How do I approach an essay question in an exam?

1)When approaching an essay question for an exam, one should ensure that they don't do is panic. Read the question a few times before begining to plan your answer. 

2) Break down each of the words in the question. Make sure that you know what each individual word means, and identify the key words in the question. For instance, I may be given the question:  'By considering the dramatic effects of King Lear, evaluate the view that ‘despite the appalling suffering, the world of the play is not without hope.’ 

I now know that I have to focus my essay on either supporting or refuting this quote, as the question has asked me to 'evaluate' this view. 

3)I also recognise that considering 'dramatic effects' means considering the play as a whole, which means considering how the play might be performed and how Shakespeare may have intended for it to come across to an audience. I now know that it's essential for me to touch upon this within my essay, as you must address all aspects of the question in order to receive top marks

4) I now have to identify the key words within the quote. I can recognize that the the quote is suggesting that 'despite' all the evil and bad events in King Lear, Shakespeare does not eliminate all sense of hope throughout the play. Through dissecting the words in the question, it enables the student to understand exactly what areas to discuss throughout their essay. 

5)Now that we have unpicked the question; it's time to begin planning. One should spend about 10 minutes creating a comprehensive and simple plan; this will eventually make the essay writing more concise with a tighter structure, factors that both signal a good essay in an examiner's eyes. 

6) I would suggest that in an A2 english exam, you should make about 5 smaller paragraphs arguing your point and debating both sides, some teachers may suggest writing less; but I believe that 5-6 smaller paragraphs debating each point, fully address the premise of the question. 

7) It's ideal to also try to make your points follow on from one another. In order to gather ideas for your points, brainstorm ideas seperately both for and against the statement made in the question. 

8)After looking through your brainstorm, pick your strongest points and try to see how they link together whilst bulletpointing or arranging the structure of your essay. Your line of argument should make sense, and the examiner should see how you made one point follow on from your previous point, almost like a plot-line in a novel!

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