwise struggle with in-person social interactions, such as introverts or people with disabilities.

Text B, on the other hand, focuses on the limits of friendship and how social media is changing the nature of human interaction. The text references anthropologist Robin Dunbar’s research, which suggests that humans can maintain a maximum of 150 social connections and that only five of these connections will be closest to us. Despite the increasing use of social media, Dunbar’s number of 150 has remained constant. The author argues that while social media allows us to keep track of more people, it lacks the shared experiences that strengthen face-to-face friendships. Additionally, the time spent on superficial online relationships may come at the expense of deeper, more meaningful connections.

Okay, now let’s respond to the question.

Question 1

Write a magazine article for young people about modern friendship.
In your article you should:

• evaluate the ideas about friendship given in both texts

• explain, based on what you read, to what extent you think social media affects friendship.

Base your article on what you have read in both texts, but be careful to use your own words.

Address both of the bullet points.

Write about 250 to 350 words.

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So, that’s my attempt – I don’t claim that it’s perfect, but I hope that it will give you a good start to things!

Let’s analyze what was done here. Throughout the writing process, I tried to…

  1. Compare and contrast the ideas presented in both texts: Instead of simply summarizing each article, I analyzed how the ideas about online friendships in Text A relate to the ideas about the limits of friendship in Text B, which helped the reader to recognize the complexities of modern friendships.

  2. Evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of each argument: I assessed the validity and relevance of the points made in each text, considering the evidence presented and any potential biases or limitations in the arguments. This is crucial for a good evaluation, because it involves reasoning through each argument and analyzing where the arguments make sense and do not, subjecting the arguments to one’s own experiences and thoughts.

  3. Consider alternative viewpoints: I tried to explore other perspectives on modern friendship that might not be covered in the texts. This could include discussing the role of technology in facilitating long-distance friendships, the impact of social media on mental health, and the potential for online friendships to transition into face-to-face relationships.

  4. Discuss the implications of the ideas presented: I tried to consider how the ideas about friendship in the texts might impact young people’s experiences and expectations of modern friendships and also discuss strategies for maintaining a healthy balance between online and offline relationships.

Once again, I won’t say that that’s perfect by any means, but as a teacher, express the hope that reading this and implementing the suggestions included managed to assist you in some way, shape, or form to achieve your goals.

There are many ways in which you can grow as a writer and as a thinker, and learning how to develop this skill is definitely one of those things 🙂

Good luck in your evaluation journey, and I will see you in the next post!