How do I write a really good essay?

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The key to essays like this is to unpack the question. Look at what question says, and then at what it wants you to say. These types of essays have a name, they are called “Yes but” essays. So, my advice would be to discuss the title question in favour of it, then consider the counter arguments to have a fully balanced essay. 

But keep it simple honestly, with essays like these, I would aim for three/ four detailed points and no more, but no less. Any fewer than three/four points and you’re straying into dangerous waters, as you’re relying too much on not enough. Keep your ideas analytical, conceptual and above all, RELEVANT TO THE QUESTION. 

My notes are separated into three points:

-How to go about planning and starting an essay

When you’re faced with a new essay, you must ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS PLAN. Writing an essay without a plan is like walking into the Chamber of Secrets and staring the basilisk right in the face. Make a quick table, list your key points and key quotations to discuss, I promise it will help!

-How to actually write the essay

Bear in mind, you only have a limited amount of time in this exam, do not waste time telling the examiners what they already know. Tighten your written expression. Start your paragraph with a topic sentence (like I mentioned earlier), that hits the point straight away, without telling the story. You are literally throwing marks down the drain if your first sentence does not directly link to the question.

-Other stuff (critics, context etc) 

An essay is like a painting of a house in a landscape. The house is your topic/ subject (whichever text you're studying and the key theme/idea asked about in the question). In the setting, there are smaller details (characters and ideas in the text) which influence the landscape - pine forests on the hills, surrounding the building, a river running by etc. Closer to the house, we can see a garden, with flowers, shrubs and a person tending a bonfire - these are all things that influence our impression of what is happening or the house's appearance (context). The house might seem a cosy, peaceful place, (your topic might seem straightforward) but with grey skies, torrential rain and a raging river, it might seem quite different, yet the house will not have changed (context affects your reading, but does not change the actual text).

Ella G. GCSE English Literature tutor, A Level English Literature tut...

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is an online A Level English Literature tutor with MyTutor studying at Birmingham University

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