What's the best way to plan and write my essay?

For any essay, whether it is for an exam or for a piece of coursework, planning is essential for giving a coherent structure to your essay. For exams, you should not spend more than 5 minutes planning as you are very much restricted on time. For coursework, however, it is a very good idea to make a detailed plan before you start writing the essay so you aren’t deciding how to structure it and what to include as you go along. It will save you time in the long run and make it easier to write the essay if you make a good detailed plan of both the essay content and structure. My plans were always organised as bullet points of what I was going to include in each paragraph of the body of the essay.

The first thing to do when planning your essay is to read the question carefully and work out what exactly it is asking you to do. The question will have key words that should make it clear what to do, such as ‘describe’, ‘explain’ or ‘compare’. The more you practise questions and look at mark schemes, the easier it will become to know what the questions are asking of you.

Once you have worked out what the question is asking you, you should come up with your main points in your argument, which could be organised by theme, by text, whatever works for the question or for you. I would always try to come up for 5 main points which would form a paragraph each.

Each paragraph should begin with a topic sentence, which is the main overarching point of the paragraph. Next in your plan, for each paragraph you should include all the key quotes which illustrate your point. Include some brief analysis of the quotes in your plan such as looking at looking at the language e.g. metaphor, alliteration, and its effects. Or form/structure/meter if looking at poetry such as the effect of enjambment, iambic pentameter etc. You must link back each point to the question, answering it explicitly and referring back to specific elements of the question, to make it clear to the marker that you are answering the question directly.

Here is a good basic structure to use within your essay to make it coherent, to ensure you analyse your quotes and that you answer the question, in each paragraph: P E A L: POINT, EVIDENCE (quote), ANALYSIS (explain), LINK. You must first make a point, then back it up with evidence (a quote), explain what it means and make further comments about the language/techniques within that quote. At the end of your point you must refer back to the question. This structure should run within each paragraph, with the topic sentence being the overarching point, and the paragraph including sub-points which are backed up by quotes. Do not include a specific analysis of a quote if it is not relevant to the question, it must add to the point you are making.

You can always write your introduction first if it helps you to structure your argument, but I tend to find it best to write it after you have formulated the structure in your detailed plan. Your introduction should lay out your argument, and can be made more effective by including a simple, blunt statement about the style, genre, purpose or tone of the text you are writing about. Whereas your conclusion should summarise each topic sentence/point plus answer the question directly.

Where possible, it’s a good idea to look at example A* essays and to see how they structure their essay, how they analyse language etc. so you can practise improving on these elements in your essays. Practise practise practise!

Amy A. A Level Psychology tutor, Mentoring -Personal Statements- tuto...

2 years ago

Answered by Amy, a GCSE English Literature tutor with MyTutor

Still stuck? Get one-to-one help from a personally interviewed subject specialist


Dana C. 11 Plus English tutor, GCSE English tutor, A Level English tu...
View profile
£18 /hr

Dana C.

Degree: Psychology & Linguistics (Bachelors) - Edinburgh University

Subjects offered: English Literature, Maths+ 3 more

English Literature
English Language

“Hi! My name is Dana, I am from Brussels, Belgium and I am a second year Psychology and Linguistics student at the University of Edinburgh. I absolutely  love languages - be it learning them or teaching them. I speak three languages flu...”

MyTutor guarantee

Oliver W. A Level Philosophy tutor, A Level English tutor, A Level En...
View profile
£18 /hr

Oliver W.

Degree: Philosophy (Bachelors) - Warwick University

Subjects offered: English Literature, Philosophy+ 2 more

English Literature
English Language

“About Me: Hi! My name is Oli. I’m a current undergraduate studying Philosophy at the University of Warwick. My life is a concoction of academic interests, but language, literature and their philosophical applications are at the forefr...”

Millie D. A Level English Literature tutor, GCSE English Literature t...
View profile
£18 /hr

Millie D.

Degree: International Relations (Bachelors) - LSE University

Subjects offered: English Literature, History+ 4 more

English Literature
Government and Politics
English Language

“I study International Relations at the London School of Economics and would love to share my passion for knowledge with other learners! I have always had a keen interest in understanding the workings of governments at home and abroad ...”

MyTutor guarantee

About the author

Amy A. A Level Psychology tutor, Mentoring -Personal Statements- tuto...
View profile

Amy A.

Currently unavailable: for new students

Degree: Psychology (Bachelors) - University College London University

Subjects offered: English Literature, Psychology+ 1 more

English Literature
-Personal Statements-

“Recent BSc Psychology graduate from UCL, receiving a high 2:1. Tutoring in Psychology A level, helping with essays in English Literature GCSE, and offering help with personal statements.”

You may also like...

Posts by Amy

1. What are the key approaches, issues and debates in psychology and how can I include them in my essays? (AQA)

Should I talk about my hobbies in my personal statement for university? How do I make it relevant to the subject?

What's the best way to plan and write my essay?

Other GCSE English Literature questions

How do I create a great introduction to an English Literature essay?

How do I prepare for an English Literature exam?

How can I successfully structure an English Literature essay?

How do I do a close reading of a poem?

View GCSE English Literature tutors


We use cookies to improve our service. By continuing to use this website, we'll assume that you're OK with this. Dismiss