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A-Level English Literature

Hello,

As exams are approaching, I am getting more and more insecure about my writing which is not a great look! Would you mind sharing with me some of your writing tips that have helped you secure an A/A*?

Thank you!
Reply 1
Original post by meli77
Hello,

As exams are approaching, I am getting more and more insecure about my writing which is not a great look! Would you mind sharing with me some of your writing tips that have helped you secure an A/A*?

Thank you!

Hi

I'm only in Year 12 and am still targeted a B at A-level but have recently found ways to try and improve my essays (I scored an A in my last essay on which I got 18/25). I'm assuming you'rd Year 13? Here are some of the key tips that I've learnt so far

- Examiners are looking for the big picture of a text. At A-level, it's important not to focus on word level analysis like at GCSE E.G - This verb highlights that. They are looking for Macro techniques - e.g - character actions, physical appearance, setting, description, narrative techniques, dialogue, grammatical structure etc. You can focus on word level analysis but try to do this only if it helps describe one of the macro techniques.
- Write using a sociological theory - E.G Marxism or Feminism and sustain it throughout the essay
- Context - weave it in and out of your essay rather than just sticking it on the end and make sure it links to your overall idea/argument. I'm still working on this and I didn't use context correctly in my last essay which dragged my grade from an A* to an A
- Stagecraft - For the drama paper, talk about dramatic techniques that are in the stage directions such as lighting, costume, music etc.
- Talk about the genre of your novel/play - E.g - Gothic, Tragedy, Science-Fiction etc and talk about trends associated with this genre. This is a type of context
- Some phrases will really impress the examiner. I've chosen a couple that my teacher gave my class.

X functions as a mechanism in order to show
X is a driving force for Y
X is constructed to demonstrate
X manipulates (technique) in order to highlight.

What texts do you do? If I know them I could give some more specific detail.
Reply 2
Original post by 7hibladen
Hi

I'm only in Year 12 and am still targeted a B at A-level but have recently found ways to try and improve my essays (I scored an A in my last essay on which I got 18/25). I'm assuming you'rd Year 13? Here are some of the key tips that I've learnt so far

- Examiners are looking for the big picture of a text. At A-level, it's important not to focus on word level analysis like at GCSE E.G - This verb highlights that. They are looking for Macro techniques - e.g - character actions, physical appearance, setting, description, narrative techniques, dialogue, grammatical structure etc. You can focus on word level analysis but try to do this only if it helps describe one of the macro techniques.
- Write using a sociological theory - E.G Marxism or Feminism and sustain it throughout the essay
- Context - weave it in and out of your essay rather than just sticking it on the end and make sure it links to your overall idea/argument. I'm still working on this and I didn't use context correctly in my last essay which dragged my grade from an A* to an A
- Stagecraft - For the drama paper, talk about dramatic techniques that are in the stage directions such as lighting, costume, music etc.
- Talk about the genre of your novel/play - E.g - Gothic, Tragedy, Science-Fiction etc and talk about trends associated with this genre. This is a type of context
- Some phrases will really impress the examiner. I've chosen a couple that my teacher gave my class.

X functions as a mechanism in order to show
X is a driving force for Y
X is constructed to demonstrate
X manipulates (technique) in order to highlight.

What texts do you do? If I know them I could give some more specific detail.


Hey!

First of all, thank you so much for replying. I must say, you're predicted a B and you are already getting As at this stage which is really great. God knows how awful I was at this time last year haha! Yes, I am in year 13 right now.

So for the macro techniques, I try to do that but sometimes it's a struggle. Can you tell me more?

Ooooohhh can you elaborate on this? "Write using a sociological theory - E.G Marxism or Feminism and sustain it throughout the essay"

The rest, I already do! Thank you for the phrases!

I do:

Drama:
-Streetcar
-King Lear

Prose:
-Tess and Thousand Splendid Suns

Poetry:
-the modern poetry ones I forgot what they are called
-the romantics
(edited 11 months ago)
Reply 3
Hi. I think it'd be useful if I attached the essay in which I got the A as this was for Streetcar (which is one of the plays we are studying. Then you can see how I've incorporated some of the macro techniques.

But I'll just outline some examples of macro techniques (This is for Wuthering Heights as this is the only other text I've done assessments on so far. Sorry but this is only the best example I could find from my essays)

"One of the recurring themes Chapter 12 is the separation between Cathy and her old society due to the expectations of being “Mrs Linton”. Bronte uses liminality in order to communicate Cathy's desires to be free from this. Ellen briefly holds “the casement ajar” and this symbolises Cathy’s desires to be on the moors as she confesses to wanting to be “savage”, “hardy” and “free”. This tricolon proves that Cathy's “fiery” side is still very much present within her and the “cold” air provided by the liminal window has awakened old-feelings of passion at being reacquainted with the place that allowed her to be a “naughty…hatless…savage” within her childhood." -

I've basically referred to micro techniques such as adjectives, tricolons etc but I've used them to create a bigger idea about Cathy's character (sorry if you don't know the book). I think I got a high B for this essay.

