English is like art, it is conceptual and you can never really be wrong. This is because, English encourages one to be a critical thinker and present their ideas of texts in a cohesive manner – so as long as you have evidence and the analysis to support your point of view then you should be alright. So, that is my first piece of advice to remember when writing an essay …. Be confident in your ideas and knowledge of the text. By having self confidence, students will find themselves less stressed within an exam situation allowing for one to write cohesively and think coherently. Another tip is to make sure you spend the time reading the question. It seems like an obvious point however in the time pressure and with the nerves of an exam situation students often find themselves rushing through reading the question. With this students might miss the layers of the question and misinterpret what the question is asking.
Following this I believe students need to remember to use the reading time to mentally prepare how they will approach the essay question. therefore I suggest that students in this time develop a strong thesis statement so they are able to begin writing their response straight away. When writing an essay you need to remember to follow the PETAL structure – point, evidence, technique, analysis and link. By doing so, students will ensure that they cover all bases that the marker wants to see. This means the student is maximising their chance of higher marks. Students also need to remember the time frame they have to write an essay (normally 40-45 minutes). Personally,before writing an essay in an exam situation I would plan how many minutes I wanted to spend on each section. For example in a 45 minute class essay I would say to myself to spend 5-7 minutes on the introduction, 30-35 minutes on the body paragraphs and 5 minutes on the conclusion. By doing this, I felt less nervous going into an exam as I had control of the time and allowed me to write concisely and with coherence. When writing the essay students also need to remember to continually refer to the question. by constantly making reference to the question being asked, students remind the marker that they are thinking about the question at hand. This makes the marker feel like the student is writing authentically (and not a prepared essay). Additionally, it makes It easier for you to stay on topic and argue your topic.
Furthermore, when in an exam situation make sure your handwriting is legible. For students struggling with legibility, I suggest writing larger then they normally would with approximately 8-10 words per line. By doing so the student is making sure their writing is clear and not cramped making it easier for the marker to read their piece. Overall, when writing an essay you need to make sure you know your content, have mastered basic essay structure, have clear and cohesive thoughts, manage your time and write clearly. By doing so students will maximsie their marks and the prospect of an exam situation is less daunting. But at the end of the day just remember it is an essay and everyone is in the same boat.
By Isabella Matthews
Looking for feedback on your practice essays? At HSC Marking we give you detailed, actionable feedback from real HSC markers in 48 hours guaranteed. Upload your essay here.