Interesting Literature

How to Write a Good English Literature Essay

By Dr Oliver Tearle (Loughborough University)

How do you write a good English Literature essay? Although to an extent this depends on the particular subject you’re writing about, and on the nature of the question your essay is attempting to answer, there are a few general guidelines for how to write a convincing essay – just as there are a few guidelines for writing well in any field.

We at Interesting Literature  call them ‘guidelines’ because we hesitate to use the word ‘rules’, which seems too programmatic. And as the writing habits of successful authors demonstrate, there is no  one way to become a good writer – of essays, novels, poems, or whatever it is you’re setting out to write. The French writer Colette liked to begin her writing day by picking the fleas off her cat.

Edith Sitwell, by all accounts, liked to lie in an open coffin before she began her day’s writing. Friedrich von Schiller kept rotten apples in his desk, claiming he needed the scent of their decay to help him write. (For most student essay-writers, such an aroma is probably allowed to arise in the writing-room more organically, over time.)

We will address our suggestions for successful essay-writing to the average student of English Literature, whether at university or school level. There are many ways to approach the task of essay-writing, and these are just a few pointers for how to write a better English essay – and some of these pointers may also work for other disciplines and subjects, too.

Of course, these guidelines are designed to be of interest to the non-essay-writer too – people who have an interest in the craft of writing in general. If this describes you, we hope you enjoy the list as well. Remember, though, everyone can find writing difficult: as Thomas Mann memorably put it, ‘A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.’ Nora Ephron was briefer: ‘I think the hardest thing about writing is writing.’ So, the guidelines for successful essay-writing:

1. Planning is important, but don’t spend too long perfecting a structure that might end up changing.

This may seem like odd advice to kick off with, but the truth is that different approaches work for different students and essayists. You need to find out which method works best for you.

It’s not a bad idea, regardless of whether you’re a big planner or not, to sketch out perhaps a few points on a sheet of paper before you start, but don’t be surprised if you end up moving away from it slightly – or considerably – when you start to write.

Often the most extensively planned essays are the most mechanistic and dull in execution, precisely because the writer has drawn up a plan and refused to deviate from it. What  is a more valuable skill is to be able to sense when your argument may be starting to go off-topic, or your point is getting out of hand,  as you write . (For help on this, see point 5 below.)

We might even say that when it comes to knowing how to write a good English Literature essay,  practising  is more important than planning.

2. Make room for close analysis of the text, or texts.

Whilst it’s true that some first-class or A-grade essays will be impressive without containing any close reading as such, most of the highest-scoring and most sophisticated essays tend to zoom in on the text and examine its language and imagery closely in the course of the argument. (Close reading of literary texts arises from theology and the analysis of holy scripture, but really became a ‘thing’ in literary criticism in the early twentieth century, when T. S. Eliot, F. R. Leavis, William Empson, and other influential essayists started to subject the poem or novel to close scrutiny.)

Close reading has two distinct advantages: it increases the specificity of your argument (so you can’t be so easily accused of generalising a point), and it improves your chances of pointing up something about the text which none of the other essays your marker is reading will have said. For instance, take In Memoriam  (1850), which is a long Victorian poem by the poet Alfred, Lord Tennyson about his grief following the death of his close friend, Arthur Hallam, in the early 1830s.

When answering a question about the representation of religious faith in Tennyson’s poem  In Memoriam  (1850), how might you write a particularly brilliant essay about this theme? Anyone can make a general point about the poet’s crisis of faith; but to look closely at the language used gives you the chance to show  how the poet portrays this.

For instance, consider this stanza, which conveys the poet’s doubt:

A solid and perfectly competent essay might cite this stanza in support of the claim that Tennyson is finding it increasingly difficult to have faith in God (following the untimely and senseless death of his friend, Arthur Hallam). But there are several ways of then doing something more with it. For instance, you might get close to the poem’s imagery, and show how Tennyson conveys this idea, through the image of the ‘altar-stairs’ associated with religious worship and the idea of the stairs leading ‘thro’ darkness’ towards God.

In other words, Tennyson sees faith as a matter of groping through the darkness, trusting in God without having evidence that he is there. If you like, it’s a matter of ‘blind faith’. That would be a good reading. Now, here’s how to make a good English essay on this subject even better: one might look at how the word ‘falter’ – which encapsulates Tennyson’s stumbling faith – disperses into ‘falling’ and ‘altar’ in the succeeding lines. The word ‘falter’, we might say, itself falters or falls apart.

That is doing more than just interpreting the words: it’s being a highly careful reader of the poetry and showing how attentive to the language of the poetry you can be – all the while answering the question, about how the poem portrays the idea of faith. So, read and then reread the text you’re writing about – and be sensitive to such nuances of language and style.

The best way to  become attuned to such nuances is revealed in point 5. We might summarise this point as follows: when it comes to knowing how to write a persuasive English Literature essay, it’s one thing to have a broad and overarching argument, but don’t be afraid to use the  microscope as well as the telescope.

3. Provide several pieces of evidence where possible.

Many essays have a point to make and make it, tacking on a single piece of evidence from the text (or from beyond the text, e.g. a critical, historical, or biographical source) in the hope that this will be enough to make the point convincing.

‘State, quote, explain’ is the Holy Trinity of the Paragraph for many. What’s wrong with it? For one thing, this approach is too formulaic and basic for many arguments. Is one quotation enough to support a point? It’s often a matter of degree, and although one piece of evidence is better than none, two or three pieces will be even more persuasive.

After all, in a court of law a single eyewitness account won’t be enough to convict the accused of the crime, and even a confession from the accused would carry more weight if it comes supported by other, objective evidence (e.g. DNA, fingerprints, and so on).

Let’s go back to the example about Tennyson’s faith in his poem  In Memoriam  mentioned above. Perhaps you don’t find the end of the poem convincing – when the poet claims to have rediscovered his Christian faith and to have overcome his grief at the loss of his friend.

You can find examples from the end of the poem to suggest your reading of the poet’s insincerity may have validity, but looking at sources beyond the poem – e.g. a good edition of the text, which will contain biographical and critical information – may help you to find a clinching piece of evidence to support your reading.

And, sure enough, Tennyson is reported to have said of  In Memoriam : ‘It’s too hopeful, this poem, more than I am myself.’ And there we have it: much more convincing than simply positing your reading of the poem with a few ambiguous quotations from the poem itself.

Of course, this rule also works in reverse: if you want to argue, for instance, that T. S. Eliot’s  The Waste Land is overwhelmingly inspired by the poet’s unhappy marriage to his first wife, then using a decent biographical source makes sense – but if you didn’t show evidence for this idea from the poem itself (see point 2), all you’ve got is a vague, general link between the poet’s life and his work.

Show  how the poet’s marriage is reflected in the work, e.g. through men and women’s relationships throughout the poem being shown as empty, soulless, and unhappy. In other words, when setting out to write a good English essay about any text, don’t be afraid to  pile on  the evidence – though be sensible, a handful of quotations or examples should be more than enough to make your point convincing.

4. Avoid tentative or speculative phrasing.

Many essays tend to suffer from the above problem of a lack of evidence, so the point fails to convince. This has a knock-on effect: often the student making the point doesn’t sound especially convinced by it either. This leaks out in the telling use of, and reliance on, certain uncertain  phrases: ‘Tennyson might have’ or ‘perhaps Harper Lee wrote this to portray’ or ‘it can be argued that’.

An English university professor used to write in the margins of an essay which used this last phrase, ‘What  can’t be argued?’

This is a fair criticism: anything can be argued (badly), but it depends on what evidence you can bring to bear on it (point 3) as to whether it will be a persuasive argument. (Arguing that the plays of Shakespeare were written by a Martian who came down to Earth and ingratiated himself with the world of Elizabethan theatre is a theory that can be argued, though few would take it seriously. We wish we could say ‘none’, but that’s a story for another day.)

Many essay-writers, because they’re aware that texts are often open-ended and invite multiple interpretations (as almost all great works of literature invariably do), think that writing ‘it can be argued’ acknowledges the text’s rich layering of meaning and is therefore valid.

Whilst this is certainly a fact – texts are open-ended and can be read in wildly different ways – the phrase ‘it can be argued’ is best used sparingly if at all. It should be taken as true that your interpretation is, at bottom, probably unprovable. What would it mean to ‘prove’ a reading as correct, anyway? Because you found evidence that the author intended the same thing as you’ve argued of their text? Tennyson wrote in a letter, ‘I wrote In Memoriam  because…’?

But the author might have lied about it (e.g. in an attempt to dissuade people from looking too much into their private life), or they might have changed their mind (to go back to the example of  The Waste Land : T. S. Eliot championed the idea of poetic impersonality in an essay of 1919, but years later he described  The Waste Land as ‘only the relief of a personal and wholly insignificant grouse against life’ – hardly impersonal, then).

Texts – and their writers – can often be contradictory, or cagey about their meaning. But we as critics have to act responsibly when writing about literary texts in any good English essay or exam answer. We need to argue honestly, and sincerely – and not use what Wikipedia calls ‘weasel words’ or hedging expressions.

So, if nothing is utterly provable, all that remains is to make the strongest possible case you can with the evidence available. You do this, not only through marshalling the evidence in an effective way, but by writing in a confident voice when making your case. Fundamentally, ‘There is evidence to suggest that’ says more or less the same thing as ‘It can be argued’, but it foregrounds the  evidence rather than the argument, so is preferable as a phrase.

This point might be summarised by saying: the best way to write a good English Literature essay is to be honest about the reading you’re putting forward, so you can be confident in your interpretation and use clear, bold language. (‘Bold’ is good, but don’t get too cocky, of course…)

5. Read the work of other critics.

This might be viewed as the Holy Grail of good essay-writing tips, since it is perhaps the single most effective way to improve your own writing. Even if you’re writing an essay as part of school coursework rather than a university degree, and don’t need to research other critics for your essay, it’s worth finding a good writer of literary criticism and reading their work. Why is this worth doing?

Published criticism has at least one thing in its favour, at least if it’s published by an academic press or has appeared in an academic journal, and that is that it’s most probably been peer-reviewed, meaning that other academics have read it, closely studied its argument, checked it for errors or inaccuracies, and helped to ensure that it is expressed in a fluent, clear, and effective way.

If you’re serious about finding out how to write a better English essay, then you need to study how successful writers in the genre do it. And essay-writing is a genre, the same as novel-writing or poetry. But why will reading criticism help you? Because the critics you read can show you how to do all of the above: how to present a close reading of a poem, how to advance an argument that is not speculative or tentative yet not over-confident, how to use evidence from the text to make your argument more persuasive.

And, the more you read of other critics – a page a night, say, over a few months – the better you’ll get. It’s like textual osmosis: a little bit of their style will rub off on you, and every writer learns by the examples of other writers.

As T. S. Eliot himself said, ‘The poem which is absolutely original is absolutely bad.’ Don’t get precious about your own distinctive writing style and become afraid you’ll lose it. You can’t  gain a truly original style before you’ve looked at other people’s and worked out what you like and what you can ‘steal’ for your own ends.

We say ‘steal’, but this is not the same as saying that plagiarism is okay, of course. But consider this example. You read an accessible book on Shakespeare’s language and the author makes a point about rhymes in Shakespeare. When you’re working on your essay on the poetry of Christina Rossetti, you notice a similar use of rhyme, and remember the point made by the Shakespeare critic.

This is not plagiarising a point but applying it independently to another writer. It shows independent interpretive skills and an ability to understand and apply what you have read. This is another of the advantages of reading critics, so this would be our final piece of advice for learning how to write a good English essay: find a critic whose style you like, and study their craft.

If you’re looking for suggestions, we can recommend a few favourites: Christopher Ricks, whose  The Force of Poetry is a tour de force; Jonathan Bate, whose  The Genius of Shakespeare , although written for a general rather than academic audience, is written by a leading Shakespeare scholar and academic; and Helen Gardner, whose  The Art of T. S. Eliot , whilst dated (it came out in 1949), is a wonderfully lucid and articulate analysis of Eliot’s poetry.