For the theories, I've basically written the Streetcar Essay from a feminist perspective and talked about how women are oppressed like Stella and Blanche.

Here's my essay (18/25).

Explore the ways in which Williams makes use of confrontation in A Streetcar Named Desire (25 Marks)

In A Streetcar Named Desire, Tennesse Williams uses confrontation as a mechanism to highlight the domination of men in the patriarchal post-war landscape of New Orleans. During this period, America was seen as an oppressive society where women were expected to be subjugated to being submissive partners. If they stepped out of line, men would use confrontational methods to remind them of their status such as physical violence. A Streetcar named Desire explores the violent, abusive nature of New Orleans through Stanley’s relationships with women as well as Mitch’s reaction to Blanche’s illicit past.

At the beginning of Scene 3, Williams uses a semantic field vivid colours to highlight the masculine atmosphere of the Poker Night and to foreshadow the unsuccesfulness of Stella’s attempt confronting men. As part of their costumes, the characters Stanley, Steve, Mitch and Pablo are wearing “solid blues”, “purple”, “red-and-white-check” and “light-green”. These colours have connotations of being bold, powerful and authoritative. Williams wants his audience members to realise that these men should be seen as parallels to the colours of their costume and to prepare them for the successful physical abuse of Stella. Later on, Stella confronts Stanley by shouting to him “Drunk - drunk - animal thing, you!” Here, the use of fragmented dashes and exclamatives positions Stella’s actress to speak with a furious tone of voice. This is because Williams wants the audience to understand how Stella is entrapped in an unequal systems and she needs to attempt authority in order to control “the gaudy seed bearer”. Stanley responds to her angry confrontation with his own physical one as “there is the sound of a blow”. Through the use of sonics, Williams wants to communicate to the audience that, at this moment in time, violent confrontation is successful in subjugating women into their steryotypical role. Contexually, a 1940s-1950s audience would understand the nature of this scene and would be able to relate to both Stanley and Stella. This is because the women of New Orleans were forced into a position of being mild and meek housewives whilst the men dominated due to the view that males should be in charge of their families.

Later on, in Scene 9, confrontation is seen as a tool which allows women to be shamed for going against stereotypical behaviour. Mitch humiliates Blanche by destroying her presentation of purity and her desire of living in a fantasy world. His confrontation can also be seen as somewhat physical since he “tears the paper lantern” and “turns the light on” after she openly admits to lying about her behaviours. Williams’ use of physical actions aims to highlight to the audience that once again confrontation is destructive to the lives of women and relegates them to being forced to conform to gender steryotypes. Later on, Williams constructs symbolism to highlight the lethal consequences of Mitch’s confrontation with Blanche. A Mexican woman is selling “Flora para los muertos” as well as the continuation of the “polka” music. A motif of death is reinforced and recycled which aims to foreshadow that Blanche’s social death is approaching fast. Williams wants the audience to see that Blanche’s inability to conform to culturally cultivated gender norms has led to physical confrontation which has ruined her last chance at stability thus meaning she must be banished from society. Once again, Williams’ intended audience should have been able to understand why Mitch feels the need to confront Blanche in this manner. Women, like Blanche, were subjected to double standards in terms of sexuality. They were expected to be “clean” rather than performing dirty, inappropriate and obscene acts of sex. Females who behaved like this did not have a place within this society.

The climatic scene 10 should be considered as the most confrontational scene within the play. This is due to the fact that Blanche is sexually assaulted by Stanley, marking his pentulament victory over her. The mood and atmosphere on the stage is heated and tense due to the fact that there are “lurid reflections” on the wall and Stanley is wearing “brilliant silk pyjamas” which is a juxtaposition to Blanche’s “soiled” and “crumpled” evening gown. Once again, Williams’ use of expressionist, plastic theatre hints to the audience that Blanche is about to get her come uppance due to her energetic, masculine approach towards sex. He wants the audience to know that, at this point in the play, confrontation is fatal, dangerous and is powerful enough to destroy Blanche’s sanity. The stage directions enforces the idea that Blanche is now helpless in this sexual confronation since she “moans” and “sinks” leaving her “inert”. The use of vocal and physical actions aims to show that Stanley and his sexual confronation have been victorious. This is signalled by the use of music as the upbeat instruments the “trumpet” and “drums” are played onstage. By the end of Scene 10, Williams’ intentions were that the audience should realise that confrontation, especially violent and sexual confrontation, is the driving force towards Blanche’s downfall. It has ruined her sanity and any chance of stability she once had. In the past, the audience understood this well and naturally expressed their pleasure at this. Many members cheered as Stanley raped Blanche at several productions. They believed that Blanche’s harmatia (her masculine behaviour) should lead to her tragic downfall due to their patriachal attitudes towards women at the time.

