There are many different types of essays that students will be expected to write throughout their academic career. The same goes for students that are learning English as a second language or foreign language. Teachers assign certain essays to students because they feel it gives the student a chance to practice their writing skills to the fullest, while it gives teachers a great medium through which they can evaluate their students' learning. Out of all the different essays that are possible for a teacher to assign, one that serves both native English speakers and English learners well is an advantages and disadvantages essay.
Understand an Advantage and Disadvantage
Before you can write an advantages and disadvantages essay, you must first understand what these two words mean. Native English speakers are likely already familiar with these definitions, however, students in primary school may need some explanation. Your teacher should explain what an advantage is and what a disadvantage is by giving an example that's age-appropriate and level-appropriate. For example, younger students may understand an example like, "An advantage of doing my homework when I get home from school is that I have the entire evening to play. A disadvantage is that I cannot watch my favorite show as soon as I get home from school." After this, the teacher can give less explicit examples and see if students can come up with some ideas on their own.
College students should already have experience with this kind of essay and they will, therefore, get a much more complicated question that requires research, planning and thought. In addition to this, English learners who are university students should also be given an example by their teacher that's appropriate for their age and level. For instance, international students might respond well to something like "What's an advantage and disadvantage of studying abroad during college?" It's also a good idea to look up synonyms of "advantages and disadvantages" to have the best understanding of the term possible. "Pros and cons" is quite similar and might be easier for some students to digest since it's a term they've most likely heard before.
Think About Advantages and Disadvantages in Your Own Life
A great exercise to help you prepare yourself for writing an advantages and disadvantages essay is to think about your own experiences with the topic. Think of a time you wanted to make a decision about something, but you had voices in your head telling you to do the opposite. Or you had a discussion with your parents and they were trying to convince you to do things differently. Whatever it was, there's a chance that you had to write your own version of an advantages and disadvantages essay in your mind, without even realizing it. This will not only help you to get in the right mindset for writing this essay, but it will maybe even inspire you to choose a topic that you've already had personal experience with. Of course, anything you've had personal experience with is a good place to start.
Choose a Topic
If you weren't able to think of any intriguing topics to write about in your walk down memory lane, you'll have to look elsewhere to find something else to base your essay on. There are tons of places you can go online, or you can take the time to visit the library to find ideas about advantages and disadvantages topics. You can also talk to your family and friends to see if they have any ideas that are worth writing about. Choosing the right topic is important because the more clear the topic is, the easier it will be to pinpoint the advantages and disadvantages associated with it. It will also, of course, be easier to write your essay overall.
That being said, there will also be instances in which you won't be able to choose your topic. Advantages and disadvantages writing prompts are very common on English exams. This has both its own advantages and disadvantages to it. An advantage is that you don't have to think of a topic yourself. But a disadvantage is that if you're not familiar with the topic given or you're unsure about what it's asking, it can be difficult to write a strong advantages and disadvantages essay that will get you the points you need on the test.
List of Example Topics
Unless you're given the topic directly on your test, you will otherwise have to think of your own topic, especially if it's just for a regular assignment. Luckily, there are many topic examples out there you can use to help you get started, or that will at least help you find inspiration for a similar topic:
- What are the advantages and disadvantages of using technology in the classroom?
- Many people are able to work online and can, therefore, live anywhere. What are the advantages and disadvantages of this?
- What are the advantages and disadvantages of buying a home instead of renting one?
- What are the advantages and disadvantages of owning a car?
- E-readers have become extremely popular in recent years. What are the advantages and disadvantages of this?
- Many products you use are imported from other countries. What are the advantages and disadvantages of this?
- Today, recent graduates are choosing to live at home. What are the advantages and disadvantages of this?
Brainstorm Advantages vs. Disadvantages
Once you've decided on a topic that intrigues you, or you know what topic you're being assigned on your exam, it's time to get down the meat of the essay, which is the actual advantages and disadvantages you'll need to write about. The best and easiest way to do this is by simply folding a paper in half vertically, or creating a box with two side-by-side sections. Label one as "advantages" and the other as "disadvantages" and write all the ideas that come to mind beneath each section. You should then add some details and examples under each idea, and ideally, you should decide on which advantages and disadvantages are the most crucial to your argument.