James Wood’s How Fiction Works  is also a fine example of lucid prose and how to close-read literary texts. Doubtless readers of  Interesting Literature will have their own favourites to suggest in the comments, so do check those out, as these are just three personal favourites. What’s your favourite work of literary scholarship/criticism? Suggestions please.

Much of all this may strike you as common sense, but even the most commonsensical advice can go out of your mind when you have a piece of coursework to write, or an exam to revise for. We hope these suggestions help to remind you of some of the key tenets of good essay-writing practice – though remember, these aren’t so much commandments as recommendations. No one can ‘tell’ you how to write a good English Literature essay as such.

But it can be learned. And remember, be interesting – find the things in the poems or plays or novels which really ignite your enthusiasm. As John Mortimer said, ‘The only rule I have found to have any validity in writing is not to bore yourself.’

Finally, good luck – and happy writing!

And if you enjoyed these tips for how to write a persuasive English essay, check out our advice for how to remember things for exams  and our tips for becoming a better close reader of poetry .

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30 thoughts on “How to Write a Good English Literature Essay”

You must have taken AP Literature. I’m always saying these same points to my students.

I also think a crucial part of excellent essay writing that too many students do not realize is that not every point or interpretation needs to be addressed. When offered the chance to write your interpretation of a work of literature, it is important to note that there of course are many but your essay should choose one and focus evidence on this one view rather than attempting to include all views and evidence to back up each view.

Reblogged this on SocioTech'nowledge .

Not a bad effort…not at all! (Did you intend “subject” instead of “object” in numbered paragraph two, line seven?”

Oops! I did indeed – many thanks for spotting. Duly corrected ;)

That’s what comes of writing about philosophy and the subject/object for another post at the same time!

Reblogged this on Scribing English .

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Great post on essay writing! I’ve shared a post about this and about the blog site in general which you can look at here:

All of these are very good points – especially I like 2 and 5. I’d like to read the essay on the Martian who wrote Shakespeare’s plays).

Reblogged this on Uniqely Mustered and commented: Dedicate this to all upcoming writers and lovers of Writing!

I shall take this as my New Year boost in Writing Essays. Please try to visit often for corrections,advise and criticisms.

Reblogged this on Blue Banana Bread .

Reblogged this on worldsinthenet .

All very good points, but numbers 2 and 4 are especially interesting.

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Reblogged this on rainniewu .

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Great post. Interesting infographic how to write an argumentative essay

Reblogged this on DISTINCT CHARACTER and commented: Good Tips

Reblogged this on quirkywritingcorner and commented: This could be applied to novel or short story writing as well.

Reblogged this on rosetech67 and commented: Useful, albeit maybe a bit late for me :-)

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A well rounded summary on all steps to keep in mind while starting on writing. There are many new avenues available though. Benefit from the writing options of the 21st century from here, i loved it!

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Essay Structure – Edexcel A Level English Literature

how to write an a level english language essay

14th June 2017

by Aimee Wright

The first thing you need to consider when writing an English essay is the structure, and how you can make sure it is one that you can remember and will give you a good grade.

  • Generic Introduction :You will need to know the book , the author , the publication date and the literary period / monarchy era – g. Frankenstein , Mary Shelley, 1818, Romantic period. Then, you will need to state the genre of the book(s) – e.g. Frankenstein is a gothic novel. Lastly, you will need to briefly summarise the theme / character that the question asks of you. Below are some example generic introductions :
  • (For the Prose exam): Frankenstein by Mary Shelley was published in 1818, during the Romantic Period, and The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood was published in 1985, and is a postmodern text. Both of these texts are science fiction novels, but Frankenstein is a gothic novel, written in the first wave of gothic literature, while The Handmaid’s Tale is a dystopian novel. *The role of gender in the misuse of science* is seen in both texts in the way that the writers have used linguistic techniques and contextual factors, and this is what will be explored in this analysis.
  • (For Othello ): Othello by William Shakespeare was published in 1604 during the Elizabethan era. The play is considered a tragedy, but many critics have picked up on the use of satire that Shakespeare has used, however it is not used so much that it could be seen as a comedy. In this analysis, it will be explored how Shakespeare has used his linguistic abilities and contextual factors to present the *theme of betrayal*, and subsequently how critics have viewed this.
  • (For A Streetcar Named Desire ): A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams was published in 1947, making it a modernist play. The play is a tragedy which aligns with the context of events such as World War Two, and the Great Depression, as these are very tragic. In this analysis, the *character of Blanche* will be explored, and it will be considered whether Williams uses linguistic, structural and contextual techniques to impact Blanche’s character.
  • (For Post 2000 Poetry): Please Hold by Ciaran O’Driscoll is a poem that presents the themes of frustration, manipulation and irritation that the modern day society brings. As a postmodern poem, the twenty-first century challenges that the narrator undertakes align with each other. On first reading Somewhat Unravelled by Jo Shapcott, the reader can perceive that the narrator also represents strong emotions to represent how the narrator is feeling. By comparing these two poems, the analysis will explore how *strong emotions* are used in order to relay a story, such as through linguistic and structural crafting.
  • (For Keats ): The Eve of St Agnes by John Keats was written in 1819, just two years before Keats’ death, in the Romantic period. The *theme of physical sensations* in this poem are represented through linguistic and structural methods, as well as contextual factors of the time. Physical sensations are not just seen in The Eve of St Agnes , however – Keats has also used this theme in La Belle Dame sans Merci , which was written in 1819 like The Eve of St Agnes . In this analysis, it will be seen whether La Belle Dame sans Merci shares a similar approach to physical sensations, and whether the time period had impact on this.

It is important to mention what you are going to be discussing in the essay. But, you do not need to use specific details in your introduction, otherwise the rest of your essay will seem sort of shallow. So, use phrases such as ‘In this analysis, the linguistic and structural crafting will be explored’, for instance.

If the question is particularly linked to a specific one contextual factor – maybe it is about monarchy or social hierarchy, or war? – you should give a brief overview of that contextual factor. E.g. “The social hierarchy in Shakespearean times was based on the chain of being , which will be discussed in this analysis.”

  • In comparison essays – so the Prose and Poetry exams – it is important to highlight which text is your primary text . In the Prose exam, your primary text is Frankenstein , because it “comes first” in literary history. In Post 2000 poetry, the primary text is the poem from the anthology , accompanied by the unseen poem . In Keats, the primary text is the poem it gives you , and you “support” your points with another poem. But, it is important not to compare . So, when exploring your point further, you could say “To support this point, this is also seen in *insert other poem name* by using the same techniques.”
  • In non-comparison essays – the Drama exam – you will need to write the same number of points that you would use for a comparison essay (the average is 2-3), but you may need more substance and expansive analysis. For example, if you wrote two paragraphs for one point in the Prose exam (which includes two texts ) you would still need to write two paragraphs for one point , even though you only have one text .
  • So the structure of your essays need to be clear , concise and understandable . Especially for comparison essays, you will need to split up your points into more than one paragraph so that the examiner can understand your analysis more clearly.Having said this, in the Prose exam, it is important to note that you must state the points for both texts in the initial paragraph. This is so that the examiner can see where your point is going from the beginning.In the comparison essays in the Poetry exam, the first paragraph of the point should be about the primary text , which will then lead you to explore the secondary text . So, the advice for this would be: do not plan points for both poems – if you want to plan, just think of points for the primary text , and then think about how that same technique or concept is seen in your secondary text .
  • Quoting / quotations: It is important to follow the succeeding points when considering the quotations that you use –
  • Think about the context that you are talking about, and how you are putting the quotation in a sentence. Generally, it is better to put a quotation in a sentence like: “This is seen in the declarative sentence , ‘We are two-legged wombs.’ (p.146).” (this is a quote from The Handmaid’s Tale ). But if you are going to use the quotation like this: “The narrator said that ‘We are two legged-wombs’ to present the idea that the Handmaids are irrelevant.” you will need to think about the structure of the sentence. Instead of using the pronoun ‘We’ in the quotation, put ‘they’ in square brackets to show that you have modified the quotation . So, the sentence would look like this: “The narrator said that ‘[they] are two-legged wombs’ to present the idea that the Handmaids are irrelevant.”
  • Think about the length of the quotation that you are using. If there is a long quotation – perhaps one that includes a stream of consciousness or syndetic listing , or just lengthy description – you may want to use snippets of the quotation to ensure that the examiner does not get bored. So instead of saying: “Walton (who is speaking) is seen to be a man who has power. Shelley presents this by saying, ‘One man’s life or death were but a small price to pay for the acquirement of the knowledge which I sought, for the dominion I should acquire and transmit over the elemental foes of our race.’” (This is a quotation from Frankenstein ). you could use specific words or phrases to portray the same point. For instance, if your point was: “Walton (who is speaking) is seen to be a man who has power. Shelley presents this is seen in his fourth letter with a semantic field of power and knowledge, with words such as ‘acquirement’; ‘knowledge’; ‘dominion’’ and ‘transmit’.”
  • Terminology : I know that terminology is difficult to use, especially if you can’t think of the name for a technique. But, you are marked on your terminology use as it “proves” that you know what you’re talking about.
  • Where to use terminology: when structuring your point, you should use terminology either before you mention the quotation – this is if you are making a point that the technique has a direct impact on the theme or character – or after you mention the quotation – this is just to show that you know what technique the author has used.Before the quotation: If you are making the point that the author uses declarative sentences to depict the theme or character, you could say: “Atwood uses declarative sentences to represent how straightforward prejudice is as a theme in society: ‘We are two-legged wombs.’ (p.146).” The idea that prejudice is ‘straightforward’ is your point .After the quotation: So, after the point made above, you could expand by saying: “Atwood uses this declarative sentence to represent that the Handmaids are discriminated against in a simple way, otherwise she may have used another sentence mood, such as exclamatory sentences . In addition, the metaphor of Handmaids being ‘two-legged wombs’ shows Atwood’s linguistic crafting to portray that Handmaids are only seen as women who give birth to children, and nothing else.” The use of further terminology in your essay – in this case ‘exclamatory sentences’ and ‘metaphor’ – will show more knowledge.
  • Word Specific Analysis: Instead of using terminology for the analysis of a whole quotation , you can use Word Specific Analysis to really unpick the underlying ideas. For instance: “Atwood uses the pronoun ‘We’ to represent that the Handmaids are a collective. This shows that if one Handmaid is victimised or targeted, the whole group of Handmaids are discriminated against. In addition, the use of the noun ‘wombs’ indicates the part of the body that the Handmaids are seen as: they are just seen as being able to conceive a child, and nothing more.”

For instance: “ Bright star! would I were steadfast as thou art by John Keats uses the Petrarchan sonnet  form. Petrarch was famous for using themes such as unrequited love, and the sonnet will always use a Volta . The Volta is the beginning of the ninth line of the sonnet and, in Keats’ poetry, is often representative of his own personal change in mood or thought, so the Volta ‘No’ in Bright star! could be Keats changing his mind, or disagreeing, with his previous comments.”

In the Drama exam, it is important to know the names of speech and structure:

For instance: “ Othello by William Shakespeare uses a variety of structures to symbolise the theme of betrayal. For instance, Iago often speaks in prose when his plan is beginning to unravel. Prose, in comparison to the poetic speech that characters usually speaks in, is used to represent the unstoppable thoughts and ideas that a character may have.”

  • Context: It is explicitly important to use contextual information to back up your ideas.
  • The Prose Exam:The most important piece of context for this exam is about the science of the time and how it is used in your texts. This is because the section of the exam is ‘Science and Society’. This also means you have to have a substantial knowledge of the society at the time of the novels as well.
  • Other exams:It is just as important to use author-personal context as well as societal This includes the author’s family, associates, events that happened to them etc.You should use a balance of societal and personal context to show your varied knowledge. In fact, you can often use a piece of context as your point e.g. “Keats wrote in the second generation of the Romantic poets, so he had influence from the work of Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge, for instance. The Romantics have many different conventions, but to represent the theme of physical sensations in The Eve of St Agnes , Keats has employed the Romantic connection to nature.”
  • Critics and Different Interpretations:The Drama exam is the only exam that you get marked on for critical analysis and using different interpretations, but it does not hurt to use them in each exam.

