Exam Centre: Essay

Exam Centre: Essay (100 marks)

Kerouac roll of paper

Exam Preparation

  • Look again at the marking sheets and the list of factors that an examiner takes into account when marking the essay.
  • If you are planning on attempting a short story title, it is vital that you re-familiarise yourself with any previous attempts – particularly one that scored highly.
  • All students should read back over the last short story that they wrote
  • Prepare an exam strategy document containing the key steps you intend to take to improve the grade of your specialised essay.
  • Aim to regularly implement the steps from your exam strategy document.
  • Read over any sample essays that you have. Try to identify their most positive features.
  • Look over any previous essays you have written. Look carefully at the feedback you were given. Make a list of any recurring mistakes that you made. Look at any recommendations you were given.
  • At this stage, you should be fairly confident as to which type of essay you are best at. However it is best to not rule out any option completely for the day itself.
  • Obviously practice is the key to success in the essay section. Focus on the type of essays that you specialise in. Pay particular attention to any feedback you have been given on previous essays you have written. Read over that feedback again before you sit down to write the next essay. From December on, you should be attempting to write the essay in as close to exam conditions as possible.
  • It is also essential to practice planning essay titles from previous years. If you have the time, write the opening and closing paragraphs.
  • In the last week before the exam, sit down and attempt an essay from the 2013 title list. Time yourself: Attempt to complete your essay in less than 80 minutes and no more than 90. When you are finished assess your essay and mark it.




Because the essay is such an important part of the exam it is essential that you pick the right title and that you plan it in the right way.

* The actual titles of the essays are in bold. Do not allow yourself to be distracted by the quotation above the question itself.

Approach the essay in the following way:

I.            As you look down through the titles put a tick beside any that you think you might attempt and put an X beside any that you definitely wouldn’t.

II.            Narrow the short list down to three possibilities. Pay particular attention to any titles that you feel are in the category that you would usually draw on e.g. discursive, personal or short story.

III.            Brainstorm brief key words beside each title in the short list.

IV.            Use these ideas to decide which title you would write most effectively.

V.            Use the U (nderline)  S (substitute) P (lan)-( Points)-( Paragraphs) approach with the key words of the question that you have chosen.

VI.            Write the key words in the middle of a page.

VII.            Brainstorm everything you can think of based on the title given.

  1. Circle any points that you intend to use. Organise some together if necessary. These points will form paragraphs in your essay.

IX.            Organise your points into a logical order. This will allow your essay to flow smoothly and will satisfy the coherency of delivery part of the marking scheme – worth 30%.

X.            Begin with a strong general opening paragraph that clearly connects with the title given.

XI.            Follow your numbered plan in order to make sure that you do not stray away from the question in your answer.

XII.            Try to use link sentences where possible to connect the paragraphs.

  1. Finish with a strong closing paragraph that sums up your perspective and connects clearly with the question.
  2. It is essential to always finish your essay. If the time that you have allotted is running out, quickly finish the point/paragraph you are on and write a brief closing paragraph.

NOTE: Points VIII to XII are not important for a short story. However it is important that you briefly jot down some key words that outline vaguely the direction the story will go’ and it is equally important to start and finish strongly.




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