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Essay Structure – Edexcel A Level English Literature

how to write a level english language essays

14th June 2017

by Aimee Wright

The first thing you need to consider when writing an English essay is the structure, and how you can make sure it is one that you can remember and will give you a good grade.

  • Generic Introduction :You will need to know the book , the author , the publication date and the literary period / monarchy era – g. Frankenstein , Mary Shelley, 1818, Romantic period. Then, you will need to state the genre of the book(s) – e.g. Frankenstein is a gothic novel. Lastly, you will need to briefly summarise the theme / character that the question asks of you. Below are some example generic introductions :
  • (For the Prose exam): Frankenstein by Mary Shelley was published in 1818, during the Romantic Period, and The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood was published in 1985, and is a postmodern text. Both of these texts are science fiction novels, but Frankenstein is a gothic novel, written in the first wave of gothic literature, while The Handmaid’s Tale is a dystopian novel. *The role of gender in the misuse of science* is seen in both texts in the way that the writers have used linguistic techniques and contextual factors, and this is what will be explored in this analysis.
  • (For Othello ): Othello by William Shakespeare was published in 1604 during the Elizabethan era. The play is considered a tragedy, but many critics have picked up on the use of satire that Shakespeare has used, however it is not used so much that it could be seen as a comedy. In this analysis, it will be explored how Shakespeare has used his linguistic abilities and contextual factors to present the *theme of betrayal*, and subsequently how critics have viewed this.
  • (For A Streetcar Named Desire ): A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams was published in 1947, making it a modernist play. The play is a tragedy which aligns with the context of events such as World War Two, and the Great Depression, as these are very tragic. In this analysis, the *character of Blanche* will be explored, and it will be considered whether Williams uses linguistic, structural and contextual techniques to impact Blanche’s character.
  • (For Post 2000 Poetry): Please Hold by Ciaran O’Driscoll is a poem that presents the themes of frustration, manipulation and irritation that the modern day society brings. As a postmodern poem, the twenty-first century challenges that the narrator undertakes align with each other. On first reading Somewhat Unravelled by Jo Shapcott, the reader can perceive that the narrator also represents strong emotions to represent how the narrator is feeling. By comparing these two poems, the analysis will explore how *strong emotions* are used in order to relay a story, such as through linguistic and structural crafting.
  • (For Keats ): The Eve of St Agnes by John Keats was written in 1819, just two years before Keats’ death, in the Romantic period. The *theme of physical sensations* in this poem are represented through linguistic and structural methods, as well as contextual factors of the time. Physical sensations are not just seen in The Eve of St Agnes , however – Keats has also used this theme in La Belle Dame sans Merci , which was written in 1819 like The Eve of St Agnes . In this analysis, it will be seen whether La Belle Dame sans Merci shares a similar approach to physical sensations, and whether the time period had impact on this.

It is important to mention what you are going to be discussing in the essay. But, you do not need to use specific details in your introduction, otherwise the rest of your essay will seem sort of shallow. So, use phrases such as ‘In this analysis, the linguistic and structural crafting will be explored’, for instance.

If the question is particularly linked to a specific one contextual factor – maybe it is about monarchy or social hierarchy, or war? – you should give a brief overview of that contextual factor. E.g. “The social hierarchy in Shakespearean times was based on the chain of being , which will be discussed in this analysis.”

  • In comparison essays – so the Prose and Poetry exams – it is important to highlight which text is your primary text . In the Prose exam, your primary text is Frankenstein , because it “comes first” in literary history. In Post 2000 poetry, the primary text is the poem from the anthology , accompanied by the unseen poem . In Keats, the primary text is the poem it gives you , and you “support” your points with another poem. But, it is important not to compare . So, when exploring your point further, you could say “To support this point, this is also seen in *insert other poem name* by using the same techniques.”
  • In non-comparison essays – the Drama exam – you will need to write the same number of points that you would use for a comparison essay (the average is 2-3), but you may need more substance and expansive analysis. For example, if you wrote two paragraphs for one point in the Prose exam (which includes two texts ) you would still need to write two paragraphs for one point , even though you only have one text .
  • So the structure of your essays need to be clear , concise and understandable . Especially for comparison essays, you will need to split up your points into more than one paragraph so that the examiner can understand your analysis more clearly.Having said this, in the Prose exam, it is important to note that you must state the points for both texts in the initial paragraph. This is so that the examiner can see where your point is going from the beginning.In the comparison essays in the Poetry exam, the first paragraph of the point should be about the primary text , which will then lead you to explore the secondary text . So, the advice for this would be: do not plan points for both poems – if you want to plan, just think of points for the primary text , and then think about how that same technique or concept is seen in your secondary text .
  • Quoting / quotations: It is important to follow the succeeding points when considering the quotations that you use –
  • Think about the context that you are talking about, and how you are putting the quotation in a sentence. Generally, it is better to put a quotation in a sentence like: “This is seen in the declarative sentence , ‘We are two-legged wombs.’ (p.146).” (this is a quote from The Handmaid’s Tale ). But if you are going to use the quotation like this: “The narrator said that ‘We are two legged-wombs’ to present the idea that the Handmaids are irrelevant.” you will need to think about the structure of the sentence. Instead of using the pronoun ‘We’ in the quotation, put ‘they’ in square brackets to show that you have modified the quotation . So, the sentence would look like this: “The narrator said that ‘[they] are two-legged wombs’ to present the idea that the Handmaids are irrelevant.”
  • Think about the length of the quotation that you are using. If there is a long quotation – perhaps one that includes a stream of consciousness or syndetic listing , or just lengthy description – you may want to use snippets of the quotation to ensure that the examiner does not get bored. So instead of saying: “Walton (who is speaking) is seen to be a man who has power. Shelley presents this by saying, ‘One man’s life or death were but a small price to pay for the acquirement of the knowledge which I sought, for the dominion I should acquire and transmit over the elemental foes of our race.’” (This is a quotation from Frankenstein ). you could use specific words or phrases to portray the same point. For instance, if your point was: “Walton (who is speaking) is seen to be a man who has power. Shelley presents this is seen in his fourth letter with a semantic field of power and knowledge, with words such as ‘acquirement’; ‘knowledge’; ‘dominion’’ and ‘transmit’.”
  • Terminology : I know that terminology is difficult to use, especially if you can’t think of the name for a technique. But, you are marked on your terminology use as it “proves” that you know what you’re talking about.
  • Where to use terminology: when structuring your point, you should use terminology either before you mention the quotation – this is if you are making a point that the technique has a direct impact on the theme or character – or after you mention the quotation – this is just to show that you know what technique the author has used.Before the quotation: If you are making the point that the author uses declarative sentences to depict the theme or character, you could say: “Atwood uses declarative sentences to represent how straightforward prejudice is as a theme in society: ‘We are two-legged wombs.’ (p.146).” The idea that prejudice is ‘straightforward’ is your point .After the quotation: So, after the point made above, you could expand by saying: “Atwood uses this declarative sentence to represent that the Handmaids are discriminated against in a simple way, otherwise she may have used another sentence mood, such as exclamatory sentences . In addition, the metaphor of Handmaids being ‘two-legged wombs’ shows Atwood’s linguistic crafting to portray that Handmaids are only seen as women who give birth to children, and nothing else.” The use of further terminology in your essay – in this case ‘exclamatory sentences’ and ‘metaphor’ – will show more knowledge.
  • Word Specific Analysis: Instead of using terminology for the analysis of a whole quotation , you can use Word Specific Analysis to really unpick the underlying ideas. For instance: “Atwood uses the pronoun ‘We’ to represent that the Handmaids are a collective. This shows that if one Handmaid is victimised or targeted, the whole group of Handmaids are discriminated against. In addition, the use of the noun ‘wombs’ indicates the part of the body that the Handmaids are seen as: they are just seen as being able to conceive a child, and nothing more.”

For instance: “ Bright star! would I were steadfast as thou art by John Keats uses the Petrarchan sonnet  form. Petrarch was famous for using themes such as unrequited love, and the sonnet will always use a Volta . The Volta is the beginning of the ninth line of the sonnet and, in Keats’ poetry, is often representative of his own personal change in mood or thought, so the Volta ‘No’ in Bright star! could be Keats changing his mind, or disagreeing, with his previous comments.”

In the Drama exam, it is important to know the names of speech and structure:

For instance: “ Othello by William Shakespeare uses a variety of structures to symbolise the theme of betrayal. For instance, Iago often speaks in prose when his plan is beginning to unravel. Prose, in comparison to the poetic speech that characters usually speaks in, is used to represent the unstoppable thoughts and ideas that a character may have.”

  • Context: It is explicitly important to use contextual information to back up your ideas.
  • The Prose Exam:The most important piece of context for this exam is about the science of the time and how it is used in your texts. This is because the section of the exam is ‘Science and Society’. This also means you have to have a substantial knowledge of the society at the time of the novels as well.
  • Other exams:It is just as important to use author-personal context as well as societal This includes the author’s family, associates, events that happened to them etc.You should use a balance of societal and personal context to show your varied knowledge. In fact, you can often use a piece of context as your point e.g. “Keats wrote in the second generation of the Romantic poets, so he had influence from the work of Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge, for instance. The Romantics have many different conventions, but to represent the theme of physical sensations in The Eve of St Agnes , Keats has employed the Romantic connection to nature.”
  • Critics and Different Interpretations:The Drama exam is the only exam that you get marked on for critical analysis and using different interpretations, but it does not hurt to use them in each exam.

“In Othello , Shakespeare represents Desdemona as being associated with everyone, or having an impact on each character for a different reason.”

This can be supported by Anna Jameson , a critic of the play. You do not need to remember every detail of her critical evaluation, but you need to remember the general idea or snippets of quotes:

“To support this point, Anna Jameson said that Desdemona is the ‘source of the pathos’ of the play. This links to the idea that she is associated with everyone because she emits the ‘pathos’ and diffuses it to each character, and this is what creates the tragedy in the play.” What is important to mention , however, is that you should back up the critical reading with a quotation from the play, rather than just your “point”:

“This is seen just before Desdemona’s death when she says ‘I never did / Offend you in my life; never loved Cassio’, then Othello says ‘Honest Iago hath tane order for’t.’ This represents Desdemona’s impact on multiple characters through the possessive pronoun ‘you’ and the mention of ‘Cassio’ and ‘Iago’, and the bitter tone of these declarative sentences portrays pathos, therefore showing where Jameson got her idea from.”

To make another point, you could challenge the critic. Another point could be:

“Desdemona is seen as ‘fair’, and innocent, and Shakespeare represents this by repeatedly having Othello call her the epithet ‘gentle Desdemona’.”

Therefore, you could use Jameson’s idea to challenge this point:

“To challenge this point, Anna Jameson said that Desdemona is the ‘source pathos of the play’. If Desdemona is the ‘source pathos’, it can be analysed that she is not truly ‘gentle’, but is actually sorrowful.”

You could disagree with the critic as well, but do not use first person . Say it as though you are disagreeing on behalf of the audience:

I hope that this is all helpful for the exam, the exams start tomorrow so good luck!


Atwood, M. (1985). The Handmaid’s Tale. London: Vintage Random House.

Keats, J. (2007). Selected Poems. London: Penguin Classics.

Poems of the Decade: An Anthology of the Forward Books of Poetry. (2011). London: Forward Ltd.

