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How to Write a Five-Paragraph Essay: Outlining and Writing Tips + Sample

How to Write a Five-Paragraph Essay

A five-paragraph essay is not just the first academic writing assignment you’ll ever receive. It’s also an invaluable teaching tool that school teachers and college professors have been using for decades to train students to structure their thoughts and put ideas on paper cohesively and concisely. So whether it’s your first time working out the paragraph structure or an attempt to boost your writing grades, our guide is here to help.

What Is a Five-Paragraph Essay?

The five-paragraph essay is the first and most common academic writing assignment students learn at school. Thanks to its short format and familiar structure, this essay type is often used as a written part of standardized tests, such as SAT or IELTS, as well as in-class exams and tests.

As the name implies, the paper only has five paragraphs, each serving a specific purpose. Although requirements vary, most five-paragraph essays are short, ranging from 250 to 500 words. Therefore, each paragraph can be 50 to 100 words long.

Four Major Types of 5 Paragraph Essay

As we’ve discussed, the 5 paragraph essay format suits many writing styles. Therefore, students can expect to write the required five paragraphs for the four major essay types:

  • Argumentative essays. Persuasive and argumentative papers fall under this category, as they share the goal but use different means. For both essay types, you’d dedicate each body paragraph to a single argument or point and substantiate it with proof. However, if you are not confident in your ability to craft a convincing argument, you may want to consider using an argumentative essay writing service to help you with your paper.
  • Expository essays. This category includes cause and effect, process, compare and contrast, and problem-solution papers. Depending on the type, the three body paragraphs may comprise the similarities and differences of the issues under discussion, steps of the process, description of the problem, viable solutions, and potential difficulties.
  • Narrative essays. Similar to short stories, these papers would need an escalating action throughout all body paragraphs leading to a satisfying conclusion in the final passage.
  • Descriptive essays. For these papers, you’d dedicate each paragraph of the body to a single trait or characteristic and provide examples to support your claims.

How to Craft a Perfect 5 Paragraph Essay Outline 

Before we take a deep dive into the objectives and specifics of the introduction and conclusion paragraph, as well as the three body paragraphs, let’s look at the big picture. Below, you’ll find a 5-paragraph essay outline template that fits most assignment types and topics:

  • Paragraph 1 — Introduction
    • Hook
    • Background information
    • Thesis statement
  • Paragraph 2 — Body
    • Topic sentence
    • Evidence or logical argumentation
    • Examples and analysis
  • Paragraph 3 — Body
    • Transition
    • Topic sentence
    • Evidence or logical argumentation
    • Examples and analysis
  • Paragraph 4 — Body
    • Transition
    • Topic sentence
    • Evidence or logical argumentation
    • Examples and analysis
  • Paragraph 5 — Conclusion
    • Transition
    • Reiteration of the thesis statement
    • Summary of the three major points
    • Final thoughts


If you’re wondering how to start a five-paragraph essay, you can leave the first paragraph for the last. But you must craft a thesis statement before moving on to the body paragraphs. It’s the main idea or argument you wish to make and the only critical part of the introduction paragraph. If you are writing a personal statement for college or graduate school, you may want to consider hiring a personal statement editing service to polish your essay and make it stand out. A professional editor can help you refine your tone, style, and structure, as well as catch any errors or inconsistencies.

Although you may open the paper with the thesis statement, you can also include a hook—a surprising fact, striking statistic, or a rhetorical question—to grab the reader’s attention with the first line. Some background information may also be necessary to provide the reader with a frame of reference. Finally, you can include a brief outline of your main points in the body paragraphs to prepare the audience for what’s to come. 

Remember that all of the above may be discarded if the word count is extremely limited. The only thing your introduction paragraph must have is a thesis statement. Without one, you’ll lose many points off your grade. 

Body Paragraphs

As you’ve seen in the five paragraph structure above, each of the three paragraphs follows the same basic format and relies on the same elements:

  1. Topic sentence. It’s the mini-version of the thesis statement, devoted to the main idea of the body paragraph. It should simultaneously draw the reader’s attention, provide valuable information, and prepare the audience for the following sentences.
  2. Evidence/examples. Depending on the essay type and circumstances, you may cite references or provide examples to illustrate the main point of each of the body paragraphs.
  3. Analysis/synthesis. It’s a necessary element of the passage, designed to draw the disparate facts and examples together to support the topic sentence and the overarching thesis. 
  4. Transition. A single word or phrase at the beginning or the end of the passage will help you tie the five-paragraph essay together and let the readers navigate it easily. For example, you can use “alternatively” to juxtapose the passages or “additionally” to introduce another supporting argument.


The final passage should be the mirror image of the introduction paragraph. But instead of repeating the thesis statement verbatim, you can expand on it to include the summary of the three major points made throughout the body of your 5 paragraph essay. Then, after you remind the audience of what they’ve learned, you can introduce one or two final sentences, such as:

  • Your personal opinion on the issue
  • A thought-provoking question that will stay with the reader
  • Potential for future study or research
  • Your prediction based on the study
  • A call to action or a final recommendation

At the same time, you should not bring up new arguments or undisclosed information within the conclusion paragraph. Instead, include it in one of the main passages or avoid it altogether. Like a good story, your essay should have a satisfying ending.

Five-Paragraph Essay Example

Now that you’ve learned everything you need to know about paragraph order and structure, let’s put theory into practice. We’ve found an excellent example of a 5-paragraph essay that incorporates most points we discuss in this post. 



As you skim this sample and seek other examples, remember that reading will not make you better at composing passages and building essays out of them. The only way to perfect your writing style is to write. So don’t get stuck reading others’ works, and find the courage to start writing.

Top 10 Exciting 5 Paragraph Essay Topics

If it’s part of the in-class exam or a standardized test, you will get a choice of two or three 5 paragraph essay topics or prompts. But if it’s a low-stakes homework assignment and you have the freedom to choose any subject, below you’ll find our list of top 10 ideas to consider:

  1. Is ‘cancel culture’ a symptom of a fair society?
  2. The causes and effects of workplace gender discrimination
  3. The spread of early-childhood gender transition
  4. The healthcare issues uncovered by the Covid-19 pandemic
  5. Is there a need for religion in the 21st century?
  6. How to gauge smartphone addiction in students?
  7. The common causes and effects of insomnia
  8. Should recreational cannabis selling be legal?
  9. The impact Elon Musk had on Twitter
  10. Is renewable energy better for the environment than fossil fuel?

Need More Help with Your 5 Paragraph Essay?

We hope this brief 5 paragraph essay writing guide helps you understand the basics and master this type of writing. But we realize practice takes time, which you may not have, especially around midterms and finals. So contact us if you need more help with five-paragraph essays, whether it’s with choosing the topic, researching it, writing the paper, or editing and proofreading. Our experts can deliver a flawless piece in 24 hours or less and let you meet every deadline.

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