Why compare and contrast in academic English?

This is the first of three short chapters about Compare and Contrast Essays. To complete this reader, read each chapter carefully and then unlock and complete our materials to check your understanding.   

– Remind the reader of the seven academic essay types

– Explore the idiosyncrasies of the compare and contrast essay

– Provide example compare and contrast essay questions

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Chapter 1

University students are frequently tasked with the challenge of academic essay writing, which is a skill that’s undoubtedly complex to master. Not only must students consider sources and research, vocabulary and grammar, essay and paragraph structure, and coherence and cohesion, but they must also become familiar with the wide variety of possible essay types – each of which requires different styles and techniques. This short reader has therefore been created to assists learners with one essay type in particular, the compare and contrast essay. While Chapter 1 explores what makes this essay type unique and provides example compare and contrast essay questions, Chapter 2 focuses more specifically on the techniques for writing a successful essay of this type. Finally, Chapter 3 provides an example essay for students to use as a model and reference tool.

What are the different essay types?

Before exploring the compare and contrast essay in significant detail, it’s important that we first briefly introduce the various types of essay available to students and teachers. It’s vital that students can identify each of the following seven essay types as each may require unique language structures and organisation and each may necessitate different levels of research and argumentation.

1. Cause and Effect Essays = The purpose of a cause and effect essay is usually to explain to the reader the connection between an event or situation (the cause) and the result that such an event or situation has created (the effect).

2. Compare and Contrast Essays =The main purpose of a compare and contrast essay is to take two or more concepts, events or ideas and compare them for similarities or contrast them for differences.

3. Descriptive Essays =  Descriptive essays are often described as being the essay type which brings a topic ‘alive’ for the reader by describing that topic in significant detail.

4. Evaluative Essays = In an evaluative essay, the writer provides their overall opinion on a topic, a judgement of that opinion (such as its strengths and weaknesses), criteria for arriving at that conclusion, and evidence to support that particular viewpoint.

5. Persuasive Essay = Persuasive essays are argumentative, tending to demonstrate that there are two (or possibly more) opinions to any given topic by providing evidence for both sides of the argument.

6. Problem-Solution Essays = The purpose of a problem-solution essay is firstly to identify and explain a problem (usually something global or significant) and then to provide possible solutions for that issue.

7. Process Essays = The purpose of a process essay is to explain to the reader how something happens or to instruct the reader in how to replicate a process.

Why are compare and contrast essays common?

The compare and contrast essay type in particular requires that a writer finds two or more concepts, events or ideas and investigates them to determine their similarities and differences. Ultimately, the writer will also have to determine whether there are more similarities between the two items being explored or more dissimilarities – and attempt to explain why. These two items could be historical people, fictional characters, theories, methods, or really any two things that can be categorised together and as such compared. Tutors will frequently turn to this essay type because the structure is more straightforward, the research simpler, and because students can be more familiar with the items being compared.

What are some example compare/contrast questions?

While most compare and contrast essays usually focus on providing both similarities and differences, this is not always the case. To help students in identifying the structure of a compare and contrast essay, we’ve first provided a number of example questions below which either ask the writer to (1) compare and contrast, (2) compare only, and (3) contrast only.


1. Compare and Contrast Questions

Compare and contrast the governing styles of Donald Trump and Xi Jinping.

Draw comparisons and contrasts between British and American English.

What are the similarities and differences between introverts and extroverts?

How is home-schooling both similar and different to having a public education?


2. Compare Only Questions

Examine how the political systems of the USA and China are similar.

Draw comparisons between the cities of London and Paris.

In which ways are humans and chimpanzees similar?

How are Christianity and Islam similar?


3. Contrast Only

Explore how Google and Amazon have different management styles.

How do digital and face-to-face communication styles contrast?

Explain the differences between capitalism and communism.

How is Hinduism different to Judaism?


Now that we’ve explored the basic concepts of compare and contrast essays, students shouldn’t forget to check their comprehension by unlocking Chapter 1’s activities. Following this, Chapter 2 next focuses on the six most important steps for creating effective compare and contrast essays.

To reference this reader:

Academic Marker (2022) Compare and Contrast Essays. Available at: https://academicmarker.com/essay-writing/essay-types/compare-and-contrast-essays/ (Accessed: Date Month Year).

1 of 3 Chapters Completed


Once you’ve completed all three chapters in this short academic reader about Compare and Contrast Essays, you might then wish to download our Chapter Worksheets to check your progress or print for your students. These professional PDF worksheets can be easily accessed for only a few Academic Marks.

Chapter 1 explores the topic: Why compare and contrast in academic English? Our Chapter 1 Worksheet (containing guidance, activities and answer keys) can be accessed here at the click of a button.

Chapter 2 explores the topic: What makes a compare-contrast essay successful? Our Chapter 2 Worksheet (containing guidance, activities and answer keys) can be accessed here at the click of a button. 

Chapter 3 explores the topic: What is an example compare and contrast essay? Our Chapter 3 Worksheet (containing guidance, activities and answer keys) can be accessed here at the click of a button. 

To save yourself 2 Marks, click on the button below to gain unlimited access to all of our Compare and Contrast Essays reader Worksheets. This All-in-1 Pack includes every chapter, activity and answer key related to this reader in one handy and professional PDF.

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