Shakespeare, W. (1622). Othello. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Shelley, M. (1818). Frankenstein (3 ed.). London: Penguin Group.

Williams, T. (1947). A Streetcar Named Desire. London: Penguin Group.

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8 Tips to Write Better Essays in English

Learning a foreign language is an overwhelming experience, especially if it’s one of the most widely spoken languages in the world – English.

Many people are under the impression that learning to read and speak in English is enough without realizing that written English skills are an equally vital asset to have.

From improving academics to boosting career prospects – the ability to write in English not only lets you communicate and express yourself better in today’s globalized world but also makes you more confident.

An effective way to improve your writing skills is to write essays. Wondering where to begin? We bring you eight useful tips to write better essays in English.

1. Keep a Vocabulary Notebook

Using the right vocabulary is an essential element of writing essays. When you make efforts to expand your vocabulary, you will be able to pick accurate words to take your writing to the next level.

Instead of coming across new words and forgetting about them, it’s a good idea to make a note of them in your vocabulary notebook. Doing this helps you remember the meanings of new words and you can also refer to it while writing essays.

So, give yourself a target to learn at least ten new words every day, which you can jot down in your diary and take baby steps in building a strong vocabulary.

2. Refer to Credible Sources

Research forms the first step in writing any kind of essay. The stronger your research, the better is the quality of your essay.

At a time when we have access to a wide range of data, it’s important to evaluate research sources carefully and only refer to credible ones. For example, Wikipedia is not a reliable source and should not be attributed to while writing essays.

Take the effort to read through published journals, research studies, scholarly papers, academic databases, and encyclopedias published within the last 10-15 years. It’s also important to assess the credibility of the author while evaluating the source.

3. Draft a Basic Outline

Once you’ve done your research, don’t rush to write. Take a moment to draft a basic outline for your essay and organize your research and findings.

“Is that necessary,” you ask? Very much.

Working on an outline lets you approach the essay in an organized manner. It serves as the skeleton of your paper while ensuring you’re not missing out on any information and that your points flow logically.

Most essays are categorized into – introduction, body, and conclusion.

The introduction is where you introduce the topic and give context. The body paragraphs need to include your arguments and research methodology (if any). The conclusion needs to reiterate the thesis statement and tie all the points together.

4. Hook the Reader

With attention spans getting shorter with time, it’s become all the more important to start with a bang and hook the reader from the beginning to ensure they are invested in your writing.

Essay hooks refer to the first one or two sentences of your essay which have the power to make or break the reader’s interest. The key is to write a hook that grabs the reader’s attention and reels them in.

From an alarming statistic and relevant quote to using humor and asking a rhetoric question – there are various tactics you can employ to keep the reader engaged.

If you’re unable to think of an impactful essay hook, don’t waste too much time on it. Finish the rest of your essay and come back to write a compelling hook later.

5. Use the Pomodoro Technique

It’s not easy to write an essay in one go, especially if it’s not in your first language.

A smart way to approach essay writing is to use the Pomodoro technique. This technique asks you to set a timer for 25 minutes to finish your task in question and then take a 5-minute break. After four cycles of repeating this, you get to take an extended 20-minute break.

So, start with breaking down the assignment into smaller tasks such as research, outlining, writing the different paragraphs, citing references and proofreading. You can then set the timer, start working on the essay as per the technique and track your progress.

Using this technique keeps distractions at bay and helps you stay more focused.

6. Pay Attention to Grammar Rules

You may raise interesting points in your essay, but poor grammar disrupts the reading experience and should be avoided at all costs.

Be careful when adding punctuations, check your sentence formations, avoid passive voice as much as possible and know the difference between adjectives, adverbs, nouns and verbs.

So  abide by grammar rules to deliver a well-written and cohesive essay.

7. Write with Clarity

You might be tempted to use complex metaphors and jargons to impress the reader, but the truth is, none of that guarantees “good” writing.

One of the most important ingredients of effective writing is clarity. You don’t want to leave the reader confused and puzzled after reading your essay. So, use simple words, stop beating around the bush and explain concepts with the help of examples because clear writing always wins.

8. Reread the Essay

Finally, make it a point to proofread your essay (multiple times) to ensure you have covered all the aspects, cited references accurately and not made any silly errors.

It’s a good idea to read your essay out loud so you’re able to identify errors and awkwardly formed sentences with ease. You should also get a friend or family member to read your essay, to spot mistakes or discrepancies that you may have overlooked.

You may also like:

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  • How to Write a Great Essay for Different A-Level Subjects

Image shows an open notebook with a pen resting on it.

In previous articles, we’ve given you lots of advice on how to write the perfect essay.

However, the skills we’ve discussed up to now have been generic, and have not taken into account the fact that different subjects require different skills when it comes to writing excellent essays for them. In this article, we look at the particular skills needed to write great essays for individual A-level subjects, so that you can familiarise yourself with what you need to do to excel in whatever A-levels you happen to be studying.

Image shows a painting of a house on the moors.

Good English literature essays revolve around intelligent interpretation. The problem many students have with this is organising their interpretations into a tightly structured essay that flows well; many simply let their ideas run wild and flit aimlessly between one point and the next. To combat this problem, you need to consider the writer’s overall aims and then show how they have conveyed those aims, paragraph by paragraph, with each paragraph devoted to a particular technique or focus. A good structure to use is as follows:

  • Point – make a statement, such as “Brontë uses the bleakness of the moorland setting to reflect Heathcliff’s temperament.”
  • Explanation – elaborate on the statement in more detail. In this example, your explanation would involve explaining the parallels between Heathcliff and the moors – their unpredictability and wildness, for instance, and the violence of the weather mirroring Heathcliff’s violent personality.
  • Evidence – now provide quotes from the text to back up what you mean. In the Heathcliff example, you could quote specific words and phrases that show similarities in the way Heathcliff is described and the way in which the moorland landscape and weather are described.
  • Reiterate – close off the paragraph by reiterating the point, and perhaps developing it a little further or introducing the idea you’re going to carry into the next paragraph. For example, “This ties in with a wider theme running through the book as a whole, which is that nature parallels human emotions.”

Good English essays pay close attention to detail, noting specific words, phrases and literary devices a writer has used, and to what effect. They quote liberally from the text in order to support each point, deconstructing the writing and analysing the use of language; they look at different interpretations, seeing beyond the surface and picking up on possible deeper meanings and connotations. But they also consider the meaning of the piece as a whole, and the overall effect created by the specific details noted. All this should be considered within the framework of the genre and context of the piece of writing. For instance, a poem by William Wordsworth would be considered within the context of the Romantic poets, and might be compared with work by contemporary poets such as Shelley or Keats; the historical background might also be touched upon where relevant (such as the Industrial Revolution when discussing the poetry of William Blake).

Image shows a painting of Luther at the Diet of Worms.

Though it’s also a humanities subject, History requires its own very particular set of skills that differ to an appreciable degree from those expected of you in English. A history essay is unequivocal about its writer’s opinion, but this opinion must be based on a solid analysis of evidence that very often can’t be taken as fact. Evidence must be discussed in terms of its reliability, or lack thereof. The good historian considers what biases may be inherent in a source, what vested interest the source might have, and what viewpoint that source was written from. For instance, you might analyse a source by discussing whether or not the person was present at the events they are describing; how long after the events they were writing (and therefore whether they are remembering it accurately if they were there, or whether they are getting their information second or third hand from someone else; and if so, how reliable the original source is); whether they are trying to show evidence to support a particular political view; and so on. So, each time you make a point, back it up with evidence, and consider the strengths and weaknesses of that evidence. A good history essay makes connections between what’s been written about, considering how issues interrelate, so think about how what you’re writing about ties in with other things; what was the impact of the event you’re discussing, did it happen in isolation, and what were the events that led to it?

Image shows a painting of workers in a factory.

It’s vital to look at both sides of the argument – or, where many possible viewpoints exist, to acknowledge these nuances. It’s fine to contradict yourself, provided you do so consciously; that is, you can build up an argument and then turn it on its head, observing that you are doing so (for example, “So far, so compelling; but what about the less well-known evidence from such and such?”). You can use quotes from historians you’ve read, but use these in the context of discussing scholarly opinion. Don’t quote a historian’s words as evidence of something, because this is only someone’s opinion – it’s not proof. Finally, where possible, use specialist terms to show that you know your stuff (“proletariat” instead of “workers”, for example).

The primary task that lies ahead of you in writing a French essay is, of course, to demonstrate your superior language skills. Keep the content itself very even-handed, sitting on the fence rather than presenting a forceful opinion that could distract attention away from the quality of your use of French. Focus on using as wide a variety of vocabulary and tenses as you can. It will help your essay if you can learn how to say more sophisticated phrases in French, of the sort you would use if you were writing an essay in English. This useful document from, Writing Essays in French, will give you numerous useful French phrases to help you put together an impressive essay, including the vocabulary you need to present a balanced argument.

Image shows the contrast between old buildings and skyscrapers in the Philippines.

Geography is a subject that crosses the divide between the sciences and the humanities, considering both physical processes and human activities (and their effects on the world around us). Essays for Geography may differ depending on which of these focuses the essay is discussing, and the evidence you might include in your essay could vary from phenomena observed and data gathered in the natural world to the results of population censuses. To write a good Geography essay, you’ll need to include both theory and detailed, real-world case studies to support your answer. Mention specific places by name, and communicate the facts accurately. Your teacher will be assessing not just your knowledge, but your ability to support what you say with relevant information that proves it. You shouldn’t just rattle off everything you know about a particular case study; you should deploy relevant facts from the case study to support a specific point you’re trying to make. Keep linking each point back to the question, so that you’re always working towards answering it; this also helps you ensure that everything you include is actually relevant to the question. Showing that you’ve thought about an issue from multiple perspectives, and that you appreciate how they interrelate, is important in Geography. You can do this by organising the content of your essay into categories, considering different factors in turn, such as the scale of the issue, and the timeframe and environment involved. Discuss the various factors involved logically, one by one, such as the environmental impact of climate change or a natural disaster (such as a tsunami or volcanic eruption), followed by its physical, economic, social and political implications. Acknowledging the numerous nuances of the situation will demonstrate your appreciation of its complexity and show that you are thinking at a high level.

Classical Civilisations

Image shows a close-up of the Charioteer of Delphi.

As the study of the ancient world (primarily ancient Rome and Greece), Classical Civilisations combines archaeology and history, looking both at what survives materially (from small finds, to art and sculpture, to temples) and what survives in the way of texts by ancient authors. A good essay for this subject analyses, evaluates and interprets. The historical elements of the subject will require the same set of skills we discussed for History earlier, while the archaeological components of this subject require slightly different skills. With your archaeologist hat on, your job becomes similar to that of a detective, piecing together clues. Archaeology crosses over into science, and with that comes scientific considerations such as how archaeological evidence has been gathered – the methods used, their reliability, whether or not they could have been tampered with, how accurately they were recorded, and so on. You’ll look at a variety of different types of evidence, too, from the finds themselves to maps of the local topography. As with Geography, for which you’re required to learn lots of detailed case studies and names, you’ll need to learn plenty of examples of sites and finds to use as sources of evidence in building up a picture of the ancient world. And, as with any subject, looking at both sides of any argument is crucial to good grades. If the evidence you’re discussing could show one thing, but it could also show another, don’t just present one possibility – show that you’ve thought in depth about it and consider all the possible interpretations.