“In Othello , Shakespeare represents Desdemona as being associated with everyone, or having an impact on each character for a different reason.”

This can be supported by Anna Jameson , a critic of the play. You do not need to remember every detail of her critical evaluation, but you need to remember the general idea or snippets of quotes:

“To support this point, Anna Jameson said that Desdemona is the ‘source of the pathos’ of the play. This links to the idea that she is associated with everyone because she emits the ‘pathos’ and diffuses it to each character, and this is what creates the tragedy in the play.” What is important to mention , however, is that you should back up the critical reading with a quotation from the play, rather than just your “point”:

“This is seen just before Desdemona’s death when she says ‘I never did / Offend you in my life; never loved Cassio’, then Othello says ‘Honest Iago hath tane order for’t.’ This represents Desdemona’s impact on multiple characters through the possessive pronoun ‘you’ and the mention of ‘Cassio’ and ‘Iago’, and the bitter tone of these declarative sentences portrays pathos, therefore showing where Jameson got her idea from.”

To make another point, you could challenge the critic. Another point could be:

“Desdemona is seen as ‘fair’, and innocent, and Shakespeare represents this by repeatedly having Othello call her the epithet ‘gentle Desdemona’.”

Therefore, you could use Jameson’s idea to challenge this point:

“To challenge this point, Anna Jameson said that Desdemona is the ‘source pathos of the play’. If Desdemona is the ‘source pathos’, it can be analysed that she is not truly ‘gentle’, but is actually sorrowful.”

You could disagree with the critic as well, but do not use first person . Say it as though you are disagreeing on behalf of the audience:

I hope that this is all helpful for the exam, the exams start tomorrow so good luck!


Atwood, M. (1985). The Handmaid’s Tale. London: Vintage Random House.

Keats, J. (2007). Selected Poems. London: Penguin Classics.

Poems of the Decade: An Anthology of the Forward Books of Poetry. (2011). London: Forward Ltd.

Shakespeare, W. (1622). Othello. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Shelley, M. (1818). Frankenstein (3 ed.). London: Penguin Group.

Williams, T. (1947). A Streetcar Named Desire. London: Penguin Group.

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The Beginner's Guide to Writing an Essay | Steps & Examples

An academic essay is a focused piece of writing that develops an idea or argument using evidence, analysis, and interpretation.

There are many types of essays you might write as a student. The content and length of an essay depends on your level, subject of study, and course requirements. However, most essays at university level are argumentative — they aim to persuade the reader of a particular position or perspective on a topic.

The essay writing process consists of three main stages:

  • Preparation: Decide on your topic, do your research, and create an essay outline.
  • Writing : Set out your argument in the introduction, develop it with evidence in the main body, and wrap it up with a conclusion.
  • Revision:  Check your essay on the content, organization, grammar, spelling, and formatting of your essay.

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Table of contents

Essay writing process, preparation for writing an essay, writing the introduction, writing the main body, writing the conclusion, essay checklist, lecture slides, frequently asked questions about writing an essay.

The writing process of preparation, writing, and revisions applies to every essay or paper, but the time and effort spent on each stage depends on the type of essay .

For example, if you’ve been assigned a five-paragraph expository essay for a high school class, you’ll probably spend the most time on the writing stage; for a college-level argumentative essay , on the other hand, you’ll need to spend more time researching your topic and developing an original argument before you start writing.

1. Preparation 2. Writing 3. Revision
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Before you start writing, you should make sure you have a clear idea of what you want to say and how you’re going to say it. There are a few key steps you can follow to make sure you’re prepared:

  • Understand your assignment: What is the goal of this essay? What is the length and deadline of the assignment? Is there anything you need to clarify with your teacher or professor?
  • Define a topic: If you’re allowed to choose your own topic , try to pick something that you already know a bit about and that will hold your interest.
  • Do your research: Read  primary and secondary sources and take notes to help you work out your position and angle on the topic. You’ll use these as evidence for your points.
  • Come up with a thesis:  The thesis is the central point or argument that you want to make. A clear thesis is essential for a focused essay—you should keep referring back to it as you write.
  • Create an outline: Map out the rough structure of your essay in an outline . This makes it easier to start writing and keeps you on track as you go.

Once you’ve got a clear idea of what you want to discuss, in what order, and what evidence you’ll use, you’re ready to start writing.

The introduction sets the tone for your essay. It should grab the reader’s interest and inform them of what to expect. The introduction generally comprises 10–20% of the text.

1. Hook your reader

The first sentence of the introduction should pique your reader’s interest and curiosity. This sentence is sometimes called the hook. It might be an intriguing question, a surprising fact, or a bold statement emphasizing the relevance of the topic.

Let’s say we’re writing an essay about the development of Braille (the raised-dot reading and writing system used by visually impaired people). Our hook can make a strong statement about the topic:

The invention of Braille was a major turning point in the history of disability.

2. Provide background on your topic

Next, it’s important to give context that will help your reader understand your argument. This might involve providing background information, giving an overview of important academic work or debates on the topic, and explaining difficult terms. Don’t provide too much detail in the introduction—you can elaborate in the body of your essay.

3. Present the thesis statement

Next, you should formulate your thesis statement— the central argument you’re going to make. The thesis statement provides focus and signals your position on the topic. It is usually one or two sentences long. The thesis statement for our essay on Braille could look like this:

As the first writing system designed for blind people’s needs, Braille was a groundbreaking new accessibility tool. It not only provided practical benefits, but also helped change the cultural status of blindness.

4. Map the structure

In longer essays, you can end the introduction by briefly describing what will be covered in each part of the essay. This guides the reader through your structure and gives a preview of how your argument will develop.

The invention of Braille marked a major turning point in the history of disability. The writing system of raised dots used by blind and visually impaired people was developed by Louis Braille in nineteenth-century France. In a society that did not value disabled people in general, blindness was particularly stigmatized, and lack of access to reading and writing was a significant barrier to social participation. The idea of tactile reading was not entirely new, but existing methods based on sighted systems were difficult to learn and use. As the first writing system designed for blind people’s needs, Braille was a groundbreaking new accessibility tool. It not only provided practical benefits, but also helped change the cultural status of blindness. This essay begins by discussing the situation of blind people in nineteenth-century Europe. It then describes the invention of Braille and the gradual process of its acceptance within blind education. Subsequently, it explores the wide-ranging effects of this invention on blind people’s social and cultural lives.

Write your essay introduction

The body of your essay is where you make arguments supporting your thesis, provide evidence, and develop your ideas. Its purpose is to present, interpret, and analyze the information and sources you have gathered to support your argument.

Length of the body text

The length of the body depends on the type of essay. On average, the body comprises 60–80% of your essay. For a high school essay, this could be just three paragraphs, but for a graduate school essay of 6,000 words, the body could take up 8–10 pages.

Paragraph structure

To give your essay a clear structure , it is important to organize it into paragraphs . Each paragraph should be centered around one main point or idea.

That idea is introduced in a  topic sentence . The topic sentence should generally lead on from the previous paragraph and introduce the point to be made in this paragraph. Transition words can be used to create clear connections between sentences.

After the topic sentence, present evidence such as data, examples, or quotes from relevant sources. Be sure to interpret and explain the evidence, and show how it helps develop your overall argument.

Lack of access to reading and writing put blind people at a serious disadvantage in nineteenth-century society. Text was one of the primary methods through which people engaged with culture, communicated with others, and accessed information; without a well-developed reading system that did not rely on sight, blind people were excluded from social participation (Weygand, 2009). While disabled people in general suffered from discrimination, blindness was widely viewed as the worst disability, and it was commonly believed that blind people were incapable of pursuing a profession or improving themselves through culture (Weygand, 2009). This demonstrates the importance of reading and writing to social status at the time: without access to text, it was considered impossible to fully participate in society. Blind people were excluded from the sighted world, but also entirely dependent on sighted people for information and education.

See the full essay example

The conclusion is the final paragraph of an essay. It should generally take up no more than 10–15% of the text . A strong essay conclusion :

  • Returns to your thesis
  • Ties together your main points
  • Shows why your argument matters

A great conclusion should finish with a memorable or impactful sentence that leaves the reader with a strong final impression.

What not to include in a conclusion

To make your essay’s conclusion as strong as possible, there are a few things you should avoid. The most common mistakes are:

  • Including new arguments or evidence
  • Undermining your arguments (e.g. “This is just one approach of many”)
  • Using concluding phrases like “To sum up…” or “In conclusion…”

Braille paved the way for dramatic cultural changes in the way blind people were treated and the opportunities available to them. Louis Braille’s innovation was to reimagine existing reading systems from a blind perspective, and the success of this invention required sighted teachers to adapt to their students’ reality instead of the other way around. In this sense, Braille helped drive broader social changes in the status of blindness. New accessibility tools provide practical advantages to those who need them, but they can also change the perspectives and attitudes of those who do not.

Write your essay conclusion

Checklist: Essay

My essay follows the requirements of the assignment (topic and length ).

My introduction sparks the reader’s interest and provides any necessary background information on the topic.

My introduction contains a thesis statement that states the focus and position of the essay.

I use paragraphs to structure the essay.

I use topic sentences to introduce each paragraph.

Each paragraph has a single focus and a clear connection to the thesis statement.

I make clear transitions between paragraphs and ideas.

My conclusion doesn’t just repeat my points, but draws connections between arguments.

I don’t introduce new arguments or evidence in the conclusion.

I have given an in-text citation for every quote or piece of information I got from another source.

I have included a reference page at the end of my essay, listing full details of all my sources.

My citations and references are correctly formatted according to the required citation style .

My essay has an interesting and informative title.

I have followed all formatting guidelines (e.g. font, page numbers, line spacing).

Your essay meets all the most important requirements. Our editors can give it a final check to help you submit with confidence.

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An essay is a focused piece of writing that explains, argues, describes, or narrates.

In high school, you may have to write many different types of essays to develop your writing skills.

Academic essays at college level are usually argumentative : you develop a clear thesis about your topic and make a case for your position using evidence, analysis and interpretation.

The structure of an essay is divided into an introduction that presents your topic and thesis statement , a body containing your in-depth analysis and arguments, and a conclusion wrapping up your ideas.

The structure of the body is flexible, but you should always spend some time thinking about how you can organize your essay to best serve your ideas.

Your essay introduction should include three main things, in this order:

  • An opening hook to catch the reader’s attention.
  • Relevant background information that the reader needs to know.
  • A thesis statement that presents your main point or argument.

The length of each part depends on the length and complexity of your essay .

A thesis statement is a sentence that sums up the central point of your paper or essay . Everything else you write should relate to this key idea.

The thesis statement is essential in any academic essay or research paper for two main reasons:

  • It gives your writing direction and focus.
  • It gives the reader a concise summary of your main point.

Without a clear thesis statement, an essay can end up rambling and unfocused, leaving your reader unsure of exactly what you want to say.

A topic sentence is a sentence that expresses the main point of a paragraph . Everything else in the paragraph should relate to the topic sentence.

At college level, you must properly cite your sources in all essays , research papers , and other academic texts (except exams and in-class exercises).

Add a citation whenever you quote , paraphrase , or summarize information or ideas from a source. You should also give full source details in a bibliography or reference list at the end of your text.

The exact format of your citations depends on which citation style you are instructed to use. The most common styles are APA , MLA , and Chicago .

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Essay writing skills – A level English Language/Literature

These are a set of interactive activities taking you through the key steps of writing an organised and well-structured essay. From introductions to conclusions and everything in between, this resource can be used in the classroom or at home to consolidate teaching. Written by an experienced teacher and examiner, it also uses examples from previous examination series.

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  • A-Level English Literature Revision Notes >

How do I structure an English literature essay at A-Level?