Choose a Side
Although an advantages and disadvantages essay should be rather unbiased, it's okay to be leaning toward one side more so than the other. This will help you to gain more perspective when writing your essay, and also leave the reader with your own thoughts in your conclusion. However, sometimes your teacher will request that you completely leave your own opinions out of the essay. Therefore, just be sure of what's required on the assignment because every teacher and every class is different.
How to Write an Advantages and Disadvantages Essay
The next thing you will need to do is outline your essay and eventually write it. What will need to be included in your essay will be different depending on your level. For instance, young students may only be required to have two body paragraphs, whereas college students will be required to have more than that unless it's a short answer response. Nevertheless, there is ultimately a widely accepted standard when it comes to writing an advantages and disadvantages essay:
- Introduction: Paraphrase the question/topic and briefly mention some of the advantages and disadvantages you will discuss in the paper.
- Body Paragraph One: Introduce the main advantage. Give supporting details and examples.
- Body Paragraph Two: Introduce the main disadvantage. Give supporting details and examples.
- Conclusion: Re-iterate the topic question. Summarize the main points and if applicable, say whether you think there are more advantages or disadvantages.
For your outline, you can create headlines and write what you plan on saying beneath each one. If you have to write more body paragraphs, do the same. When it comes time to write the essay, drag your points from your outline to your paper, and make sure you use transitions in order to connect each point together.
Why This Essay Is Important
Knowing how to write an advantages and disadvantages essay is part of perfecting your skills in English proficiency. People need to understand how to think about the advantages and disadvantages of the choices they make in life every day. Learning how to write an essay like this will help you feel calmer when making important decisions. Not only that, but this type of work is one of the best ways to really practice writing a solid essay, and this will help you out in your future when your assignments are more difficult.
The IELTS Exam
For students studying English as an international language, at some point, it's very likely that you'll have to take the IELTS exam. The IELTS exam, or the International English Language Testing System exam, is required for people of non-English speaking countries that want to study or work in a country where English is the main language for communication. For instance, a student who's from a country where English is not the native language will have to pass this test in order to get accepted into a U.K. university or universities in other English-speaking countries that require the same test.
Other Ways to Say "Advantages and Disadvantages"
Although you'll be writing an advantages and disadvantages essay, you'll want to try and find other vocabulary words to describe this. There are plenty of other ways to say "advantages and disadvantages," and it's a good idea if you can use these other terms as much as possible in your essay in order to add some variety:
- Pros and cons
- Benefits and drawbacks
- Nice parts and not-so-nice parts
- Good and bad aspects
- Pluses and Minuses
- This outweighs this
What You Will Be Evaluated On
Hopefully, you had no problem with writing your advantages and disadvantages essay, and you won't be too worried as you wait for your grade. This in itself is a major advantage of essay writing because you can get feedback on how you're progressing as a student. Teachers will have different criteria for grading different students, and this all depends on a lot of different factors. For instance, English language learners will be graded on their use of vocabulary, their grammatical accuracy and the coherence and cohesion between the paragraphs. Therefore, it's a good idea to brush up on these things and ask your teacher if you need any clarification on any aspect of the essay.
If you aren't an English language learner, then there are many different reasons you'd be required to write an advantages and disadvantages essay. Because of this, your evaluation will be unique in many ways, too. In the case of younger students who are just learning how to exercise their writing muscles, teachers may grade a bit more generously, but will really be checking for how well the students have followed directions, made their points and worked their way through the writing process. It's also important to keep in mind that while most advantages and disadvantages essays can be written based on experience and common knowledge, college students may really have to do some research to support the content in their essay.
Hana LaRock is a freelance content writer from New York, currently living in Mexico. Before becoming a writer, Hana worked as a teacher for several years in the U.S. and around the world. She has her teaching certification in Elementary Education and Special Education, as well as a TESOL certification. Please visit her website, www.hanalarockwriting.com, to learn more.