Let’s be honest – everyone wants to be that A-level student that never struggles academically. But let’s face it.
There’s no definitive formula to getting A level results or A grades in your English essay. Because grades depend on various factors such as your English grammar and spelling, your writing style and appropriate academic referencing etc.
However, these four tips in this article are guaranteed to help you on your way to achieving an A for your essay.
1. Refer back to the Question
It’s easy to read an exam question, see the theme you were hoping for and immediately
jump into writing. But you’ve got to remember to read the question properly! If it helps,
underline the most important words in the essay title, such as the theme or the chapter
they want you to refer to.
Here’s an example question:
Compare and contrast the significance of parting in the following love poems.
You would want to underline ‘compare and contrast’ to remind yourself that they want a
comparative analysis in your essay. You can also underline ‘significance of parting’ as this is
the main theme you need to be looking out for.
Then, use these words in your essay. This is without a doubt the best way to signpost to
an examiner that you are answering the question. When analysing quotes, use the
language of the question to show that you are continuously focusing on the theme.
2. Be selective with Quotes you include
There’s no point including quotations which are purely descriptive. In English, marks are
gained for your analysis of the text, so you want to choose quotes which are rich in
Let’s take this section from the novel “To Kill a Mockingbird” which describes the Ewell family’s
‘The varmints had a lean time of it, for the Ewells gave the dump a thorough
gleaning every day, and the fruits of their industry (those that were not eaten)
made the plot of ground around the cabin look like the playhouse of an insane
child: what passed for a fence was bits of tree-limbs, broomsticks and tool shafts,
all tipped with hammer-heads, snaggle-toothed rake heads, shovels, axes and
grubbing hoes, held on with pieces of barbed wire.’ (Chapter 17)
At first glance, this passage is a fantastic description of the dirty, ram shackled house which
the Ewells live in. If we dive deeper, there’s a lot more to dissect. For example, we can talk
about the juxtaposition of the Ewell family with the varmints which feed on the dump.
Harper Lee positions the Ewells as on a level with wild animals and in doing so reveals the
family’s standing in the social hierarchy of the town. The Ewells, like pests, are
troublemakers and are regarded with caution and disdain by the people of Maycomb.
The sprawling mess of a house has been built up over the years with all kinds of junk
until it looks nothing like a family home. We can compare this to the Ewell family
themselves. They’ve got numerous children who sprawl all over the plot, are so unkempt
they’re hardly recognisable and cannot be kept in check by the county administrators.
Quotes need to lend themselves to the themes and characters you’re discussing in your
essay. You want to be able to say ‘this quote highlights this character’s violent nature‘ or
‘this quote illustrates the theme of abandonment’, rather than just using descriptive
quotations to fluff out your sentences.
3. Create clear Points suitable for an English Professor or readers who never read the Text
Obviously, the person marking your English essay is going to be a professional examiner
and will know whether you’re writing a top essay and hitting the exam criteria. However,
you still want them to understand your argument and enjoy reading your essay.
Whilst you want to avoid description in your essay, it is important to make your points
clear and coherent. The best way to do this is to create a short plan before starting the
essay. Put down the key points you want to make and ensure that you refer back to this
plan whilst writing.
If you’re including these points and referring back to your argument in each paragraph,
you can’t go wrong.
4. Include relevant Criticism
To reach the top grade boundaries, you can include some criticism from relevant
authorities. Understanding the social historical context of plays, poems and prose is a
crucial part of getting an A in English Literature.
Most English teachers will get you to read critical reviews and provide you with some sources to
access quotes. You can also find criticism online using sites like JSTOR, which is a digital
library packed full of academic journals, articles and books.
You can search these online libraries for the texts and authors you’re studying; finding all
sorts of critiques and commentaries to add to your essays, however they would need to be reflected. You can also search by theme and find everything from essays on conflict like in “Romeo & Juliet” to articles on double
meanings like in “Much Ado About Nothing“.
Now you should be ready to become an A level student at least in the subject of English. You can find more English language and academic advice here:
Laura Reid, Content Writer for Tutor House, which is a leading tutoring platform offering tailored tuition both online and in-person to students across the UK, is interested in essay writing and loves to share her tips and advice.
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As an educator, blogger and content writer I have developed a great interest in e-learning, education technology, the digital economy and media. I regularly write for and manage various blogs and work for digital marketing agency ClickDo.