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Writing a controlled assessment

Your opening line

You should begin with a sentence that sums up your whole argument. If your question is "Explore the way family relationships are presented in Romeo and Juliet" think what your answer is, boil it down to a single sentence and start with that. Start with an interesting positive statement - eg, "In Romeo and Juliet tensions within families are shown to be far greater than tensions between families."

If the question is "How does Steinbeck create a distinctive sense of voice in Of Mice and Men?" you could begin with "Steinbeck creates a distinctive sense of voice by writing his novel like a play."

Tip: if you had to describe your essay in a single sentence, what would that sentence be? When you've done that, you've got your opening sentence. The rest of the essay is really just showing why you've come to that conclusion.

Completing paragraph one

A hand writing on a piece of paper

Once you have made your bold opening statement, you need to explain how you have come to this conclusion. You should therefore list the points you are going to explore in your essay. Ideally, there should be at least five key points, which will show how you have come to your conclusion. You will provide the evidence for these points in the following paragraphs.

Your points will answer exploratory questions.

  • Theme: what is the story about (ideas and attitudes)?
  • Character: who is in the story (and how do they work with or against each other)?
  • Setting: where does the story take place (and what is its impact on characters and action)?
  • Technique: how are the themes or the characters expressed in the text?
  • Structure: when do certain events happen (and how do they create meaning)?

If your essay gives a good first impression it's more likely that your later points will impress too.

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