There are many key writing techniques required to achieve the best grades.
The video and text below look at some of the best technigues to help you achieve top marks
What are these techniques?
- Remain focused on the question
- Clear conclusion
- Organisation/ paragraphing
Good essay practice should include:-
- Make sure you write a brief plan for your answer. In your plan you should identify very clearly around six distinct points you intend to make and the specific parts of the text that you intend to examine in some detail.
- Spend about 5 or 10 minutes planning as this will help you make sure you have chosen the right question (because then you know you have lots of material to cover).
- This should be brief; you could include what your main view is and what other ideas you have.
- Don't list the poems or ideas you are going to include in the rest of your essay as you will be repeating yourself.
- Don't begin with ‘In this essay I am going to ...' and then list ideas.
- Try to begin by addressing the question straight away.
- Make sure you use them as it makes your writing clearer for you and the examiner.
- When writing your essay you should devote one or two paragraphs to each idea from your plan. Try to make smooth links between paragraphs.
- When you make a point - you must give evidence to prove it. When you make a point, refer to the text and give an example to back up what you say. The best way to do this is to use a quotation from the text.
- Remember to include quotations, but not too many and don't make them too long. A good quotation can be a line or two long or just a few words from a line.
- Do not copy out whole long sections from texts as this is wasting time.
- Don't retell the plot of the story. The important thing is to be selective in the way you use the text. Only refer to those parts of the book/poem that help you to answer the question.
Answer the question
- It sounds obvious, but it's so easy to forget the question and write the essay you did in the mock. When you have finished a paragraph read it through and ask yourself. "Am I still answering the question?" If you think you are not then you need to change it, so that you are still focussed.
- At the end, try to draw all the strands of your various points together. This should be the part of your essay that answers the question most directly and forcefully. Keep checking the question.
- Keep it formal. Try to avoid making it chatty, so avoid using abbreviations e.g. ‘don't', ‘won't' and do not call writers by their surnames so for William Golding you should call him Golding rather than William, which is too informal.
- Remember you do not have to agree with other people's points of view about literature. If your ideas are original or different, so long as you develop them clearly, use evidence intelligently and argue persuasively, your point of view will be respected. We want literature to touch you personally and it will often affect different people in different ways. Be creative.
- There is no one correct answer to questions on English Literature, just well explored and explained ones.
CHECKLIST AFTER WRITING YOUR ESSAY
- Written a plan and stuck to it?
- Written in clear paragraphs?
- Produced evidence to prove all your points?
- Used quotations from your chosen text(s)?
- Answered the question?
Generally speaking to get good marks you have to do the following:
To get an A* you need to be insightful, sensitive, convincing and evaluative.
For an A you need to be analytical and exploratory.
For a B you need to sustain your answer linking details to what the writer is trying to say and thoughtfully consider the meanings of the texts.
For a C you need to structure your answer to the question, use details effectively to back up your ideas and make some appropriate comment on the meaning of the texts.
For a D you need to answer the question and explain your ideas with some supporting quotations from the text.
Use sophisticated vocabulary, grammar and punctuation throughout and make sure that you use them properly. Using a range of words is effective because it can help to express your understanding and if you use the same words over and over again it can sound like you're repeating yourself. You may find yourself using a comma or a full stop that could be replaced with a semi-colon (;).
Analyse the language in depth. Make comments and by doing this you can identify techniques (e.g. metaphors, similes, hyperbole, imagery) that the writer uses and discuss the effect that it has: '[..] the sound bite at the start that begins 'perhaps the most generally ....' breaks the smooth, flowing of the prose. This emphasizes the negativity of the comment and startles readers because it is unexpected. Despite this, it is a good technique to keep readers engaged.' This is good because it shows that the student understand how the language and techniques are effective.
P.E.E.L. is something that I personally used in my English essays. This means to makes a point; back up the point with evidence (a quote); explain what this means and then make some further comments on the language/techniques within that quote e.g. 'The use of the hyperbole '[example of hyperbole]' is actually quite interesting; it helps to emphasize the portrayal of the protagonist's experience as [...]'
G.A.P.L.I.S.T refers to genre, audience, purpose, language, information, style and tone. Although it may be good to remember it as a whole, you may only really need to hold on to the thought of the genre, audience, language, style and tone. When it comes to the audience you may want to focus on how certain techniques may appeal to the audience. When it comes to tone, you may want to look at the techniques and language used that helps to determine the way that the author feels towards a certain subject.
Refer to the question after you've finished a point and when you are ready to move on to the next paragraph. It is important to refer back to the original question throughout where ever it may be possible.