Overall, Williams’ use of confrontation allows audiences to see that it was socially unacceptable for women to break out of their stereotype as passive, loyal, obedient housewives. If they did, they would be disciplined by men who would always obtain a victory over them. Women should not challenged hegemonic masculinity and should not obtain to confront men. This would lead them to become victims like Blanche and Stella became.


Maybe read it and make notes as It'll probably show you how i've incorporated the advice I've given you.
Reply 4
Original post by 7hibladen
Hi. I think it'd be useful if I attached the essay in which I got the A as this was for Streetcar (which is one of the plays we are studying. Then you can see how I've incorporated some of the macro techniques.

But I'll just outline some examples of macro techniques (This is for Wuthering Heights as this is the only other text I've done assessments on so far. Sorry but this is only the best example I could find from my essays)

"One of the recurring themes Chapter 12 is the separation between Cathy and her old society due to the expectations of being “Mrs Linton”. Bronte uses liminality in order to communicate Cathy's desires to be free from this. Ellen briefly holds “the casement ajar” and this symbolises Cathy’s desires to be on the moors as she confesses to wanting to be “savage”, “hardy” and “free”. This tricolon proves that Cathy's “fiery” side is still very much present within her and the “cold” air provided by the liminal window has awakened old-feelings of passion at being reacquainted with the place that allowed her to be a “naughty…hatless…savage” within her childhood." -

I've basically referred to micro techniques such as adjectives, tricolons etc but I've used them to create a bigger idea about Cathy's character (sorry if you don't know the book). I think I got a high B for this essay.

For the theories, I've basically written the Streetcar Essay from a feminist perspective and talked about how women are oppressed like Stella and Blanche.

Here's my essay (18/25).

Explore the ways in which Williams makes use of confrontation in A Streetcar Named Desire (25 Marks)

In A Streetcar Named Desire, Tennesse Williams uses confrontation as a mechanism to highlight the domination of men in the patriarchal post-war landscape of New Orleans. During this period, America was seen as an oppressive society where women were expected to be subjugated to being submissive partners. If they stepped out of line, men would use confrontational methods to remind them of their status such as physical violence. A Streetcar named Desire explores the violent, abusive nature of New Orleans through Stanley’s relationships with women as well as Mitch’s reaction to Blanche’s illicit past.

At the beginning of Scene 3, Williams uses a semantic field vivid colours to highlight the masculine atmosphere of the Poker Night and to foreshadow the unsuccesfulness of Stella’s attempt confronting men. As part of their costumes, the characters Stanley, Steve, Mitch and Pablo are wearing “solid blues”, “purple”, “red-and-white-check” and “light-green”. These colours have connotations of being bold, powerful and authoritative. Williams wants his audience members to realise that these men should be seen as parallels to the colours of their costume and to prepare them for the successful physical abuse of Stella. Later on, Stella confronts Stanley by shouting to him “Drunk - drunk - animal thing, you!” Here, the use of fragmented dashes and exclamatives positions Stella’s actress to speak with a furious tone of voice. This is because Williams wants the audience to understand how Stella is entrapped in an unequal systems and she needs to attempt authority in order to control “the gaudy seed bearer”. Stanley responds to her angry confrontation with his own physical one as “there is the sound of a blow”. Through the use of sonics, Williams wants to communicate to the audience that, at this moment in time, violent confrontation is successful in subjugating women into their steryotypical role. Contexually, a 1940s-1950s audience would understand the nature of this scene and would be able to relate to both Stanley and Stella. This is because the women of New Orleans were forced into a position of being mild and meek housewives whilst the men dominated due to the view that males should be in charge of their families.

