Tips for essay writing for AS

General tips for writing.

Use the ‘Big 5’ as an organizing principle for the textual analysis. This will give the students focus, starting from the bigger contextual picture to a more detailed analysis of literary features. Be careful however that this does not lead to the students sounding like they are going through a checklist. The ‘Big 5’ in brief:
1 – Audience / purpose
2 – Theme / content
3 – Tone / mood
4 – Stylistic devices
5 – Structure


One you have explored the bigger picture of a text and placed it within its context, you will want to ‘zoom in’ and look at the literary features in detail, commenting on their effects on their target audience. When analyzing poetry, you can focus on the various levels of sound and structure. Here are 5 levels of analysis:

1 – Letter level (alliteration / consonance / onomatopoeia)
2 – Syllable level (iambs / trochee / etc.)
3 – Verse level (pentameter / trimeter / etc.)
4 – Stanza (quatrain / heroic couplet / etc.)
5 – Poem structure (English sonnet / Italian sonnet / ballad / etc.)
6 – Finally, one could explore conceptual devices such as imagery, metaphor and other forms of figurative speech.


  • A narrative is a story – it hascharacters, setting, plot, anddialogue. A descriptive piece doesn’t need any of the elements of narrative, just really vivid description that uses imageryand appeals to the five senses. For more on using imagery, click here.
  • An argumentative piece should very persuasively convince the reader of your side of an argument, presenting the other side only to counter-argue. Adiscursive piece will exploreboth sides of an issue, but you will still be in agreement with one side and against the other.
  • Literature question (a) usually requires you to discuss a general aspect of the literature you have studied: themes, characters, symbols and motifs, literary techniques, plot, setting, etc. Figure out what specific aspect of the work or works you are being asked to discuss and decide what points you want to make before beginning to write.
  • Literature question  (b) usually asks you a specific question about a passage, such as how the writer presents the setting or what literary tools the poet uses to create a certain atmosphere. You must form a detailed answer to this question, not write a general commentary on the passage, and you must mention other parts of the work (for drama and novel) or other poems you have studied (for poetry) to get good marks on question (b).
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