A thread about writing essays

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[email protected]
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Hi, I am new! I am studying English at Birmingham University and did English Lit, Psychology and Geography for my A-levels and Biology AS.

Before I registered, I was involved in a discussion about writing English Literature essays for A-level. I thought this was an interesting topic that could prove useful if it was turned into a separate thread. So...if you could give any advice to someone writing an essay for English, what would it be?

Here is mine concerning comparitave essays (the sort commonly required for the synoptic paper for A-level English):

I really enjoyed English Lit A-level but I suspect this may have been due to the fact that essay writing comes naturally to me.

To those who find essay writing difficult, some good advice is to follow a methodic plan. For example, if you are comparing three poems, it would be ideal to intertwine your comparison into the essay, constantly making comparitive points. However, if you find this difficult, you could analyse each poem separately and then add a couple of comparitive paragraphs at the end. You won't get an A or a B, but you are more likely to get a solid C than if you get totally confused and go off-topic.

Also, you could follow a set structure and compare aspects of the poem such as:

Genre of the extract
Historical context
Gender of the writer
Language
Form
Structure

You should ALWAYS make a short plan for your essay (this can be done in your head, but most people find it more productive to write one out underneight your title to refer back to.)

Always highlight key words in the title of the essay. This prevents you from getting distracted and keeps you focussed. Use phrases and words from the topic throughout the essay or synonyms for these words.

If you quote a line from a poem, always go on to analyse this line, do not just give it a full stop and make a new point. Analyse the rhythm, explain the rhyme, expand metaphors and comment on any poetic devices such as alliteration.

Anyone got anything to add/ comment on?
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fionah
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Well I tend to agree with everything you said good advice! Now, if you'd care to tell me how to do my comparative essay for the A2 on remains of the day & room with a view I'd be very pleased! Heh.

What's degree level english like compared to A2? How are you finding it so far? Also what unis apart from bham did you apply to? Did you have an interview? (what did they ask ?) (Sorry i know it's not strictly related but ive just done my ucas and nobody else here seems to have applied for english!!) xx
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[email protected]
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Hi Fionah,

I'm loving everything about university so far. The course at Birmingham is great. At the moment it is divided into 'Literature Foundation' which is a broad overview of English Lit, 'Landmarks of European Literature' which is European texts in translation, 'Language Foundation' and 'Independent Study' (scary presentation-eek!)

You can choose whether to do LIT/lang (emphasis on lit- I chose this) or lit/lang (both lit and lang studied equally.)

There was no interview for Brum, but I had to get AAB minimum (got AAA.) I also applied to two other courses at Brum, York (rejected!), Warwick (rejected!!) and Lancaster was my insurance choice. I have no idea why I was rejected by York and Warwick but I suspect either my Personal Statement wasn't up to scratch or they saw that I applied to Birmingham three times!
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fionah
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(Original post by [email protected])
Hi Fionah,

I'm loving everything about university so far. The course at Birmingham is great. At the moment it is divided into 'Literature Foundation' which is a broad overview of English Lit, 'Landmarks of European Literature' which is European texts in translation, 'Language Foundation' and 'Independent Study' (scary presentation-eek!)

You can choose whether to do LIT/lang (emphasis on lit- I chose this) or lit/lang (both lit and lang studied equally.)

There was no interview for Brum, but I had to get AAB minimum (got AAA.) I also applied to two other courses at Brum, York (rejected!), Warwick (rejected!!) and Lancaster was my insurance choice. I have no idea why I was rejected by York and Warwick but I suspect either my Personal Statement wasn't up to scratch or they saw that I applied to Birmingham three times!
Wwow you must really have loved Bham! Heh. Sounds good, I'm looking forward to finishing my other subjects and just doing english, sounds wonderful to me!
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Elle
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My main piece of advice would be (for English Lit exams) to plan what your going to write so you don't run out of time- lol a bit obvious I know, but I really messed up my exam by not doing that.

Also I usually research a really in depth comments by critics to add in. Makes you sound intelligent.. for example you could say how some analysts think Iago in Othello is gay. Make's your essay stand out when the examiner marks it.
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Sabrina
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(Original post by [email protected])
Hi, I am new! I am studying English at Birmingham University and did English Lit, Psychology and Geography for my A-levels and Biology AS.

Before I registered, I was involved in a discussion about writing English Literature essays for A-level. I thought this was an interesting topic that could prove useful if it was turned into a separate thread. So...if you could give any advice to someone writing an essay for English, what would it be?

Here is mine concerning comparitave essays (the sort commonly required for the synoptic paper for A-level English):

I really enjoyed English Lit A-level but I suspect this may have been due to the fact that essay writing comes naturally to me.

To those who find essay writing difficult, some good advice is to follow a methodic plan. For example, if you are comparing three poems, it would be ideal to intertwine your comparison into the essay, constantly making comparitive points. However, if you find this difficult, you could analyse each poem separately and then add a couple of comparitive paragraphs at the end. You won't get an A or a B, but you are more likely to get a solid C than if you get totally confused and go off-topic.

Also, you could follow a set structure and compare aspects of the poem such as:

Genre of the extract
Historical context
Gender of the writer
Language
Form
Structure

You should ALWAYS make a short plan for your essay (this can be done in your head, but most people find it more productive to write one out underneight your title to refer back to.)

Always highlight key words in the title of the essay. This prevents you from getting distracted and keeps you focussed. Use phrases and words from the topic throughout the essay or synonyms for these words.

If you quote a line from a poem, always go on to analyse this line, do not just give it a full stop and make a new point. Analyse the rhythm, explain the rhyme, expand metaphors and comment on any poetic devices such as alliteration.

Anyone got anything to add/ comment on?
That was a really great post, it certainly gave me a little bit more of an idea as to what is expected in an essay. I'm doing my first year of IB and I'm actually wondering if the format of my extended essay should be as above or if I can go ahead and do it in a TOTALLY different way since I was thinking of separating it into sub-headings. Please help.
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