How do you write a good essay under exam conditions?

Considering the question carefully, planning and time-management are key.

Students who have revised their topic's knowledge content thoroughly can throw away easy marks becuse they cannot write well under pressured conditions.

Success in A-level history is MORE about being able to write a well-structured essay that answers the question directly than simply showing off your knowledge of the subject content. 

1)Consider the question carefully. Underline or highlight specific words in the question. Success in A-level history answers are about addressing what the examiner wants you to address and answering the question fully. Often, specific phrases such as 'to what extent' or 'how far' require you to compare the significance of one factor against others. What exactly is the question asking you?

2) It is essential to do a rough plan which should take no more than 5 minutes. This plan should outline the key points you will include. Although this plan is rough, it is important not to rush the planning stage because you MUST have a clear idea of the main points you are going to include before you go into writing the essay. Ensure that each point is balanced and that you do not have one point that is bigger than the others. Although it is easy to panic if the question seems challenging, if your plan is clear and well-structured you are half way there! 

Remember to cross through your plan when you have finsihed your answer so the examiner does not mark it.

3) Allocate around 5 minutes for the intorduction, 5 mintues for the conlusion, and equal times for your 3 or 4 paragraphs. Ideally, aim to leave a few minutes to check through your answer for obvious grammatical errors! However, if you have planned your answer and time management well, your answer will flow and read better and there will be less chance of having made errors.

Most of all don't panic! Keep a cool head, stay focussed and follow the above advice and success is assured.


Philip B. GCSE English Literature tutor, GCSE History tutor, A Level ...

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