Ins and Outs of a Great Five-Paragraph Essay

A five-paragraph essay seems an easy task for most students. After all, this is the kind of assignment people write in high schools, so how difficult can it be — right? Well, no. Even though a five-paragraph essay is one of the most common writing assignments in high school, it still does not mean this paper is a no-brainer. Just think about it: without intro and conclusion, you only have three body paragraphs left to present your ideas. And, more importantly, you have to make sure those ideas are convincing not only for yourself but also for your readers.

So, to come up with an impressive paper in such limited time (and space), you’ll need to structure your essay accordingly. Simply put, you’ll need a coherent outline for your work — and that is exactly what we will teach you to do in the paragraphs below.

Five-paragraph essay in a nutshell

Ever heard about a hamburger essay? This is another, slang term, for a five-paragraph essay, and the joke has to do with the paper structure. First goes your intro, then three body paragraphs, and then a conclusion — here’s the hamburger you’ve got to cook for your professor.

Why would students need to learn this seemingly simplistic structure, though? The answer is simple — five-paragraph essay is one of the most adequate formats when writing an exam, no matter if it’s TOEFL or SAT. It does not require too much time to complete, and it’s more than possible to write one in a classroom, with a limited amount of time during the exam. That is exactly why so many students are assigned this kind of paper — once they train long enough at home, an exam should no longer pose a challenge.

As for the essay length, it may vary anywhere between 300 and 600 words — so, a page or two. Despite its limited volume, the five-paragraph essay is a flexible academic assignment, as more than one essay type may meet these restrictions. It’s a good fit for argumentative, narrative, descriptive, persuasive, even cause and effect essays. So, it leaves students plenty of room to practice and experiment.

Five-paragraph essay types you may have to write

Of course, during the exam, you have to consider more than your essay structure. Depending on the exact type of assignment, students are expected to use different writing styles and techniques. Simply put, it means that some essays will have a creative, even humorous, flow to them; others will be more reasonable and objective. Here is the full list of essay types that may fall under the five-paragraph structure.

  • Argumentative: this is the most common type of assignment for a five-paragraph essay, and it also happens to be professors’ favorite. Argumentative papers teach students critical thinking skills; here, you are to present and defend your opinion, operating with convincing facts and arguments. With an argumentative essay, your body text may include either three arguments that support your main statement; or, you may go with two supporting arguments and a refuting one.
  • Persuasive: this type is very similar to an argumentative essay, with a minor difference: in persuasive papers, you can choose any rhetorical means you like to convince readers in your point of view. So, if an argumentative essay mostly appeals to logic and reason, persuasive one can play on readers’ feelings and emotions as well.
  • Descriptive: another assignment that aims at describing an event, a place, or a person. This paper will be based on creativity rather than on logic and facts.
  • Narrative: the same goes for narrative papers; here, your goal is to tell a story. In a way, it’s similar to a descriptive essay, but you have to pay more attention to your story flow.
  • Definition: in this paper, your goal is to define a specific notion. It can be a word or a phrase, and this can be a pretty challenging assignment because you have three paragraphs for your interpretation of just one phrase (or even a word). The good news is that you do not have to make your paragraphs long — usually, 300 words total is enough for this kind of paper (unless instructed otherwise).
  • Literary analysis: quite a complex assignment because it requires a thorough understanding of stylistic devices and literary elements. Besides, you are quite limited in paper length, so you’ll have to choose a very specific angle to make your essay fit in just five paragraphs.
  • Cause and effect: another challenging assignment that requires you to explain the reasons and consequences of a particular event, process, etc. It does not fit five-paragraph structure too easily, which is why it’s unlikely you’ll have to write one. Still, it would be wise to practice in advance — after all, not all exam prompts are lucky.
  • Compare and contrast: another example that is quite common on SAT exams. Here, you are to compare and contrasts two objects, events, short stories, etc. The best way to make it fit five-paragraph structure is to choose three criteria for your body text and start comparing both objects based on these criteria. Say, for example, if you are comparing an apple and an orange, the most relevant criteria to focus in your body would be shape, size, and color (or taste, if you like — here, a lot depends on your imagination).

