The Personal Essay

The Personal Essay


The Personal Essay element of the Composition section of Paper One should be a section of the paper that you are comfortable approaching. It is worth 100 marks (a quarter of the overall English grade at Higher Level), it has appeared consistently and has proven to be profitable for students who have a developed a well thought out writing style.


Strictly speaking you cannot prepare yourself for the Personal Essay to the same degree that you can prepare yourself for the Short Story. Considering the wide range of potential titles/topics that can be presented to you on the day of the exam it is up to you, the student, to work hard to develop a concrete approach to planning the Personal Essay as well as developing a proficient style of writing. You can then employ this particular approach/style of writing to any title/topic presented to you on the day of the exam. Writing a Personal Essay is indeed a skill in itself and this skill needs to be learned, developed and nurtured. The best way, in my opinion, to learn, develop and nurture the skill of writing a Personal Essay is to put the following into practice:


  • Plan/brainstorm your Personal Essay using a mind map
  • Draft your essay
  • Submit draft for correction
  • Heed teachers feedback
  • Redraft in light of feedack
  • Resubmit for correction
  • Continue process until you’re happy with both the mark and skills learned/developed


The Five Ingredients Needed for a Successful Personal Essay:


  1. Thoughts/opinions discussed should derive from personal experiences
  2. Your thoughts/opinions should be presented in an emotive manner
  3. Reflective discussion on the essay’s subject
  4. Make a universal observation
  5. Come to an insightful understanding on the matter


Your Personal Essay should express the journey of discovery you have taken in relation to the subject/topic/title.