I have made a poster summarising how to approach writing the compulsory essay. Please note: it needs to be printed out in A3 size – if not the writing in the bubbles is too small. Or you can download the different parts of the poster, print them out on A4 paper and stick them onto a large piece of cardboard to make a larger (cheaper) poster.
Also included, is a handout that explains the writing process in detail.
Components of the poster
Writing is a three-part process – planning, writing and reviewing.
It is important that you do all three stages and are not tempted to skip the first and last stage to save time
If you have planned your essay, you’ll find it easier to concentrate on producing it, and you’ll make far fewer mistakes.
In class, every time you have an essay to write, go through the same stages. This will form a habit that the you will automatically fall back on when it comes to the actual exam.
Underline the key words in the instructions and the essay title, and any question that sometimes comes after the essay title. This is so you’re fully aware of the topic – what it covers and what its limits are. This is important for content – to ensure that your answer is relevant.
Think of synonyms for the key words, so you will be able to paraphrase the essay question and be able to use a variety of vocabulary throughout your essay.
Brainstorm ideas: look at the notes. Write down some basic ideas for each note, as well as some supporting examples. You also have to come up with your own idea for the third note, and provide some supporting examples for this, too.
Decide which ideas are most useful and organize them into paragraphs.
Don’t forget: POINT + REASON + EXAMPLE
Write down four or five key phrases you’re going to use to link your paragraphs and sentences – so, for example, ‘When it comes to X’ or ‘The problem with X is that…’, ‘In addition to X, there is also …’ and so on. Again – this takes the pressure off during the actual writing stage.
Write your essay paying close attention to your plan, so that you answer all parts of the question.
Vary the length of sentences, using a balance of simple and complex sentences, and use direct and indirect questions.
Use a variety of grammatical structures, such as comparatives, conditionals, modals and the passive. Remember: if, in doing so, you make mistakes, the examiner will always give you credit for the complex language attempted as long as the mistakes do not impede communication.
Calculate how many words you have roughly written, to keep within the word limit.
Check your writing for any grammar, spelling or punctuation mistakes. Although spelling and punctuation errors are not specifically penalised, they can sometimes impede communication.
Make sure you haven’t repeated the same words or phrases several times in your the answer.
Make sure your handwriting is easy to read. It is not important if you write in upper or lower case, or if your writing is joined up or not.