A lot of people said that I had a logical brain. My teacher said that I can write out 'answers' because I knew exactly what to do, but to write 'actual essays', especially A+ essays, was like a big kick on the backside for me.

I've always wanted people to answer this question:

"Is there a formula to write an A+ essay?"

I know this might sound absolutely ridiculous for some people, but I don't know what to do. I always stuffed up my essays in the exams and SACs.

Please, anyone, help me to get this formula right so that it can help to scale up my ATAR score.

Thank you so much and look forward to any responses.

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3 Answers

Best answer

The following advice is based on the VCAA Assessment Handbook for English.

Firstly, you need to state which essays you are talking about. There are three areas of study: Reading and Responding, Creating and Presenting, and Using Language to Persuade. Each outcome for each area of study has different criteria, so the formula you seek will be heavily dependent on the task.

Secondly, most of the criteria state that the highest performing responses will be 'thorough', 'insightful', 'complex' and 'sophisticated'. A formula may help you be 'thorough' but it is hard to be both formulaic and sophisticated, insightful or complex.

The following quote comes from the VCAA Performance Descriptor for Unit 3, Outcome 1 (Reading and Responding). It can be found on p.4 of the assessment handbook:

Thorough and insightful understanding of the ideas, characters and themes constructed and presented in the text. Complex discussion and critical analysis of the structures, features and conventions used by the author to construct meaning. Complex analysis of the ways in which social, historical and/or cultural values are embodied in the text. Construction of a sophisticated interpretation which demonstrates an understanding of ways in which the text is open to different interpretations by different readers. Considered selection and use of significant textual evidence and highly appropriate use of relevant metalanguage to support analysis. Highly expressive, fluent and coherent writing or, in an oral response, the skilful use of highly appropriate oral language conventions to engage an audience.

No two prompts for Reading and Responding are the same, so formulaic approaches won't work.

But there is a kind of formula for preparing for your essays:

  • You need to know the text inside out. Reading a text once or twice is not enough if you want an A+
  • You need to read 'around' the text.Read what others have written about the text in reviews, read the Age 'Text Talk' articles about your text, read what academics have said about the text.
  • Read and plan responses to every essay prompt you can find. Think through your own opinions on every possible question you could be asked.
  • As you delve into the text in this much deeper way, you will start to develop more sophisticated and
    insightful ideas about the text.

You can't just decide 'Oh, I'm gonna be insightful in this paragraph', you need to master the text so that you can say things other students wouldn't have thought of. You need to be making comments beyond the obvious. If you parrot back everything your teacher told you, that is not enough for an A+...sophisticated responses require more groundwork than that.

Some people think you're either an A+ student or you're not. I disagree with that idea, but if you are not naturally wired to think about things in a more sophisticated way, you'll need to do a little manual re-wiring yourself. Sometimes it's not writing more essays that makes you better, but reading more and challenging yourself with more complex ideas.

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The best resource which teaches a forumulaic approach is the ATARNotes English study guide.

[Disclaimer: I work for ATARNotes.]

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I would say yes - there is a formula for this.

Here's my attempt at the formula:

  1. Make sure you thoroughly understand the question and 'unpack it' correctly
  2. Make sure you thoroughly understand the text.
  3. Unpack the topic & develop a point of view
  4. Plan the essay before you start
  5. Construction an introduction
  6. Construct a body paragraph
  7. Construct conclusions

Hope that helps.

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