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How to understand essay writing prompts

Starting a university programme means having to deal with essays and academic writing. In this context, one of the main challenges among students is to understand essay prompts. It’s crucial for learners to have a clear idea of what the essay brief requires, in order to deliver a successful academic paper.

What are essay prompts?

Essay prompts are statements that concentrate on a specific theme or issue and are followed by questions. The main goal of essay prompts is to encourage the writer to create academic documents around a specific topic in order to test their writing and analytical skills.

Essay prompts give students a clear definition of what they expected them to write along with providing them with recommendations, supporting details and concluding options.

Below are some tips that might help you fully understand your essay prompt.

  • Focus on keywords
    Some essay briefs are enriched with keywords that give learners guidelines on what to include in their essay, as well as tips on how to organise it. So, it’s important students read the prompt carefully along with underlining and analysing keywords before start writing.
    Remember – by focusing on each singular word, you will fully understand what the prompt is asking you to do.
  • Convert questions into statements
    Most essay prompts contain questions that should be converted into statements to better analyse them.

  • Ask yourself questions
    Before you start writing, it’s vital you ask yourself:
      • What’s the purpose of the prompt
      • What information the prompt requires
      • What arguments you should include in your document
      • Who is the essay audience
      • What expectations your audience has
  • Understand the essay form
    In order to write a successful academic paper, it’s fundamental you understand the type of essay you’re required to write. Sometimes, the brief clearly outlines the writing form expected; other times, it’s quite difficult to understand it. Nevertheless, there are keywords that can help you to understand the required writing styles.
    It’s important you remember there are three different types of prompts. Expository prompts ask learners to investigate concepts and create arguments around a specific theme; narrative prompts require students to write short stories around a concept, and persuasive prompts ask scholars to convince readers on a specific goal.


If essay prompts are a nightmare for you, you’ve landed on the right article. Above are some tips that will help you better understand your essay brief so you can create a successful academic paper. Enjoy your writing!

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