In our opening blog post of the year on how to gear up for the O-Level English exam, we covered several areas that you can start working on in preparation for the O-Level exam. This includes honing your skills in writing the discursive and argumentative essay (collectively known as expository essays). Just as “first impressions count”, starting your essay right counts. It’s your chance to ‘hook’ your reader, entice him or her to read your essay. In this post, we will learn various ways to write an engaging introduction.

Let’s have a look at the 2022 O-Level Paper 1 expository essay questions, which we will base our introduction paragraphs on.

5. Young people spend so much time thinking about the future that they forget to enjoy the present.’ How far do you agree?

6. ‘People today are far too easily persuaded to spend money on things they don’t need.’ Do you agree that advertising has made us wasteful?

1. Structure of the essay introduction

Essentially, the essay introduction should pique your readers’ interest and show them why you are writing about this topic. You can do this with the following elements (which go by the acronym HITS):

  • Hook – This is the attention-grabbing opening statement of your essay.
  • Importance of the issue – This sets out your purpose for writing the essay. At times, it could be background information about the topic which sets the context.
  • Thesis – This refers to your stand.
  • Summary – This provides an overview of your points / arguments.

1.1 Writing the hook

There are several types of ‘hook’ you can use to grab the attention of your reader.

These include:

1.1.1 Question

Use a thought-provoking question that gets your reader thinking about the topic.

Example with question 5:

– What does the future mean to you? Is it a source of fear or a window of hope?
– Are you someone who lives for the moment or dreams about the future?

1.1.2 Quote

Use a famous saying, or quote a well-known figure. The quote should be closely related to the topic being discussed.

Example with question 6:

“Advertising is the art of convincing people to spend money they don’t have for something they don’t need,” said American actor Will Rogers.

1.1.3 Statistic / Research

Cite a significant figure or finding related to the topic.

Example with question 6:

According to Statista, the consumption of apparel worldwide was approximately 168.4 billion pieces in 2021. Yet, an estimated 11.3 million tons of textile waste – equivalent to 85% of all textiles – end up in landfills on a yearly basis. This prompts the question: Are we buying more clothing than we need?

1.1.4 Anecdote

Recount a story (personal or of others) that fleshes out the topic.

Example with question 5:

A paragraph from Shunryu Suzuki’s Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mindspeaks of how life is like a railway track and we are the passengers on the train. Some of us keep wondering about the railway track – where it will go, and if there might be danger ahead.Reading this made me sit up – I am one of those with a curiosity, perhaps an almost deadly fascination, about the future. I tend to think about all the uncertainties and unpleasant things that could happen.

1.1.5 Describe a scenario

Paint a picture in the readers’ mind. This helps your reader to visualise the topic better.

Example with question 6:

“Exclusive 15% ShopeePay voucher for you! Hurry, activate ShopeePay and use your voucher before it expires.”, “Start your first mobile order and get free Chicken McNuggets (6PC)!” If these sound all too familiar, they are some of the notifications that commonly pop up on our mobile phones.From limited deals to the latest discounts, there is always something enticing out there, and most of us cannot resist getting something at a steal.

1.2 Writing the Importance of the issue

This comes right after your hook, linking it to the topic at hand.

Example with question 5:

[Hook] What does the future mean to you? Is it a source of fear or a window of hope? [Importance of issue]For many young people, the future might be a constant worry – “Will I graduate?”, “Will I get the job that I desire?” or “Can I earn enough to support my family?” These can come at the expense of enjoying their course of study or indulging in their interests. They could be so caught up in the future that it erodes the pleasure of living in the here and now.

1.3 Writing the Thesis

This is where you make your stand, by responding to the question, in this case “How far do you agree?” (Question 5)

Example with question 5:

I agree to a large extent that young people spend excessive time thinking about the future that they have lost their ability to appreciate the present.

1.4 Writing the Summary

This follows your stand and captures the main points that you will discuss in your essay.

Example with question 5:

[Thesis] I agree to a large extent that young people spend excessive time thinking about the future that they have lost their ability to appreciate the present.

[Summary] While schooling teenagers* are so fixatedon their grades that they lose the joy of learning, young working adults* are so caught up with climbing the corporate ladder that they disregard the friendships they could forge at the workplace. However, some young people are seizing opportunities in the present to fulfil their future goals.

*Notice that I have specified a group of young people, since “young people” does cover quite a broad range of people at different life stages.

2. Final example of the essay introduction

Putting all the 4 elements together, here is a sample introduction paragraph on Question 5:

[Hook] What does the future mean to you? Is it a source of fear or a window of hope? [Importance of issue] For many young people, the future might be a constant worry – “Will I graduate?”, “Will I get the job that I desire?” or “Can I earn enough to support my family?” These can come at the expense of enjoying their course of study or indulging in their interests. They could be so caught up in the future that it erodes the pleasure of living in the here and now. [Thesis] I agree to a large extent that young people spend excessive time thinking about the future that they have lost their ability to appreciate the present.[Summary]While schooling teenagers are so fixated on their grades that they lose the joy of learning, young working adults are so caught up with climbing the corporate ladder that they disregard the friendships they could forge at the workplace. However, some young people are seizing opportunities in the present to fulfil their future goals.

Remember, besides capturing your reader’s attention, your introduction is important in providing direction for the reader and setting the scope for your essay. Now, can you try using the 4 elements and various types of hook to craft an introduction paragraph for Question 6?

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2024 Bukit Timah Branch Secondary English Tuition Timetable

LevelClass TypeDayTime
S1All Components ClassSAT5 pm to 7 pm