Higher Critical Essay

A disappointing ending carries more weight than it is worth. You know what it is like when you watch a film or read a book. You have really enjoyed the film or the book, then you get to the end and you find that the ending is obvious, or too quick, or badly done for whatever reason. You feel really disappointed! In fact you’re so disappointed that it can ruin the whole book or film.

Well, it can be sort of similar with conclusions for Higher English critical essays whether it is drama, poetry or prose. An examiner can really enjoy and admire your essay for all the skills it shows, however an underwhelming conclusion will leave them deflated and disappointed. You’ll still get credit for all the good things you did; but not the credit you might have gotten. Crucially, you don’t want the examiner to be in a negative mindset when they grade your paper. Unlike Maths, in English, an examiner has to go with a gut feeling, based on experience, about an essay, and it’s more art than science, and feelings play a part in that. So, having a good feeling about an essay is a good thing.

How do you avoid the negativity of a bad conclusion. Follow these steps:

  1. State clearly what your essay has done to show you’ve been focused
  2. Summarise very briefly the points you have covered in your essay
  3. Try to finish on a high showing thought and emotion

How do you finish on a high? Write what you’ve learned about the time period the text was set in, or what you’ve learned about the themes and issues involved in the text…OR….you could write about what every English teacher in their heart secretly desires: how the text they put in front of you in a boring, old classroom is actually relevant to you, society and the world out there. The text isn’t just existing in a vacum; it has meaning, to you and to the world. Every English teacher dreams that that is true, and in your essay you can turn that dream in to a reality by saying why.

Here’s the video:

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You can keep your topic sentences in particular very short. In fact, it’s best to make them straight to the point. Using the “Jekyll and Hyde” example above, the topic sentence for the first paragraph could be: “The battle between Jekyll and Hyde is symbolic of the battle between good and evil in humans.” This is direct, and shows the reader exactly what you will talk about in the paragraph.

Make sure that you finish each paragraph with a one sentence mini-conclusion that links back to the question. Usually the question is split into two, and the finish of the sentence should refer to the second part of the question. So, using the “Jekyll and Hyde” example, the final sentence of the first paragraph could be: “Jekyll’s growing realisation that he cannot control Hyde forces him to isolate himself, and shows that Jekyll has come to regret his earlier immoral decisions.” Writing a one sentence mini-conclusion will help you when it comes to writing your final conclusions, and will also keep your work focused on the question.

In your paragraphs, the best sentence structure is the P.E.A. approach. This stands for Point, Evidence, and Analysis. Make your point, then back it up with a quotation or an example from the text, and then explain why this is important or relevant to the question. You can practice this simple approach by using the following framework in your revision:

Point – One of the key themes in the text is…

Evidence – This is shown when…

Analysis – This highlights/emphasises….

Although it is best not to use these exact phrases every time, this does give you an idea of how you should approach the content of your paragraphs.

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