1. The Essay Question
The first thing you should do when you get into the exam is to copy out the essay question title onto the top of your answer sheet. It may waste a minute or two of your answer time but trust me - it's worth it. Your essay has to keep a sharp focus on the question, and having the question at the top of your page will help you to keep referring back to it, and not to stray off topic.
2. The Introduction
If you're doing AS level French, your essay needs a brief introduction to the essay topic. If the essay question has two or three parts to it, you should mention all of these parts in your brief introduction. If the essay were, for example, about the dangers of smoking, it would be enough just to say, "Smoking causes serious damage to your health. In this essay I will first discuss the dangers of smoking, and secondly, explore what we can do to prevent it."
3. The Conclusion
You also need a brief conclusion to finish your essay. If you do not include a conclusion, you cannot achieve the top grades! Your conclusion should include your opinion on the issue - whether you are for or against it, after having examined the arguments. You are also allowed to sit on the face about the topic, as long as you say so.
Secondly, you should never put any new information into your conclusion - this is what the body of you essay is for.
Lastly, make sure your examiner knows that you having written a conclusion by using conclusive phrases like "Pour conclure", or "En somme."
4. The Main Body of Your Essay
The main body of your essay is where you will pick up the majority of your content marks. Marks for content make up the bulk of your total marks, so it is crucial that you structure your main paragraphs properly. The more points you make in your essay, the more marks you will gain for content. Overall, the examiner is looking for about ten distinct points to be made, in relation to the essay title.
If the essay you have chosen has two or three parts to it, then you should make sure you have an even balance of points across all parts of the questions.
The structure of your main essay paragraphs should be as follows:
-Point: State a distinct point that clearly either supports or opposes the title question. This might, for exmaple, be something like "Young people smoke because of peer pressure" ("Les jeunes fument dû a les pressions du groupe.")
-Explanation: You need to back up your point with an explanation, to give it some reliability. You might want to give some examples, or refer to studies and news articles. Any facts and figures you include are allowed to be completely made up! Your examiner doesn't care whether 62% of young people have smoked, they only care about the quality of your French.
-Development: For extra content marks, you might want to expand on your explanations for some of your points. At AS Level, it is not necessary to do this for every point you make - that's more of an A2 requirement. To develop your points, you might want to include a personal experience you have had relating to the subject, or the experience of someone you know.
You may choose to write all of your supporting points one after another, and then all of your opposing points one after another. Alternatively, you may choose to present a point, and follow it with its counter-argument. At AS Level, either one is acceptable.