Structuring an English literature essay at A-Level can be broken down into the following steps:

  • Understand the question and develop a thesis statement: Begin by reading the question carefully and identifying what it is asking you to do. Develop a thesis statement that clearly answers the question and sets out the main argument you will be making in your essay.
  • Plan your essay: Create an outline for your essay that includes an introduction, body paragraphs, and a conclusion. Decide on the main points you want to make in each paragraph and the evidence you will use to support them.
  • Write the introduction: Start with a strong opening sentence that grabs the reader’s attention and introduces the topic. Provide background information and context for the text you will be analyzing, and end with your thesis statement.
  • Write the body paragraphs: Each body paragraph should begin with a topic sentence that relates to your thesis statement and introduces the main point you will be making. Use evidence from the text to support your argument, and explain how the evidence supports your point. Make sure to analyze the evidence and explain how it relates to your argument rather than just summarizing it.
  • Write the conclusion: Summarize the main points you made in your essay and restate your thesis statement. End with a final thought that ties your argument together and leaves the reader with something to think about.
  • Edit and proofread: Read through your essay carefully and make sure that it flows well, that your arguments are clear and supported by evidence, and that there are no grammatical or spelling errors.

Remember to also use relevant literary terms and techniques to support your analysis, and to provide quotations from the text to back up your arguments.

The key elements of a well-structured English literature essay at A-Level include a clear thesis statement, well-planned body paragraphs with topic sentences and evidence to support your arguments, and a conclusion that summarizes your main points and restates your thesis.

To develop a thesis statement for your English literature essay, begin by carefully reading and analyzing the text. Identify the key themes and literary techniques used by the author and develop a statement that clearly answers the question and sets out the main argument you will be making in your essay.

The best way to plan your English literature essay at A-Level is to create an outline that includes an introduction, body paragraphs, and a conclusion. Decide on the main points you want to make in each paragraph and the evidence you will use to support them.

To write clear body paragraphs for your English literature essay, begin each paragraph with a topic sentence that relates to your thesis statement and introduces the main point you will be making. Use evidence from the text to support your argument, and explain how the evidence supports your point.

To analyze literary texts effectively in your English literature essay at A-Level, look for literary techniques used by the author, such as imagery, symbolism, and metaphor. Use quotes from the text to support your analysis and explain how these techniques contribute to the meaning of the text.

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A-level English Language – Everything You Need to Know

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The A-Level English Language course offers an in-depth exploration of linguistic structures, examining the complexities and nuances of language in various contexts. This academic pursuit delves into the evolution of English, its diverse uses across different cultures and media, and the intricate ways in which language shapes and is shaped by society. With an emphasis on both analytical and creative aspects, this course not only fosters a deeper understanding of the English language but also equips students with critical thinking skills that are highly valued in higher education and beyond.

A-level English Exam

How many papers are in the a-level english exam.

The A-Level English exam typically consists of two main papers. Each paper is designed to assess different skills and knowledge areas within the subject. These papers collectively evaluate the students’ understanding of various aspects of English Language, including both its use and analysis. The structure and focus of each paper may vary depending on the specific syllabus and exam board.

Overview of Paper 1

Paper 1 of the A-Level English Language exam typically focuses on language, its variations, and contexts. It often includes analysis of various forms of language use across different social and demographic groups. This paper may also involve exploring language change over time, understanding how English adapts and evolves. Students are expected to demonstrate their analytical skills, showing an understanding of linguistic theories and applying them to diverse language data. This paper lays a foundational understanding of the complexities of English language use in society.

Overview of Paper 2

Paper 2 in the A-Level English Language exam generally focuses on language diversity and change. It invites students to explore how English varies in different social and geographical contexts, and how it has changed over time. This paper often includes tasks related to text analysis, where students may examine language use in various genres, modes, and registers. It also encourages a critical understanding of attitudes towards language diversity and change. Students typically analyse and compare texts, and may also engage in discursive writing, demonstrating their ability to articulate informed opinions on language issues.

Exam Assessment Criteria

The assessment criteria for A-Level English Language exams typically involve evaluating a student’s ability to analyse and interpret language data, their understanding of linguistic concepts and theories, and their proficiency in articulating informed arguments. The criteria also assess how well students can compare and contrast different aspects of language use, their ability to provide evidence-based analysis, and the clarity and effectiveness of their written communication. These criteria are designed to gauge both the depth and breadth of a student’s understanding of the English language.

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Key Topics in A-level English Language

A-level English Language covers a broad spectrum of topics that offer an enriching exploration of language use in society. While different exam boards may vary slightly, the key topics are generally divided into three core modules. Let’s dive in and take a closer look at each of them.

Language, the Individual and Society

This module is all about how language varies from person to person and how society influences the way we use language. Key topics covered include:

Textual Variations and Representations

This area looks at how language varies in written and spoken texts. It includes:

Language and Gender

An exploration of how language can differ between genders.

Language and Occupation

A look at the unique language used in various professions.

Children’s Language Development

This part of the course delves into how children acquire language skills, exploring both spoken and written development.

Language Diversity and Change

This module is a fascinating look at the evolution of language and how it changes across time and place.

Language Diversity

Here, students will learn about how English varies around the world, including regional and social variations.

Language Change

This section investigates how English has evolved over time, considering factors such as technology, society, and cultural change.

Language in Action

This module is about language research and investigation. It enables students to apply what they’ve learned to real-world contexts.

Language Investigation

In this component, students conduct their own research project on a language topic of their choice, applying their understanding of language concepts and methods.

Original Writing

This part of the module allows students to express their creativity by producing two pieces of original writing, accompanied by a commentary reflecting on their writing process and language use.

Each of these modules provides a distinct perspective on language use, creating a comprehensive picture of English Language as an A-level subject. Understanding these topics is crucial for mastering the subject and achieving a high grade.

Common Difficulties in A-level English Language

A-level Student Writing an Essay

Despite the intriguing exploration of how we use language, A-level English Language comes with its fair share of hurdles. Let’s delve into some of the common roadblocks that students often encounter.

Understanding Complex Concepts

The subject matter in A-level English Language goes far beyond standard grammar and vocabulary. It dives deep into advanced theories and concepts about language use and structure, which can often be difficult for students to fully comprehend and apply.

Language Analysis

A significant aspect of A-level English Language is analysing a variety of texts. Students often find it challenging to not only identify different language features but also understand their function and effect in the given context.

Conducting Independent Research

The “Language in Action” component requires students to carry out an independent research project, which can be a tough task. From choosing an appropriate topic to collecting and analysing data, and then effectively presenting findings, it’s a demanding process that can overwhelm many.

Time Management

The pressure of time in an A-level English Language exam is another stumbling block. The multifaceted nature of the exam questions can sometimes make it challenging for students to effectively manage their time and fully articulate their responses within the set time limit.

Writing Skills

The subject demands a broad range of writing skills. Students are expected to demonstrate proficiency in various forms of writing, from in-depth analytical essays to creative writing tasks. Tailoring their writing style to suit different tasks and audiences can be a hurdle for many.

While these challenges might seem daunting, they are not insurmountable. With the right strategies and support, these obstacles can be transformed into opportunities for learning and growth.

Sample A-level English Language Exam Questions

Getting familiar with the type of questions asked in an A-level English Language exam can give students a significant advantage. So, let’s delve into a sample question that mirrors the kind you might see on an actual paper.

Question 1: Textual Variations and Representations

“The city was a whirlwind of excitement. Could there be a more exciting time? From the carnival’s vibrant colours, resonating music to the animated laughter of children, everything was pulsating with life. In the heart of the city, as if beating in rhythm with the celebrations, the newly elected mayor delivered a compelling speech. Packed with promises of progress and prosperity, it was a beacon of hope for the future.”

Question: Identify three examples of language features used in this article and analyse their effect on the reader.

  • Metaphor : The author describes the city as “a whirlwind of excitement.” This metaphor helps to evoke strong emotions in the reader, making the event seem thrilling and fast-paced.
  • Rhetorical question : By asking, “Could there be a more exciting time?”, the author encourages the reader to engage with the text and reflect on the significance of the event.
  • Formal register : The use of formal language, particularly in the description of the mayor’s speech, establishes the author’s authority and credibility, making the news report appear more reliable and professional.
  • Make sure to identify a variety of language features, such as figurative language, syntax, and register.
  • Don’t just identify the feature – also explain its effect on the reader or the message of the text.

Common Mistakes:

  • Only identifying language features without analysing their effect. Remember, analysis is crucial in these types of questions.
  • Being too vague in your analysis. Be specific about how the feature influences the reader’s perception or understanding of the text.
  • Not using technical terminology. Ensure you use the correct terms for the language features you’re discussing.

Question 2: Children’s Language Development

Conversation between a three-year-old child and her mother.

Mother: “What did you do at nursery today, Ellie?”

Ellie: “I drawed a big cat. It’s purple!”

Mother: “Wow, that sounds fantastic! You drew a big, purple cat.”

Ellie: “Yes, I did drawed it!”

Question: Analyse two features of the child’s language use and discuss how they reflect her stage of language development.

  • Overgeneralisation : Ellie uses the past tense “drawed” instead of the irregular past tense, “drew.” This is a common feature in children’s language development known as overgeneralisation, where children apply regular grammatical patterns to irregular cases.
  • Use of Adjectives : Ellie uses the adjective “big” and the colour “purple” to describe her drawing. This shows that she has started to use adjectives to provide more detail, which is a typical development at this age.
  • Look for key characteristics of children’s speech, such as overgeneralisation, telegraphic speech, or the use of certain types of vocabulary.
  • Discuss how these features relate to theories of language development.
  • Not providing specific examples from the insert. Always refer back to the text to support your points.
  • Discussing features without relating them to the child’s stage of language development. Make sure to explain what each feature suggests about the child’s linguistic progress.

A-level English Language Marking Scheme

Understanding the A-level English Language marking scheme is crucial for success in the exams. The scheme serves as a blueprint for how marks are awarded, so let’s demystify it.

In this component, the marks are split between two areas: ‘Textual variations and representations’ and a ‘Methods of language analysis’. The former assesses students’ understanding of textual variations and their ability to analyse texts. The latter focuses on language exploration and involves a directed writing task linked to the studied theme or idea.

Here, students are assessed on their understanding of language diversity and change over time. They will need to write an evaluative essay on language issues and a piece of original writing, both of which carry an equal weight of marks.

In this non-exam assessment, marks are divided between a language investigation and a piece of original writing. The investigation assesses students’ abilities to conduct independent research and present findings, while the original writing task evaluates their creativity and technical control of language.

Each component is marked according to specific criteria, which generally include:

  • Content: The relevance and depth of your answer.
  • Technical Accuracy: Grammar, punctuation, and spelling.
  • Analysis: How well you analyse language features and their effects.
  • Evaluation: Your ability to form and express an informed, personal response to the text.
  • Organisation and Structure: How well your answer is structured and your points coherently developed.

It’s important to note that different exam boards might have slight variations in their marking scheme, so always ensure to check the specific requirements of your board. Remember, the marking scheme is your guide to what examiners are looking for, so make sure to use it to your advantage!

Effective Revision Resources for A-level English Language

Preparing for A-level English Language requires more than just reading through your class notes. Using a variety of resources can provide different perspectives and ways of understanding the material. Here are some effective revision resources you might want to consider:

Revision Guides

There are numerous revision guides available specifically designed for A-level English Language. They summarise key topics, provide exam tips, and usually include practice questions. Some popular choices include the CGP A-Level English Language Complete Revision & Practice and the Collins A-Level Revision – AQA A-Level English Language .

Past Papers and Marking Schemes

Past papers and their marking schemes are invaluable resources. They give you an insight into the types of questions asked, the level of detail required in responses, and how marks are allocated. Find A-level English language past papers here.

Online Learning Platforms

Websites such as Khan Academy , Seneca Learning , and BBC Bitesize offer comprehensive online courses and resources for A-level English Language. They offer interactive quizzes, videos, and revision notes which can make studying more engaging.

