Structuring an AS English Lit Essay (Edexcel)

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CharmingCat
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Having sat one of my two English Literature mock exams earlier today (Streetcar and Poems of the Decade), one lesson that I have definitely learned is that I need to work on structuring my essays in such a fashion that I can still analyse quotes and back up my thesises as much as possible (analysing is not at all a problem for me, though forcing myself to stop at times is a bit difficult!) whilst being able to find enough time to make other points and write a good conclusion.

I recognise that AS Level essays are not all like those that are written at GCSE level; for example, I realise that PEELIC/PEECOW (random ones I remember, if they are even correct!) are not really enough to get the top grades at AS, yet I think that I need a structure (or at least a reasonably flexible one) in place so that I manage to evaluate and explore various interpretations.

As ever, any advice/tips would be greatly appreciated because, ultimately, I just want to perform as well as I know I can. It honestly frustrates me that all of these themes, interpretations, theories, specialist vocabulary and ideas are swimming in my head for drama, theory and prose, yet not enough of these are not ending up on my exam papers when I'm in the exam hall! However, like all stories, I suppose that there is always a state of disequilibrium before the equilibrium is restored, right?

Thank you!
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ousib
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Hi! Honestly, I feel your pain as an A level English student

Most of your teachers will likely tell you that there is no fixed structure to an A level English essay, which is most unhelpful. Whilst you can't follow the GCSE method, like you said, some of the key parts remain (e.g zooming in on quotes). Language analysis is a good way to pick up marks, if you can find authorial methods this will demonstrate your ability to understand what the author is doing and why they are doing it. Additionally, it's important that you have an argument and stick to it! Unlike GCSE, you should argue a point of view on the topic presented to you. For Streetcar, you could give your own opinion of key characters like Blanche or Stanley, or even give an argument on the relationships presented between characters and why Tennessee has written them in such a way. This should of course be directly linked back to the question. Introduce your argument with a bold statement in your intro, then in 4-5 paragraphs make the examiner believe what you're telling them using evidence, not forgetting contextual knowledge (e.g setting, time, class). For top marks, include counter-arguments and then prove them wrong. Your conclusion should then act as a solidification of your argument and the points you have made, but do not make this as brief as GCSE (I'd advise just under half a page depending on your handwriting). Since you're presumably studying tragedy, use some theories to back up your points, for example Aristotle's theory or the tragedy of the common man.

Hopefully I haven't forgotten anything, best of luck with your AS level.
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