We strongly suggest that you practice writing each of these assignments at home, even if your professor does not ask you to. Writing is a skill, just like any other, and it grows better with practice. Besides, the more you practice, the faster you’ll write. And no one can argue that this is an essential skill during the actual exam.

Comprehensive outline for a 5-paragraph essay

Once again, the structure is important. You may be creative as Salinger, but it still won’t do you any good if you’re not following task specifications. The same goes for exceeding your paper volume — no matter if it’s measured in words, sentences, pages, or paragraphs. So, always read the instructions carefully. Now, let’s dissect all components of a 5-paragraph essay to give you more writing tips to remember.


The trick to writing a great introduction is hooking your audience and grabbing their attention right from the first line of your paper. Sometimes, it seems easier said than done; but in practice, with creative writing assignments (and all the above essay types can be approached with creativity), it’s not as difficult as it seems. Starting with a question — ideally, a thought-provoking one — is a great idea that will help you impress the professors. Or, it can be an interesting fact or a statistic — if you can remember this stat for sure, of course. In any way, you are to present your perspective on the topic as quickly as you can — preferably, from the first line of your essay.

As a rule, an intro should have from three to five sentences — this is an optimal length to present your hook, give a quick stance on the subject, and formulate a thesis statement you will be supporting in your body paragraphs.


A thesis deserves special attention because this is the focal point of your essay. It is also the primary thought you are going to prove in your essay, so each of your body arguments (or statements) will revolve around it. Sometimes, a thesis can consist of two sentences, but since you are working on a very short essay, we strongly suggest you state it in just one sentence. Also, remember that a thesis cannot be a universal fact or a notion anyone will easily agree with. Neither can you write something generic, like “this paper will analyze all the differences and similarities between apples and oranges.” This won’t do — a thesis should be interesting and thought-provoking. Boring your professors to death will not result in a high grade, so keep this in mind.

Also, remember that even though a thesis is the focal point of your paper, it is still — technically — a part of your essay introduction. It is the last sentence of your intro, after which you proceed to the ‘meat’ of your work (that is, your body text).


This is a critical part of your essay, as it presents your logic and arguments. It is important to choose only three issues to focus on in your paper because each separate thought will need a separate paragraph for it. Usually, five-seven sentences are enough to convey your ideas. To do so, there is an easy structure you can follow:

Start a paragraph with a topic sentence: this is the main idea (or an argument) for this particular body paragraph. Think of it as a summary of each paragraph, if you like. It should quickly convey the main point you will be discussing in this section.

Expand on the sentence and give more details: once you have formulated your topic sentence, you may have to add a couple of extra details to make sure you and your reader are on the same page. Sometimes, this step is optional, but usually — it is not.

Include supporting evidence to prove your point: evidence is the most important part of your body reasoning. It shows not only your creative writing and descriptive skills but also analytical ones. It’s unlikely that you will need to give references or quotes on the exam (unless you are analyzing someone else’s text), so this is the part to clearly state your convincing reasons. They should support the point you make in this particular paragraph and relate to your thesis.

Wrap up and prepare a logical transition to a new thought: finally, ensure the next paragraph with its topic point is consistent with the ideas you just presented. It’s all about logic and flow.


Once you’re done with the above paragraphs, restate your thesis in conclusion. Sometimes, you will also have to enumerate the main ideas you discussed in your body text, but in short, five-paragraph essays, this step may be excessive — your reader can still remember what he read five minutes ago. So, try to wrap up with an impressive or memorable note — this will score you more points.

Now, you know everything you need to start practicing with different five-paragraph essay types. If however, you are stuck on a preassigned paper and do not know how you can cope with it in due time, let our writers handle the job for you. Our team hires only professional graduates in their niche subjects, which is why all of our papers are creative and of high quality. More importantly, they are tailored to every student’s academic needs and written from scratch, with zero plagiarism. If you need a hand with homework, or you want to receive a professionally written paper to use as a sample, we’re always here at your service.

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