Language Textbooks

Textbooks such as ‘English Language and Linguistics’ by Angela Goddard or ‘The Study of Language’ by George Yule offer in-depth knowledge on many of the core topics in the A-level English Language curriculum.

Private Tuition

Private tuition can provide personalised feedback and targeted support. It can be especially beneficial for students who are struggling with particular topics or need extra help with exam techniques.

Remember, what works best for one person might not work as well for another. Experiment with different types of resources to find what suits your revision style best.

The Benefits of A-level English Language Tuition

When it comes to tackling the complexities of A-level English Language, private tuition can be an invaluable resource . Here are some key benefits that A-level English Language tuition can offer.

Individualised Attention and Learning

One of the major advantages of tuition is that it allows for a one-on-one learning experience. Tutors can tailor their lessons to the specific needs of the student, focusing on areas of difficulty and reinforcing understanding of key concepts. This personalisation often leads to more effective learning than can be achieved in a typical classroom setting.

Understanding Complex Linguistic Concepts

A-level English Language can be challenging due to the complex theories and linguistic concepts it covers. A tutor can help explain these in an easy-to-understand way, using relatable examples and effective teaching strategies. They can clarify doubts, deepen understanding and cultivate an appreciation for the subject.

Guidance with Language Analysis

Tutors can provide detailed instruction on how to approach language analysis, a key component of the course. They can demonstrate effective techniques for identifying language features and explaining their effects, using a range of practice texts. This guidance can significantly improve a student’s analytical skills.

Help with Independent Research

Tutors can provide valuable assistance with the “Language in Action” component, where students conduct their own language investigation. They can help students choose appropriate topics, guide them through the data collection and analysis process, and provide feedback on their written report.

Exam Technique and Practice

Private tuition is an excellent way to refine exam techniques. Tutors can provide insights into the marking scheme, advice on time management, and help students understand what examiners are looking for. Regular practice with past papers under the tutor’s guidance can boost students’ confidence and performance in the actual exam.

Flexible Learning

Unlike traditional schooling, tutoring can be done at a time and pace that suits the student. This flexibility can help keep stress levels low and make learning more enjoyable.

With these advantages, private tuition could be the additional support your child needs to excel in their A-level English Language. It’s about unlocking potential, boosting confidence and paving the way for academic success.

As we’ve navigated through the maze of A-level English Language together in this article, it’s evident that mastering this subject can seem like a colossal task. However, the journey becomes less daunting with the right tools, strategies, and support.

While A-levels indeed necessitate independent work, the assistance of a tutor doesn’t invalidate this. On the contrary, it fosters autonomy by equipping students with the tools and techniques they need to study more effectively on their own. Even the highest achievers can benefit from this. After all, learning is not just about overcoming obstacles – it’s about striving for excellence.

This is where Edumentors comes into play. As an online tutoring platform, it’s a powerful ally in your child’s educational journey. What sets Edumentors apart is its tutors. These are not just any tutors, but a dedicated group of high-achievers from top UK universities, including Oxford and Cambridge. Their first-hand experience with the rigours of A-levels and the university application process puts them in a unique position to impart invaluable insights – from mastering exam techniques to acing university interviews.

Tutoring isn’t a sign of weakness or an easy way out. It’s about making a strategic investment in your child’s education. It’s about giving them the opportunity to learn from those who’ve walked the path they’re embarking on and succeeded.

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  • How to Write a Great Essay for Different A-Level Subjects

Image shows an open notebook with a pen resting on it.

In previous articles, we’ve given you lots of advice on how to write the perfect essay.

However, the skills we’ve discussed up to now have been generic, and have not taken into account the fact that different subjects require different skills when it comes to writing excellent essays for them. In this article, we look at the particular skills needed to write great essays for individual A-level subjects, so that you can familiarise yourself with what you need to do to excel in whatever A-levels you happen to be studying.

Image shows a painting of a house on the moors.

Good English literature essays revolve around intelligent interpretation. The problem many students have with this is organising their interpretations into a tightly structured essay that flows well; many simply let their ideas run wild and flit aimlessly between one point and the next. To combat this problem, you need to consider the writer’s overall aims and then show how they have conveyed those aims, paragraph by paragraph, with each paragraph devoted to a particular technique or focus. A good structure to use is as follows:

  • Point – make a statement, such as “Brontë uses the bleakness of the moorland setting to reflect Heathcliff’s temperament.”
  • Explanation – elaborate on the statement in more detail. In this example, your explanation would involve explaining the parallels between Heathcliff and the moors – their unpredictability and wildness, for instance, and the violence of the weather mirroring Heathcliff’s violent personality.
  • Evidence – now provide quotes from the text to back up what you mean. In the Heathcliff example, you could quote specific words and phrases that show similarities in the way Heathcliff is described and the way in which the moorland landscape and weather are described.
  • Reiterate – close off the paragraph by reiterating the point, and perhaps developing it a little further or introducing the idea you’re going to carry into the next paragraph. For example, “This ties in with a wider theme running through the book as a whole, which is that nature parallels human emotions.”

Good English essays pay close attention to detail, noting specific words, phrases and literary devices a writer has used, and to what effect. They quote liberally from the text in order to support each point, deconstructing the writing and analysing the use of language; they look at different interpretations, seeing beyond the surface and picking up on possible deeper meanings and connotations. But they also consider the meaning of the piece as a whole, and the overall effect created by the specific details noted. All this should be considered within the framework of the genre and context of the piece of writing. For instance, a poem by William Wordsworth would be considered within the context of the Romantic poets, and might be compared with work by contemporary poets such as Shelley or Keats; the historical background might also be touched upon where relevant (such as the Industrial Revolution when discussing the poetry of William Blake).

Image shows a painting of Luther at the Diet of Worms.

Though it’s also a humanities subject, History requires its own very particular set of skills that differ to an appreciable degree from those expected of you in English. A history essay is unequivocal about its writer’s opinion, but this opinion must be based on a solid analysis of evidence that very often can’t be taken as fact. Evidence must be discussed in terms of its reliability, or lack thereof. The good historian considers what biases may be inherent in a source, what vested interest the source might have, and what viewpoint that source was written from. For instance, you might analyse a source by discussing whether or not the person was present at the events they are describing; how long after the events they were writing (and therefore whether they are remembering it accurately if they were there, or whether they are getting their information second or third hand from someone else; and if so, how reliable the original source is); whether they are trying to show evidence to support a particular political view; and so on. So, each time you make a point, back it up with evidence, and consider the strengths and weaknesses of that evidence. A good history essay makes connections between what’s been written about, considering how issues interrelate, so think about how what you’re writing about ties in with other things; what was the impact of the event you’re discussing, did it happen in isolation, and what were the events that led to it?

Image shows a painting of workers in a factory.

It’s vital to look at both sides of the argument – or, where many possible viewpoints exist, to acknowledge these nuances. It’s fine to contradict yourself, provided you do so consciously; that is, you can build up an argument and then turn it on its head, observing that you are doing so (for example, “So far, so compelling; but what about the less well-known evidence from such and such?”). You can use quotes from historians you’ve read, but use these in the context of discussing scholarly opinion. Don’t quote a historian’s words as evidence of something, because this is only someone’s opinion – it’s not proof. Finally, where possible, use specialist terms to show that you know your stuff (“proletariat” instead of “workers”, for example).

The primary task that lies ahead of you in writing a French essay is, of course, to demonstrate your superior language skills. Keep the content itself very even-handed, sitting on the fence rather than presenting a forceful opinion that could distract attention away from the quality of your use of French. Focus on using as wide a variety of vocabulary and tenses as you can. It will help your essay if you can learn how to say more sophisticated phrases in French, of the sort you would use if you were writing an essay in English. This useful document from, Writing Essays in French, will give you numerous useful French phrases to help you put together an impressive essay, including the vocabulary you need to present a balanced argument.

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Geography is a subject that crosses the divide between the sciences and the humanities, considering both physical processes and human activities (and their effects on the world around us). Essays for Geography may differ depending on which of these focuses the essay is discussing, and the evidence you might include in your essay could vary from phenomena observed and data gathered in the natural world to the results of population censuses. To write a good Geography essay, you’ll need to include both theory and detailed, real-world case studies to support your answer. Mention specific places by name, and communicate the facts accurately. Your teacher will be assessing not just your knowledge, but your ability to support what you say with relevant information that proves it. You shouldn’t just rattle off everything you know about a particular case study; you should deploy relevant facts from the case study to support a specific point you’re trying to make. Keep linking each point back to the question, so that you’re always working towards answering it; this also helps you ensure that everything you include is actually relevant to the question. Showing that you’ve thought about an issue from multiple perspectives, and that you appreciate how they interrelate, is important in Geography. You can do this by organising the content of your essay into categories, considering different factors in turn, such as the scale of the issue, and the timeframe and environment involved. Discuss the various factors involved logically, one by one, such as the environmental impact of climate change or a natural disaster (such as a tsunami or volcanic eruption), followed by its physical, economic, social and political implications. Acknowledging the numerous nuances of the situation will demonstrate your appreciation of its complexity and show that you are thinking at a high level.

Classical Civilisations

Image shows a close-up of the Charioteer of Delphi.

As the study of the ancient world (primarily ancient Rome and Greece), Classical Civilisations combines archaeology and history, looking both at what survives materially (from small finds, to art and sculpture, to temples) and what survives in the way of texts by ancient authors. A good essay for this subject analyses, evaluates and interprets. The historical elements of the subject will require the same set of skills we discussed for History earlier, while the archaeological components of this subject require slightly different skills. With your archaeologist hat on, your job becomes similar to that of a detective, piecing together clues. Archaeology crosses over into science, and with that comes scientific considerations such as how archaeological evidence has been gathered – the methods used, their reliability, whether or not they could have been tampered with, how accurately they were recorded, and so on. You’ll look at a variety of different types of evidence, too, from the finds themselves to maps of the local topography. As with Geography, for which you’re required to learn lots of detailed case studies and names, you’ll need to learn plenty of examples of sites and finds to use as sources of evidence in building up a picture of the ancient world. And, as with any subject, looking at both sides of any argument is crucial to good grades. If the evidence you’re discussing could show one thing, but it could also show another, don’t just present one possibility – show that you’ve thought in depth about it and consider all the possible interpretations.

Science subjects

Image shows the Hubble Space Telescope.

The sciences – Biology, Chemistry, Physics and Mathematics – are generally less essay-focused, so we’re grouping them together here because the essay skills required for each of these subjects are very similar. While the fundamentals of scientific essay writing are the same as any other subject – having a logical structure, well-developed argument, and so on – there are a few subject-specific considerations to bear in mind, and some common pitfalls to watch out for. The first is that there is no room for opinion in a scientific essay; unless you’re specifically asked for it, leave your own thoughts out of it and focus instead on a completely objective discussion of the evidence gathered through scientific research, which will most probably be quantitative data. Avoid vague language such as “it is thought that…”; be as precise as possible. Start with a hypothesis, and then discuss the research that supports or disproves it. Back up every statement you make with solid data; it’s not enough simply to drop in the name of the research, so briefly describe what the findings were and why they prove the statement you’ve just made. Another mistake many students make is to confuse cause and effect; this arises because of the tendency to assume that correlation implies causation, which is a common logical fallacy. Just because two things appear to be related, it doesn’t mean that one caused the other, and committing this error in an essay is a major faux pas that will lose you marks. It’s also a good idea to ensure that you’ve included every piece of research that could be relevant; if you don’t, you could be leaving out a crucial piece of evidence. Finally, mention any limitations there may have been with the methodology used to gather the data you discuss.

Image shows a hand squeezing a stress ball.

