THE ESSAY GUIDE: PLANNING EXAM ESSAYS

1 – BREAK DOWN THE TITLE

The title is the first thing you will look at once you open that exam paper. Have a look at the key words and ask yourself; What is the question pointing at? What could benefit from defining in the introduction? Is there a specific case/academic that the argument needs to be centred around?

A great essay will always have a strong argument, so make sure you think about whether you agree/disagree with the direction of the question and have an opinion on it. If you can, try and use authority behind the opinion, and if you think you’ve got a good point with no authority to support it – think about WHY you’re dis-applying a case or academic OR pick and choose a combination of elements from cases and academics that can form one narrative!

2 – MESSY MIND MAP

This is my go-to quick plan strategy in an exam. Put the question in the middle of the page and quickly scribble down 3-4 main points your argument will focus on, and everything you can remember around these points – including cases/academics that come to mind. This will make sure you’ve got all the relevant information out of your head and onto a page to quickly refer to.

This quick scribble works really effectively if you revise using the blurting technique!

3 – STRUCTURE

Use the messy mind-map! Have a look at your 3-4 points and ask yourself if there are any cases, academics or sub-points that relate to one another. If you find any that link across, make these your first/last points in your paragraphs to help your essay flow.

Don’t be afraid to use headings. I was SO against this when I started writing university essays, but as soon as I started to use them, my marks shot up. Your marker will be trying to get through piles and piles of essays, so make it easy for them by signposting the reader. I lay out the parts of my essay in the introduction (e.g. part one will discuss xyz, part two will then argue abc), and then make sure that before each new point there is a new heading (e.g. Part One: XYZ) so that the structure is clear and readable.

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