In order to write insightful essays, you need to develop a deep and personal relationship with your text. This means that you have to know all of the key concepts, literary techniques, author’s messages, context, links to the rubric, to big form and features.
Personally, I made text analysis tables to help get my head around everything. After you read and understand the broad aspects of the text – key concepts, general context and some “macrofeatures”, such as genre and form – you want to get specific in your analysis. This means finding important scenes, its link to the rubric, specific context/values that shaped this scene, key quotes, microfeatures (e.g. personification) and macrofeatures, and link to overarching concepts.
For example, I divided 1984 into its 3 Parts. For each part, I would create analysis tables with the following columns: Page No, Plot, Human Experience (physical, emotional, spiritual, intellectual), Context/Values, Quotes, Macrofeatures, Microfeatures, Key Concepts, Link to Rubric.
2. Strong essay structure
After you finish your text analysis, you need to start writing essays! An important thing to remember is, the clarity and logical flow in your writing are necessary to demonstrate your strong analysis.
Cause and Effect is going to be your new best friend. A cause and effect thesis and topic sentences will make your essay very clear and focused on the question. This is because all you have to do is establish the cause, then prove the effect! As you should use 3-4 pieces of analysis per paragraph, split them up in 1-2, 2-1, or even better, 2-2, of the cause and effect in your topic sentence.
3. Reshape broad essay to more specific questions, adapt to specific questions
To begin with, it’s easier to write a broad essay on a broad question. This can act as your “base essay” for adaptation practice!
A key skill you will need for a Band 6 is being able to adapt to specific questions. You will need to create a new thesis, then new topic sentences to which you can still use the majority of your textual analysis. If needed, your strong understanding of the text will allow you to replace some textual analysis with more relevant quotes.
I personally followed these steps:
With each text, there are key concepts and rubric words that are quite common in essay questions. To better prepare for adaptation, I highly recommend that you prepare extra pieces of analysis (remember to always have both macro and microfeatures!) per key concept.
4. How to smash short answers:
Start off untimed! Take your time to understand what the question is asking for, finding pieces of evidence in the text, then structuring your response to go “full circle” for each piece of analysis. After you get comfortable, then you can start easing into timed practice.
It’s super important to have a strong short answer structure – I personally created a “mini thesis”, then had 1 piece of analysis / 1 mark. Many lose marks because they don’t expand on each piece of analysis (effect of technique, and how this is relevant to your mini thesis) and therefore did not prove their mini thesis.
Also, listening to multiple perspectives on short answer responses are incredibly helpful. I practised short answers with my friends under timed conditions, then we discussed our own responses and thought processes – what we thought the question was asking, how we found pieces of evidence, what made us interpret the text in this way, etc. By doing this, you’ll understand how to think outside of your own perspective – this expands the ideas you can generate under time pressure. Peer marking is amazing – you may not realise that your writing is unclear, or you’re not explaining the analysis properly because you understand it so well in your head. Constructive feedback is key for English, especially because there is no set answer for short answer responses.