Psychology essays are best approached with a scientific mindset, but it’s far more difficult to prove anything in this subject – and this should be acknowledged in your essay. The task becomes one of assessing which theory is the more probable one, based on an analysis of the data from various studies. Make liberal reference to named and dated psychological experiments and research, but acknowledge the fact that there may be more than one theory that could account for the same set of results. When these experiments are quoted as evidence, this should be done with reference to any possible limitations of how the experiment was conducted (such as a small sample size). If you’ve reached the end of this article, you’re now equipped with the knowledge to write fantastic essays guaranteed to impress your teachers. You’re also well on the way to thinking in the right way for university-level essays, so keep working on these skills now and you’ll find it much easier to make the leap from sixth former to undergraduate.

Image credits: banner ; Wuthering Heights ; Diet of Worms ; factory workers ; Charioteer ; Hubble Space Telescope ; Psychology . 


How to Write an A-Level English Literature Essay

Dr Rahil Sachak-Patwa

The ability to write well may just be the most important skill tested within A-Level English literature. Of course, this skill is tested through your essay writing, with all of the final exams being longer essay questions. While students will have had experience with GCSE Literature essay writing, A-Level students are expected to produce much more writing which consistently reads at a higher degree.

But, with just under 40,000 students sitting English Literature each year, this is a skill that many people around the UK need to develop. If you’re looking to score top marks in your English Literature A-Level exams, then this is the guide for you. We’ll be covering the three most important elements of constructing a great essay, detailing exactly how you can streamline your writing and shoot for top marks.

Let’s get right into it.

Going Beyond PEE for the Perfect A-Level English Literature Essay Structure

It’s almost impossible to get through GCSE English without your English teacher telling you some variation of PEE (Point, Evidence, Explain) or PEA (Point, Evidence, Analysis). While this strategy does work for GCSE, an A-Level English Literature essay answer needs to have much more detail.

If you’re one for structures, then here is a general essay format that you should follow:

  • Point - In your first line, you should always mention the main idea you’re going to be exploring in the whole paragraph, giving as much detail as possible.
  • Evidence - You can’t access high marks in A-Level English Literature without pulling quotes from the text and explaining what’s going on in them. Start with the basics, then get more complex as the paragraph progresses.
  • Device - Devices are when you identify a specific technique in the evidence you’ve pulled out, then go on to explain exactly why this device matters or changes the meaning of the evidence.
  • Analysis - Honing in on close analysis, you should focus on the evidence you've collected on a word or phrase level, breaking down the individual meaning and demonstrating how it further proves the point you made in your first sentence.
  • Link to Context - Finalise your point by touching on context, demonstrating how what you’ve argued in your paragraph aligns with or contradicts a wider historical, social, political, or literary trend or idea.

The PEDAL system allows you to go beyond PEE, hitting the additional elements that you gain marks for at A-Level. More specifically, this structure ensures that you discuss AO2 (closes analysis) by pulling out a device and explaining what it does, while then also explaining the quote itself. Equally, this ensures that you finish off each paragraph with a contextual link, either to history, the author's life, or another text from your wider reading that has similar ideas.

Getting away from PEE and expanding to cover more in each paragraph is a wonderful way to structure your ideas. Be sure to hit each one of these elements so you can maximise your marks.

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Fail to Plan, Plan to Fail

There’s a reason that English teachers won’t stop going on about planning at GCSE and A-Level - planning is one of the easiest ways to save time and construct a cohesive argument. At A-Level, alongside individual ideas, your whole essay is marked on the strength of the argument that you’ve constructed. If you have three body paragraphs that argue three different things, your argument looks weak, leading to much worse marks overall.

Due to this, the best thing you can do in the first five minutes of your exam is plan out each paragraph that you’re going to write. Using the PEDAL structure, you’ll know exactly what you need to find, thinking quickly of your main points, the evidence that supports them, and then processing on to the close analysis sections of Device and Analysis. Context is one of the easiest parts of writing an essay, as large parts of history can be applied to texts within a period.

Once you read the question and start thinking, the few minutes that you spend roughly planning your answer will ensure that the whole essay is cohesive, carrying through a general argument that builds over time. The phrase “Fail to Plan, Plan to Fail” does initially seem a little harsh, but the fact is that planning will save you time in the long run while also boosting your marks.

Always plan your answers before beginning.

For those students who are struggling in this subject should consider A-Level tutoring since it is a vital resource that complements exam preparation strategies by providing individualized attention and specialized instruction. It equips students with deeper insights into challenging concepts, tailored study techniques, and critical examination tactics.

Construct an Argument with Your Own Point of View

What sets the top A-Level English Literature students apart is the fact that their essays will contain a certain point of view. Within English Literature A-Level, students will learn that nothing is black or white - everything is nuanced.

The very best English Literature essays will thrive in that grey area, constructing detailed arguments that have more than one angle. The best way to easily build this into your English essays is to use a three-paragraph body structure.

  • Paragraph One - Should focus on the opposite of what you actually think. This will argue for the contrary of your opinion, detailing an idea that’s commonly believed or associated with the texts.
  • Paragraph Two - Will acknowledge the first paragraph, but signal how the texts could be understood in a different light. You will then use this paragraph to detail your real argument.
  • Paragraph Three - You’ll use this third paragraph to build upon the second, increasing how convincing your argument is and smoothly transitioning into a hard-hitting conclusion.

Pair this with an introduction and conclusion, and you’ll be well on your way to writing a top-tier A-Level English Literature essay!

Final Thoughts

Essay writing is far from easy. If you’re looking to develop your writing skills and create perfect essays every time, then working with an online English Literature A-Level tutor is one of the most effective ways of doing so.

Our tutors will guide you through the essay writing process, supporting you every step of the way as you develop your writing skills and overall confidence. As with everything, essay writing is a skill that comes with practice, with a tutor helping to speed up the process.

Best of luck in your A-Level English Literature exams!

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Dr Rahil Sachak-Patwa

Written by: Dr Rahil Sachak-Patwa

Rahil spent ten years working as private tutor, teaching students for GCSEs, A-Levels, and university admissions. During his PhD he published papers on modelling infectious disease epidemics and was a tutor to undergraduate and masters students for mathematics courses.

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A-Level English Literature Guide

In A-Level by Think Student Editor October 21, 2022 Leave a Comment

A-Level English Literature can be a niche or popular subject – sometimes classes have less than 10 people, sometimes classes are full. Whether you’ve picked it for A-Level or are sitting on the fence, it can be one of the hardest subjects to get right. Think you need some help? This guide is here to help answer all your questions.

In this guide I’ll be discussing whether you should take A-Level English Literature, what the course involves and what the benefits are to taking it. Keep reading to find out more!

Table of Contents

Should you take A-Level English Literature?

Personally, I feel that A-Level English Literature is one of the most creative A-Level subjects. If you enjoyed English Literature GCSE, the chances are you’ll also enjoy English Literature A-Level.

I’d only recommended taking English Literature A-Level if you are strongly passionate about it. The workload can be intense, so if you don’t enjoy the subject, you probably won’t enjoy the A-Level course.

Most schools will hold events for future sixth form students to learn more about each subject. From these you find out more about the course the school offers, or you can ask your teachers.

Alternatively, exam board websites usually post their specifications. For example, you can find the OCR specification here .

If you know what you want to pursue beyond A-Levels, you should also consider whether English Literature A-Level is necessary for future careers. This Think Student article has information on the most respected A-Level subjects.

Alternatively, read this Think Student article if you want to read more about A-Level combinations favoured by universities.

However, if you really want to take English Literature, you should choose what you’re interested in — it will make A-Levels in general more enjoyable.

Ultimately, whether you take English Literature A-Level or not is up to you. If you have a passion for the subject or think it could help you in the future, you should definitely consider choosing it.

How hard is A-Level English Literature?

Any A-Level English Literature student will tell you that it’s not an easy A-Level . In fact, this Think Student article has a list of the top 10 hardest A-Levels to take.

However, you shouldn’t let difficulty put you off. If you achieved the GCSE grades required to take the A-Level, you’re good enough to take the subject.

I would say that A-Level English Literature is moderately difficult. What many students, including myself, like about English is that there is technically no “wrong” answer. However, this also means your knowledge has to be on-point .

Still, don’t let difficulty get you down. Your school wouldn’t let you take A-Level English Literature if they thought you couldn’t handle it. Difficulty is also subjective; what other students find hard, you may find easy.

However , if you are a few weeks into the course and you decide it isn’t for you, there will still be time to switch subjects . If you have any concerns, this Think Student article offers advice on how to know if a course is right for you.

Now that we’ve established whether A-Level English Literature is right for you, let’s look at what the A-Level actually involves.

What do you do in A-Level English Literature?

The A-Level English Literature course is different depending on which exam board your sixth form uses. Even so, most of the courses have similar structures or modules.

As I mentioned earlier, if you enjoyed your GCSE English course, you’ll probably like the A-Level course too. Keep reading to find out more about the general structure of A-Level English Literature.

Exam boards provide a list of “set texts”. This means that your school has to choose a text to study from that specific list.

Exactly which texts are chosen is entirely up to your school. Meaning that you might study a different text to someone doing the same course.

What kind of work does A-Level English Literature involve?

The literature you study will cover poetry, prose and drama, and each exam board requires an NEA (non-exam assessment) project as part of the A-Level . Across the course, you’ll be analysing texts in response to questions on specific themes, ideas, characters or events.

The kinds of questions you get can vary . Sometimes, they’ll be a statement which you’ll be asked to agree or disagree with.

As well as this, you’ll be asked open-ended questions like discussing the presentation of a particular feature. This is one of the best things about A-Level English Literature: your opinion matters!

You’ll also have a lot of new and more complex terminology to learn, to help you analyse texts. This can definitely seem daunting when you first start. Although, if English is your favourite subject, then like me, you’ll learn to love it pretty quickly!

Does A-Level English Literature involve a lot of work?

I don’t think I need to tell you that A-Level English Literature is a very essay-based subject. However, this also means that you will have lots of writing to do and you will probably get set essays regularly . Your teachers may even set you an essay every week or two.

Due to this, for English literature, the jump from GCSE to A-Level is pretty noticeable. Especially as you will generally have quite a lot of work to do. If you’re worried that you aren’t prepared enough for it, this Think Student article has tips you’ll find useful.

Like I said earlier, exactly what you do, including how much work, depends on which exam board your school has chosen. Read further to find out more about the different exam boards, and what they offer as part of A-Level English Literature.

What are the exam boards for A-Level English Literature?

All 4 English exam boards – AQA, OCR, Edexcel and Eduqas – offer A-Level English Literature as a subject. Earlier in the guide , I mentioned that each exam board offers different texts and modules.

While your specific texts will depend on your sixth form, the modules are the same for everyone under the exam board. Continue reading for more information.

What is AQA A-Level English Literature like?

AQA, unlike the other exam boards, actually offers 2 different specifications: A and B .

In specification A, there are 3 compulsory modules. These are “Love through the ages”, “Texts in shared contexts”, and “Independent critical study: Texts across time”.

In specification B, there are also 3 compulsory modules. These are “Literary genres”, “Texts and genres”, and “Theory and independence”.

The texts that are part of specification A include one Shakespeare play, one pre-1900 poetry anthology and one pre-1900 prose text in one module. As well as 3 texts (one prose, one poetry and one drama) with at least one text written post-2000 in another module.

The texts that are part of specification B include one Shakespeare play and two pre-1900 texts in one module. As well as one post-2000 prose, one poetry, and one pre-1900 text in another module. As you can see, both specifications feature similar content but divide them differently .

However, this guide can only offer you a brief overview of the A-Level course. You can find the specifications for AQA A-Level English Literature here (specification A) and here (specification B).

What is OCR A-Level English Literature like?

The OCR A-Level English Literature specification is divided into 3 sections. These are “Drama and poetry pre-1900”, “Comparative and contextual study”, and “Literature post-1900”.

The latter section is a coursework module. Some exam boards require coursework as part of A-Level English Literature, but some don’t.

In the first section, you’ll study one Shakespeare play, one pre-1900 drama and one pre-1900 poetry text. In the second section, you’ll choose one theme (from a list provided by the exam board) and two texts, with at least one text from the list provided by OCR.