Science subjects

Image shows the Hubble Space Telescope.

The sciences – Biology, Chemistry, Physics and Mathematics – are generally less essay-focused, so we’re grouping them together here because the essay skills required for each of these subjects are very similar. While the fundamentals of scientific essay writing are the same as any other subject – having a logical structure, well-developed argument, and so on – there are a few subject-specific considerations to bear in mind, and some common pitfalls to watch out for. The first is that there is no room for opinion in a scientific essay; unless you’re specifically asked for it, leave your own thoughts out of it and focus instead on a completely objective discussion of the evidence gathered through scientific research, which will most probably be quantitative data. Avoid vague language such as “it is thought that…”; be as precise as possible. Start with a hypothesis, and then discuss the research that supports or disproves it. Back up every statement you make with solid data; it’s not enough simply to drop in the name of the research, so briefly describe what the findings were and why they prove the statement you’ve just made. Another mistake many students make is to confuse cause and effect; this arises because of the tendency to assume that correlation implies causation, which is a common logical fallacy. Just because two things appear to be related, it doesn’t mean that one caused the other, and committing this error in an essay is a major faux pas that will lose you marks. It’s also a good idea to ensure that you’ve included every piece of research that could be relevant; if you don’t, you could be leaving out a crucial piece of evidence. Finally, mention any limitations there may have been with the methodology used to gather the data you discuss.

Image shows a hand squeezing a stress ball.

Psychology essays are best approached with a scientific mindset, but it’s far more difficult to prove anything in this subject – and this should be acknowledged in your essay. The task becomes one of assessing which theory is the more probable one, based on an analysis of the data from various studies. Make liberal reference to named and dated psychological experiments and research, but acknowledge the fact that there may be more than one theory that could account for the same set of results. When these experiments are quoted as evidence, this should be done with reference to any possible limitations of how the experiment was conducted (such as a small sample size). If you’ve reached the end of this article, you’re now equipped with the knowledge to write fantastic essays guaranteed to impress your teachers. You’re also well on the way to thinking in the right way for university-level essays, so keep working on these skills now and you’ll find it much easier to make the leap from sixth former to undergraduate.

Image credits: banner ; Wuthering Heights ; Diet of Worms ; factory workers ; Charioteer ; Hubble Space Telescope ; Psychology . 

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  • Example of a great essay | Explanations, tips & tricks

Example of a Great Essay | Explanations, Tips & Tricks

Published on February 9, 2015 by Shane Bryson . Revised on July 23, 2023 by Shona McCombes.

This example guides you through the structure of an essay. It shows how to build an effective introduction , focused paragraphs , clear transitions between ideas, and a strong conclusion .

Each paragraph addresses a single central point, introduced by a topic sentence , and each point is directly related to the thesis statement .

As you read, hover over the highlighted parts to learn what they do and why they work.

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Other interesting articles, frequently asked questions about writing an essay, an appeal to the senses: the development of the braille system in nineteenth-century france.

The invention of Braille was a major turning point in the history of disability. The writing system of raised dots used by visually impaired people was developed by Louis Braille in nineteenth-century France. In a society that did not value disabled people in general, blindness was particularly stigmatized, and lack of access to reading and writing was a significant barrier to social participation. The idea of tactile reading was not entirely new, but existing methods based on sighted systems were difficult to learn and use. As the first writing system designed for blind people’s needs, Braille was a groundbreaking new accessibility tool. It not only provided practical benefits, but also helped change the cultural status of blindness. This essay begins by discussing the situation of blind people in nineteenth-century Europe. It then describes the invention of Braille and the gradual process of its acceptance within blind education. Subsequently, it explores the wide-ranging effects of this invention on blind people’s social and cultural lives.

Lack of access to reading and writing put blind people at a serious disadvantage in nineteenth-century society. Text was one of the primary methods through which people engaged with culture, communicated with others, and accessed information; without a well-developed reading system that did not rely on sight, blind people were excluded from social participation (Weygand, 2009). While disabled people in general suffered from discrimination, blindness was widely viewed as the worst disability, and it was commonly believed that blind people were incapable of pursuing a profession or improving themselves through culture (Weygand, 2009). This demonstrates the importance of reading and writing to social status at the time: without access to text, it was considered impossible to fully participate in society. Blind people were excluded from the sighted world, but also entirely dependent on sighted people for information and education.

In France, debates about how to deal with disability led to the adoption of different strategies over time. While people with temporary difficulties were able to access public welfare, the most common response to people with long-term disabilities, such as hearing or vision loss, was to group them together in institutions (Tombs, 1996). At first, a joint institute for the blind and deaf was created, and although the partnership was motivated more by financial considerations than by the well-being of the residents, the institute aimed to help people develop skills valuable to society (Weygand, 2009). Eventually blind institutions were separated from deaf institutions, and the focus shifted towards education of the blind, as was the case for the Royal Institute for Blind Youth, which Louis Braille attended (Jimenez et al, 2009). The growing acknowledgement of the uniqueness of different disabilities led to more targeted education strategies, fostering an environment in which the benefits of a specifically blind education could be more widely recognized.

Several different systems of tactile reading can be seen as forerunners to the method Louis Braille developed, but these systems were all developed based on the sighted system. The Royal Institute for Blind Youth in Paris taught the students to read embossed roman letters, a method created by the school’s founder, Valentin Hauy (Jimenez et al., 2009). Reading this way proved to be a rather arduous task, as the letters were difficult to distinguish by touch. The embossed letter method was based on the reading system of sighted people, with minimal adaptation for those with vision loss. As a result, this method did not gain significant success among blind students.

Louis Braille was bound to be influenced by his school’s founder, but the most influential pre-Braille tactile reading system was Charles Barbier’s night writing. A soldier in Napoleon’s army, Barbier developed a system in 1819 that used 12 dots with a five line musical staff (Kersten, 1997). His intention was to develop a system that would allow the military to communicate at night without the need for light (Herron, 2009). The code developed by Barbier was phonetic (Jimenez et al., 2009); in other words, the code was designed for sighted people and was based on the sounds of words, not on an actual alphabet. Barbier discovered that variants of raised dots within a square were the easiest method of reading by touch (Jimenez et al., 2009). This system proved effective for the transmission of short messages between military personnel, but the symbols were too large for the fingertip, greatly reducing the speed at which a message could be read (Herron, 2009). For this reason, it was unsuitable for daily use and was not widely adopted in the blind community.

Nevertheless, Barbier’s military dot system was more efficient than Hauy’s embossed letters, and it provided the framework within which Louis Braille developed his method. Barbier’s system, with its dashes and dots, could form over 4000 combinations (Jimenez et al., 2009). Compared to the 26 letters of the Latin alphabet, this was an absurdly high number. Braille kept the raised dot form, but developed a more manageable system that would reflect the sighted alphabet. He replaced Barbier’s dashes and dots with just six dots in a rectangular configuration (Jimenez et al., 2009). The result was that the blind population in France had a tactile reading system using dots (like Barbier’s) that was based on the structure of the sighted alphabet (like Hauy’s); crucially, this system was the first developed specifically for the purposes of the blind.

While the Braille system gained immediate popularity with the blind students at the Institute in Paris, it had to gain acceptance among the sighted before its adoption throughout France. This support was necessary because sighted teachers and leaders had ultimate control over the propagation of Braille resources. Many of the teachers at the Royal Institute for Blind Youth resisted learning Braille’s system because they found the tactile method of reading difficult to learn (Bullock & Galst, 2009). This resistance was symptomatic of the prevalent attitude that the blind population had to adapt to the sighted world rather than develop their own tools and methods. Over time, however, with the increasing impetus to make social contribution possible for all, teachers began to appreciate the usefulness of Braille’s system (Bullock & Galst, 2009), realizing that access to reading could help improve the productivity and integration of people with vision loss. It took approximately 30 years, but the French government eventually approved the Braille system, and it was established throughout the country (Bullock & Galst, 2009).

Although Blind people remained marginalized throughout the nineteenth century, the Braille system granted them growing opportunities for social participation. Most obviously, Braille allowed people with vision loss to read the same alphabet used by sighted people (Bullock & Galst, 2009), allowing them to participate in certain cultural experiences previously unavailable to them. Written works, such as books and poetry, had previously been inaccessible to the blind population without the aid of a reader, limiting their autonomy. As books began to be distributed in Braille, this barrier was reduced, enabling people with vision loss to access information autonomously. The closing of the gap between the abilities of blind and the sighted contributed to a gradual shift in blind people’s status, lessening the cultural perception of the blind as essentially different and facilitating greater social integration.

The Braille system also had important cultural effects beyond the sphere of written culture. Its invention later led to the development of a music notation system for the blind, although Louis Braille did not develop this system himself (Jimenez, et al., 2009). This development helped remove a cultural obstacle that had been introduced by the popularization of written musical notation in the early 1500s. While music had previously been an arena in which the blind could participate on equal footing, the transition from memory-based performance to notation-based performance meant that blind musicians were no longer able to compete with sighted musicians (Kersten, 1997). As a result, a tactile musical notation system became necessary for professional equality between blind and sighted musicians (Kersten, 1997).

Braille paved the way for dramatic cultural changes in the way blind people were treated and the opportunities available to them. Louis Braille’s innovation was to reimagine existing reading systems from a blind perspective, and the success of this invention required sighted teachers to adapt to their students’ reality instead of the other way around. In this sense, Braille helped drive broader social changes in the status of blindness. New accessibility tools provide practical advantages to those who need them, but they can also change the perspectives and attitudes of those who do not.

Bullock, J. D., & Galst, J. M. (2009). The Story of Louis Braille. Archives of Ophthalmology , 127(11), 1532. https://​​archophthalmol.2009.286.

Herron, M. (2009, May 6). Blind visionary. Retrieved from https://​​content/​articles/2009/05/​blind-visionary/.

Jiménez, J., Olea, J., Torres, J., Alonso, I., Harder, D., & Fischer, K. (2009). Biography of Louis Braille and Invention of the Braille Alphabet. Survey of Ophthalmology , 54(1), 142–149. https://​​j.survophthal.2008.10.006.

Kersten, F.G. (1997). The history and development of Braille music methodology. The Bulletin of Historical Research in Music Education , 18(2). Retrieved from https://​​stable/40214926.

Mellor, C.M. (2006). Louis Braille: A touch of genius . Boston: National Braille Press.

Tombs, R. (1996). France: 1814-1914 . London: Pearson Education Ltd.

Weygand, Z. (2009). The blind in French society from the Middle Ages to the century of Louis Braille . Stanford: Stanford University Press.

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An essay is a focused piece of writing that explains, argues, describes, or narrates.

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The structure of an essay is divided into an introduction that presents your topic and thesis statement , a body containing your in-depth analysis and arguments, and a conclusion wrapping up your ideas.

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At college level, you must properly cite your sources in all essays , research papers , and other academic texts (except exams and in-class exercises).

Add a citation whenever you quote , paraphrase , or summarize information or ideas from a source. You should also give full source details in a bibliography or reference list at the end of your text.

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Interesting Literature

How to Write a Good English Literature Essay

By Dr Oliver Tearle (Loughborough University)

How do you write a good English Literature essay? Although to an extent this depends on the particular subject you’re writing about, and on the nature of the question your essay is attempting to answer, there are a few general guidelines for how to write a convincing essay – just as there are a few guidelines for writing well in any field.

