October 24, 2020

How to Avoid Deviation in Essay Writing

Reading Time: 6 minutes

Hello! In this article, I give you a practical demonstration of what to do to avoid deviation in your English Essay Writing test.

To avoid deviation, you need to analyze your chosen topic first. Do this moments before you begin to write your answer in the composition section of your English Language paper.

The points you will discover here are particularly helpful for any pre-university student or any candidate preparing for an English Language test paper.

The scenario could be internal or external examinations such as WASSCE, SAT, GCE, GCSE, and IGCSE.

I have pointed out elsewhere that the major cause of poor performance among candidates in any examination is a deviation from the demands of the question.

So how can you avoid this major pitfall?

The answer is this:

Take a few minutes to look closely at the topic. Then analyze it carefully. Make sure to look out for the specific issues you must address in your composition.

Trust me, if you’re able to do this analysis properly to satisfy yourself about the requirements of the question, there is no way you’ll end up deviating from the essential demands of the essay question, the type of essay question regardless.

Below are examples of how to establish the requirements of an essay topic so you can avoid deviation.


Q1.  Write a letter to your friend abroad describing how the headmaster has helped to improve sports in your school

Step I. Question Analysis

Keywords to note are letter, friend, abroad, describing, headmaster, improve sports, your school.

LETTER: This determines the format and formal features of your essay – in other words, the organization of the essay. Key parts you cannot overlook are your address, date, salutation and subscription.

FRIEND: Your audience is a friend so the tone of your language or your expression must be largely an informal one.

ABROAD: The things you refer to in your discourse must show that your brother is abroad and not here in your country.

DESCRIBING: Give details and use descriptive words as much as possible.

HEADMASTER: Name him in a polite way, focus on him and don’t deviate to focus on yourself or on the teaching staff.

IMPROVE SPORTS: It is about positive developments. Remember also that sports include football athletics, indoor games etc. It is also about infrastructure, competition, sportswear etc.

YOUR SCHOOL: The centre of attention is your school. Name it affectionately and let it feature prominently in the letter up to the end.

Step II. Plan your letter now. Select at least three areas of improvement in sports.

Step III. Write your letter. Write fast in order to end early to give you some time to edit your work before presenting it to the invigilator.


Q2. You are a speaker in a school debate on the motion: Religion in this country has failed our society. Write your speech for or against the motion.


Step I. Question Analysis

Keywords to note are:

School, debate, religion, this country, failed society, speech, or

SCHOOL: The setting is a school. This determines the composition of your audience. Therefore your expression must be largely formal. But references to local objects or ideas will enrich your essay.

DEBATE: This requires a particular form of organization. Vocatives must include Panel of Judges, for example.

RELIGION: Your choice of words must show that you are speaking about religion e.g. church, faith, God, mosque, pulpit, priest, believers, shrine etc.

THIS COUNTRY: It is about the whole country so don’t restrict yourself to a particular state, region or district and don’t go beyond to speak about other countries. It is important also to name the country often throughout the essay.

FAILED SOCIETY: Is it true that religion has failed society? If yes, prove it with points which show that you are FOR the motion. If no, prove it with points which show that you are AGAINST the motion

SPEECH: A speech must have such attributes as interactive expression, the tone of engagement with the audience, anecdotes to rouse and sustain the interest of your audience etc

OR: You can only take one stance so write only for OR against, not for AND against, please.

Step II. Plan.

Step III. Write.


Q3. As part of a sanitation program for students, you have been invited to give a speech on the topic: To be healthy, keep your environment clean. Write your speech.

Step I Question Analysis

Keywords to note:

Sanitation, programme, students, speech, healthy, environment, clean


Display a thorough knowledge of issues pertaining to sanitation. Use the appropriate vocabulary.

PROGRAMME: It is just one of the many programmes undertaken in a normal school. Thus it has a time limit and a series of activities

STUDENTS: Your language must be standard but not overly formal because you are speaking to your colleagues.

SPEECH: Follow all the rules regarding speech writing.

HEALTHY: The central message of your speech is that a clean environment promotes good health. Emphasize this throughout your speech.

ENVIRONMENT: Refer to problems of sanitation in the school environment as well as students’ home environment.

