• Melissa Koons

How-To Write a Critical Essay

Anyone can write a great critical essay—they just have to learn the missing pieces of information.

Writing is something that has always come easily to me.

My parents started reading books to me at a very young age, and once I processed how these wonderful stories were created, I was determined to do the same. While writing creatively came easily, not all forms of writing did. Because of my love for writing and reading, I was prone to English and Language Arts classes in school. I took the advanced English and Language Arts classes in school, and I signed up for electives that revolved around the same subject. Despite this, I still struggled with writing academic papers. I got sick a lot in middle and high school resulting in my missing many lessons. Some of these lessons I missed involved learning grammar and syntax. Other days involved learning how to write and structure a proper academic paper.

I learned enough to get by in my honors English classes and other subjects without affecting my grade too much. However, when I was in my AP Literature class senior year of high school these education gaps caught up to me. To prepare for the AP exam that would give us college credit for the course, we wrote critical essays daily. The essays were graded on a scale of one to nine: nine was the best, and no one ever scored a nine. My scores were consistently in the three to four range: this was not good enough to pass the exam and get college credit.

Faced with failure and unsure how or what I was doing wrong, I felt like I was doomed. A critical essay was going to derail all of the work I had put into my education and force me to retake a course that I otherwise excelled at. As fate would have it, my AP Literature teacher had a baby and went on maternity leave for the next two months. Why was this so fateful? One: because I was really happy for her and her growing family: congratulations. Two: another English teacher stepped in during his planning period to teach my class. This was so fateful because he did the one thing no other teacher had done since my freshman year of high school: he taught me how to write a critical essay.

My scores were not improving and failure was imminent, until this teacher pulled me aside in class one day. He gave the rest of the class an assignment, and took me to the office across the hall. Here he asked me if I had ever been taught how to organize a critical essay. I had been taught how to write a thesis statement, I had been taught how to organize a paragraph, but no, I had never been taught how to write a critical essay. In ten minutes, he taught me everything I needed to know. He broke it down for me in a way I had never seen before. In ten minutes, I had been given the missing piece; the key to my success.

After that brief meeting, I began scoring sevens and even eights on all of my essays. I couldn’t believe the immediate change and drastic success. It’s amazing how one piece of missing information can affect our achievement. I didn’t know that I was missing this piece of information, but I knew something in my understanding was off. Learning how to write a critical essay made it possible for me to pass the AP exam and earn college credit. More than that, that ten minute lesson got me through college. As my skill advanced, so did my understanding of the critical essay. I had professors complement me on my writing skills and my ability to write a critical analysis.

I succeeded in earning my degree in English and secondary education. I completed one of the best teacher education programs on the west coast and earned my teaching licensure for secondary education. I passed my English content teaching certification test on one try.

I had the pleasure of teaching middle and high school English for about three years before leaving the profession to become a full-time writer and editor. While I don’t teach in a classroom anymore, I still tutor many middle and high school students. In my tutoring, I have come to realize that there are so many student who missed this same piece of information that I did. So many students struggle with writing a critical essay and they have no idea why. They blame themselves and say that they just aren’t good writers. They convince themselves it’s because they are better at math and science. They accept that they will never understand or be good at writing essays.

I know that this isn’t true. Anyone can write a great critical essay—they just have to learn the missing pieces of information. I work to teach my students this missing information in our lessons, but I know that so many other students can benefit from the same information. Ten minutes was all it took for me. It might take longer for some students who are not as drawn toward the English/Language Arts content, but it is still possible.

To help students and adult learners, I have written an introductory guide for writing a critical essay. For any student or learner who feels like their writing can be improved, this book will fill in those missing pieces of information. It’s easy to write a critical essay, you just have to have the key to unlock your success.

Writing a Critical Essay: An Introductory Guide for Beginners in eBook and print formats available online on all major platforms. Buy your copy today!

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