We at Interesting Literature  call them ‘guidelines’ because we hesitate to use the word ‘rules’, which seems too programmatic. And as the writing habits of successful authors demonstrate, there is no  one way to become a good writer – of essays, novels, poems, or whatever it is you’re setting out to write. The French writer Colette liked to begin her writing day by picking the fleas off her cat.

Edith Sitwell, by all accounts, liked to lie in an open coffin before she began her day’s writing. Friedrich von Schiller kept rotten apples in his desk, claiming he needed the scent of their decay to help him write. (For most student essay-writers, such an aroma is probably allowed to arise in the writing-room more organically, over time.)

We will address our suggestions for successful essay-writing to the average student of English Literature, whether at university or school level. There are many ways to approach the task of essay-writing, and these are just a few pointers for how to write a better English essay – and some of these pointers may also work for other disciplines and subjects, too.

Of course, these guidelines are designed to be of interest to the non-essay-writer too – people who have an interest in the craft of writing in general. If this describes you, we hope you enjoy the list as well. Remember, though, everyone can find writing difficult: as Thomas Mann memorably put it, ‘A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.’ Nora Ephron was briefer: ‘I think the hardest thing about writing is writing.’ So, the guidelines for successful essay-writing:

1. Planning is important, but don’t spend too long perfecting a structure that might end up changing.

This may seem like odd advice to kick off with, but the truth is that different approaches work for different students and essayists. You need to find out which method works best for you.

It’s not a bad idea, regardless of whether you’re a big planner or not, to sketch out perhaps a few points on a sheet of paper before you start, but don’t be surprised if you end up moving away from it slightly – or considerably – when you start to write.

Often the most extensively planned essays are the most mechanistic and dull in execution, precisely because the writer has drawn up a plan and refused to deviate from it. What  is a more valuable skill is to be able to sense when your argument may be starting to go off-topic, or your point is getting out of hand,  as you write . (For help on this, see point 5 below.)

We might even say that when it comes to knowing how to write a good English Literature essay,  practising  is more important than planning.

2. Make room for close analysis of the text, or texts.

Whilst it’s true that some first-class or A-grade essays will be impressive without containing any close reading as such, most of the highest-scoring and most sophisticated essays tend to zoom in on the text and examine its language and imagery closely in the course of the argument. (Close reading of literary texts arises from theology and the analysis of holy scripture, but really became a ‘thing’ in literary criticism in the early twentieth century, when T. S. Eliot, F. R. Leavis, William Empson, and other influential essayists started to subject the poem or novel to close scrutiny.)

Close reading has two distinct advantages: it increases the specificity of your argument (so you can’t be so easily accused of generalising a point), and it improves your chances of pointing up something about the text which none of the other essays your marker is reading will have said. For instance, take In Memoriam  (1850), which is a long Victorian poem by the poet Alfred, Lord Tennyson about his grief following the death of his close friend, Arthur Hallam, in the early 1830s.

When answering a question about the representation of religious faith in Tennyson’s poem  In Memoriam  (1850), how might you write a particularly brilliant essay about this theme? Anyone can make a general point about the poet’s crisis of faith; but to look closely at the language used gives you the chance to show  how the poet portrays this.

For instance, consider this stanza, which conveys the poet’s doubt:

A solid and perfectly competent essay might cite this stanza in support of the claim that Tennyson is finding it increasingly difficult to have faith in God (following the untimely and senseless death of his friend, Arthur Hallam). But there are several ways of then doing something more with it. For instance, you might get close to the poem’s imagery, and show how Tennyson conveys this idea, through the image of the ‘altar-stairs’ associated with religious worship and the idea of the stairs leading ‘thro’ darkness’ towards God.

In other words, Tennyson sees faith as a matter of groping through the darkness, trusting in God without having evidence that he is there. If you like, it’s a matter of ‘blind faith’. That would be a good reading. Now, here’s how to make a good English essay on this subject even better: one might look at how the word ‘falter’ – which encapsulates Tennyson’s stumbling faith – disperses into ‘falling’ and ‘altar’ in the succeeding lines. The word ‘falter’, we might say, itself falters or falls apart.

That is doing more than just interpreting the words: it’s being a highly careful reader of the poetry and showing how attentive to the language of the poetry you can be – all the while answering the question, about how the poem portrays the idea of faith. So, read and then reread the text you’re writing about – and be sensitive to such nuances of language and style.

The best way to  become attuned to such nuances is revealed in point 5. We might summarise this point as follows: when it comes to knowing how to write a persuasive English Literature essay, it’s one thing to have a broad and overarching argument, but don’t be afraid to use the  microscope as well as the telescope.

3. Provide several pieces of evidence where possible.

Many essays have a point to make and make it, tacking on a single piece of evidence from the text (or from beyond the text, e.g. a critical, historical, or biographical source) in the hope that this will be enough to make the point convincing.

‘State, quote, explain’ is the Holy Trinity of the Paragraph for many. What’s wrong with it? For one thing, this approach is too formulaic and basic for many arguments. Is one quotation enough to support a point? It’s often a matter of degree, and although one piece of evidence is better than none, two or three pieces will be even more persuasive.

After all, in a court of law a single eyewitness account won’t be enough to convict the accused of the crime, and even a confession from the accused would carry more weight if it comes supported by other, objective evidence (e.g. DNA, fingerprints, and so on).

Let’s go back to the example about Tennyson’s faith in his poem  In Memoriam  mentioned above. Perhaps you don’t find the end of the poem convincing – when the poet claims to have rediscovered his Christian faith and to have overcome his grief at the loss of his friend.

You can find examples from the end of the poem to suggest your reading of the poet’s insincerity may have validity, but looking at sources beyond the poem – e.g. a good edition of the text, which will contain biographical and critical information – may help you to find a clinching piece of evidence to support your reading.

And, sure enough, Tennyson is reported to have said of  In Memoriam : ‘It’s too hopeful, this poem, more than I am myself.’ And there we have it: much more convincing than simply positing your reading of the poem with a few ambiguous quotations from the poem itself.

Of course, this rule also works in reverse: if you want to argue, for instance, that T. S. Eliot’s  The Waste Land is overwhelmingly inspired by the poet’s unhappy marriage to his first wife, then using a decent biographical source makes sense – but if you didn’t show evidence for this idea from the poem itself (see point 2), all you’ve got is a vague, general link between the poet’s life and his work.

Show  how the poet’s marriage is reflected in the work, e.g. through men and women’s relationships throughout the poem being shown as empty, soulless, and unhappy. In other words, when setting out to write a good English essay about any text, don’t be afraid to  pile on  the evidence – though be sensible, a handful of quotations or examples should be more than enough to make your point convincing.

4. Avoid tentative or speculative phrasing.

Many essays tend to suffer from the above problem of a lack of evidence, so the point fails to convince. This has a knock-on effect: often the student making the point doesn’t sound especially convinced by it either. This leaks out in the telling use of, and reliance on, certain uncertain  phrases: ‘Tennyson might have’ or ‘perhaps Harper Lee wrote this to portray’ or ‘it can be argued that’.

An English university professor used to write in the margins of an essay which used this last phrase, ‘What  can’t be argued?’

This is a fair criticism: anything can be argued (badly), but it depends on what evidence you can bring to bear on it (point 3) as to whether it will be a persuasive argument. (Arguing that the plays of Shakespeare were written by a Martian who came down to Earth and ingratiated himself with the world of Elizabethan theatre is a theory that can be argued, though few would take it seriously. We wish we could say ‘none’, but that’s a story for another day.)

Many essay-writers, because they’re aware that texts are often open-ended and invite multiple interpretations (as almost all great works of literature invariably do), think that writing ‘it can be argued’ acknowledges the text’s rich layering of meaning and is therefore valid.

Whilst this is certainly a fact – texts are open-ended and can be read in wildly different ways – the phrase ‘it can be argued’ is best used sparingly if at all. It should be taken as true that your interpretation is, at bottom, probably unprovable. What would it mean to ‘prove’ a reading as correct, anyway? Because you found evidence that the author intended the same thing as you’ve argued of their text? Tennyson wrote in a letter, ‘I wrote In Memoriam  because…’?

But the author might have lied about it (e.g. in an attempt to dissuade people from looking too much into their private life), or they might have changed their mind (to go back to the example of  The Waste Land : T. S. Eliot championed the idea of poetic impersonality in an essay of 1919, but years later he described  The Waste Land as ‘only the relief of a personal and wholly insignificant grouse against life’ – hardly impersonal, then).

Texts – and their writers – can often be contradictory, or cagey about their meaning. But we as critics have to act responsibly when writing about literary texts in any good English essay or exam answer. We need to argue honestly, and sincerely – and not use what Wikipedia calls ‘weasel words’ or hedging expressions.

So, if nothing is utterly provable, all that remains is to make the strongest possible case you can with the evidence available. You do this, not only through marshalling the evidence in an effective way, but by writing in a confident voice when making your case. Fundamentally, ‘There is evidence to suggest that’ says more or less the same thing as ‘It can be argued’, but it foregrounds the  evidence rather than the argument, so is preferable as a phrase.

This point might be summarised by saying: the best way to write a good English Literature essay is to be honest about the reading you’re putting forward, so you can be confident in your interpretation and use clear, bold language. (‘Bold’ is good, but don’t get too cocky, of course…)

5. Read the work of other critics.

This might be viewed as the Holy Grail of good essay-writing tips, since it is perhaps the single most effective way to improve your own writing. Even if you’re writing an essay as part of school coursework rather than a university degree, and don’t need to research other critics for your essay, it’s worth finding a good writer of literary criticism and reading their work. Why is this worth doing?

Published criticism has at least one thing in its favour, at least if it’s published by an academic press or has appeared in an academic journal, and that is that it’s most probably been peer-reviewed, meaning that other academics have read it, closely studied its argument, checked it for errors or inaccuracies, and helped to ensure that it is expressed in a fluent, clear, and effective way.

If you’re serious about finding out how to write a better English essay, then you need to study how successful writers in the genre do it. And essay-writing is a genre, the same as novel-writing or poetry. But why will reading criticism help you? Because the critics you read can show you how to do all of the above: how to present a close reading of a poem, how to advance an argument that is not speculative or tentative yet not over-confident, how to use evidence from the text to make your argument more persuasive.

And, the more you read of other critics – a page a night, say, over a few months – the better you’ll get. It’s like textual osmosis: a little bit of their style will rub off on you, and every writer learns by the examples of other writers.

As T. S. Eliot himself said, ‘The poem which is absolutely original is absolutely bad.’ Don’t get precious about your own distinctive writing style and become afraid you’ll lose it. You can’t  gain a truly original style before you’ve looked at other people’s and worked out what you like and what you can ‘steal’ for your own ends.

We say ‘steal’, but this is not the same as saying that plagiarism is okay, of course. But consider this example. You read an accessible book on Shakespeare’s language and the author makes a point about rhymes in Shakespeare. When you’re working on your essay on the poetry of Christina Rossetti, you notice a similar use of rhyme, and remember the point made by the Shakespeare critic.

This is not plagiarising a point but applying it independently to another writer. It shows independent interpretive skills and an ability to understand and apply what you have read. This is another of the advantages of reading critics, so this would be our final piece of advice for learning how to write a good English essay: find a critic whose style you like, and study their craft.

