Exam Essay Checklist

Throughout this check sheet the phrase ‘the issue’ refers to the ideas that the question wants you to write about.







·         does it avoid starting with phrases like ‘In this essay I will be writing about …’?

·         does it instead jump straight in to a direct statement about the issue in the texts being discussed?

·         does it perhaps use a quotation that sums up the issue / answers the question?

·         does it clearly mention the names of the text(s) and writer(s) being discussed?

·         does it mention the text and writer names almost as an ‘aside’ while talking about the issue?

·         does it grab your attention or sound like it’s going to make an interesting point?

·         does it avoid repeating the question without answering it?

·         does it avoid vague phrases  – e.g. phrases like ‘various literary features’ or ‘numerous feelings’





Main Body - Structure

·         does it have topic sentences at the start of each paragraph to make clear what the Point is?

·         does it use linking phrases (simple connectives and longer sentences) to join ideas together?

·         does it save its two strongest points for use at the start and end of the essay?

·         does the order of points flow logically / make sense?

·         does each paragraph clearly relate to the question?

·         does it avoid repetition – are all related points grouped clearly together?

·         does it avoid repetitive phrases like: ‘which again demonstrates …’





Main Body - Quality of Ideas

·         how well has the writer grasped the ideas/ themes/ moods/ attitudes / issues in the poems?

·         does it remain focussed on the issue?

·         does it identify clear points or comparisons (contrasts, similarities, progressions) if necessary?

·         does it identify interesting, insightful, clever or original points or comparisons?

·         does it develop ideas in depth – are the paragraphs relatively long and detailed?

·         does it persuade you?

·         does it sound like the writer believes what they are saying and aren’t just repeating other ideas?





Main Body – Use of Evidence

·         does it use quotations from the text to support every point?

·         does it use more than one piece of evidence to support most points?

·         does it use short quotations which pick out the key words / sounds / literary feature?

·         does it smoothly embed quotations into the sentences most of the time?





Main Body - Appreciation of Literary Features

·         does it examine connotations of words in detail and the effect they have on the reader?

·         does it examine a wide range of literary features such as sounds, images, personification, etc...?

·         does it examine at least some of the hard features such as structure, rhyme or rhythm?

·         does it make references to any absences, such as absence of rhyme, rhythm, dialogue, people?

·         does it examine the use of tone / humour / satire?

·         does it examine the symbolism / significance of the historical, geographical or cultural setting?





Main Body - Additional Features for Novels & Plays

·         does it examine methods of characterisation, e.g. direct speech, description, actions, thoughts?

·         does it examine narrative style: description, direct speech, narrator intervention, foreshadowing?

·         does it examine narrative technique e.g. first / third person, differing points of view, speech, etc?





Main Body - Language

·         does it frequently refer to the author / poet / playwright by surname?

·         does it use the words ‘emphasises’ and ‘reinforces’ at least once?

·         does it use technical vocabulary – such as symbolism, alliteration, paralinguistic, etc?

·         does it put a comma after every connective – i.e. ‘However,’

·         does it use the word quotation instead of quote?






·         does it clearly relate back to / answer the question without repeating it?

·         does it sum up the flavour of the essay rather than just recap the points already made earlier?

·         does it end with a most effective / most powerful point?

·         does it end with a snappy quotation / question / statement that leaves the reader thinking?