Essay Writing FAQ – I have limited vocabulary. How can I still do well for my essay writing?

I have very limited vocabulary. How can I still do well for my essay?

Ms Tham says:

Don’t be too worried even if you feel that your vocabulary is limited. The examiners are not looking for fancy, difficult words in your essay. They are looking for words which are suitable for that particular theme or situation.

You should not focus on memorising a long list of vocabulary just before the examination; save your energy instead for coming up with simple yet appropriate synonyms for each topic or question.

For example, in the Free Writing section, narratives, recounts, descriptives and anecdotal essays should be written in plain, simple language. Cambridge examiners have praised the use of “suitably natural, unsophisticated or informal language” (Cambridge Examiner’s Report 2012) for those text types. Which means that you can still do well even if you write simply if you choose these essay types. So be smart about choosing the best question for your ability.

Another strategy you can apply even if you do not have a sophisticated vocabulary bank is to use alternative synonyms for a word. The synonyms do not have to be difficult words.

To illustrate my point, here are two examples in the situational writing section:

  1. If the question is about what you can do to help the elderly people in an old folk’s home, rather than just repeating the word ‘elderly’ multiple times in your answer, you can come up with alternatives such as: Elderly = senior citizens, seniors, the aged, golden agers, retirees, the old folks
  2. If the question is an informal letter about hosting two people, Anne and John, in your home, then refer to Anne and John in these other ways: Anne & John  = our guests / the representatives / the visitors / our friends / the duo / the two

These small details will give the impression that you have a wide command of the language, and make your essay less repetitive and monotonous. It is a simple and easy way to help you gain more language marks.