What is a reflective essay and personal experience essay

January 09, 2015 - Posted to Useful Tips To Improve Essay Writing Skills What is a reflective essay and personal experience essay

It's time to take a look at a reflective and a personal essay, which are a lot of times confused to be similar. We thought it important to elaborate these two types of essays to help the readers make a clear demarcation.

What is a reflective essay?

Reflective essay is a personal write-up from the writer telling about his/her progress in the field of writing. In other words, a reflective essay is about the observation of the writer about self-progress in writing. These types of essays are focused towards monitoring the growth and scope of the writer in future, by checking the graph of development, written by writer him/herself. Reflective essays are considered an important part of the writer's portfolio, and list down the developments, strengths, opinions, and several other important things telling about the writer's writing skills and improvement. They are more detailed in terms of expressing about one's experience and impact on behavior.

Another important thing to be known about the reflective essays is that they are written in first person, as 'I', 'my', 'me', etc. If you still wonder what is a reflective essay, in further details reflective essays are written in any of the formatting-styles, like APA, MLA, Chicago, etc. To speak further about reflective essays, they are more like cause and effect on the writer resulting out of a personal experience.

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What is a personal experience essay?

A personal essay is also known as a narrative essay. A personal essay is a realistic story of the writer, based upon a true incident that happened with him/her, in an interesting manner. This isn't much detailed, but highlights the factual part of the incidents. They are more of a non-detailed narration, subtracting any other impact of one's life due to the incident picked as the topic. This type of essays are very flexible, as they are based upon the writer's personal experience, and hence gives complete liberty to the writer to decide the kind of structure he wants to follow.

Personal experience essay is primarily observatory, and doesn't require any critical analysis done from the writer's side. Also, it doesn't require getting into details as to why the writer found it worthy to be picked as a topic. Although there has to be a purpose-statement, but it doesn't require too much elaboration.

How are they similar as well as different?


  • Both have similar structural design, i.e. introduction, main body, and conclusion.
  • Both speak about writer's opinion.
  • Both types of essays take story-telling style of presentation, but are still considered under non-fictional style of writing.


  • Reflective essay is mostly structured in the pre-designed formatting layout, while the personal experience essay is very flexible. Despite of having the introduction and conclusion in both the forms, there are structural differences in both.
  • The content of the reflective essay exposes itself to critical discussion, while the personal experience essays are observatory.
  • The reflective essays aren't written unless it’s sure to mention about a significant change in the writer's life. On the contrary, the personal experience essays are simple narration about the topic, even if the topic might not have done any change to the writer's life. 
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