CLEAN: It is all about cleanliness so point out concrete, practical ways of ensuring this.

Step II Plan your speech now i.e.

i.            vocatives and opening remarks

ii.            Comments on the present state of sanitation in the school and homes (where students come from and will be going back to ) as well as health conditions of students.

iii.            Urging your audience to keep the environment clean and suggesting ways:

·        clearing bushy areas

·        proper disposal of waste material

·        sweeping, washing and cleaning

Step III: Write your speech

Read also:

Q4. Write an article for publication in a national daily on the menace of street children in your community.

Step I Question Analysis

Keywords to note:

Article, publication, national, menace, street children, your community

ARTICLE: Note that an article is not a letter to the editor. The main formal features of an article are an appropriate title, the body including a good introduction and conclusion, your name, address and designation (e.g. school prefect).

PUBLICATION: It is going to be published, so it is not a speech or a private letter.

NATIONAL: Your audience is all readers in all parts of the country. Your expression must, therefore, sound formal and your English standard.

MENACE: The issue you are about to discuss is a serious one. It is a problem, a headache so present it as such. Give disturbing descriptions, statistics and examples of this MENACE (problem)

STREET CHILDREN: You are required to focus on children (not adults) who practically live on the street in big towns and cities in particular. So let your mind travel to observe and vividly portray the plight of such children.

YOUR COMMUNITY: The question has clearly restricted you to a certain part of the country where you live e.g. Agona Swedru, Agona West Municipality, Keta, Tema etc. Choose a community and avoid digressing to talk about the whole nation

Step II. Plan your article

Step III. Write your article


Q5. Your school has not been performing well of late in external examinations. Write a letter to your headmaster, giving at least three reasons for this poor performance, and suggesting remedies.

Step I Question Analysis

Keywords to note:

Your school, not—–performing well, of late, external examinations, letter, headmaster, at least three, reasons, suggest remedies

YOUR SCHOOL: It is just about your school so focus on your school only. Name it. Example, Cegast Academy.

NOT ——PERFORMING WELL (POOR PERFORMANCE): This is no good news. So make it look as bad as it can be – give statistics and examples to show how bad the situation is. Your language must also portray a deplorable state of affairs that needs urgent action. Don’t sound as if everything is okay.

OF LATE: The poor performance is a recent development so don’t sound as if this has been the case since the school was founded. Neither should you sound as if it happened only in the previous examination. Give a specific period. For instance, for the past three years. Compare the poor performance to excellent results in years gone by. Give concrete evidence (figures).

EXTERNAL EXAMINATIONS:  It is not about terminal (internal examinations). Make this clear in your letter. Example, WASSCE.

LETTER: Your letter format must obey all the rules regarding letter writing- address, date, salutation subscription etc

HEADMASTER: clearly, your audience is a formal one so your letter is a formal, official letter. Remember all the rules governing official letter writing e.g. Your address and date, recipient’s address, appropriate salutation, the title of the letter, formal, polite language, appropriate subscription etc

AT LEAST THREE: This implies that you cannot give anything less than three (i.e. two or one) points but you can give more than three. However, three to five points should be enough.

REASONS: These are your points which will score marks for content. Therefore, give solid convincing reasons. Example:

(i) pervasive indiscipline

(ii) lack of qualified tutors

(iii) unavailability of learning materials and infrastructure such as a library, textbooks, laboratory

(iv) unreliable electricity supply for prep

SUGGESTING REMEDIES: You must give equal attention to this part of the question in order to maximize your score. For every reason, give practical workable remedies. Sound confident and persuasive in your suggestion. But don’t sound commanding.

I wish you good luck.

What personal issues do you have concerning effective essay writing? What other ideas do you think must be considered in order for a candidate to write a winsome essay?

And, finally …

Share this post. Spread the love around the world!

Thank you.


Ralph Nyadzi

Ralph has a passion for the teaching and learning of Language and Literature mainly because these two help him to understand and appreciate why people act the way they do. Over the past two decades, he has coached over 5000 students and adult learners to achieve their educational goals. Ralph is the founder and CEO of Cegast Academy.

View all posts by Ralph Nyadzi →

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