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Tips on English Literature essay writing (A level)

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    I'm having problems with my timed essays for English Lit. A lot of them are to do with having a bad structure to them and not picking up marks with what I'm saying. What I write tends to not be corresponding to the marks in the mark scheme. Thing is, when I write, I just tend to write and write that I kinda just let my ideas all loose onto the paper and it just ends up failing on me.

    I'd just like your tips on improving my English Lit essays in accordance to getting high marks and how to properly write and structure an essay.
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    The way to get a high A involves trying to categorize important points.

    If you can find something in common between a group of points, and you can put that into a paragraph/section - your essay will flow a lot better.

    Within those paragraphs, if you have a quote and an explanation for every point mentioned - you're bound to get high marks!
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    Ah, thanks any more?
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    (Original post by Sadian)
    Ah, thanks any more?
    Hey, I'm studying English Literature at uni now but at A-level I had exactly the same problem.

    I'm assuming that you already do this but if not, practice essay questions and ask your tutor to go over what you've written with you. I found this helped a lot for me as they could give me some good feedback about where I had improved and what else I needed to work on for next time.

    Linked to this, my tutor advised me to spend 10-15 mins on each question, writing a plan of what I was going to say before I used the rest of th time to do the question. I found this made my work less waffley.

    As well as this, I found that forcing a strict "PEER" structure to each paragraph helped ALOT.

    POINT - Make an initial statement. For example, "To an extent it could be argued that ...."

    EXPLANATION - After this statement, go on to explain your point.

    EVIDENCE - Linking to your explanation, use a quote from the text to back it up.

    REITERATE - Basically repeat your initial point. " This shows that ...."


    I never managed to get a great grade in my exams compared to coursework but I found that this greatly helped me to improve my exam grades.

    Hope this helps
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    If it's a problem with structure then I'd make a few suggestions. Planning is vital, so before jumping into the essay flesh out a decent plan. Specify the content of each paragraph with a topic sentence in order to guide the examiner through your argument. When planning it's a good idea to reference where quotes are so you don't forget to include them. Try to consider alternative perspectives when writing your paragraphs. For example, a certain symbol may be ambiguous: explore these numerous interpretations and consider the strength of each.
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    (Original post by Baula)
    Hey, I'm studying English Literature at uni now but at A-level I had exactly the same problem.

    I'm assuming that you already do this but if not, practice essay questions and ask your tutor to go over what you've written with you. I found this helped a lot for me as they could give me some good feedback about where I had improved and what else I needed to work on for next time.

    Linked to this, my tutor advised me to spend 10-15 mins on each question, writing a plan of what I was going to say before I used the rest of th time to do the question. I found this made my work less waffley.

    As well as this, I found that forcing a strict "PEER" structure to each paragraph helped ALOT.

    POINT - Make an initial statement. For example, "To an extent it could be argued that ...."

    EXPLANATION - After this statement, go on to explain your point.

    EVIDENCE - Linking to your explanation, use a quote from the text to back it up.

    REITERATE - Basically repeat your initial point. " This shows that ...."


    I never managed to get a great grade in my exams compared to coursework but I found that this greatly helped me to improve my exam grades.

    Hope this helps
    Hahah, that helps a lot. I've always had a problem with writing too much and most of it being waffling and no real structure to my paragraphs. Thanks a bunch!


    (Original post by kizstyle)
    If it's a problem with structure then I'd make a few suggestions. Planning is vital, so before jumping into the essay flesh out a decent plan. Specify the content of each paragraph with a topic sentence in order to guide the examiner through your argument. When planning it's a good idea to reference where quotes are so you don't forget to include them. Try to consider alternative perspectives when writing your paragraphs. For example, a certain symbol may be ambiguous: explore these numerous interpretations and consider the strength of each.
    Yeah, planning is my weak point. I try and plan but then I kinda end up waffling and disrupting the flow of my plan 'cause my plans are usually half-hearted.
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    (Original post by Sadian)