The third section is a coursework module, which means you don’t sit an exam for it. Instead , you produce an essay over the course which determines a percentage of your final grade . You can find the full OCR A-Level English Literature specification here .

What is Edexcel A-Level English Literature like?

Pearson Edexcel offers 4 components as part of A-Level English Literature. These are “Drama”, “Prose”, “Poetry”, and a coursework module.

As with the components and modules of other exam boards, each module has its own exam (except for coursework). For Edexcel, the “Drama” and “Poetry” exams are 2 hours 15 minutes, and the “Prose” exam is 1 hour 15 minutes .

In “Drama”, students study one Shakespeare play and critical essays related to the play, and one other drama. In “Prose”, students study two prose texts with one text written pre-1900.

In “Poetry”, students study an anthology and a range of poetry from either a specific poet or specific period. The Pearson Edexcel specification is linked here .

What is Eduqas A-Level English Literature like?

The Eduqas English Literature A-Level specification also has 4 components. These are “Poetry”, “Drama”, “Unseen Texts”, and “Prose Study”.

The “Prose Study” component is a coursework module. All 3 Eduqas A-Level English Literature exams are 2 hours long.

In total, you’ll study two selections of poetry (pre-1900 and post-1900), a Shakespeare play, two non-Shakespeare plays (pre-1900 and post-1900), and two prose texts.

Unlike the other exam boards, Eduqas dedicates a whole module to unseen texts , so you can’t directly revise for that. If you want to read the complete specification, you can do so here .

How to do well in A-Level English Literature

Every student knows there’s no set way to do well. There are way too many changing factors to offer you a fool-proof guide to success!

However , there are definitely techniques and processes to help you secure those top grades . Continue reading for my personal advice on how to succeed in A-Level English Literature.

The best advice I received while studying A-Level English Literature is to include your work in your everyday life. This could be as simple as telling your friend about a character you liked. Alternatively, you could use a key quote in a conversation.

These things both count as revision, because it helps you remember important information. For more revision techniques, see this Think Student article.

in A-Level English Literature is to take advantage of peer review . You’ll definitely make mistakes in your work, no one is perfect!

Asking a partner, friend, or family member to read your essay is a great way to pick up on things you miss. This Think Student article has some useful advice for English literature essay writing!

How to write an English literature essay for A-Level?

Sometimes, the exam system can make it feel like you don’t have much self-expression. I know I’ve certainly felt that way.

One of the great things about essays, and English literature, is that you get to voice your own opinion in your own way . I’ll take you through some general tips on what makes a good essay.

The most important thing is to perfect your spelling and grammar as much as possible. One thing I was always told in school was that if your essay is coherent, you’re halfway to a good essay. Obviously, this is harder if English isn’t your first language, but practice makes perfect!

On top of spelling and grammar, you should make your argument as clear as possible. Teachers will often refer to this as “signposting”.

It lets examiners know exactly what you’re going to talk about. It’s also useful if you run out of time, as examiners can see what you were planning to talk about; it shows you had good ideas, you were just limited by time. For tips on how to structure an English essay, check out this Think Student article.

A third, more obvious tip is to keep your assessment objects in mind as much as possible . In your essays, it’s good to mentally check off what criteria you’ve followed. This way you can keep track of the marks you’ve achieved, and the ones you still need.

What can you do with an English literature A-Level?

Being a student who took A-Level English Literature myself, one of my biggest concerns was the pathways available to me afterwards .

English is often talked about as a subject with limited options – but don’t worry! A-Level English Literature is useful for degrees in fields like English, History, Law, Politics, Philosophy and more.

It might surprise you, but English is a subject that a lot of universities and employers like . You don’t have to want to be a writer to find English A-Level useful.

The writing skills you gain are desirable to universities and employers in a range of fields . However, if you’re still uncertain, I’d recommend researching what A-Levels you need to pursue your future degree/job.

For example, if you want to be a vet , midwife , counsellor , nurse , social worker , police officer , pilot or account , you can click on their respective links to see what A-Levels you will need.

Don’t let how useful A-Level English Literature is stop you from taking it if you really want to! The most important thing about A-Levels is that you choose the subjects you like.

From personal experience, I can tell you that if you don’t care about the subject, you won’t enjoy the A-Level. If you think A-Level English Literature is right for you, choose it!


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AQA A Level English Language Paper 2 Essay Guidance

AQA A Level English Language Paper 2 Essay Guidance

Subject: English

Age range: 16+

Resource type: Assessment and revision


Last updated

25 April 2023

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how to write an a level english language essay

This booklet contains essay structure suggestions and guidance for Paper 2 of AQA English Language A Level.

Each page offers guidance as to how to approach each question in the paper - covers Section A (Language DIversity), and Section B, Questions 3 (Language Discourses) and 4 (Opinion Article).

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Essay on English as a Global Language

Phonics Book

500 Words Essay On English as a Global Language

A global language is one that is spoken and understood at an international level by a wide variety of people. Moreover, no language in the world better fits this description than the English language. This essay on English as a global language will shed more light on this issue.

essay on english as a global language

                                                                                                  Essay on English as a Global Language

Why English is a Global Language

When it comes to languages, one can make a strong argument that a strong link exists between dominance and cultural power. Furthermore, the main factor that the languages become popular is due to a powerful power-base, whether economic or political or military.

The derivation of the English language took place from languages like French, Latin, German, and other European languages. This can be a reason why many Europeans don’t find English a difficult language to learn. Furthermore, linguists argue whether the simplicity of the English language is the main reason for it becoming a global language.

The Latin script of the English language appears less complicated for people to recognize and learn. Also, the pronunciation of the English language is not as complex as other languages like Korean or Turkish for example.

Generally, the difficulty level of a language varies from person to person and it also depends on the culture to which one may belong. For example, a Korean person would find less difficulty in mastering the Japanese language in comparison to a German person. This is because of the close proximity of the Korean and Japanese cultures.

Due to the massive British colonial conquests , no culture is in complete oblivion of the English language or words. As such, English is a language that should not appear as too alien or strange to any community. Consequently, learning English is not such big of a deal for most people as they can find a certain level of familiarity with the language.

Get the huge list of more than 500 Essay Topics and Ideas

The Effectiveness of the English Language

English is a very effective language and this is evident due to the presence of various native and non-native speakers on a global scale. Furthermore, according to statistics, one-fourth of the world is either fluent in the English language or content with it. While it’s true that the number of native Mandarin speakers is the greatest in the world, Mandarin is not the global language due to its complex spellings, grammar , and letter system.

The English language, on the other hand, does not suffer from such complexity problems. Furthermore, the English language has a lot of words and synonyms to express something. As such, any word or its meaning can be expressed with a high level of accuracy.

Conclusion of the Essay on English as a Global Language

English is certainly the most widely spoken language in the world by far. On a global scale, English has the most number of speakers, who speak English either as a first or second language. Without a doubt, no other language in the world can come close to English in terms of its immense popularity.

FAQs For Essay on English as a Global Language

Question 1: Why English is referred to as the global language?

Answer 1:  Many consider English as a global language because it is the one language that the majority of the population in almost every region of the world can speak and understand. Furthermore, the language enjoys worldwide acceptance and usage by every nation of the world. Therefore, it is an extremely essential global language.

Question 2: How English became the global language in the world?

Answer 2: By the late 18th century, the British Empire had made a lot of colonies. Moreover, they had established their geopolitical dominance all over the world. Consequently, the English language quickly spread in the British colonies.

There was also the contribution of technology, science, diplomacy, commerce, art, and formal education which led to English becoming a truly global language of the world.

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A comprehensive guide to English language levels & how to level up!

Candice Benjamine

A guide to English language levels

What you need to know about a1 level english , what you can do at a1 level, tips to reach a1 level, what you need to know about a2 level english , what you can do at a2 level, tips to reach a2 level, what you need to know about b1 level english , what you can do at b1 level, tips to reach b1 level, what you need to know about b2 level english , what you can do at b2 level, tips to reach b2 level, what you need to know about c1 level english , what you can do at c1 level, tips to reach c1 level, what you need to know about c2 level english , what you can do at c2 level, tips to reach c2 level, achieving your english proficiency goals .

“I’m basically fluent in English.” 

Have you ever said this and questioned yourself? What on earth does “basically fluent” mean, anyway? Does it mean you’re a C2 user, and have already reached the peak of the language-learning mountain?

As a matter of fact, English “fluency” actually begins a couple of levels lower than C2! We know this thanks to The Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR). The CEFR is an international guideline to measure language ability, using a scale from A1 (beginners) to C2 (language masters). 

There are many free online tests you can take to check your CEFR level. You can also take official language proficiency tests such as IELTS, which will give you certified proof of your English level for employers, colleges, and universities. 

This guide will help you compare your skills to each English proficiency level, and estimate how long each level will take to achieve. You will also learn some useful tips to reach your next goal. Here’s a quick overview of what you’ll find:

The 6 language proficiency levels (CEFR)

CEFR Level A1 Beginner
CEFR Level A2 Pre-intermediate
CEFR Level B1 Intermediate
CEFR Level B2 Upper-Intermediate
CEFR Level C1 Advanced
CEFR Level C2 Mastery

Infographic showing language levels - Preply

Curious about your English level? Take our placement test to assess your language skills. It’s quick, simple, and perfect for all language learners.

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1. Beginner: CEFR Level A1

“I am Groot” – Groot, Guardian of the Galaxy and A1 English user.

Otherwise known as a “super-beginner”, at A1 level English you have very limited knowledge of the language. However, you will still be able to manage everyday situations with commonly-used expressions and vocabulary (as long as the situation is familiar). This means you’ll be able to get around London, Vancouver, or Los Angeles — but not without clumsy interactions and opening Google Translate a ton of times! A1 English learners speak slowly and with pauses while they search for the right word, so it can take a little patience from native speakers to have a real conversation. 

The vocabulary at this level is roughly 700 words. This may sound like a lot, but it’s a surprisingly limited amount to work with. It takes approximately 100 hours with the English language to pass the A1 Cambridge examination.

At A1 level, English learners can: 

  • Introduce themselves simply, using basic greetings and conversation starters (such as the weather).
  • Understand very basic directions from natives.
  • Get around cities by reading simple signs, posters and notices.  
  • Write very simple descriptions of their hobbies and interests.

The best way to reach A1 proficiency is to start learning and stick with it! When it comes to building new skills, everybody needs to start from scratch. One of the biggest challenges is staying on task and keeping your momentum. You will be embarrassed at first, and you will make mistakes. But this is something you need to accept to upgrade your English proficiency level. At this point, you should try some easy-to-use apps such as Duolingo or Babbel , which are designed for true beginners and stop being as helpful once you reach A2 level. You can then use the vocabulary from these apps to build your own flashcards. 

Finding good content when you’re at a beginner level is difficult, so here’s Olly Richards with some advice:

2. Pre-Intermediate: CEFR Level A2

“Try not. Do or do not. There is no try.” – Yoda, Jedi Master and A2 English speaker.

At A2 proficiency—or “Elementary” level—you can take part in everyday small talk and express your opinion, but still in very simple ways, and only on familiar topics. At this stage, you will start to really explore the past and future tenses , diving into your history (“Before I came here, I lived in Italy”) and your ambitions (“In the next 5 years, I am going to start my own company”). You will still probably only have very short exchanges and need to rely on a native speaking partner to drive the conversation. However, the native speaker’s experience with you will be far easier than with an A1 user!

When you reach A2, you should have a working vocabulary of about 1500 words , plus a solid understanding of grammar. It takes approximately 180-200 hours of studying English to pass the A2 Cambridge examination.

At A2 proficiency level, English learners can:

  • Talk with English speakers, and network with English-speaking colleagues on familiar topics.
  • Understand slow, frequently used expressions in areas such as shopping, family, and employment.
  • Write about matters of immediate need in simple terms, and basic descriptions of family and friends. 
  • Read short, simple texts containing high frequency vocabulary and shared international expressions.