If you’re looking for suggestions, we can recommend a few favourites: Christopher Ricks, whose  The Force of Poetry is a tour de force; Jonathan Bate, whose  The Genius of Shakespeare , although written for a general rather than academic audience, is written by a leading Shakespeare scholar and academic; and Helen Gardner, whose  The Art of T. S. Eliot , whilst dated (it came out in 1949), is a wonderfully lucid and articulate analysis of Eliot’s poetry.

James Wood’s How Fiction Works  is also a fine example of lucid prose and how to close-read literary texts. Doubtless readers of  Interesting Literature will have their own favourites to suggest in the comments, so do check those out, as these are just three personal favourites. What’s your favourite work of literary scholarship/criticism? Suggestions please.

Much of all this may strike you as common sense, but even the most commonsensical advice can go out of your mind when you have a piece of coursework to write, or an exam to revise for. We hope these suggestions help to remind you of some of the key tenets of good essay-writing practice – though remember, these aren’t so much commandments as recommendations. No one can ‘tell’ you how to write a good English Literature essay as such.

But it can be learned. And remember, be interesting – find the things in the poems or plays or novels which really ignite your enthusiasm. As John Mortimer said, ‘The only rule I have found to have any validity in writing is not to bore yourself.’

Finally, good luck – and happy writing!

And if you enjoyed these tips for how to write a persuasive English essay, check out our advice for how to remember things for exams  and our tips for becoming a better close reader of poetry .

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30 thoughts on “How to Write a Good English Literature Essay”

You must have taken AP Literature. I’m always saying these same points to my students.

I also think a crucial part of excellent essay writing that too many students do not realize is that not every point or interpretation needs to be addressed. When offered the chance to write your interpretation of a work of literature, it is important to note that there of course are many but your essay should choose one and focus evidence on this one view rather than attempting to include all views and evidence to back up each view.

Reblogged this on SocioTech'nowledge .

Not a bad effort…not at all! (Did you intend “subject” instead of “object” in numbered paragraph two, line seven?”

Oops! I did indeed – many thanks for spotting. Duly corrected ;)

That’s what comes of writing about philosophy and the subject/object for another post at the same time!

Reblogged this on Scribing English .

  • Pingback: Recommended Resource: Interesting & how to write an essay | Write Out Loud

Great post on essay writing! I’ve shared a post about this and about the blog site in general which you can look at here:

All of these are very good points – especially I like 2 and 5. I’d like to read the essay on the Martian who wrote Shakespeare’s plays).

Reblogged this on Uniqely Mustered and commented: Dedicate this to all upcoming writers and lovers of Writing!

I shall take this as my New Year boost in Writing Essays. Please try to visit often for corrections,advise and criticisms.

Reblogged this on Blue Banana Bread .

Reblogged this on worldsinthenet .

All very good points, but numbers 2 and 4 are especially interesting.

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Great post. Interesting infographic how to write an argumentative essay

Reblogged this on DISTINCT CHARACTER and commented: Good Tips

Reblogged this on quirkywritingcorner and commented: This could be applied to novel or short story writing as well.

Reblogged this on rosetech67 and commented: Useful, albeit maybe a bit late for me :-)

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A well rounded summary on all steps to keep in mind while starting on writing. There are many new avenues available though. Benefit from the writing options of the 21st century from here, i loved it!

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A-level English Language – Everything You Need to Know

Tornike Asatiani - Co-founder & COO of Edumentors

The A-Level English Language course offers an in-depth exploration of linguistic structures, examining the complexities and nuances of language in various contexts. This academic pursuit delves into the evolution of English, its diverse uses across different cultures and media, and the intricate ways in which language shapes and is shaped by society. With an emphasis on both analytical and creative aspects, this course not only fosters a deeper understanding of the English language but also equips students with critical thinking skills that are highly valued in higher education and beyond.

A-level English Exam

How many papers are in the a-level english exam.

The A-Level English exam typically consists of two main papers. Each paper is designed to assess different skills and knowledge areas within the subject. These papers collectively evaluate the students’ understanding of various aspects of English Language, including both its use and analysis. The structure and focus of each paper may vary depending on the specific syllabus and exam board.

Overview of Paper 1

Paper 1 of the A-Level English Language exam typically focuses on language, its variations, and contexts. It often includes analysis of various forms of language use across different social and demographic groups. This paper may also involve exploring language change over time, understanding how English adapts and evolves. Students are expected to demonstrate their analytical skills, showing an understanding of linguistic theories and applying them to diverse language data. This paper lays a foundational understanding of the complexities of English language use in society.

Overview of Paper 2

Paper 2 in the A-Level English Language exam generally focuses on language diversity and change. It invites students to explore how English varies in different social and geographical contexts, and how it has changed over time. This paper often includes tasks related to text analysis, where students may examine language use in various genres, modes, and registers. It also encourages a critical understanding of attitudes towards language diversity and change. Students typically analyse and compare texts, and may also engage in discursive writing, demonstrating their ability to articulate informed opinions on language issues.

Exam Assessment Criteria

The assessment criteria for A-Level English Language exams typically involve evaluating a student’s ability to analyse and interpret language data, their understanding of linguistic concepts and theories, and their proficiency in articulating informed arguments. The criteria also assess how well students can compare and contrast different aspects of language use, their ability to provide evidence-based analysis, and the clarity and effectiveness of their written communication. These criteria are designed to gauge both the depth and breadth of a student’s understanding of the English language.

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Key Topics in A-level English Language

A-level English Language covers a broad spectrum of topics that offer an enriching exploration of language use in society. While different exam boards may vary slightly, the key topics are generally divided into three core modules. Let’s dive in and take a closer look at each of them.

Language, the Individual and Society

This module is all about how language varies from person to person and how society influences the way we use language. Key topics covered include:

Textual Variations and Representations

This area looks at how language varies in written and spoken texts. It includes:

Language and Gender

An exploration of how language can differ between genders.

Language and Occupation

A look at the unique language used in various professions.

Children’s Language Development

This part of the course delves into how children acquire language skills, exploring both spoken and written development.

Language Diversity and Change

This module is a fascinating look at the evolution of language and how it changes across time and place.

Language Diversity

Here, students will learn about how English varies around the world, including regional and social variations.

Language Change

This section investigates how English has evolved over time, considering factors such as technology, society, and cultural change.

Language in Action

This module is about language research and investigation. It enables students to apply what they’ve learned to real-world contexts.

Language Investigation

In this component, students conduct their own research project on a language topic of their choice, applying their understanding of language concepts and methods.

Original Writing

This part of the module allows students to express their creativity by producing two pieces of original writing, accompanied by a commentary reflecting on their writing process and language use.

Each of these modules provides a distinct perspective on language use, creating a comprehensive picture of English Language as an A-level subject. Understanding these topics is crucial for mastering the subject and achieving a high grade.

Common Difficulties in A-level English Language

A-level Student Writing an Essay

Despite the intriguing exploration of how we use language, A-level English Language comes with its fair share of hurdles. Let’s delve into some of the common roadblocks that students often encounter.

Understanding Complex Concepts

The subject matter in A-level English Language goes far beyond standard grammar and vocabulary. It dives deep into advanced theories and concepts about language use and structure, which can often be difficult for students to fully comprehend and apply.

Language Analysis

A significant aspect of A-level English Language is analysing a variety of texts. Students often find it challenging to not only identify different language features but also understand their function and effect in the given context.

Conducting Independent Research

The “Language in Action” component requires students to carry out an independent research project, which can be a tough task. From choosing an appropriate topic to collecting and analysing data, and then effectively presenting findings, it’s a demanding process that can overwhelm many.

Time Management

The pressure of time in an A-level English Language exam is another stumbling block. The multifaceted nature of the exam questions can sometimes make it challenging for students to effectively manage their time and fully articulate their responses within the set time limit.

Writing Skills

The subject demands a broad range of writing skills. Students are expected to demonstrate proficiency in various forms of writing, from in-depth analytical essays to creative writing tasks. Tailoring their writing style to suit different tasks and audiences can be a hurdle for many.

While these challenges might seem daunting, they are not insurmountable. With the right strategies and support, these obstacles can be transformed into opportunities for learning and growth.

Sample A-level English Language Exam Questions

Getting familiar with the type of questions asked in an A-level English Language exam can give students a significant advantage. So, let’s delve into a sample question that mirrors the kind you might see on an actual paper.

Question 1: Textual Variations and Representations

“The city was a whirlwind of excitement. Could there be a more exciting time? From the carnival’s vibrant colours, resonating music to the animated laughter of children, everything was pulsating with life. In the heart of the city, as if beating in rhythm with the celebrations, the newly elected mayor delivered a compelling speech. Packed with promises of progress and prosperity, it was a beacon of hope for the future.”

Question: Identify three examples of language features used in this article and analyse their effect on the reader.

  • Metaphor : The author describes the city as “a whirlwind of excitement.” This metaphor helps to evoke strong emotions in the reader, making the event seem thrilling and fast-paced.
  • Rhetorical question : By asking, “Could there be a more exciting time?”, the author encourages the reader to engage with the text and reflect on the significance of the event.
  • Formal register : The use of formal language, particularly in the description of the mayor’s speech, establishes the author’s authority and credibility, making the news report appear more reliable and professional.
  • Make sure to identify a variety of language features, such as figurative language, syntax, and register.
  • Don’t just identify the feature – also explain its effect on the reader or the message of the text.

Common Mistakes:

  • Only identifying language features without analysing their effect. Remember, analysis is crucial in these types of questions.
  • Being too vague in your analysis. Be specific about how the feature influences the reader’s perception or understanding of the text.
  • Not using technical terminology. Ensure you use the correct terms for the language features you’re discussing.

Question 2: Children’s Language Development

Conversation between a three-year-old child and her mother.

Mother: “What did you do at nursery today, Ellie?”

Ellie: “I drawed a big cat. It’s purple!”

Mother: “Wow, that sounds fantastic! You drew a big, purple cat.”

Ellie: “Yes, I did drawed it!”

Question: Analyse two features of the child’s language use and discuss how they reflect her stage of language development.

  • Overgeneralisation : Ellie uses the past tense “drawed” instead of the irregular past tense, “drew.” This is a common feature in children’s language development known as overgeneralisation, where children apply regular grammatical patterns to irregular cases.
  • Use of Adjectives : Ellie uses the adjective “big” and the colour “purple” to describe her drawing. This shows that she has started to use adjectives to provide more detail, which is a typical development at this age.
  • Look for key characteristics of children’s speech, such as overgeneralisation, telegraphic speech, or the use of certain types of vocabulary.
  • Discuss how these features relate to theories of language development.
  • Not providing specific examples from the insert. Always refer back to the text to support your points.
  • Discussing features without relating them to the child’s stage of language development. Make sure to explain what each feature suggests about the child’s linguistic progress.

A-level English Language Marking Scheme

Understanding the A-level English Language marking scheme is crucial for success in the exams. The scheme serves as a blueprint for how marks are awarded, so let’s demystify it.

In this component, the marks are split between two areas: ‘Textual variations and representations’ and a ‘Methods of language analysis’. The former assesses students’ understanding of textual variations and their ability to analyse texts. The latter focuses on language exploration and involves a directed writing task linked to the studied theme or idea.

Here, students are assessed on their understanding of language diversity and change over time. They will need to write an evaluative essay on language issues and a piece of original writing, both of which carry an equal weight of marks.

