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How long should be your General Paper Essay?

As a direct answer, you are expected to write your essays in the range given below. But first, be careful to notice your syllabus code. 8004 is the one with both essays and 8001 is the one with an essay and a comprehension passage.

Syllabus CodeNo. of WordsNo of ParagraphsNo. of Pages

Clarification and further details

The answer is very clear but still you may have doubts and cross-questions like, why the difference and so on. The difference is pretty unnecessary but I'll try to explain that. First, the students appearing for 8001 and 8009 papers get a little longer time for an essay (about 1 hr and 15 mins) than the students appearing for 8004 syllabus (1 hour for 1 essay). Again the 8001 syllabus is considered a little tough and the students appearing for this syllabus are more competitive and hence, CIE is just allowing them to write longer essays if they desire. Note that the lower limit is same and therefore, you are not asked to write longer essays. It's just a freedom given to some students to express themselves better.

Does CIE really cares about the length of your Essay?

It mustn't surprise you but yes, the Cambridge examiners do consider the length of an essay (or the answers of paper 2 of 8001 general paper) as an important factor in marking. So, I advise you to strictly stick to the instructions given in the question paper before answering them, taking care of the word limit. I don't think the examiners count the number of words in your essays and they don't have to because they - from their experience - can easily reckon (guess) the length of your essays in approximate figures and that should be justifiable.

How can you know that your essay is of appropriate length?

An essay that consists of 6 to 9 paragraphs, including the introduction and concluding paragraphs, must be fine if your paragraphing is normal and follows the "one idea one paragraph" rule. And that should be somewhere between 3 to 5 pages in paper which largely depends upon your handwriting also. Don't write too long and too short paragraphs and don't worry much about the length because plus minus some words doesn't make you eligible for penalty. For example, if your essay turns out to have only 490 words then you certainly won't be penalized. However, if that's less than 450 words you will certainly be penalized. Don't write too long essays as well. It's better if you save time to check your answer and correct the errors. Cambridge appreciates that effort of yours to edit your answer, but that should be correct. Here I mean that making paper rough or dirty doesn't matter as long as the examiners can easily understand the corrected part.

Summary and my final words

To sum up, write adequately long essays with well organized paragraphs because Cambridge examiners care these things very much. The length of your essay and even the length of your paragraph counts. However, you'll only be penalized if you go extreme with the length of your paragraphs and the essay.


  1. How do you do counter argument in the essay?

  2. Counterargument is the argument which criticizes or opposes your own previous argument. For example, if you said that 'Technology is a book to mankind' in one paragraph, your counterargument will be something like:

    "Technology is not always a boon. Sometimes, if technology reaches the hand of wrong person, it can be misused and can have dangerous consequences. So, how we use it determines whether the technology is boon to mankind or not."

    I hope you've got the point.

  3. Hello sir please give me some info about how can i write this essay ' Discuss the importance of the multi-cultural unity in developing a culture of peace in the Mauritian nation. Thnxx in advance sir.

  4. Hello sir.. Could I have some help with understanding the phrase ' To what extent' ? I recently worked on a question which was ' To what extent should the state encourage small trade businesses?' When I read the mark scheme I saw that it defined what was SMB and its social and economical impacts whilst I was going to only state hoe the state could help them. Then, I converted the question into active form which became 'The state should encourage SMB. Do you agree?' And I 'seem' to understand the mark scheme. Can you provide some further help with some different examples please?

  5. I forgot to mention that Cambridge states in the mark scheme that not all fields are required to be explored and other points can help gain marks too. How far should our essays be consistent with the m. scheme? And should the best student cover the whole scheme plus other points? I hope my question is not too long and irrelevant. --'

  6. To what extent should the state encourage SMBs? should be answered this way:

    SMBs have xyz benefits to the society, to the country's economy, and to the government (for tax)! Therefore, the state should highly encourage them.

    That's why mark scheme focused upon the impacts of such business. If the impacts are good and favourable, the state should encourage them. Otherwise not.

    If you had written about how the state could help them, then you would have missed the whole point of 'whether the government should encourage them or not'! And if yes, to what extent and if no, to what extent should it discourage!

    As you see, the question is not difficult. But if you miss what the question asks, your score might be unexpectedly low. So, try to answer the question in a straightforward manner, crosschecking every paragraph whether your answer is consistent with the question or not.

  7. If your essays contains relevant answer (the answer which is directly addressing the question and not going off-topic), then your answer need not be consistent with m. scheme. However, the reality is that most points are covered in m. scheme as the examiners have broader knowledge base than us!

    No, the best student covers only 4 to 5 points and explain them well with relevant examples, and illustration. She goes on to clearly state and explain her points in a convincing manner.

    Trying to cover everything you know is never the aim of exams! You have too much of knowledge to express it in 3 hours. Being concise and selective is must!

  8. hi sir can u plz give me some main points on this essay: how far would you agree that TV 'soaps' can raise public awareness and aid understanding of important issues?

  9. This question is vague! My question to you:
    What is meant by TV "soaps" and what is meant by "important issues"?

    Both of these are difficult to figure out:

    But if we mean "soaps" as the ads of washing soap, and "important issues" as health and safety issues then here are a few points:

    Advertisements about soap, oblige us to use soap to clean our hands and body after playing with dirt!

    They make us aware that germs cause illness and we can prevent them by using soap appropriately. As a result, we can remain healthy.

    And so on.

  10. Actually it is the question from nov 2012/8009..I think by TV 'soaps" the examiner means about the TV programs we have, it may be in terms of advertising or any documentary programs or films..Thanks for helping..

  11. Can i write 11 para??
    one paragraph one idea??

    1. Yes you can. Actually that is what you should do, if you have short paragraphs and you have the word limit of 800 words which is the case for 8001 and 8009 papers.

    2. I had my gp paper yesterday .I did two essays I forgot to mention the question no. for my second essay and as what I heard from people around they said that the paper wont be corrected :( .is it true sir ?

  12. if my essay is irrelevant what will happen? the examiner will correct it, may i have marks or i will be marked zero marks?

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