Academic, English, Writing Tips

5 tips for international students writing academic essays in English

International student essay writing

As an international student are you worried that your English writing skills aren’t good enough? Fret not! Read these five tips that will help you write an amazing essay:

1: Most native speakers are terrible writers.

international student essay

Don’t worry too much about the quality of your writing simply because English is your second language. The truth is most of your fellow students are horrible writers. Horrible. Bad readers make for bad writers, and in the English-speaking world most people don’t read a lot: see for yourself. 

2: Tell your marker something they don’t know.

impressed marker international student essay

Imagine having to read an essay full of information you already know and then having to repeat this process 20, 30 or even 50 times. Welcome to the hellish world of marking. Help out your marker (and get a better grade) by writing something original. Luckily for you as an international student, you have a treasure trove of wisdom, expressions and anecdotes from another culture you can readily use in your writing. This already gives you an advantage compared to your monolingual peers that will most likely regurgitate the same tired arguments and examples.

3: Make your essay SEXy.

international student essay writing

So what if your vocabulary is limited compared to native speakers? The internal consistency of the essay is more important than using flowery language. For each paragraph start with a statement (S), follow it with an example (E) and finish it with an explanation (X). This is the SEXy way in action:

 Absolute monarchs must suppress the power of rival groups in order to concentrate power in their own hands (S). Louis limited the nobles’ power by forcing them to live with him at the Versailles palace, and the Duc of Saint-Simon, writing in his diaries, observed that Louis “…compelled his courtiers to live beyond their income, and gradually reduced them to depend on his bounty for the means of subsistence” (Saint-Simon) (E). This financial dependency forced the Nobles to constantly seek Louis’ favor to maintain their position at court. They spent their days “ready to please and serve” the king who had spies all over the palace reporting on their every move. One false step was all it took to lose the King’s favor forever (X).

4: Don’t be repetitive.

international students citations essay

Are you citing a lot of sources? You should be. But make sure you don’t sound like a bot by changing things up, for example:

  • Scott (2017) argues that…
  • Thompson (1989) identifies the problem as resulting from…
  • Irving (2005) defends the view that…
  • Hicks (1992) agrees that…
  • Cobain (1993) concurs with Hicks (1992) that…

5: Use transitional words/phrases.

transition international students essay

The flow of your essay depends on the transitional words and phrases you choose. For example, to further your arguments you can use: furthermore, in addition, not only … but also. To restate arguments: in other words, namely, to put it differently. To show cause and effect: consequently, thanks to, for this reason. A full list of transitional words and phrases can be found here.

So good luck. Now, stop procrastinating and start writing!

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Author: Ed

Ed is an academic editor and founding member of the Copy Team. She has a PhD from UCL in comparative education, worked as an assistant editor at an academic journal (IJNE), and has written countless essays, academic papers and textbooks.