In this non-exam assessment, marks are divided between a language investigation and a piece of original writing. The investigation assesses students’ abilities to conduct independent research and present findings, while the original writing task evaluates their creativity and technical control of language.

Each component is marked according to specific criteria, which generally include:

  • Content: The relevance and depth of your answer.
  • Technical Accuracy: Grammar, punctuation, and spelling.
  • Analysis: How well you analyse language features and their effects.
  • Evaluation: Your ability to form and express an informed, personal response to the text.
  • Organisation and Structure: How well your answer is structured and your points coherently developed.

It’s important to note that different exam boards might have slight variations in their marking scheme, so always ensure to check the specific requirements of your board. Remember, the marking scheme is your guide to what examiners are looking for, so make sure to use it to your advantage!

Effective Revision Resources for A-level English Language

Preparing for A-level English Language requires more than just reading through your class notes. Using a variety of resources can provide different perspectives and ways of understanding the material. Here are some effective revision resources you might want to consider:

Revision Guides

There are numerous revision guides available specifically designed for A-level English Language. They summarise key topics, provide exam tips, and usually include practice questions. Some popular choices include the CGP A-Level English Language Complete Revision & Practice and the Collins A-Level Revision – AQA A-Level English Language .

Past Papers and Marking Schemes

Past papers and their marking schemes are invaluable resources. They give you an insight into the types of questions asked, the level of detail required in responses, and how marks are allocated. Find A-level English language past papers here.

Online Learning Platforms

Websites such as Khan Academy , Seneca Learning , and BBC Bitesize offer comprehensive online courses and resources for A-level English Language. They offer interactive quizzes, videos, and revision notes which can make studying more engaging.

Language Textbooks

Textbooks such as ‘English Language and Linguistics’ by Angela Goddard or ‘The Study of Language’ by George Yule offer in-depth knowledge on many of the core topics in the A-level English Language curriculum.

Private Tuition

Private tuition can provide personalised feedback and targeted support. It can be especially beneficial for students who are struggling with particular topics or need extra help with exam techniques.

Remember, what works best for one person might not work as well for another. Experiment with different types of resources to find what suits your revision style best.

The Benefits of A-level English Language Tuition

When it comes to tackling the complexities of A-level English Language, private tuition can be an invaluable resource . Here are some key benefits that A-level English Language tuition can offer.

Individualised Attention and Learning

One of the major advantages of tuition is that it allows for a one-on-one learning experience. Tutors can tailor their lessons to the specific needs of the student, focusing on areas of difficulty and reinforcing understanding of key concepts. This personalisation often leads to more effective learning than can be achieved in a typical classroom setting.

Understanding Complex Linguistic Concepts

A-level English Language can be challenging due to the complex theories and linguistic concepts it covers. A tutor can help explain these in an easy-to-understand way, using relatable examples and effective teaching strategies. They can clarify doubts, deepen understanding and cultivate an appreciation for the subject.

Guidance with Language Analysis

Tutors can provide detailed instruction on how to approach language analysis, a key component of the course. They can demonstrate effective techniques for identifying language features and explaining their effects, using a range of practice texts. This guidance can significantly improve a student’s analytical skills.

Help with Independent Research

Tutors can provide valuable assistance with the “Language in Action” component, where students conduct their own language investigation. They can help students choose appropriate topics, guide them through the data collection and analysis process, and provide feedback on their written report.

Exam Technique and Practice

Private tuition is an excellent way to refine exam techniques. Tutors can provide insights into the marking scheme, advice on time management, and help students understand what examiners are looking for. Regular practice with past papers under the tutor’s guidance can boost students’ confidence and performance in the actual exam.

Flexible Learning

Unlike traditional schooling, tutoring can be done at a time and pace that suits the student. This flexibility can help keep stress levels low and make learning more enjoyable.

With these advantages, private tuition could be the additional support your child needs to excel in their A-level English Language. It’s about unlocking potential, boosting confidence and paving the way for academic success.

As we’ve navigated through the maze of A-level English Language together in this article, it’s evident that mastering this subject can seem like a colossal task. However, the journey becomes less daunting with the right tools, strategies, and support.

While A-levels indeed necessitate independent work, the assistance of a tutor doesn’t invalidate this. On the contrary, it fosters autonomy by equipping students with the tools and techniques they need to study more effectively on their own. Even the highest achievers can benefit from this. After all, learning is not just about overcoming obstacles – it’s about striving for excellence.

This is where Edumentors comes into play. As an online tutoring platform, it’s a powerful ally in your child’s educational journey. What sets Edumentors apart is its tutors. These are not just any tutors, but a dedicated group of high-achievers from top UK universities, including Oxford and Cambridge. Their first-hand experience with the rigours of A-levels and the university application process puts them in a unique position to impart invaluable insights – from mastering exam techniques to acing university interviews.

Tutoring isn’t a sign of weakness or an easy way out. It’s about making a strategic investment in your child’s education. It’s about giving them the opportunity to learn from those who’ve walked the path they’re embarking on and succeeded.

So, as we draw this exploration to a close, let’s redefine success. Success is not merely about overcoming challenges – it’s about unlocking potential, boosting confidence, and embracing continuous learning. And with Edumentors, your child is well on their way to doing just that.

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Revision Tips to Achieve A* in A-Level English Language

English book background with vibrant colours.

Ever found yourself staring blankly at an English paper, wondering how to turn those C’s into shining As ? You’re not alone. 

Let’s ditch the clichés and dive into practical strategies to set you on the path to A excellence. From crafting impeccable essays to decoding the secrets of top-notch comprehension.

An Overview of English Language Format

Mastering the A-Level English Language exam format is the first step towards securing that coveted A* grade. While different exam boards have different specifications, it typically consists of three main components: Reading , Writing , and Language .

1. Reading Section

  • Focus on comprehending passages efficiently.
  • Develop skimming and scanning skills for quick information retrieval.
  • Note the variety of text types, from articles to extracts, and adapt your reading approach accordingly.

2. Writing Section

  • Craft a compelling introduction to grab the examiner’s attention.
  • Dive into the body paragraphs, ensuring a seamless flow of ideas.
  • Conclude with impact, summarising key points and leaving a lasting impression .

3. Language Analysis Section

  • Pay attention to how language is used.
  • Showcase a rich vocabulary, demonstrating a command of language nuances.

Revision Tips for A-Level English Language ‘Reading Section’

English language book and notebook, essential tools for effective revision. Caption: Unlocking A* potential with focused English Language revision!

Mastering the Reading Section is your passport to conquering the English Language exam. Here’s a tailored set of tips to elevate your skills:

1. Strategic Skimming and Scanning

Why: Quickly grasp the main idea.

How: Skim through headings and subheadings, then scan for keywords .

Pro Tip: Practice with diverse texts to sharpen your skimming and scanning precision.

2. Active Note-Taking

Why: Enhance comprehension and recall.

How: Jot down key points while reading.

Pro Tip: Develop a shorthand system for quicker note-taking during the exam.

3. Context Clue Mastery

Why: Decode unfamiliar words without a dictionary.

How: Pay attention to surrounding words for context.

Pro Tip: Expand your vocabulary by noting and revising contextually learned words.

4. Predictive Reading Techniques

Why: Anticipate content and structure.

How: Skim questions before reading the passage.

Pro Tip: Practise predicting outcomes based on the question prompts to improve accuracy.

5. Effective Time Management

Why: Complete all questions within the allocated time.

How: Allocate specific time slots for each passage during practice.

Pro Tip: If a question is time-consuming, mark it and come back later to avoid getting stuck.

6. Diverse Reading Practice

Why: Adapt to various text types.

How: Read articles, essays, and excerpts regularly .

Pro Tip: Analyse different writing styles to be prepared for any text in the exam.

7. Critical Evaluation Skills

Why: Understand the author’s intent and tone.

How: Question the author’s perspective while reading.

Pro Tip: Engage in discussions about different viewpoints to refine critical thinking.

Revision Tips for English Language ‘Writing Section’

English language learning platform with diverse educational resource.

Mastering the Writing Section requires finesse and precision. Here are targeted tips to refine your writing skills:

1. Crafting Engaging Introductions

Why: Capture the examiner’s attention from the start.

How: Start with a compelling fact, quote, or thought-provoking statement.

Pro Tip: Practise diverse opening techniques for versatility.

2. Body Paragraph Mastery

Why: Ensure a smooth flow of ideas.

How: Begin each paragraph with a clear topic sentence.

Pro Tip: For depth, use the P.E.E. (Point, Evidence, Explanation) structure.

3. Conclude with Impact

Why: Leave a lasting impression.

How: Summarise key points without introducing new ideas.

Pro Tip: Craft conclusions that resonate with the overall theme.

4. Grammar and Punctuation Precision

Why: Demonstrate language proficiency.

How: Brush up on common grammatical pitfalls.

Pro Tip: Use varied sentence structures for sophistication .

5. Vocabulary Showcase

Why: Elevate your language game.

How: Integrate advanced vocabulary naturally.

Pro Tip: Create a personalised word bank for quick reference.

6. Effective Use of Literary Devices

Why: Add flair to your writing.

How: Experiment with metaphors, similes, and personification .

Pro Tip: Ensure devices enhance, not overshadow, your message.

7. Refining Sentence Structure

Why: Convey complexity with clarity.

How: Vary sentence lengths and structures.

Pro Tip: Read your sentences aloud to check for fluency.

Revision Tips for English Language ‘Language Analysis Section’

The Language Section demands precision and a keen eye for detail. Here’s a focused set of tips to sharpen your skills:

1. Spotting Language Devices

Why: Identify literary techniques employed.

How: Familiarise yourself with common language devices.

Pro Tip: Practise recognising alliteration, onomatopoeia, and hyperbole devices.

2. Language Investigation

Why: Analyse why language is being used

How: Understand why certain literary devices are used and evaluate effectiveness

Pro Tip: Practise evaluating how effectively language has been used for the intended purpose.

3. Language and Society

Why: Explore how language is being used for different purposes

How: Explore concepts of audience, purpose, genre, mode and representation

Pro Tip: Practise analysing lexis and semantics: the vocabulary of English, including social and historical variation


In the journey to master English, your dedication to focused revision is key. Practice strategically, hone your skills, and enter the exam hall with confidence. Excellence comes from consistent effort. Join Study Mind’s English Language tutors to elevate your journey. Your A* awaits—let’s make it happen!

How can I improve my skimming and scanning skills for the A-Level English Language Reading Section?

Improving skimming and scanning skills involves regular practice with diverse texts. Start by setting a time limit for reading specific passages and gradually reduce it. Additionally, vary your reading speed based on the nature of the text, training your eyes to quickly identify key information. Engage in mock exams to simulate the actual test conditions, refining your ability to extract relevant details swiftly.

Is it essential to memorise complex vocabulary for the Writing Section?

While memorization is beneficial, the key is to use vocabulary naturally. Instead of cramming, focus on integrating new words into your daily language. Explore synonyms and antonyms, understanding their contextual usage. Crafting a word bank and employing learned vocabulary in diverse writing contexts will help you develop a nuanced and sophisticated writing style without sounding forced.

How can I manage time effectively during the A-Level English Language exam?

