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How To Write Three Paragraph Essays

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.

Parting Thoughts

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.

Helpful Recommendations on Writing a 3-Paragraph Essay

Although the five-paragraph essay is considered to be the standard, the three-paragraph essay is a common requirement. To get a good grade on this type of writing, students should use the following tips. As a rule, each three-paragraph essay will include an introduction, body paragraph and conclusion.

The Introduction

With such a short piece of writing, students really have to make sure that their introduction makes an impact. This section of the paper is basically an outline for everything else that will follow. In the first few sentences, the student should write out the thesis for their essay. This thesis essentially sums up everything that the paper will be about. In addition, the first sentence of the introduction should use some type of hook that draws in the reader. The hook could be a question, a quote or a short anecdote that makes the reader want to find out more.

The Body Paragraph

With only three paragraphs, the second paragraph needs to be well-written. This paragraph is the body of the paper, so it expands upon the thesis and introduces any relevant information. It should build naturally on the previous paragraph and set the writing up for the conclusion. For a top score on the assignment, students should make sure that their second paragraph uses transition words.


At the end of the document, students will need to give the conclusion. This sums up everything that the essay was about, and it will restate what was covered in the thesis. By the end of the conclusion, the reader should be left with a lasting impression of the student's main idea.

Edit Thoroughly

In a thirty-page research paper, it is expected for students to make some mistakes. With so much writing, it is impossible to edit everything perfectly. When it comes to the three-paragraph essay, mistakes must be avoided completely. The student only has a few short sentences to demonstrate their writing abilities, so they must be able to do it well. Proper grammar, good spelling and a strong writing style are must-have skills for this type of writing.

Creating a three-paragraph essay does not have to be difficult. As long as students create an outline and edit their work, they can produce a well-made paper. In general, this type of writing should only take a maximum of one or two hours to complete. If the student is a fast writer, they may even be able to finish it in just 10 or 20 minutes.

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