- Maria Li
5 Crucial Steps for the Perfect English Essay (your guide from year 7 to the HSC)
Updated: Jul 13, 2021
1) Break down and understand the demands of the question
Did you know, 99% of bad thesis problems are because you simply don't understand the question?
(ok we may have made up this statistic, but the idea still holds true)
The most wonderfully underused website is the NESA Glossary of Key Terms. This website defines exactly what each question term means. Make sure you have a good understanding of each term before you start answering questions!
After identifying the key question verb, make sure you understand the entire question. Stressed out students often neglect half the question.
Read the entire question.
Take time to think about what it wants from you.
If you spend five minutes on the question and understand it perfectly, it will mean writing a more powerful essay on the first go.
We here at Simply English have also broken down the question term "explain" in a previous blog post which you can find: here. We're also looking to put out more articles like this one to help you smash your essays!
2) Know your texts
Do you know your texts?
No - I don't mean that quick Google search about the plotline or the scraps of information you retained from English class.
Do you know your text: themes, messages, context.
When you learn your text make sure that you know the following things through and through (Google will help you here).
Themes: What core ideas are being explored in your text? Finding and investigating 2-3 themes before you start your essay is crucial.
Messages: The message, or the moral you took away from the story, is very important to figure out before writing your essay. Only by making a judgement (backed up by quotes and evidence) can you respond to an essay with a personal twist.
Context: Understanding the background information for your text is very important. When the text was created, what was going on in the world at that time - these are all crucial pieces of information necessary for complete understanding of the text.
3) Choose your quotes wisely
You’re limited by word counts and exam times so you must choose the best and most relevant quotes that will support your opinion.
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 strong technique
Now repeat this at least 3 times for each theme you explore in your essay.
And a final thing, never drop a quote in without analysing it - that's a list, not an essay.
4) Get personal
Often tasks require you to write an essay with a ‘personal’ stance or voice.
Stay in third person! Being personal does not mean using first person language.
It means using high modality language to show that you have a clear and confident view about the concepts 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) Don't neglect your conclusion
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.
And that was our conclusion.