WRITING AN ESSAY UNDER EXAMINATION CONDITIONS - P. Adams
READING TIME: Read all questions carefully. In your mind, work out key words individually, ensuring what they mean, then look at the overall intent of the question.
Begin writing: If you feel a little stressed, pour out the quotes you have learnt on the chosen text/artwork. Write them on the work page. Then you won’t be struggling to remember them when you need them. Circle/highlight key words in the question. Does the question ask to “explain”? “evaluate”?
Brainstorm: just key responses to the topic. Spend no more than 5-7 minutes planning. No sentences. 6 key ideas! These ideas should always represent relevant ways of answering the question. Number them in order. They will become your key lines of argument in the essay. Expand them to create your topic sentences for each paragraph. They act as mini statements. The paragraph will expand/explain/describe/give examples + quotes to support this mini statement.
First paragraph: 3-4 sentences maximum. (Only choose more if sentences are very short!!!) It represents the main ingredient of your argument. Include text/artwork title + author or director. Spell correctly. No sentences are long! Keep them crisp. Ensure key words in the question are in this paragraph. It helps to keep the essay on track. Use pertinent, descriptive adjectives to qualify nouns, but use sparingly. The detail should be left to the body of the essay.
e.g. WHO IS THE MOST ADMIRED, HONOURED AND RESPECTED HUMAN BEING THAT EVER LIVED.
In the world of the early 21st century, there is a living legend. He is a man admired internationally across countries, races, beliefs and cultures. He has been honoured with doctorates and prizes. The ultimate Nobel Peace Prize was awarded him in 1989. Yet, on his website, he refers to himself as "a simple, Buddhist monk". This man, attracting world wide respect, is the 14th Dalai Lama.
Body of the essay: Here is the opportunity to combine a line of argument answering the question + reinforcement/evidence from the text. SHOW WHAT YOU KNOW ABOUT TEXT INTERPRETATION! NOT NARRATIVE! THE BODY OF THE ESSAY IS DRIVEN BY THE SEQUENCE OF TOPIC SENTENCES.
Use quotes scattered through the essay!
e.g. James declares,
“I am so lonely. Not even the warmth of sunlight can ease my soul”.
Clearly, James is drowning in melancholy.
NEVER LET A QUOTE BE TACKED ON TO A STATEMENT. IT MUST FLOW AS PART OF THE ESSAY! Take a new line for quotes, clearly identifying them!!!
Punctuation – especially note variation of sentence lengths, sentence beginnings and commas. These features re-inforce the power of your writing. They are worth care.
Now 72 years old, the Dalai Lama has lived a life for the good of humanity. In Tibet, at the age of 6, he began his monastic education. But he was no hermit monk. At the age of 15, after China invaded Tibet in 1949, he was asked to assume full political power. But in 1959, he was forced into exile, living in northern India, outside the oppression of Mao Zedong's Chinese rule of Tibet.
Since that time, he has led a life not only seeking the freedom of his Tibetan people, but the freedom of all people. That freedom includes religious freedom. In 2001, finally, the Tibetan people had their own political leadership. But meanwhile, from 1967, beginning with Japan and Thailand, the Dalai Lama has been travelling and lecturing across the world to 65 countries. The U.S. has been visited the most (a total of 34 times), closely followed by Germany (29 times). He spreads the message of peace and harmony to any who need comfort. World leaders honour his visit. It does not matter he is a Buddhist. He is a respected man on a great mission to do what he can to make the world a better place.
CONCLUSION: echoes your opening statement; picks up key words in the question. NEVER introduce new ideas here!
“The 14th Dalai Lama is my choice of a most admired, honoured and respected human being. Here is a great man who has done great things, but he is still very human. He can still smile in formal moments. But best of all, he can reach our youth, our leaders of tomorrow.”
All these items have been detailed in previous paragraphs.
As an essay writer, you are a lawyer, a psychologist and a philosopher. You are NOT a narrator.
You are passionate about winning a case. You are digging into the workings of emotional humanity. In Part 1, you are philosophizing on the state and attitude of the characters and the themes in the text. In Part 2, the text becomes an example of (or alternative to) universal perspectives.
But the text is always paramount.
And you have but a short time to achieve all this! Keep that in mind!
With that in mind, do not spend too much time on any one paragraph. Make the point, give the evidence, move on. Avoid flowery oratory, cynical sidelines, hyperbole and melodrama. This is not creative writing but a weighty, informative punch of understanding that you are delivering to the examiner.
CRITICALLY ANALYSE, EXPLORE, INVESTIGATE AND CHALLENGE!
ESSAY TOPIC + EXAMPLE“I’m Not Scared”
Near the end of the novel Michele tells Filippo, “There’s nothing to be scared of”.
To what extent does fear motivate the characters in this text?
I’m Not Scared demonstrates the role fear plays in people’s lives and their respective decisions. It is shown through the novel to be an extremely powerful and underlying contributor to many of the situations that the characters find themselves in, and also the paths they chose to follow.
Pino, Teresa and the other adults of Acqua Traverse show perfectly the role fear plays. Although, to begin with, the kidnapping of Filippo was done out of greed and a desire for more, by the end of the novel it is ruled by fear. Fear of not only being caught, but also fear o what could happen to them once they were. Michele compares this fear the adults have to that of green lizard who ‘…spits to try and scare you because really they are more scared of you,’
and how by the end of the novel the adults are so consumed by this fear that Pino ends up shooting his own son and the adults of Acqua Traverse end up losing more than they sought to gain.
On the other hand, other characters are motivated by a different kind of fear. Antonio Natale, or ‘Skull’, despite his cruel and supposed tough exterior is really controlled by his fear of not being accepted. His constant need for reassurance and his bullying of Barbara are all a result of the fear he feels that he may be overthrown as ‘boss’ of the children’s group and that he may not be accepted by the others. In turn, however, the actions as a result of Skull’s fears lead to the fear that the other kids have of him. Michele often speaks of how the other kids simply went along when Skull’s sadistic mind got to work” and how only Salvatore seemed to have the ability to stand up to him. While Michele shares this fear of Skull, he also has a certain amount of fear concerning other things.
Throughout the novel, Michele’s fear of monsters is ever present. Whenever he is afraid of something he compares it to a fictional monster or character which makes the fear seem more real to him. This constant fear of monsters is soon ‘foiled’ by Michele’s father when he tells him ‘it’s men you should be afraid of, not monsters’ and Michele comes to realise that the adults of Acqua Traverse are the materialisation of his fears, not monsters. However, unlike the other characters in this novel, Michele is able to use these fears in a positive way, as opposed to the negative way of the other characters. By the end of the novel Michele is able to harness this fear and use it to motivate him to rescue Filippo, something not even his parents were able to do. Being as brave as ‘Tiger Jack’ and using his fears as motivation, Michele is able to constructively show the strength that can come from these fears.
Fear plays a large and sometimes detrimental role in many of the characters lives and leads them to do things they may not have otherwise done. Although for a majority of the characters fear has a negative influence, for Michele, fear proves to be the thing that helps him most, and that helps him make better decisions than most of the other characters in I’m Not Scared.
Assessor comments - 2006
• A well written response which develops the idea of fear but also is aware of the key notion from the topic, ‘motivate the characters’.
• The topic is appropriately qualified and different aspects of fear are examined in each paragraph. The topic sentence introduces a new perspective of the topic.
• Very good textual knowledge is shown.
• The characters are well discussed although there is room for greater depth and detail.
• Several appropriate quotations are used, but there is room for further use.
• There is good control of language and expression, but it is not without problems.
• There is an assurance about the response.