‘Nooooooooooo!’ the examiner screams in horror as he picks up his sixty-third test paper. ‘Not another rhetorical question!’ The poor fella is marking an exam where candidates have been asked to write an article about their hobby for children. For some reason, a majority of candidates think it awfully original to begin with a question along the lines of ‘Do you like rugby?’ or ‘Do you want to keep fit?’

Every example elicits from the examiner a bitterly sarcastic retort. ‘No, I don’t actually,’ he seethes as he forms a giant red ‘D’ at the top of the page.

Let’s soothe the examiner’s wrecked nerves, then – and avoid the demon Ds, by trying out a few different starters.

1. Start with Imagine or Picture this

Imagine you’re running through freezing mud, being chased by five men twice your size.

Picture this: a giant, seething mass of taut muscle, heaving and scrapping over a funny shaped ball.

2. In medias res. This means ‘in the middle of things.’ It’s similar to the above technique except you don’t even introduce the scene, you just jump straight in:

You’re running for your life through the freezing mud clutching a misshapen ball. Up ahead of you, is a man roughly twice your size and three times your weight, and between him and the edge of the field, a mere ten yards.

3. Start with an unexpected or contrary statement. Anyone who has to read a lot for a living will appreciate a bit of contrariness, if only to relieve the tedium of reading the same opinions over and over again.

Contrary to popular belief, Rugby is not just for oversized men.

If you want to get fit, build your muscles or be part of a team, there are lot’s of great sports out there. Not Rugby though: rugby is for sadists who like violence, fear, discomfort and pain.


Do you like tennis? No, actually, I don’t. Serve three smashing opening sentences that examiners will just love (bad puns optional).

Good luck to those pupils sitting the GCSE exam on Thursday!  ^^


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