• Maria Li

5 Crucial Steps for the Perfect English Essay (HSC)

1) Break down the question

Did you know, 99% of bad thesis problems are because you simply don't understand the question? Identify the keywords in a question to know what the task requires of you. You gain marks by answering the question and following the criteria, not by repeating the question.

Example: To what extent does your prescribed text reflect the power of texts to deliver time-resistant messages?

If you don't mention or address these terms, you're not answering the question.

2) Know your texts

Make sure you understand the themes of your text and the context of when it was written to better understand the author's purpose. There's always some correlation between an author's historical, cultural or personal context which influences their message.

Now that it's time for some brainstorming. A good backbone makes for a good essay. Flesh out your best argument and paragraph ideas then write an introduction to work out how your ideas will flow and add to your overarching idea. Bang out some topic sentences so you know exactly what to look for in your quotes.

3) Choose your quotes wisely

You’re limited by word counts and exam times so you must choose the best and most relevant quotes and examples for the question and your topic sentence. Write up a scaffold - consider using tables with TQE columns to break down and analyse your quotes in depth!

So how do you choose the most relevant quotes? Here's a list of what you should be looking for:

  • Each quote proves something new

Quotes should be chosen so that you develop a progressive argument. This means each quote introduces a new point and finally at the end of your paragraph, you reach a concluding point that sums up the ultimate purpose of the paragraph. Put it simply, have some quotes to show the cause in your cause-and-effect topic sentence and then some to show the effect.

  • Quote links back to topic sentence

  • Must have a technique

Now repeat this at least 3 times. And just a reminder, never drop and run. Listing quotes or embedding them without analysis is not an essay. It's just a summary.

4) Get personal

Often tasks require you to write an essay with a ‘personal’ stance or voice. You don’t need to literally use first person but using high modality language will give the impression that you have a clear and confident view about what you’re discussing. Don’t be afraid to discuss new and insightful ideas – these show your own critical thinking and will most likely add some brownie points!

5) Sum it all up

Your essay is never done without a conclusion. Make sure your conclusion readdresses your thesis, summarises your arguments and has a final concluding sentence that ties together the ultimate point of your arguments, thesis and the module! Never introduce new points in your conclusion, only summarise.

A good conclusion makes an impact!

And that's a wrap. Never neglect these five steps when writing your own essay and you will definitely see improvements in your marks. Now that's a promise.

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