Learn English Writing: the Hypothesis

Learning how to write a sentence with a hypothesis helps ESL students organize text, summarize complex ideas, and write with style.

Summarizing information is a challenge for my EFL students. For example, if I ask students to summarize a short story in a video, they tend to present information in the same sequence as the story. There is no synthesis of information, no presentation of a theme, no defense of an idea.  It’s all very cook bookish.

Teaching students how to write a hypothesis is one solution. The idea is that students synthesize information into a specific sentence pattern and then spend the balance of the text defending the idea or at least explaining it with evidence and details.

Part 1. Basic Hypothesis Format

A hypothesis is a sentence that tells us two (or more) things are related to each other. What is not in the hypothesis is an explanation about HOW the two things are related.

Hypothesis sentences are useful for two reasons.

  • They can summarize complex ideas in one sentence.
  • They tell us what to expect in the future.

Here are some basic patterns for a hypothesis sentence:

  1. the more this, the more that
  2. the more this, the less that
  3. the less this, the more that
  4. the less this, the less that

Part 2. Examples

  • The longer I study, the higher my grades.
  • The more I exercise, the more weight I lose.
  • The more junk food teenagers eat, the more pimples they get.
  • The more I work, the less happiness I feel.

In each of these examples, answer these questions:

  • What are the two things that are related to each other?
  • How are they connected?
  • Are these claims accurate?

Part 3. Practice

Open this pdf file and look at the chart.

  1. Summarize the chart data by writing one hypothesis sentence that connects two things that seem to change.
  2. Do you think the assertion is true?

Part 4. More Practice

Work with a partner. Write five hypothesis sentences.

Part 5. Even More Practice

Read the story below about teaching styles. Write at least one hypothesis based on this study.

This story is about a research project that looked at the impact of different teaching styles on student achievement and attitudes. It is based on 1954 research at the University of Michigan with a large first year psychology class.

All students were divided into 3 groups.

  • Group A had a traditional lecture.
  • Groups B and C were tutorials and discussions.

At the end of the semester, two differences were noticed. Students in the lecture class (Group A) got higher final scores than students in the discussion classes. Plus, the teacher in the lecture class got a higher rating by students than teachers in the other groups.

Initially, the research seems to suggest that traditional lecturing is more effective. But, researchers followed the students after the first year. None of the students in the lecture class decided to major in psychology. But 14 of the students from the tutorial and discussion class decided to major in psychology.

Part 6. Apply New Skills

Now you know how to write a hypothesis sentence. Let’s put that knowledge into practice.

Click here to go to a longer writing exercise. Your task is to:

  • watch the video
  • summarize the information in a hypothesis
  • use your creative thinking to explain this relationship
  • write your own ideas about this argument – do you think it is true?


Teach writing?

If you are looking for new lesson ideas and activities for your writing class, take a look at my ebook Teach Essential Writing Skills. Transform the quality of EFL student writing by focusing on four essential skills.


Save time. Teach well.

Cut your lesson prep time with this 240-page collection of ESL resources that stimulate language learning and critical thinking: awesome pair work speaking activities, logic puzzles, trivia, word games and much more. Simplify your lesson planning because teaching should be a joy, not a chore.

Note: the story about psychology students comes from The Art and Science of Teaching by Ted Wragg.

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