Time management is crucial. Break down the exam into sections and allocate specific time slots for each. Practice completing passages and tasks within the stipulated time to build a sense of pacing. If a question is particularly challenging, mark it and move on; return to it later to avoid spending too much time on a single item. Consistent timed practice will enhance your efficiency on the exam day.

What is the best approach for critical evaluation in the Reading Section?

Critical evaluation involves understanding the author’s perspective. Train yourself to question the underlying assumptions and biases within the text. Consider the author’s intent, tone, and possible motivations. Engage in discussions about various viewpoints to refine your critical thinking skills. By actively analysing the text, you’ll develop a deeper understanding, enabling you to answer questions with greater insight.

How can I make my essays more engaging and impactful in the Writing Section?

To make your essays stand out, focus on crafting compelling introductions that grab the reader’s attention. Ensure each body paragraph has a clear structure, presenting your points logically. Conclude with impact by summarising key ideas without introducing new ones. Infuse creativity by experimenting with literary devices, making your writing more enjoyable. Reviewing and revising your essays critically will refine your writing style, contributing to a more engaging and impactful piece.

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IB English HLE Explained

Free introductory guide to IB English Higher Level Essay (HLE) by IB44 and IB45 graduates Lareina Shen and Saesha Grover.

In this guide, LitLearn students (and 2022 IB grads!)  Lareina Shen and Saesha Grover share their wisdom on how to conquer the IB English Higher Level Essay (HLE).

Lareina achieved an IB44, and Saesha achieved an IB45 as well as the coveted IB7 in IB English Literature HL, so you are in safe hands.

Meet your instructor Jackson Huang, Founder of LitLearn. His mission is to make IB English as pain-free as possible with fun, practical lessons. Jackson scored an IB45 and was accepted to Harvard, Amherst, Williams Colleges, and full scholarships to University of Melbourne & Queensland.

Photo of LitLearn instructor Jackson Huang

What is IB English HLE?

The HL Essay (HLE) is a 1200-1500 word essay about a text studied in the IB English course. For Lang Lit, the work you choose to analyze can be literary or non-literary, but for IB English Literature the text must be literary.

The HLE will make up  25% of your final IB English HL grade , and it is graded externally. You must choose your own line of inquiry   (i.e. a question that you will answer in your HLE–more on this later).

How do I choose my text for HLE?

Do NOT choose the “easiest” text. Life is always better when you do things you're interested in, and that advice applies to the HLE, too. Choose the literary / non-literary work that interests  you the most, so that you can (semi?)-enjoy the HLE planning and writing process.

You could start by thinking of a theme that you find particularly interesting and determining which text studied in class demonstrates this theme well.

How do I choose my line of inquiry for HLE?

The line of inquiry is the core question that you will answer in your essay. A quick example might be:

"To what extent is masculinity undermined by the characterisation of Little Thomas?"

Now, it's your job to forge your destiny and come up with your own line of inquiry. But it's not a complete free-for all! There are rules. The main rule is that your line of inquiry must fall under one of the 7 main concepts of IB English (see below for a quick summary).

IdentityHow is the identity of a particular   or group of characters represented?
OR, how does the text relate to the identity of the  ?
CultureHow is the culture of a particular  represented?
OR, how does the text relate to a particular culture/cultural  ?
CreativityHow does the text represent a  /lack of creativity?
OR, how does the text reflect the  ?
CommunicationHow are /failures in communication conveyed?
OR, how does the text represent an act of communication?
TransformationHow is transformation represented?
OR, how is the text transformative to  to them, or to the reader in terms of transforming their  ?
PerspectiveHow is a certain perspective conveyed?
OR, how does the text represent the  ?
RepresentationHow are different  represented?
OR, in what way is  represented?

This summary is vague, so let's go in-depth on a couple of these concepts to really show you what you should be doing in the HLE.

Identity is what makes you, YOU. Here are some questions the concern your own personal identity:

  • What is your favourite colour? And why is it your favourite?
  • What makes you different from others? Why do you think these qualities came to be?
  • How would someone describe you in three words?

Now apply this same logic to characters within your text.

  • How would you describe this character in three words?
  • How do their actions within a text influence your view of their identity?
  • How has the author crafted this character to make you view the character in a certain way?

Let's take a look at a concrete example of how we might choose evidence and quotes for a HLE on cultural identity. This example is based on a Vietnamese work in translation “Ru” by author Kim Thúy. For context, “Ru” is an autobiographical fictional account which explores Kim Thúy's move from Vietnam to Canada as an immigrant and her consequent struggles. The structure of her novel is largely lyrical and poetic.

Let's look at a section from her novel that may help us come up with an essay idea based on the concept of Identity. When she returns to Vietnam, she attends a restaurant, however this becomes a major awakening for her in terms of how she views her own personal identity. Kim narrates within her novel:

The first time I carried a briefcase, the first time I went to a restaurant school for young adults in Hanoi, wearing heels and a straight skirt, the waiter for my table didn't understand why I was speaking Vietnamese with him. Page 77, Rú

This is a perfect quote for the Identity concept. Can you see why? Let's think through it together…

Why would the waiter be confused if Kim, a “briefcase”-carrying individual in “heels” and a “straight skirt”, was speaking Vietnamese with him?

What does being “Vietnamese” look like to the waiter? Why does Kim not conform to his expectation? Was it perhaps due to what she was wearing?

Now, if we look at the section which follows this in the novel, we are able to see the impact this had on the character of Kim's sense of identity.

the young waiter reminded me that I couldn't have everything, that I no longer had the right to declare I was Vietnamese because I no longer had their fragility, their uncertainty, their fears. And he was right to remind me. Page 77, Rú

Here, we can clearly see that this character is now questioning her Vietnamese cultural identity. This is just one example that demonstrates the concept of Identity.

Culture seems to be this confusing thing.  Does it have to do with religion? Race? Beliefs? What does it mean? Does the monster from Frankenstein fit into a certain culture?

The easiest way to put it is this:  Culture is the way someone lives. It is their “way of life.” Think of it as an umbrella term. “Culture” can include so many different things; the list just goes on, for example religion, values, customs, beliefs, cuisine, etc.

Now think, how would I form an essay from this concept?

  • When you read a text in class, you will notice that authors let you form an opinion on the culture of certain characters or groups within a text, but how is this done?
  • How does the author represent the culture of a certain community?
  • What types of patterns in daily routines are discussed?

It seems odd writing an essay about “creativity” because… like… how can anyone definitively say what ‘counts' as being creative–or not? When I say the word creativity , I think of new inventions, or maybe those weird and wacky art installations living inside those ‘modern art' museums. But hey, what's creative to me might not be creative to you!

how to write a level english language essays

When formulating a HLE on the concept of creativity we have two main pointers for you. Look for:

  • Interesting + Unique techniques or literary devices used within a text by the author. You can learn more in the  Learn Analysis section of LitLearn.
  • Recurring stylistic choices by the author

Now, for this concept, let's look at how we might select supportive evidence and quotations for a HLE on creativity within the narrative style of author Mary Shelley in “Frankenstein”. The narrative style uses  epistolary narration . This is a narrative technique in which a story is told through letters. This was something that I found both interesting and recurring within Frankenstein, which I believe worked to create a personal touch within the novel.

Additionally, Mary Shelley allows different characters to narrate Frankenstein during different volumes. Let's investigate this! I have written out different character profiles of the narrators below:

how to write a level english language essays

These 3 characters, each relate a part of the novel Frankenstein. This is an example of a creative authorial choice that allows us, as readers to explore different points of view within the text. This is just one example of a creative aspect of a text which you can analyze for your HLE.


Representation is all about how something is  portrayed, conveyed, shown, described, illustrated, depicted . There are many different things that can be ‘represented' within a text, and it doesn't have to be tangible.

For instance, you can look at how a belief, idea or attitude is depicted within a text through different characters or devices.

Again, let's explore a concrete example to make things clear: this time the graphic novel “Persepolis”. We'll consider an HLE on how a text  represents the  impact of political turmoil on society .

Chapter 10 of “Persepolis” highlights societal changes occurring due to the Iranian Revolution. The panels below list the authorial choices relevant to the negative representation of political change in a society. When looking at the techniques highlighted in the slides below, think about how you feel when you look at the panels below. Can you sense a more positive or negative feeling?

how to write a level english language essays

Cool, but what do we do to turn all this into an actual HL essay? Here is a sample response. The introduction might begin like this:

In the captivating graphic novel “Persepolis,” the author Marjane Satrapi explores the social and political impacts of the Iranian revolution. In particular, Satrapi conveys a disapproving viewpoint on political turmoil within the text. Throughout the graphic novel, Satrapi carefully represents how social isolation, hypocrisy and confusion is experienced by a young girl living in Tehran, as a result of political turmoil.  Example HLE Introduction

Then, in a body paragraph, on one of the key ideas mentioned above, we could analyze the different literary techniques. For example, Panel 1 is a great representation of the experience of confusion in the midst of political turmoil:

Marji is the younger girl pictured in the panels above. While her parents appear quite concerned by the news on the TV, she appears to not be in full comprehension of the cause for their distress. This is demonstrated by the visual imagery and dialogue, in panel 7, for instance, if you observe the facial expressions by each of the characters. Example of analysis in body paragraph

This is just a short example from one particular text. To help you unpack any text, try look for the following when analyzing chapter to chapter:

  • What is the main idea of the chapter?
  • Why did the author write it? What purpose does it serve?
  • What do you believe is the overarching importance of the passage?

Brainstorming Tips

If you're having trouble picking your text and line of inquiry, then use this simple 20-minute process to brainstorm potential questions for your HLE:

  • For each text / non-literary work, go through each concept in the table below.
  • Write down a question for each of the two prompts for each category.
  • Repeat for all of your texts.
  • Pick the question-text combination that has the greatest potential for strong analysis.

How do I ensure my HLE question has a good scope?

Choosing a question with good scope is extremely   important, and it's one of the biggest challenges in the HLE. Here's why:

  • If your scope is too broad , you may have too much to write about in order to answer the question, and therefore you won't be able to write deep analysis (which is super important–more on this later…)
  • If your scope is too narrow , you may not have enough to write about and end up overanalyzing unnecessary and obscure details. Also something to avoid!

So, to help you get the balance just right , here are three examples of HLE questions, specifically for the concept of  Identity which we mentioned in the table above (by the way, the example is a made-up novel for illustration purposes).

  • Too broad: “How does Irene Majov in her novel  Deadly Men effectively make her narrator a powerful mouthpiece?”
  • Too narrow: “How does Irene Majov in her novel  Deadly Men effectively make her narrator a powerful mouthpiece for the concerns of Asian-Americans toward discrimination in the workforce in the 21st century?”
  • Just right: “How does Irene Majov in her novel  Deadly Men effectively make her narrator a powerful mouthpiece for the concerns of Asian-Americans in the 21st century?”

How to get a 7 on IB English HLE

There are many things that contribute to a 7 in your HLE and your IB English grade overall. But if we had to boil it down to one secret, one essential fact… then it'd have to be this: Get really good at analysis .

Analysis is the key to a 7 in IB English. It doesn't matter if it's Paper 1, Paper 2, HLE, IO… You must learn how to analyze quotes at a deep level, and structure your analysis in a way that flows and delights your teachers and examiners.

Start with the basics

Start with the basic foundations of analysis for free inside LitLearn's Learn Analysis course.

