There’s often a preconceived notion about succeeding in HSC English, with students believing that performing well in English is a result of being “naturally” good at English. This futility heightens when they receive a low mark for an English essay, convincing themselves that, “I’m just not good at English.”
This, however, is just not the case. Here’s a guide on how you can successfully write a band 6 HSC English essay.
How to structure your essay?
The generic essay structure – introduction, body paragraphs and a conclusion – is the one to follow! As arbitrary as it may seem, this structure must be followed. Usually, there are 3 body paragraphs to an essay, with each body paragraph focusing on a different idea or theme; however, may vary depending on if you’ve been told to add a related text or have been instructed otherwise by your teacher.
Figure out your thesis – what argument are you trying to make? Do you want to agree or disagree with what the essay question is implying? Keep in mind that you are allowed to disagree; in fact, it helps you stand out if you do. However, you must do it effectively – ensuring that you do not get side tracked and are answering the question with sufficient evidence.
Writing an effective introduction – the first sentence of your introduction should be indicative of your thesis, e.g. if you are going to be agreeing with the stance presented by the essay question or disagreeing with it. Apart from the basics to include in the introduction – the name of the prescribed text and the author – it is also essential to present the ideas and themes that you will be presenting within the following body paragraphs. Context can also be useful to include within your introduction – indicating to the marker your deep understanding of the text, and the relevance of the text’s context to contemporary society.
Body paragraphs – an effective body paragraph follows the PEEL rule:
- Point – your key point, i.e. an introductory sentence to present forward the key idea within your body paragraph. This is essentially your thesis, but linked to the specific idea explored within your body paragraph.
- Evidence – the evidence to back up your claims! It’s typical to include at least three pieces of evidence within one body paragraph to support your argument; however, the specific number of quotations or other evidence isn’t super important as long as you provide sufficient evidence and analysis to support your thesis.
- Elaboration – where you support your evidence with further explanation, i.e. analysis: what is the purpose of a specific technique being utilised? What effect does it have on the narrative? On the reader?
- Link – This is the concluding sentence of your body paragraph, where it is essential to reiterate the key ideas of the body paragraph back to the thesis.
Apart from these four key aspects, it might also be useful to present any other information (apart from evidence and analysis) that is relevant in linking your thesis to the introductory statement of your body paragraph. This may be, for example, context or any key plot points of your prescribed text.
Conclusion – summarising the ideas you have presented within your three body paragraphs! No new ideas, themes or information is to be presented in your conclusion – everything you include must have already been discussed within your essay. Your conclusion doesn’t need to be lengthy – 2-3 lines is sufficient.
Whilst these tips may be helpful, you can’t master the art of HSC English essays overnight – practice, practice and practice is key!