Do make sure that you understand the question! If you do not understand the terms eg caricature, didactic, satire, you’ll find yourself waffling and unable to write a decent essay.
Break down questions into blocks
This helps to structure the essay and makes sure you deal with each part of the question. I would suggest that you underline key phrases / words and then keep glancing at them to check that you’re on track.
eg. Are Chaucer’s characters all caricatures?
The question has three ‘blocks’: ‘characters’, ‘all’ and ‘caricatures’.
Is Chaucer’s representation of women essentially hostile?
Is the word ‘hostile’ too strong? Does Chaucer judge according to gender or individual character? Is his criticism of the Prioress, for example, based on a dislike of women or a desire to expose hypocrisy within the Church? Is his representation of men ever hostile? Chaucer clearly appreciates the vitality and sensuality of the Wife of Bath and seems to revel in her outrageousness. Does this suggest hostility to women?
If you find it helpful to write a quick plan, take 5 mins and jot down relevant points, textual references or quotations in shortened form. An exam essay plan should help you to remember things and stay relevant. If you write everything out in full for your plan you are wasting valuable time.
Quotations and Textual Reference
Quotations and textual reference are both forms of textual evidence, which is vital in supporting your argument. ‘I feel’ or ‘I think’ isn’t an argument, it’s an unsupported assertion. ‘Defoe argues’, ‘The text demonstrates’ + quotation / detailed textual reference is an argument. You should aim to support each of your points with textual evidence.
A quotation is when you can remember the exact words (in the right order!) from a text.
Textual reference is when you refer in detail to a relevant bit of the text. Be careful not to simply paraphase and please don’t just tell the story! The key is to refer in detail to the relevant bits of the text and to demonstrate why they’re significant.
Write an essay on any one of the following themes in two or more of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Measure For Measure and The Tempest: nature, power, law, dreams, sexuality, hypocrisy, magic, justice, innocence.
It’s obvious but make sure you read the question carefully: it requires a discussion of one theme in two plays.
Write on vision or on memory in Edward Thomas, with reference to at least three of his poems.
ie. one subject in at least three (but hopefully more!) poems.