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How To Answer Questions on Essay and Letter Writing In WAEC & NECO – Tips and Strategies

Essay and Letter Writing In WAEC and  NECO in English language pose a lot of challenges to most students who do not know the skills, tips and strategies of passing this part in the theory section. WAEC and NECO examiners made this paper compulsory for all candidates to attempt because they know if candidates are given as an option, 90% would skip this part.

I will give you some key-points to note which would aide you in answering Essay writing as well as letter writing questions with ease in your exam. Also, i will put you through on how to count the words to ensure you are on track because when faced with writing an essay or letter writing of about 450 words, you need to be sure much time isn’t wasted on this section because there are other questions that need to be attempted with the limited time awarded to you.

How To Answer Questions on Essay and Letter Writing In WAEC & NECO - Tips and Strategies 1

Points To Note

1) Ideally, English language paper 1, section A allocates 50 minutes for you to choose just one (1) question among five questions set, be it an essay or letter writing topic, to prove your ability to communicate in writing.

2) The one question to be answered carries 50 marks, distributed thus;

  • Content (substance) of your work and relevance to the set question – 10 marks
  • Organization (including use of correct formats and paragraphing) – 10 marks
  • Expression (Effective use languages) – 20 marks
  • Mechanical accuracy (avoidance of grammatical, spelling, and punctuation errors) – 10 marks

3) You are required to prove your ability to communicate in writing in not less than 450 words. That is, if you are to write 10 words in a line, you should be able to produce an essay of not less than 45 lines long; if 9 words per line – 50 lines; if 8 words – 56 lines; if 7 words – 64/65 line; If 6 words – 75 line; if 5 words – 90 lines, etc.

Always ensure you start from the beginning of the first paragraph of your word (be it an essay or letter writing) to count.

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By now you ought to have known the average number of words you write on a line. If not, start practicing now.

How To Count The Number of Words In Essay and Letter Writing In WAEC & NECO Exam

Write up a page, pick 6 lines at random and count the number of words each contains. The number of words that appear most frequently should be taken as the number of words you write on a line. For example, if line 1 contains 7 words, line 2 – 8 words, line 3 – 6 words, line 4 – 7 words, line 6 – 6 words and line 6 – 7 words; then you write 7 words in a line. You already know that 7 words in a line will give you 65 lines. Count out 65 lines before you begin to answer your questions and put a dot at the margin of your answer sheet to remind you to start rounding off as you approach 65 lines.

4) The five questions usually set are drawn from essay and letter writing type. They include;

  1. Letter writing – Formal, informal and semi formal
  2. Narrative essay
  3. Descriptive essay
  4. Argumentative essay – Debates/Speeches
  5. Expository essay – Explanations and Directions.
  6. Creative writing


Questions are set on Article and Report Writing. Article writing falls into any of the types listed above, except letter writing. Report writing equally falls into any of the listed types, except argumentative essay. The question asked will specify whether your report writing will be in letter or essay form.

Guidelines on Essay and Letter Writing – Tips and Strategies

1) Read through all the questions with an open mind. Give each some thoughts, the select the one you understand properly and have sufficient points to write on. For instance, some candidates wrongly make up their minds before entering the examination hall, that they will answer any question asked for informal letter writing. A case in point is that of informal letter writing asking a candidate to write ‘explaining how a relationship with a friend went sour’.  Many candidates dabble into that question without knowing the meaning of ‘sour’. The result is that they wrote out of point and lost all their marks in both content and organization (20 marks out of 50 marks).

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2) Know your limitations and choose an appropriate question. If you are not good at creating a story or managing the past tense, definitely you cannot write well on a narrative essay topic, etc. Remember you have a wide choice as you are required to answer only one question out of five.

3) Note the appropriate format to use in answering the question you have carefully chosen. For instance, if you have chosen a question on Article Writing,do not use a letter writing format. Write only the topic and start your introductory paragraph. You will lose marks under organization if a letter writing format is used.

4) Jot down the points you want to use as they come to your mind. Number them sequentially, as you intend to bring them into your work. The few minutes devoted to planning your work are extremely useful as they help you produce organized work with full control.

5) Just incase you have jotted too many points down, select 4 good written points to expatiate on. Dwelling on them at length and convincingly while remembering your essay should not be more than 450 words long. At the same time, a short essay will earn you low scores in organization and mechanical accuracy.

6) Pay good attention to paragraphing.  The first word of each paragraph should begin about three centimetres away from the left-hand margin. Each paragraph should begin with a new idea, so begin a new paragraph as you move to a new idea. However, two similar ideas that are brief can be merged into one paragraph. The content of the introductory and concluding paragraph must be appropriately chosen to match the format of the topic chosen.

7) Do not write on either margin of your answer sheets. The instructions there even tells you not to. Ensure you obey it. Number your questions you have chosen and are writing on, as well.

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8) Devote the last 5 minutes of the time allotted for this section to reading over your work carefully, with the intention of detecting errors, misspelt words and incorrect punctuation that can cost you marks under Mechanical Accuracy.

9) After effecting corrections of detected errors, read through your work once more before finally moving to other sections of English language paper 1.

N.B: Try and limit or avoid the use of big words, especially the ones you cannot spell correctly nor use appropriately. Use simple English that takes you straight to the point without rigmarole. Use British spellings, not American spellings, as they are the ones commonly used in West Arica.

The points, tips, strategies explained above are the current WAEC and NECO recommended approach in Essay and letter writing from the examiners point of view. Using the guidelines and approach would fetch you a good score in essay and letter writing in WASSCE and NECO as well.

I hope this helps? Remember you can reach me via the comment section below should you have any question as regards letter and essay writing tips, approach, strategies and guidelines for English language exam in WAEC or NECO and I will be glad to assist.

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