Every year 11 and 12 student has essay writing as a crucial element of their matriculation. English is a compulsory subject for students completing both the HSC and IB, with essays the prominent feature of both English courses. For HSC students, you should be aiming to write Band 6 level essays (the highest mark bracket), and IB students should aim to achieve 7’s (Band 6 equivalent) in their essays.
TutorTime’s top tips to writing a Band 6 Essay:
- Create a thorough and sophisticated essay plan
What’s your initial reaction to the question? Do you agree, and if so, why? Do you disagree, and if so, why? Don’t try to fabricate the correct response in line with the paragraphs you have prepared.
Don’t be afraid to disagree with the question, or to agree partially. The best essays have sophisticated theses. Markers don’t want you to completely agree with the question.
Think about the wider context. If you come to a conclusion, e.g. Eliot characterises the individual experience as depressing, ask yourself why he does this. Remember, in English everything is a metaphor or emblematic of something bigger. Even if it seems silly, conclude that your themes are metaphors for “the greater…”. This is how you can turn themes into techniques.
- Understand the rubric
For HSC students, you should have a thorough understanding of the rubric for each module. These can be located on the NESA website. You may want to make a mind map out of the key rubric words. Band 6 essay’s integrate rubric words and phrases into their theses and throughout the essay.
- Answer the question
This may seem obvious, but many students underestimate the importance of answering the essay question not just once, but constantly and consistently throughout their essays. A trick you may want to try is to write the question in big font and place it next to your laptop so you ensure you are constantly referring back to what is being asked. Reread your essay every time you add a new paragraph to make sure it answers the question.
- Use your paragraphs to take the marker on a journey
Each paragraph of your essay should discuss your thesis and the essay question at a different angle. For example, if your thesis is “Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet suggests love is an overwhelming human experience”, your first paragraph could interrogate the overwhelming experience of love from the perspective of the individual, your second paragraph could offer the perspective of the collective, and your third paragraph may take an entirely different approach and discuss the possibility that love is not an overwhelming experience.
This technique is called playing devil’s advocate, and the most sophisticated essays often include a paragraph that considers an idea contrary to their thesis. However, if you decide to do this, you must include a sentence or two (with evidence) that explains why this in fact isn’t the case. This ensures that you do not contradict yourself.
- Choose strong evidence and techniques
Texts often have many pieces of evidence that can be used to substantiate the same piece of analysis. This allows you to choose the strongest one. Avoid cliché or overused pieces of evidence – for example, an essay about Hamlet should not analyse the quote “to be or not to be” as markers have read this a thousand times before.
The techniques that you use alongside your evidence should be the strongest ones available. This means that you should prioritise complex techniques such metaphor, pathetic fallacy and enjambment over simple and unimaginative techniques such as visual imagery or evocative language.
- Avoid repetition and rephrasing the question
Band 6 essays are not repetitive – every word is there because it enhances the argument in a nuanced manner. To avoid repetition, ensure you edit your essay thoroughly. This could include printing it out and going through it with a highlighter, or reading your essay out loud.
A common mistake students make is to simple rephrase the essay question in their introductions, conclusions and topic sentences.
For example, if your essay question asks: “Othello, most of all, is a play about a man’s never ending struggle to keep chaos at bay.” To what extent do you agree?
A Band 3-4 essay would start by rewriting the question. However, a Band 6 essay may read: “The personified notion of chaos exists to disrupt, penetrating the individual’s inner psyche to corrupt their morality”.
Notice that the above sentence does not include the text. You may want to try this in your own essays, starting with a general sentence about the key idea and using your second sentence to introduce your text and author.
If you or your child is struggling to understand any of the above content or require further advice, contact TutorTime today to book a TutorTime tutor.