Later on, in Scene 9, confrontation is seen as a tool which allows women to be shamed for going against stereotypical behaviour. Mitch humiliates Blanche by destroying her presentation of purity and her desire of living in a fantasy world. His confrontation can also be seen as somewhat physical since he “tears the paper lantern” and “turns the light on” after she openly admits to lying about her behaviours. Williams’ use of physical actions aims to highlight to the audience that once again confrontation is destructive to the lives of women and relegates them to being forced to conform to gender steryotypes. Later on, Williams constructs symbolism to highlight the lethal consequences of Mitch’s confrontation with Blanche. A Mexican woman is selling “Flora para los muertos” as well as the continuation of the “polka” music. A motif of death is reinforced and recycled which aims to foreshadow that Blanche’s social death is approaching fast. Williams wants the audience to see that Blanche’s inability to conform to culturally cultivated gender norms has led to physical confrontation which has ruined her last chance at stability thus meaning she must be banished from society. Once again, Williams’ intended audience should have been able to understand why Mitch feels the need to confront Blanche in this manner. Women, like Blanche, were subjected to double standards in terms of sexuality. They were expected to be “clean” rather than performing dirty, inappropriate and obscene acts of sex. Females who behaved like this did not have a place within this society.

The climatic scene 10 should be considered as the most confrontational scene within the play. This is due to the fact that Blanche is sexually assaulted by Stanley, marking his pentulament victory over her. The mood and atmosphere on the stage is heated and tense due to the fact that there are “lurid reflections” on the wall and Stanley is wearing “brilliant silk pyjamas” which is a juxtaposition to Blanche’s “soiled” and “crumpled” evening gown. Once again, Williams’ use of expressionist, plastic theatre hints to the audience that Blanche is about to get her come uppance due to her energetic, masculine approach towards sex. He wants the audience to know that, at this point in the play, confrontation is fatal, dangerous and is powerful enough to destroy Blanche’s sanity. The stage directions enforces the idea that Blanche is now helpless in this sexual confronation since she “moans” and “sinks” leaving her “inert”. The use of vocal and physical actions aims to show that Stanley and his sexual confronation have been victorious. This is signalled by the use of music as the upbeat instruments the “trumpet” and “drums” are played onstage. By the end of Scene 10, Williams’ intentions were that the audience should realise that confrontation, especially violent and sexual confrontation, is the driving force towards Blanche’s downfall. It has ruined her sanity and any chance of stability she once had. In the past, the audience understood this well and naturally expressed their pleasure at this. Many members cheered as Stanley raped Blanche at several productions. They believed that Blanche’s harmatia (her masculine behaviour) should lead to her tragic downfall due to their patriachal attitudes towards women at the time.

Overall, Williams’ use of confrontation allows audiences to see that it was socially unacceptable for women to break out of their stereotype as passive, loyal, obedient housewives. If they did, they would be disciplined by men who would always obtain a victory over them. Women should not challenged hegemonic masculinity and should not obtain to confront men. This would lead them to become victims like Blanche and Stella became.


Maybe read it and make notes as It'll probably show you how i've incorporated the advice I've given you.


Thank you so much! I have just read your essay. I was wondering if you mind sharing with me what feedback your teacher gave you? Also, do you follow this structure for all of your essays? I mean, you know the writer's intention, you have done it a lot more than I do because I didn't know how it needed to be done so many times.
Reply 5
Hi. I can't remember off the top of my head everything she said as we only got very brief feedback but here is what I can remember

Strengths - Excellent use of stagecraft and knowledge of theatre (I also do Drama A-level which gives me an advantage). Good naming of techniques
Improvement - Make sure to weave context in and out of the essay and make sure it links to your main argument.

I did rewrite the essay as homework but she lost my copy and so I haven't had any feedback like my other classmates

I've only just started following this structure as I didn't go in with a clear idea for some of my early essays. My other teacher (I have 2) gave me the "big picture" idea at parent's evening where I had to think about what the author wanted. I got a C in my first Wuthering Heights Essay because I hadn't gone in with a clear idea of what the writer wants to show the reader and didn't really answer the question. He said that I'd improved my structure and has been giving me low Bs mainly (He's very harsh whereas the teacher who gave me the A is quite nice with marking)
Reply 6
Original post by 7hibladen
Hi. I can't remember off the top of my head everything she said as we only got very brief feedback but here is what I can remember

Strengths - Excellent use of stagecraft and knowledge of theatre (I also do Drama A-level which gives me an advantage). Good naming of techniques
Improvement - Make sure to weave context in and out of the essay and make sure it links to your main argument.

