blackdiamond97
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I'm in year 12 and I've gotten back some of my English essays that I wrote and generally, I seem to be working at a B atm. I would like to get to an A before May, so could someone tell me what I would need to do to achieve that or even better the differences between a B and an A grade candidate?

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Zoelingua
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The first thing I would suggest to do is really focus on and read your teachers feedback as they know more than anyone what A grade work looks like... I don't know how you write, but I can give you some general advice which might help

I got an A at AS, partly through luck of the questions on the day, but also because I worked extremely hard!!! For me, the act of writing helped me get higher marks in mocks because I learnt how to be concise in my work meaning I could cover more in the exam. Having a topic/theme for each paragraph and not deterring from it when you're writing really helps with structure, A grade candidates always have a set structure in their work. Always, ALWAYS make sure you cover form and structure in your essays, something a simple as mentioning the poem is a sonnet, the rhyme scheme it has or the writers use of enjambment for example are all things A grade students take into account confidently, but are some things B grade students may struggle to do (not saying this applies to you!). Put context and critical readings in every paragraph too; find things which most people won't know or wouldn't think to include as it helps your work stand out from the rest. A grade candidates not only respond to the question but also challenge it, are able to give their opinion in an eloquent way which again, sets them apart from other students.

Hope that helps!
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blackdiamond97
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(Original post by Zoelingua)
The first thing I would suggest to do is really focus on and read your teachers feedback as they know more than anyone what A grade work looks like... I don't know how you write, but I can give you some general advice which might help

I got an A at AS, partly through luck of the questions on the day, but also because I worked extremely hard!!! For me, the act of writing helped me get higher marks in mocks because I learnt how to be concise in my work meaning I could cover more in the exam. Having a topic/theme for each paragraph and not deterring from it when you're writing really helps with structure, A grade candidates always have a set structure in their work. Always, ALWAYS make sure you cover form and structure in your essays, something a simple as mentioning the poem is a sonnet, the rhyme scheme it has or the writers use of enjambment for example are all things A grade students take into account confidently, but are some things B grade students may struggle to do (not saying this applies to you!). Put context and critical readings in every paragraph too; find things which most people won't know or wouldn't think to include as it helps your work stand out from the rest. A grade candidates not only respond to the question but also challenge it, are able to give their opinion in an eloquent way which again, sets them apart from other students.

Hope that helps!
Thank you so much! I was just wondering whether you can expand a bit on analyzing form in essays, I always seem to struggle on that

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Zoelingua
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(Original post by blackdiamond97)
Thank you so much! I was just wondering whether you can expand a bit on analyzing form in essays, I always seem to struggle on that

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Think of form as an established pattern, something writers of a particular genre all do.

Things you could write about for form include: characterisation, setting, epistolary (the use of letters in a novel)

One of the books I'm studying, Birdsong, uses letters. Here's an excerpt of what I wrote about it: "Through the use of third person narrative and intertexuality, Faulks’ Birdsong uses an epistolary structure to reveal the perspective of different characters."

I find form easier to write about when analysing poetry, there's so much to say! You could talk about it being a sonnet, ballad, the meter (trimeter, dimeter, quatrameter), the rhyme (iamb, trochee, spondee), free verse etc
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Roseland
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It's also really important to have a clear line of argument.

Having a topic/theme for each paragraph and not deterring from it when you're writing really helps with structure, A grade candidates always have a set structure in their work.
Many exam boards will want a clear analysis of language, form, and structure. However, a sound conclusion must also be reached. This means uniting what has been said about the language, form, and structure, and developing an answer as to how the reader responds or how the writer develops a particular emotion.

Thank you so much! I was just wondering whether you can expand a bit on analyzing form in essays, I always seem to struggle on that Image
Form is the one that often gives people the most trouble. Really easily, it can be imagined as stuff that isn't language or structure. Normally I stick to the narrative point of view or the genre — that is first person, second person (direct address), third person, the novel (why is this a novel? Can lead to some good contextual points), tragedy, comedy, etc. Doing more than this can sometimes lead to confusion. So Zoe says above:

You could talk about it being a sonnet, ballad, the meter (trimeter, dimeter, quatrameter)"
the rhyme (iamb, trochee, spondee)


I wouldn't talk about it being a sonnet or a ballad and I wouldn't talk about pentameter and line length because those are structural points. I wouldn't talk about rhyme either, because that dictates where the lines come in a poem and therefore is a structural point. However, I would talk about the metre and stress patterns (you seem to have gotten your terms confused here), such as iambs, trochees, dactyls, anapaests, as this is something that does not come under structure or language and is also crucial in why it was written as a poem (as I said earlier, genre and format are really good things to analyse).

