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Question Essay advice ? - May 21st 2015, 02:22 PM

Hi So I'm 15, in my first year of high-school (I think this is the equivalent of what we call "lycťe" in France, not sure...), but I'm in what we call "International Section", so my history classes are taught in English, my regular English classes are obviously more advanced, plus I have four hours extra of English Literature every week.

I participate a fair amount in class, I often share my view on the subject we are studying, and I get good grades on the whole. However, my sore point is writing essays. The thing is, since I have been educated in regular French schools my whole life, I have absolutely zero experience with writing essays, since this is something the French don't do. This year we have only really done about two or three essays in English Lit, and I have just got my grade back for The Crucible, by Arthur Miller: 9/20 I know this isn't that big a deal, because the rest of my grades have been good, but I just don't know what to expect, how to prepare for an essay like this... I read the book at least three times, which is definitely more than most of the other pupils, I made character files, I felt that I knew the book really well, I was very confident -- and yet I only got 45% ... apparently I wasn't quoting enough from the book, and I was doing too much social analizing... I feel really horrible considering that for once I got my hopes up.

So could someone please give me some tips either on how to prepare for an essay on a piece of literature, or on how to write one? Anything will be appreciated!


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Re: Essay advice ? - May 21st 2015, 03:34 PM

Hi there,

Essay tests can be difficult depending on the subject matter and how well you are able to answer the question in an essay form. Most importantly when it comes to essays, read the prompt carefully and make sure that for every point you state, be sure to back up the points with evidence such as siting quotes, research, etc.

But hey, don't feel bad about one bad grade. Try to learn from the mistake and analyze what you did wrong so that you don't do that in the future. I would personally recommend that you talk to your teacher about it; ask where and why you got points taken off as well as what you can do to improve the essay.

When it comes to literature essays on books, its very important that you site quotes from the book that you are reading. From my experience, literature tests are usually graded upon how well you can analyze the book's content into the question that is being asked(the essay prompt). As for how to prepare, its mostly about how well you read the material, writing a strong thesis, and backing up your thesis with supported evidence in the reading material.

Hope this helps and wish you all the best!


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Re: Essay advice ? - May 21st 2015, 08:08 PM

Hey there,

Iím not familiar with the French education system or that particular text, but as Rishy said, quoting is very important in essays.

What I find helpful is after reading the text and the essay question, Iíll re-read the text carefully and look for any quotes that might help back up my argument for the essay. You could highlight, use sticky notes or write the page numbers down. That way then, youíve built up a bank of quotes which you can use in your essay.

Before writing an essay itís helpful to plan what you want to say first. For example, introduction, main point, second point, conclusion. Sometimes you might have to argue from another perspective so your layout might be: introduction, argument 1, argument 2, conclusion.

When writing an essay, Iím not sure if you use a particular way of answering the essay question, but in school I learnt ĎS.Q.Eí (State, Quote, Explain). You state one of the points you will be making, then back it up with a quote from the text and then explain how this backs up your argument with reference to the essay question. Keep doing this for every point you make, even a counter argument. Itís always good to refer back to the essay question too, as this helps to make sure you stay on track and donít go off topic.

Donít feel put off by your essay grade. Perhaps you could ask your teacher for feedback, or for clarification on how to use quotes in your essay? As you said, you donít have much experience writing essays and it does take some practice. Just keep going!

Best wishes


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