The somewhat frustrating thing about the ‘essay’ text type in Paper 2 – or the ‘文章,’ is that you never know what form it’ll come in. For example, the question might ask you to write “一篇文章” for a school newspaper, and so you’re not exactly writing an essay but a newspaper article. Therefore, when embarking upon the ‘essay’ text type, don’t be fooled – make sure you know what kind of essay you’re writing.
Let’s look at one of the questions from May 2012 to see how we might go around planning our essay:
你们学校的中文学报在举办《对我影响最大的一个人》的征文比赛。写一篇文章投稿。(Your school newspaper is holding a writing competition under the prompt “The person who has influenced me the most.” Write an article for submission.)
As this is a piece for submission and will therefore be published in the newspaper only if it wins the writing competition, you can assume that you won’t have to format it like a newspaper article. If you’re worried and you want to just in case, or if you have a question that requires you to write an essay for a newspaper, you can refer to our guide on “How to Write a Newspaper Article for Paper 2” to learn about the conventions of a newspaper. Since it’s not exactly a newspaper article but is only being published in a newspaper, the main things you’ll have to focus on is the format, such as providing the name of the paper, a headline, byline, a date and the author’s name all at the top.
Apart from the occasional formalities, the nice thing about an essay is that it isn’t subject to as many constraints as other text types. Whereas with a formal newspaper article, you have to be very objective in your tone and include all the bare details – who, what, when, where and why – in your first paragraph, a question like this gives more room for emotional depth and personal insight.
With a personal essay like this, feel free to be anecdotal and to explain how this influential person made you feel, or how they changed the way you thought and perceived yourself. In the model above, we’ve provided a very simple, basic example of how you might approach a question like this. This particular student has begun on a rather emotional note, explaining how they initially perceived themselves to lack any potential and unable to become someone they could be proud of. They then go on to explain – on a somewhat humorous note – how they came across this teacher that would end up becoming the biggest influence in their life – with trepidation and fear. Finally, the student explains why this teacher has come to play such an important role, elaborating on how they changed the way they perceived themselves and how the teacher has inspired them.
With a question such as this, where the student is given a lot of creative liberty, there are several ways you could approach a question like this. You could talk about anyone, ranging from a sibling, a parent, a teacher, or a best friend. There are also several ways you could approach it, imbuing the entire piece with emotion and reflecting on how you’ve transformed as a piece, you could start with a gripping, dramatic introduction, or how this person’s influence is felt in the work that you do as opposed to just recalling past events, like the sample above.
The point is, given the amount of freedom you’re likely to get with an essay piece, don’t feel the need to conform to what you think would be most appropriate to write about – have fun as long as you can convey your ideas clearly and cohesively!