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Five-paragraph Writing Guidelines

Five-Paragraph Reflective Response Paper Guidelines for the Education Exam

Description of a Reflective Response Paper

This type of paper usually begins with reading a text. It may be a book, an essay, a short story, a letter, a speech, an editorial, or, in this case, a prompt. The paper should contain an introduction that refers to the prompt and creates interest; a body that summarizes, evaluates, and/or responds to the thesis; and a conclusion.


The introductory paragraph should create interest in the topic and entice readers to keep reading. It should briefly describe the prompt and include a thesis or main idea. The main idea may entail three specific points that can be discussed in the next three paragraphs, or it may analyze one main point in depth.


Three Main Points:
If the idea contains three main points, take three paragraphs to discuss each point in detail, in the same order as they appear in the introduction. Be sure to use transitional phrases to help readers move from one point to the next.

One Main Idea:
If only one idea is to be analyzed, follow a format that summarizes, evaluates, and responds to the main point.

Summarizing: The summary should be very short, probably one paragraph. Its purpose is to fill in background and bring the reader up to speed so both the writer (you) and the reader are starting from the same place.

Evaluating: The evaluation should make specific references to the prompt and discuss reasons for the main point. Evaluating simply means explaining what the author meant and why it is important.

Responding: This is the most important part of the reflective essay. What connections can you make to your own experience and/or life in general? Use personal examples to illustrate the points you are trying to make.


The final paragraph should sum up the main points you've discussed and give a sense of closure. It is a good idea to refer back to your introductory paragraph in some way. This gives the reader the sense that the paper has come full circle. To leave readers satisfied, the paper should make a final point without introducing new material.

Paper length for a timed essay exam is usually one page. See Writing Exam Tips for specific suggestions on how to prepare for the exam.