Grade 12 English Provincial Exam: Approaches to Writing the Original Composition

The grade 12 English provincial is divided into four sections, with Part D assessing writing skills though an original composition. Valued at 30 percent of the entire exam, students are required to write a multi-paragraph essay of at least 300 words in response to a one sentence prompt. Examples of past exam prompts include “Happiness can be found in unlikely circumstances,” “Our views of the past change as we mature,” and “Forming meaningful connections can enrich lives.”

The original composition may be written as an expository, persuasive, descriptive or narrative essay. Students generally seem to fare best responding in an expository or a narrative style. Below are some tips to approaching an essay in these formats.

Expository Essay

  • An expository essay is basically an explanatory essay. Expository essays provide students an opportunity to show off their knowledge in a well-organized format.
  • This type of essay should be structured in the standard 5 paragraph set-up: introduction, three supporting body paragraphs, and conclusion. Organization is key. The thesis should be clearly set out in the first paragraph. Each body paragraph should start with a strong topic sentence that supports the thesis statement, and there should be smooth transitions between the paragraphs. Students should take care to avoid passive voice.
  • It is important to take time to brainstorm and map out the evidence for the supporting body paragraphs prior to writing the composition. Supporting evidence for the thesis statement can be factual or anecdotal, and can come from history, literature, or personal life experiences. Students can draw upon knowledge covered in Social Studies, History, English, English Literature and even Science classes. The weakest supporting example should be sandwiched in the middle of the essay.
  • After writing the first draft, reread the work carefully and edit with an eye towards ensuring variations in sentence structure and sophisticated vocabulary. The select addition of adjectives and adverbs will enhance interest for the reader.

Narrative Essay

  • A narrative essay is a story. It can be told in first person or third person, and should follow a rough chronological order. This type of essay provides the student an opportunity to show off their creativity.
  • This type of essay does not have a standard paragraph structure, but students should ensure that each paragraph is well developed and contains only one main idea. Each paragraph should contribute to transporting the reader effectively through the story. The narrative prompt can be repeated or paraphrased in the conclusion to tie the essay together. Dialogue may be included if it assists the story line, but given its tendency to quickly become unwieldy, it should be kept to a few lines.
  • Again, it is important to map out a plan prior to writing the narrative. Mind maps work well for brainstorming ideas. It can be quite effective to base the narrative on events from  one’s personal life or the lives of friends or family members, as that can add authenticity to a student’s writing. However, students shouldn’t be afraid to expand or elaborate on an event for the sake of drama or interest.
  • Once students have finished the first draft, they should reread and edit to improve sentence structure variation and vocabulary. For a narrative essay, it is particularly important to engage the reader through description, so students should ensure their final draft contains at least a few examples of imagery and figurative language.