    Yeah, planning is my weak point. I try and plan but then I kinda end up waffling and disrupting the flow of my plan 'cause my plans are usually half-hearted.
    You should never need to waffle in a plan. A plan should generally be very minimalistic, including paragraph topics, brief examples and quotes. It's more of a memory aid to keep you on track - leave the fleshing out part for the essay
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    (Original post by Baula)
    You should never need to waffle in a plan. A plan should generally be very minimalistic, including paragraph topics, brief examples and quotes. It's more of a memory aid to keep you on track - leave the fleshing out part for the essay
    Oh, I mean waffling in the actual essay even if I'm following the plan :P I follow the plan then I end up going off-track through my waffling 'cause my brain decides to think new ideas unrelated to my previous plan and forces me to write them down and then I just end up waffling on and on.
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    PLAN PLAN PLAN!
    I used to have this problem too, but then I started making really detailed plans - writing out each point I would make in the essay and a quote or something to go with it and a few ideas about what I wanted to say about it, and putting them in the right order, and then write the essay expanding on it. Planning really pays off
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    (Original post by Sadian)
    Oh, I mean waffling in the actual essay even if I'm following the plan :P I follow the plan then I end up going off-track through my waffling 'cause my brain decides to think new ideas unrelated to my previous plan and forces me to write them down and then I just end up waffling on and on.
    Ahhh I see what you mean mmm if you think of it in the middle of writing, you could try maybe adding to your plan and coming back to it. If you have time to add it in at the end, you could go back to it and reassess whether it is relavent to the question.
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    I'd suggest making a list or mind-map of your ideas (whichever of the two you prefer) before even starting on a plan. This way any good ideas/links which would pop into your head can be written into the plan before writing, keeping it well structured.

    Once you've done this, then start on your plan - it doesn't have to be detailed, just rough bullet points of the ideas you'll mention and rough references to the text.

    When I wrote the essays for coursework, I always skipped the introduction because I never knew how to start and returned to it after I'd written the conclusion. Keep all your paragraphs linked, with the last sentences of the old paragraph linking in with the first sentence of the new paragraph, and link the intro with the conclusion. Stick to your plan. Do conscious-editing whilst you write. These are all the tips my teacher gave me I still really hate planning things but it did me well.

    EDIT: It's also a good idea to print out a copy of the AOs and the percentage of marks for each one, and keep it handy when you're writing/planning essays. Once you've written one, you can then use different coloured highlighters to go through your work and check you've got the proportions of each AO right.
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    (Original post by Sadian)
    I'm having problems with my timed essays for English Lit. A lot of them are to do with having a bad structure to them and not picking up marks with what I'm saying. What I write tends to not be corresponding to the marks in the mark scheme. Thing is, when I write, I just tend to write and write that I kinda just let my ideas all loose onto the paper and it just ends up failing on me.

    I'd just like your tips on improving my English Lit essays in accordance to getting high marks and how to properly write and structure an essay.
    Hi! You should first write a one-line answer to the question in rough. Then you need to write a brief plan the same rough paper with an idea for an introductory paragraph (this can be your sentence answer) and 3 or 4 others. Then start writing and stick to your plan, expanding your points and adding quotations. You will need a conclusion but you can just summarise what you have said. Fuller advice is on a page called Writing a Literature Essay" on a website: http:\\www.classicsenglishliterature.com
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    (Original post by min3yr5afon9)
    Hi! You should first write a one-line answer to the question in rough. Then you need to write a brief plan the same rough paper with an idea for an introductory paragraph (this can be your sentence answer) and 3 or 4 others. Then start writing and stick to your plan, expanding your points and adding quotations. You will need a conclusion but you can just summarise what you have said. Fuller advice is on a page called Writing a Literature Essay" on a website: http:\\www.classicsenglishliterature.com

    I second this website! Brilliant for helping me understand planning essays and how to answer exam questions. I'm sure there is even more to the website than I've only gotten to see.
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    (Original post by Baula)
    As well as this, I found that forcing a strict "PEER" structure to each paragraph helped ALOT.


    Great post! Came here to say teh same thing.

    Wish you guys luck in the exam if you're doing it this friday
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    This is what I follow and I tend to achieve the top band:
    Clear, assertive topic sentence
    2. Evidence - in the second sentence of the paragraph.
    3. Word level analysis (perhaps supported by further quotation) - be technical and specific.
    4. Link to whole text level - author's craft, context
    5. Link back to your title

    Hope this is of use!

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Updated: January 13, 2013
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