Although A2 is technically still “beginner level”, you will have to cover serious ground to reach it. By this point you should start having (uncomplicated) conversations! One great tip: study conversation topics which are likely to come up in day-to-day life — in other words, survival English . An effective way to learn is also to prepare a “cheat sheet” or journal with everything you may want to say for a basic conversation, such as background about yourself, your hobbies, which restaurants you recommend, etc. At this stage, you should also take a serious look at verb conjugation and past or future tenses. 

3. Intermediate: CEFR Level B1

“‘Grey Worm’ gives me pride, it is a lucky name. The name this was born with was cursed” – Grey Worm, Unsullied Warrior and (by the end of season 8) B1 English speaker.

The step between A2 and B1 is a big one, and it means you’ve achieved a degree of confidence in English. This is when you can go into clothing stores and restaurants and won’t have any trouble making requests from the staff. However, when discussing a topic you’re familiar with, your sentences will still feel slow and you will still have some difficulty. At this level, students are beyond the basics but they are still not able to work or study exclusively in English. However, you can cope with problems in everyday life, such as entering conversations you haven’t prepared for or dealing with problems that arise when traveling.

When you reach B1, you should have a working vocabulary of about 2500 words , and you can recall about half of them with some speed. It takes approximately 350-400 hours with the language to pass the B1 Cambridge examination.

At B1 proficiency level, English learners can:

  • Describe experiences and desires.
  • Listen to and understand English TV shows , but you still need English subtitles on. 
  • Follow the plot in fairly simple English stories and understand what’s going on in the news.
  • Write simple texts on topics that are familiar or of personal interest.

To become an intermediate English speaker, the most important tip is to take your learning more seriously and plan a regular, high-commitment study routine. 10 minutes a day is ok, but 30 minutes is far better! That way, you’ll start to see quicker and more satisfying results. To pass the threshold between beginner and intermediate, you should also look at your consistent mistakes and try to eliminate them one by one. Speaking with a native, like an online English tutor can help you point out common mistakes , and put together a plan for you to beat them. To upgrade your vocabulary, you should also start adding more phrases to your word bank. You can make conversation easier by learning “blocks” of English, such as entire sentences, collocations or phrasal verbs , instead of just words. 

Need help staying motivated and sticking to a schedule? Read our guide and create your perfect study plan.

4. Upper-Intermediate: CEFR Level B2

“Offend Dobby? Dobby has heard of your greatness, sir… but never has he been asked to sit down by a wizard, like an equal.” – Dobby, House Elf and B2 English speaker.

Welcome to basic English fluency! At B2 English level, you have built confidence and control when speaking, writing, listening and reading in English. This English level is good enough to function in English-speaking workplaces, schools, and colleges, and you can now produce complex sentences and sound natural in normal conversations. Sure, your English has its own flavor or accent, and you’re certainly not quite ready to deliver a speech on Kantian philosophy. However, you now have the language skills to live in an English-speaking country comfortably, and work in an English-speaking office. 

When you reach B2, you should have a working vocabulary of about 4000 words . It takes approximately 500-600 hours with the language to pass the B2 Cambridge examination.

At B2 proficiency level, English learners can: 

  • Take an active part in discussions in familiar contexts, and provide relevant explanations and arguments.
  • Understand standard speech spoken at a normal speed, provided the topic is reasonably familiar. 
  • Understand the main ideas when reading a complex text, as well as contemporary literary prose, articles, and reports. 
  • Write clear, detailed texts on subjects related to their interests or area of expertise.

At a high intermediate English level, progress will start to feel like it’s slowing down. This is otherwise known as the language learning plateau . Simply put, to reach B2 proficiency level and feel a strong sense of improvement, you should start to take more risks. This means speaking about unfamiliar topics, writing articles in English, and forcing yourself to expand what you know about the language. At this stage, you need to take notice of how native users sound more natural, construct phrases, use idioms and discuss more complex topics . You also need them to point out where you’re going wrong or where “this phrase” could sound more natural. The important thing is to pay closer attention to where you are going wrong, more than ever before!  

5. Advanced: CEFR Level C1

“Confident people have a way of carrying themselves that makes others more attracted to them.” – Sofia Vergara, Actress and C1 level English speaker. 

C1 is an advanced English level. C1 users can speak English with ease, and understand the language in (almost!) all of its complexity. By this point, you will be able to have longer conversations, even about unfamiliar topics. You’ll also comprehend longer English texts. At this stage, you can use English day-to-day for business (using specialized business English vocabulary ) and academic purposes. If B2 is what many consider “fluent,” then C1 is fluency with increased nuance and understanding. At C1, you can understand subtle jokes in the language, and express yourself with colorful native phrases.

When you reach C1, you should have a working vocabulary of about 8000 words – almost double that of B2! It takes approximately 700-800 hours with the language to pass the C1 Cambridge examination.

At C1 proficiency level, English learners can: 

  • Express ideas fluently, and make presentations in the language.
  • Understand subtle jokes and implicit meanings within a conversation.
  • Understand a wide range of demanding, longer texts.
  • Write extensively on a diverse range of topics, and approach unfamiliar ones with ease.

A great way to make the jump to C1 is to learn new skills, using the English language as a tool to learn this information! For example, you could take a course and upskill for your career or personal goals, while also doubling down on your English skills at the same time. That way, you’ll not only learn a new skill, you’ll also learn tons of vocabulary specific to that topic. You’ll be able to work with the phrases you use there and turn them into your active vocabulary. To become an active learner, write down 5 of the phrases you hear or read in the course in a notepad or flashcard app. Then, practice using each of those expressions or phrases in 5 different ways.

6. Mastery: CEFR Level C2

“‘Supposedly, or so I have heard, some expect my speech to pave the way for a fundamental reform of the European architecture which will satisfy all kinds of alleged or actual British wishes. I am afraid they are in for a disappointment.’” – Angela Merkel, German Chancellor and C2 English speaker.

C2 proficiency is the highest English level there is, and therefore earns the title of “mastery.” It implies that the English user is on a similar level to a native speaker (but not quite “native”), with full confidence and control of the language. C2 level English users are comfortable writing or speaking about any type of subject, with nuanced expression and coherent delivery. You can also read and comprehend speech without any barrier. C2 means that you’ll find very few (if any) restrictions to conducting your daily life in English, and you are extremely comfortable using it in an academic or professional setting.

When you reach C2, you should have a working vocabulary of about 16000 words . It takes approximately 1,000—1,200 hours with the language to pass the C2 Cambridge examination.

At C2 proficiency level, English learners can:

  • Express themselves with spontaneity and fluency, and deal with hostile questioning confidently.
  • Write coherently and concisely, with the ability to summarise information to construct comprehensive arguments. 
  • Understand everything they hear within the language with ease. 
  • Read complex, technical texts at speed. 

The key to becoming a C2 English speaker is to  completely integrate the language into your life. Using it daily and talking to native speakers will speed up the process and push you towards C2 faster. Get outside your comfort zone and into situations where you have to use the language spontaneously, like debates, events, or even dates. Eventually, you’ll no longer need to think about conversations in advance. One way of doing this can be to relocate entirely to an English-speaking country, one where you won’t be able to use your native language. This will force you to adapt, fast! However, if you’re looking for practice that’s a little less radical, why not schedule regular sessions with a native speaking tutor ?

The CEFR English proficiency levels are a great tool to measure your current language skills. However, keep in mind that many of the numbers covered in this article — hours and vocabulary size — are based on averages. You may see quicker or slower progress depending on how much you’re exposed to the language, and how much time you dedicate to studying. 

Whatever your circumstances, it’s going to take time, a careful plan, and effective resources to upgrade your English skills. There are no shortcuts. If you need help along the way, a Preply tutor,   corporate English training or taking an advanced , intermediate or beginners business English course (according to your level) can help you construct a personalized plan , and give you guidance and practice so that you can experience quicker progress. Before your first lesson, you can even take a 30-minute test to check your current English level. This will help your tutor personalize your classes and help you reach your goals. 

Although it looks difficult, the journey of learning English is truly exciting. It will open up your world in so many ways… You’ll sharpen your mind, gain a career skill for life, and understand the richness of different cultures. Time to begin!

FAQs about English language levels

Beginner A1 You can use simple phrases for basic needs, and can have basic interactions provided the other person speaks clearly.
Pre-Intermediate A2 You can use English for everyday tasks and activities. You can also understand common phrases related to topics like your personal information or your employment. 
Intermediate B1 You can have simple conversations about familiar topics. At B1 level, you can describe some of your experiences slowly, and deal with most situations while traveling.
Upper-Intermediate B2 You can communicate confidently about many topics. Most conversations are held at B2 level, so you can speak with natives without difficulty and with spontaneity. You can also understand the main ideas of texts about topics you are familiar with. 
Advanced C1 You can express yourself fluently in almost any situation, without the need to search for expressions. You are able to perform complex tasks in English related to work and study. You can also produce clear, detailed texts on challenging subjects.
Mastery C2 You use the English language with complete mastery. You have the ability to read, speak and write about any type of subject, emotion, or opinion. You are able to differentiate finer shades of meaning from the language even in more complex situations.

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Candice Benjamine

Candice Benjamin is an English teacher with more than 6 years of online teaching experience. Candice has taught English to children and adults alike of various levels, ensuring that each achieves their respective goals. Candice specializes in the IELTS, TOEFL, and Cambridge exams and creates courses and strategies specific to the needs and goals of each student, to help them achieve their desired grade. Candice is patient and determined to produce significant results for her students.

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    French. The primary task that lies ahead of you in writing a French essay is, of course, to demonstrate your superior language skills. Keep the content itself very even-handed, sitting on the fence rather than presenting a forceful opinion that could distract attention away from the quality of your use of French.

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    Paragraph One - Should focus on the opposite of what you actually think. This will argue for the contrary of your opinion, detailing an idea that's commonly believed or associated with the texts. Paragraph Two - Will acknowledge the first paragraph, but signal how the texts could be understood in a different light.

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    A basic introduction to writing an A Level English Literature essay. This is aimed at AQA English Literature Specification B, but would fit with the other specification. It includes basic information, a self-assessment task on experiences of writing essays, pointers for successful essays, pointers for the specific kinds of essays which AQA ...

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    8 Reasons Why You Should Take IB Over AP. With good preparation, a few memorized quotes, and a solid knowledge of the themes of your novels, it is very much possible to score a 7 on the English Paper 2 Examination. I'm going to give you a basic outline of how to structure your essay and also tell you a nice way to organize your quotes for t.

  21. How to Write an A* Essay: The Conclusion to unlock the full series of AS, A2 & A-level English Literature videos created by A* students for the new OCR, AQA and Edexcel specifi...

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    My Top Tips To Write A Good Essay 1. Write Lousy First Drafts. You heard me. Write as if your keyboard doesn't have keys for punctuation. Write as if no one is ever going to read your essay. The goal is to eliminate self-censorship. When you first start writing down your main points, don't assume the role of a self-editor.

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    How to write a succinct argumentative essay First, it is important to note that an argument always has two sides. However, the bulk of your essay should address your side of the argument. For instance, in a typical 5-paragraph argumentative essay, the first two paragraphs of the body should capture your opinion, with the next paragraph covering the dissenting opinion (with a rebuttal of course ...

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    Looking to improve your English language level? Our comprehensive guide will help you identify where you are & how to reach a higher CEFR level. February 27, 2024; ... Mastering the art of essay writing in English. Unlock the art of essay writing in English. Read expert guidance on crafting engaging essays, mastering structure, coherence, and ...

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    Structure: (body of the essay) The structure of an essay should be simple, this is so an examiner/marker can follow your arguement easily. Start by making an overarching point, explaining how this point supports your answer to the question and then prove this with quotations and an explanation of the language/technical devices and critical ...

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    It implies that the English user is on a similar level to a native speaker (but not quite "native"), with full confidence and control of the language. C2 level English users are comfortable writing or speaking about any type of subject, with nuanced expression and coherent delivery. You can also read and comprehend speech without any barrier.