Just remember, it's really important to draw this together. So if I took Shakespeare's Sonnet 18 (and you will never see this in exam for very good reason), I might say that structurally it's a Shakespearian sonnet (ABABCDCDEFEFGG) which generally expresses love, that the language has passionate connotations, and that it is written iambically and with direct address. All this gives Shakespeare's feelings a fully-realised and confident sense, which is important when he's declaring his love so intimately.
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blackdiamond97
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(Original post by Roseland)
However, I would talk about the metre and stress patterns (you seem to have gotten your terms confused here), such as iambs, trochees, dactyls, anapaests... [/FONT][/COLOR]
Would you mind explaining these terms a bit more?
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Roseland
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(Original post by blackdiamond97)
Would you mind explaining these terms a bit more?
Sorry for the late response.

These terms are quite complicated and correct identification of them signifies a good student.

Firstly, it is very important to note that they're just one of the things I mentioned under form. If you don't understand them or you're not comfortable writing about them in an exam — don't! Always go for your strongest points. Secondly, they only apply to poetry. If you get extracts that are not poetical, do not use these terms.

Basically, metre refers to a combination of line length and stress pattern. Line length involves the number of syllables that are in a line. These syllables can be split up into groups and these groups are called metrical feet. You've probably heard the term iambic pentameter and you may have been taught that it means ten syllables with five metric feet. This is slightly incorrect because it only addresses the line length part, but I will explain that too.

So let's take a Shakespeare's Sonnet 18, which I've referenced before:


Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate.


Both lines have 10 syllables (indeed, all of the 14 lines have 10 syllables). If we divide ten by two, we get 5 and in all of the lines there are 5 metric feet or five groups of two syllables.

1---------2---------3---------4---------5
Shall I | compare | thee to | a summ | er's day?
Thou art | more love | ly and | more tem |perate

And we see pentameter all over literature. In the next example, Alexander Pope uses an apostrophe so that the reader pronounces beck-ning in two syllables rather than beck-o-ning in three:

What beck' | ning ghost, | along | the moon | light shade
Invites | my steps, | and points | to yon | der glade?

See? Ten syllables again. And they're in five pairs.

But this only addresses the pentameter half. There's also the iambic half. This is what is called a stress pattern. It is the natural 'weight' that people put on words.

Read this sentence slowly and note how the italicised word is pronounced differently: I am a rebel and I rebel against the state. In the first case (a noun), the 'bel' turns into a kind of 'bl' sound, and there is a lot of emphasis on the 're'. In the second case (the verb), the first syllable is much lighter, but the 'bel' sounds much more like 'bell'. This is stress and all words have a stress. This rebel example is just a really handy coincidence that sets an example of how stress changes — but of course, if I take a word like cover, it is the same regardless of whether it's a noun or a verb.

The syllable that gets the most weight is called the stressed syllable and the word that is the least pronounced is called the unstressed syllable. The noun 'rebel' is therefore stressed-unstressed and the verb is unstressed-stressed.

Because there are so many words and so many different line lengths, poets need a ton of words to describe all these different patterns. The iamb is the most common in English poetry and it is unstressed-stressed. You can say that for just about any line, it gives a sense of a rising, passionate, romantic movement. Let's look at some poetry again:

To be, | or not | to be, | that is | the quest | ion—

Now let's combine the two ideas that make up metre — syllables and stress — and look at this line. This is pentametric again. I've used this example also to show you that lines can be 11 syllables long and still considered pentameter because there's only five complete feet (the final syllable is called a feminine ending because it is unstressed). If you read this slowly, you should note that naturally you skip over the small words and prepositions and focus on the important words.


To BE, | or NOT | to BE, | that IS | the QUEST | ion—

That's all there is to stress. So an iamb is what is seen above, with an unstressed (skipped) and then a stressed (emphasised) syllable. A trochee is the opposite. It's a stressed followed by an unstressed. A spondee is two stressed syllables (this is quite rare in English) and a pyrrhic is two unstressed syllables. Beyond that there are some very common forms, such as dactyls and anapaests. I won't explain these in this post, but if you're interested then do feel free to ask. They involve metric feet composed of three syllables — so a dactyl is a stressed followed by two unstressed syllables.

Finally, go back to the first two poetic examples I used (Sonnet 18 and An Elegy to the Memory of an Unfortunate Lady) and read them slowly. You should now note that they're not only pentametric, but iambic too.
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blackdiamond97
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So the above is just one way to analyze form? Is it possible to gain an A without doing this?

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i wouldn't say it's possible to attain a high band mark unless you analysed form as well as structure and language. that post above was insanely good, and complicated and detailed - and if you know what you're talking about, it'll really really help you. but i don't think it's necessary for your analysis of form to be quite as sound and complex as that - mention of genre, narrative etc more simple things should be enough. but if you can understand and use things like mentioned above, it'll really put you on the examiners good side.
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