Five Tips for Writing a Stellar English Essay
GCSE English is fun! It’s exciting, dynamic and helps you get the best understanding of people, places and many other things beginning with P! However, one aspect of the subject tend to throw students off: the dreaded essay. Whether for coursework or in an exam situation, essays can cause pitfalls and confusion for even the most keen of students.
While there are long lists of things that could be done to help you on your way to a competent essay, here are five of my tips to make your work nothing less than outstanding.
1. Remember the simple formula: PCQA!
That’s “Point, Context, Quotation, Analysis”, in that order. Not every part of the essay needs this, but when you’re introducing an important opinion or fact, this is a great thing to do. Make your point, put that into context (relate it to the essay, there’s no point in a pointless point!), use a quotation to back it up and analyse everything before continuing onwards. Markers like this, because it’s easier to understand what you mean if you’re clear!
2. Show you understand!
There’s not much point in faking your way through an English essay if you don’t know the source material. If you haven’t studied until the day before the essay, you can at least work your way through the text first. But I wouldn’t recommend that. Make sure you have a basic understanding of the themes and concepts in the text, with a particular focus on one or two aspects, which can be your ace in the hole. If you demonstrate a solid ability to explain the meaning behind some of the texts, you can impress with how much you know! Show off a little – it’s your essay!
3. SPAG SPAG SPAG!
I hate to sound too much like a slave to clichés here, but you have to use correct SPAG – that’s Spelling, Punctuation And Grammar. Make sure you use words that you know how to spell, remembering that you can substitute “start” for “beginning” if you suddenly forget how many Ns there are! Take your time over complicated words, read through what you’ve written again if you have the minutes available, and use simpler English if you think it will help! You’re probably a better speller than you think you are, as well. (Just don’t use the word “quadrilateral” because you know how to spell it. I did it once in Year 6 SATS and I still didn’t get that good a mark.)
This is something that a lot of people forget to do. Maybe it’s best not to throw in multiple references to Pokémon and One Direction in your essays, but if you’re writing on a topic, it’s always good to show that its relevant to the real world. English is all around us, and themes in texts come out every day. As an example, I got a leaflet about cycling during GCSE English – it would be easy as pi squared to mention the Boris Bikes of London and get some “real world” into your essay. Think outside the examination hall and show your worldly knowledge – just as long as you don’t stray too far off track…
5. …and relax.
There’s nothing better than the feeling of satisfaction you get from finishing off an answer. Work towards that, especially if you have a conclusion in your head already. Don’t rush – you have more time than you think – and take ownership of the pen in your hand. Your teachers may have been taking charge of the classes during the year, but during the exam, you’re in control. Embrace that, do your stuff and impress everyone with what you know. Yes, you can.
There’s an academic buried inside all of us. Let them out and set the world alight with knowledge!