Our free and Pro resources have helped IB English students skyrocket their grade in weeks, days and even overnight...   Learn Analysis for IB English , the simplest guide to a 7 in IB English.

Basic Analysis

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Free signup required.

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Level up to Advanced Analysis

Since you're in HL, you'll also be needing Advanced Analysis skills if you want to impress your examiner. We've got all of that covered inside our Pro lessons.

Advanced Analysis

Finding Quotes

Also, you'll need to find good quotes for your text. Some good sources where you can find relevant quotes include  Goodreads , SparkNotes ,  LitCharts , and Cliffnotes . Of course, you could just find quotes yourself directly–this will ensure your quotes are unique.

Understanding the IB English HLE rubric

An essential step to getting a high mark on the HL Essay is understanding the rubric! It is SO important that you know what IB English examiners are looking for when grading your essay, as this helps you to shape the content of your essay to match (or even exceed) their expectations.

The IB English HL Essay is graded out of 20 marks . There are 4 criteria, each worth 5 marks.

Use the checklist below to make sure you're not making simple mistakes! Note that this is not the official marking criteria, and I strongly recommend that you reading the official rubric provided by your teacher.

Criterion A: Knowledge, understanding, and interpretation

  • Accurate summary of text in introduction
  • Focused and informative thesis statement
  • Effective and relevant quotes
  • Relevant and effective summary and ending statement in conclusion

Criterion B: Analysis and evaluation

  • Relevant analysis of a variety of stylistic features 
  • Relevant analysis of tone and/or atmosphere
  • Relevant analysis of broader authorial choices i.e. characterization, point of view, syntax, irony, etc.

Criterion C: Focus, organization, and development

  • Introduction, body paragraphs, conclusion
  • Organized body paragraphs – topic sentence, evidence, concluding statement/link to question
  • Appropriate progression of ideas and arguments in which evidence (i.e. quotes) are effectively implemented

Criterion D: Language

  • Use expansions (e.g. “do not”) instead of contractions (e.g. “don't”)
  • Use of a variety of connecting phrases e.g. “furthermore”, “nonetheless”, “however”, etc.
  • Complete sentence structures and subject-verb agreement
  • Correct usage of punctuation
  • Appropriate register – no slang
  • Historic present tense : the use of present tense when recounting past events. For example, we want to write “In  The Hunger Games , Peeta and Katniss work   together to win as a district” instead of using the word “worked”.
  • Avoid flowery/dictionary language just to sound smart; it is distracting and difficult to read. As long as you concisely communicate your message using appropriate language, you will score a high mark under this criterion.

Here's everything we discussed:

  • IB English HLE is tough work! Start early.
  • Brainstorm using the table of concepts to come up with a strong HLE question. Don't give up on this!
  • Analysis is the key to a 7 in IB English HLE (and in fact all IB English assessment). Check out LitLearn's course  Learn Analysis for IB English   for immediate help on the exact steps to improve in IB English analysis.

Good luck, and may the odds be ever in your favor 💪


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Past Paper 1 Solutions

Paper 2 Guide

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How to write informal IELTS letters

How to write informal IELTS letters

By: Alex Case | Category: Writing | Topic: IELTS

Last Updated: 5th Jul. 2024

How to write the starting, ending and body of informal/ friendly IELTS letters for IELTS General Writing Task 1, including useful casual functional language phrases.

How to start informal IELTS letters

How to write the body of informal ielts letters, how to close informal ielts letters.

This article gives tips on how to write suitably friendly letters to impress the examiner in IELTS General Writing Task 1. It includes advice on starting, ending and the body of the informal letter, for tasks like this:  

“Your friend has just got a working holiday visa to live in your country for a year. He/ She would like your advice on learning some of your language before they arrive.

Write a letter to your friend. In your letter

  • describe how your language compares to other languages
  • recommend some good language learning materials
  • warn him/ her of some difficulties he/ she is likely to have

Write at least 150 words.

You do NOT need to write any addresses.

Begin your letter as follows:

The first thing you need to do is to work out if an informal letter is needed, by looking at the situation that you are writing in and the opening greeting that you are told to use. “Dear Sir or Madam,” is always followed by a formal letter. With “Dear…,” it depends on the situation, but ones which are obviously informal like writing to friends are quite common. There are other situations like writing to your boss or someone you have only met once where both formal or informal letters are possible, so this article will also deal with such situations.

Informal IELTS letters must start with “Dear + first name,” to follow the instructions and be friendly enough. Unfortunately, you are told to use “Dear…,” so you cannot change it to something more friendly that is more common in real life like “Hi John”. Notice that there is a comma that you are told to use, so “Dear John,” is correct but “Dear John” with no comma does not follow the instructions. Expressions without names like “Dear friend,” X are not common in modern English.

Before you start the doing the three things that you are told to do in the three bullet points in the question, you need at least one sentence before you get down to business. The most useful opening lines for informal letters are:

  • (It was) so nice to get your letter.
  • (It was so) lovely to hear from you (again).
  • (I) was so thrilled to get your letter (telling me that…)
  • It was so nice to hear that…
  • How’s… going?
  • How are you getting on with…?
  • Hope… is going okay.
  • Long time no see! How have you been (since we last met)?
  • Hope you’re enjoying…
  • How was your…?
  • Congratulations on…/ Congrats on…
  • Sorry it took me so long to get back to you.
  • Sorry it’s been so long since I was last in touch.

Note that some of those phrases can be made more informal by missing off parts of written grammar like the subject and/ or auxiliary verb (as can also be seen in the body and ending below). Similar phrases like “Thank you for your letter”, “How are you?” and “I hope you are well” are too formal for friendly casual letters.

Either in the next sentence of the opening line or at the beginning of the first body paragraph, you are then ready to get down to business with phrases like:

  • Writing about…
  • Sorry to write out of the blue, but…

As with all IELTS General Writing Task 1  tasks, you have to fully cover all three bullet points in the question in the body of your informal letter. That is always best done with three body paragraphs of at least two sentences each. The only obviously informal way to start those body paragraphs is “About…”, but these are also not too formal:

  • When it comes to…,…
  • As we talked about,…
  • Starting with…
  • In answer to your question (about…),…
  • Looking at…
  • You (also) asked about…

The most common things that you need to do in the body of informal IELTS letters are to give advice, deal with invitations or arrangements, say something negative such as giving bad news, make or deal with requests, thank, and give good news. You will also need to add extra information by adding details, giving reasons, etc.

It’s worth remembering in the body that “informal” means “friendly”, not “rude”. For example, with requests, make sure that you don’t use commands like “I’d like you to…”, and if possible casual language like idioms and spoken grammar to soften the request, as in:

  • Can you give me a hand with…?
  • Can you do me a (huge) favour and…?
  • You couldn’t… for me, could you?

Informal apologies and bad news phrases are similar, as in:

  • So sorry about…
  • Sorry to say that…

Informal ways of giving advice include:

  • There’s no way I’d recommend…
  • I reckon… would be right up your street

These are also not too formal:

  • (For…) you can’t beat…
  • Don’t miss…
  • (Have you) thought about…?
  • Be sure (not) to…
  • Whatever you do, don’t forget to…

It’s quite difficult to make negative feedback informal without making it rude, apart from maybe “Sorry to say that it wasn’t up to scratch”. These are also not too formal for informal letters:

  • I was surprised to find that…
  • I wasn’t very happy with…

Positive feedback and praise is much more natural in informal letters, with phrases like:

  • … totally blew me away.
  • …blew my socks off.
  • I really got into…
  • I got a lot out of…
  • I couldn’t believe how good… was.

Informal thanking phrases include:

  • Thanks a million for…
  • Thanks soooo much for…
  • Cheers for…
  • You’re a lifesaver!
  • There’s no way I could have… without your…

Informal invitations and arrangements phrases include:

  • (Do you) fancy…?
  • What about coming…?
  • Any time (at all/ between… and…/ except…) is fine by me/ okay with me.
  • Just let me know when (you want to…)
  • You can catch me…

Informal opinions phrases include:

  • I reckon that…

When it comes to adding support for your ideas etc later in each paragraph, informal phrases for giving reasons include:

  • If you’re wondering why, well…
  • Why? Well,…
  • The reason? Well,…

Informal phrases for adding other details such as second ideas include:

  • Not just that, but also…
  • Another (…) is…
  • not only… but also…
  • Not forgetting…
  • The other is…
  • What’s more,…

Just as formal letters need three parts in the closing part in order to be polite, informal letters need the same three parts to be friendly. These are:

  • closing line
  • closing greeting
  • name at the end

The most informal and therefore friendly closing lines include:

  • Write soon!
  • Can’t wait to hear from you (about…)
  • If you need any (more) info, drop me a line anytime.
  • Give me a ring (anytime) if I’ve missed anything out.
  • Looking forward to seeing you then/ soon/…
  • Can’t wait to see you again! – Can’t wait seeing you again! X
  • Keep in touch!
  • Hope you can come(!)
  • Hope you have the chance to enjoy…
  • Best of luck with….
  • Thanks a million.
  • Cheers. 
  • Hope that helps (with…)

The most informal closing greeting in work settings or with other people you don’t know so well is probably “Best wishes,”, with the variations “Best,” and “BW,” being more informal. With friends, you could go even further with “Lots of love,” or “Hugs and kisses,”. The abbreviation “XXX” might also be okay, but make sure that you don’t use language from the internet like “CU” for “See you” (also true in the rest of the letter).

Note the comma after all those closing greetings, which is necessary to match the comma that you are told to use in the opening greeting.

Your name at the end should be just your first name, or you can use abbreviations like “Al” or “A” to make it even more informal.

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Supreme Court Says Trump Has Some Immunity in Election Case

The ruling makes a distinction between official actions of a president, which have immunity, and those of a private citizen. In dissent, the court’s liberals lament a vast expansion of presidential power.

  • Share full article

An officer in front of the Supreme Court.

By Adam Liptak

Reporting from Washington

  • July 1, 2024

The Supreme Court ruled on Monday that former President Donald J. Trump is entitled to substantial immunity from prosecution on charges of trying to overturn the last election, a blockbuster decision in the heat of the 2024 campaign that vastly expanded presidential power.

The vote was 6 to 3, dividing along partisan lines. Its immediate practical effect will be to further complicate the case against Mr. Trump, with the chances that it will go before a jury ahead of the election now vanishingly remote and the charges against him, at a minimum, narrowed.

The decision amounted to a powerful statement by the court’s conservative majority that presidents should be insulated from the potential that actions they take in carrying out their official duties could later be used by political enemies to charge them with crimes.

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., writing for the majority, said Mr. Trump had at least presumptive immunity for his official acts. He added that the trial judge must undertake an intensive factual review to separate official and unofficial conduct and to assess whether prosecutors can overcome the presumption protecting Mr. Trump for his official conduct.

If Mr. Trump prevails at the polls, the issue could become moot since he could order the Justice Department to drop the charges.

The liberal wing, in some of the harshest dissents ever filed by justices of the Supreme Court, said the majority had created a kind of king not answerable to the law.

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  1. A Level English Language Paper 1 Example Student Essays by astarlevels

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  24. How to write informal IELTS letters

    Write at least 150 words. You do NOT need to write any addresses. Begin your letter as follows: Dear…," How to start informal IELTS letters. The first thing you need to do is to work out if an informal letter is needed, by looking at the situation that you are writing in and the opening greeting that you are told to use.

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