Literature, Language and EPQ teacher, Hannah Edwards-Arnison shares her key tips with students:
- Highlight the key parts of the question first - does it ask you to "explore" or "explain"? Explore suggests more than one option can be discussed, while explain suggests one option described in detail.
Look for the "theme" of the question, the buzzwords you're asked to focus on.
- Always know your ending before you begin (I like to decide what my argument is by bullet pointing first or drawing a mind map, both can be done in under three minutes in an exam).
- Formulate and write out a short "thesis" paragraph first - this is your "argument", the thing you're about to define paragraph by paragraph in your essay.
- Have clear paragraph themes or topics that build up your overall argument. This is part of the planning stage too where you write a short list of topics or points to be discussed.
- If you're asked to provide examples of your text/topic/book/transcript etc - don't just throw them in, discuss them. In formal essays (and EPQs) you also need to footnote these examples clearly to show that you've got the evidence from somewhere valid.
- Finally, make sure your conclusion isn't just a rephrasing of your introduction/thesis. Don't waste words repeating yourself, say something that collects some of your paragraph points but uses them to add to your original thesis. A conclusion brings the argument full circle but should always hold back an interesting phrase tying back to the first paragraph.
- And of course, stylistically, if it's a formal essay or exam - don't use "I think, I feel, I believe" unless you're asked to - it's not a conversation with the examiner, it's you showing how smart you are by defending an argument with your knowledge!
Here are some of my favourite go-to sites for essay writing tips: