Four Common Essay Mistakes, part 2: writing off-topic…

Four common essay mistakes- part 2

In today’s video, I want to talk about the second common mistake that I find in many student essays, that is to say, writing off-topic. What this means is when a student either doesn’t understand the question, or has no clear ideas and simply writes everything he/she can think of about the general theme of the question. In the essay below we can see a clear example of this.

One way to avoid this is to be careful when analyzing the question, in the five to ten minutes planning stage before you start to write. You need to identify the topic words, and the micro words, which tell you what the actual questions is. In this essay, the question is

Some people say that the best way to improve public health is by increasing the number of sports facilities. Others, however, say that this would have little effect on public health and that other measures are required.

Discuss both these views and give your own opinion.

So, for this essay you would need to write about would health be improved by having more gyms, etc, or would other measures be more effective. You also need to express a clear opinion throughout the essay.

If you watch the video then you will see how the author failed to achieve this, also, you will see a sample essay which shows what the author should have done. You can copy the two essays below. One final thing, if you have any questions or you have an essay you want me to critique, then feel free to write to me at

Essay 1

These days, people’s health condition has become increasingly worse because of overload work pressure and lack of exercises. Many people hold the point of view that sports equipments are required while others believe that there are also some essential

A large number of people cannot do adequate exercises regularly. They have to do extra work and learn advanced technical skills to keep pace with the modern world. For example, an engineer has to deal with a great many issues everyday, such as having a phone meeting, signing a contact or attending a party with their supervisors. Furthermore, young parents need to take care of their children and keep an eye on their children’s academic performance, which takes a large part of their spare time. In terms of this, I suggest that employees should be given enough free time to spend, including exercising.

On the other hand, there are still many people living in rural areas who do not have sports facilities. They lead a flexible lifestyle for they do not have to work overload, but lack of facilities is the main obstacle for them who enjoy sports. So I agree that governments should increase investments to those areas so that local people there may have access to doing sports.

In conclusion, the main problem in urban areas is that people have to work excessively and lack spare time. So the solution for them may be reducing their working hours and stress. For people who live in rural areas, however, establishing some sports systems and buildings can be a better choice.

Essay 2

It has been argued that increasing the number of leisure and sporting facilities is the most effective way of developing and improving the health of the general public, while others would argue that this would have little impact on health and that other steps are needed. This essay will argue that simply building new sports centres is not a viable answer, and that the key to developing a healthy citizenry is education.

Firstly, while going to gyms and sports/leisure centres is undoubtedly a good thing for a healthy life it can be suggested that motivation is the key factor in getting people to exercise. If a person does not have the desire or will to get out of their arm chair and go and exercise then having a gym built at the end of their street will have little or no effect on their well-being. A recent study by the University of Bath showed that 80% of people who buy a gym membership only went regularly for the first two months then either went sporadically or not at all after that time. This study would seem to back up the idea that motivation not availability of sports centres is the main factor in exercising regularly.

What might be more useful is a government funded education campaign to show people the dangers of not exercising, being sedentary, eating unhealthily, etc. Many people seem unaware of the dangers that the modern way of life has for their health and if this was pushed into their faces on tv, radio, etc, then they may take notice and take steps to live in a better way. For example, when the UK government ran an anti-smoking campaign in 2014 across all media, Drs around the country reported an increase of 50% of patients inquiring about how to stop smoking. This clearly demonstrates that, as in all things, education is often the most effective way to change peoples behaviour.

In conclusion then, although having a ready availability of places to exercise may seem intuitively to be a good way to get people healthy, in reality if the motivation to do so is not there then it will have little effect. A far better option would be to inform citizens of the harm that modern life is doing to their bodies while educating them to change their lifestyles for a positive outcome.