I did rewrite the essay as homework but she lost my copy and so I haven't had any feedback like my other classmates

I've only just started following this structure as I didn't go in with a clear idea for some of my early essays. My other teacher (I have 2) gave me the "big picture" idea at parent's evening where I had to think about what the author wanted. I got a C in my first Wuthering Heights Essay because I hadn't gone in with a clear idea of what the writer wants to show the reader and didn't really answer the question. He said that I'd improved my structure and has been giving me low Bs mainly (He's very harsh whereas the teacher who gave me the A is quite nice with marking)

Hey thats fine! Thank you so much for all your help!
Reply 7
Original post by meli77
Hello,

As exams are approaching, I am getting more and more insecure about my writing which is not a great look! Would you mind sharing with me some of your writing tips that have helped you secure an A/A*?

Thank you!


Hey! :smile:

I’m predicted an A* in English Lit—these are the things I’ve picked up! 7hibladen has covered the majority of your question really well, so here’s a few smaller-scale tips that can take an answer from A to A*.

- avoid generalisations. This is especially important with context, as it’s easy to make sweeping statements that remove all historical nuance from a subject: “women in 20th century America were all oppressed” is an example of this. Context works best with specific facts, like dates or reference to exact events / people. A better way of rephrasing the example would be “Women had few opportunities to be heard in 20th century America; they only gained the right to vote in 1920, and most of their roles were restricted to the domestic sphere.”

- link your paragraphs with an argument. If you can switch Paragraph 2 with Paragraph 4 without changing anything else, then your essay probably isn’t well-linked enough. Each paragraph should follow on from the next in a clear argument e.g.
women are restricted to domestic roles —> depiction of women not in domestic roles —> depiction of men in domestic roles
In the topic sentence of each new paragraph, address the paragraph you’ve just ended e.g. “While society tries to restrict women like XXX and XXX to the domestic sphere, some women do succeed in freeing themselves.”

- when you include critic quotes, the thing that shows both a) critical response and b) an in-depth and personal engagement with the text is *disagreeing* with the quote you use, or agreeing with a “however… / although…”

- start your essay with your conclusion in mind. Do you agree with the statement? Can you offer a contrast between what the statement says and the reality of certain scenes?

- always always show awareness of the whole text i.e. mention events that happen beginning middle AND end. Conclusion is a really good place to mention how characters end up if you haven’t brought it up already.

- if there’ve been lots of different adaptations of your text e.g. different performances of the same play or different movie versions etc, go ahead and compare the adaptations—point out where something is changed or missing, and how that affects the meaning / themes of the text.

I can’t think of anything else for now but I hope this helps a bit <3 don’t worry too much about your writing, ik you're going to kill it
Reply 8
Original post by mousespine
Hey! :smile:

I’m predicted an A* in English Lit—these are the things I’ve picked up! 7hibladen has covered the majority of your question really well, so here’s a few smaller-scale tips that can take an answer from A to A*.

- avoid generalisations. This is especially important with context, as it’s easy to make sweeping statements that remove all historical nuance from a subject: “women in 20th century America were all oppressed” is an example of this. Context works best with specific facts, like dates or reference to exact events / people. A better way of rephrasing the example would be “Women had few opportunities to be heard in 20th century America; they only gained the right to vote in 1920, and most of their roles were restricted to the domestic sphere.”

- link your paragraphs with an argument. If you can switch Paragraph 2 with Paragraph 4 without changing anything else, then your essay probably isn’t well-linked enough. Each paragraph should follow on from the next in a clear argument e.g.
women are restricted to domestic roles —> depiction of women not in domestic roles —> depiction of men in domestic roles
In the topic sentence of each new paragraph, address the paragraph you’ve just ended e.g. “While society tries to restrict women like XXX and XXX to the domestic sphere, some women do succeed in freeing themselves.”

- when you include critic quotes, the thing that shows both a) critical response and b) an in-depth and personal engagement with the text is *disagreeing* with the quote you use, or agreeing with a “however… / although…”

- start your essay with your conclusion in mind. Do you agree with the statement? Can you offer a contrast between what the statement says and the reality of certain scenes?

- always always show awareness of the whole text i.e. mention events that happen beginning middle AND end. Conclusion is a really good place to mention how characters end up if you haven’t brought it up already.

- if there’ve been lots of different adaptations of your text e.g. different performances of the same play or different movie versions etc, go ahead and compare the adaptations—point out where something is changed or missing, and how that affects the meaning / themes of the text.

I can’t think of anything else for now but I hope this helps a bit <3 don’t worry too much about your writing, ik you're going to kill it


Hey! Well done for the A*! I hope you get it! I just found out today I got an A for my February mocks and I am really pleased :smile: Thank you for your tips!
Reply 9
Original post by meli77
Hey! Well done for the A*! I hope you get it! I just found out today I got an A for my February mocks and I am really pleased :smile: Thank you for your tips!

dude that’s sick !! Good luck for the exams you’re clearly killing it :biggrin:

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