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Sitting down to prepare an essay can be a daunting task at any academic level. Hitting the high notes requires a strong combination of analysis, research and planning.
Sounds a bit intimidating? Maybe it would be if you weren't prepared. But you're going to be ultra-prepared. After all, you have The Student Room's epic guide to writing the ultimate essay in front of you.
Follow these steps and stick to some basic guidelines and you'll soon be rattling out A* essays without even breaking sweat.
Analysing the essay title is your crucial first step. Lots of students miss this out because it doesn’t feel all that important. After all, you’ve got the gist of what the question is about, why not just get going? Trouble is, you then risk veering off on a tangent that doesn’t truly answer what you’re being asked. The title contains lots of clues to answering the question perfectly. Decipher those clues and you’re a step closer to getting that elusive A*.
Each essay title contains a word or two which helps you suss out the kind of essay you should be writing; these are your command words. Words like ‘discuss’, ‘describe’ or ‘examine’ are all open-ended terms which mean there’s scope for you to explore the subject.
Words like ‘prove’, ‘compare’ and ‘criticise’ are asking you to dig deeper into the argument and put forward your own side of the discussion. Command words should be the first thing you look out for when you’re given your title so you know how to structure your essay.
Look out also for subject-specific technical words. Before you get writing, make sure you know the definition of these words and their significance to the subject as a whole.
Don’t write a single word until you’ve done your research. Spend some time digging around and making notes on your planned argument. You can get started by re-reading your class notes. It's your teacher who set you the essay, and they're not going to ask you to write about a topic you know nothing about. Look back for the lesson that covered the key ideas needed to answer your essay.
Create a mindmap of all the key points you’ve come up with, then use independent research to delve deeper. Try using your school or college library or intranet for your initial research or use online sources like Google Scholar for more in-depth information on your topic. Keep expanding your mindmap by adding key quotes and critics.