Critical Essay Masterclass
Higher and Int 2
Ian Yule
The structure of the Critical Essay
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Some basic rules
Setting out your answer
Introductions
Topic sentences / coherence
How to use quotations
Conclusions
Proof Reading
Some basic rules - Expression
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The Critical Essay is a not just a test of your knowledge of
poems / plays etc … it is also a test of your ability to write.
Spelling, grammar and punctuation will be accurate. Language
will be controlled and fluent and you will use critical terminology
(such as metaphor, oxymoron, structure .. In your analysis.)
It is also a test of your ability to write critically – to organise a
case and provide the evidence to support it.
Where can you find lists(s) of critical terminology in the exam?
Basic Rules to keep your examiner
sweet
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Number your essay in the margin. Score out
any plans after you have finished your essay.
Start new essays on new pages.
Put titles inside inside inverted commas “”
Put quotations inside inverted commas “”
Make sure that proper names, titles, first
words in sentences have Capital Letters
Basic Rules – Keeping it formal
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This essay is a formal piece of writing. Avoid all
informalities
Do NOT use abbreviations
Do NOT use contractions: is not, does not, can not,
not isn’t, don’t, can’t
Write numbers out as words e.g. there are five
verses in the poem, not there are 5 verses in the
poem
And then most importantly …
Basic rules – answer the question!
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Use a highlighter pen to highlight the key
words in the question.
Choose a novel which is influenced by the
presence of a powerful or overbearing
character.
Show how the novelist creates this
impression of the character and discuss to
what extent you felt you could sympathise
with him or her
Possible highlighted words
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Choose a novel which is influenced by the
presence of a powerful or overbearing
character.
Show how the novelist creates this
impression of the character and discuss to
what extent you felt you could sympathise
with him or her.
Highlighted words
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In the course of writing your essay try and
use the words (vocabulary) you have
highlighted.
Remember to highlight words from both
sentences and to answer the whole question
– a common fault is to ignore the language of
the second sentence.
This will help you to build up relevance
Setting out your answer (1)
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In the 45 minutes you are given 5 are for
planning/checking and 40 are for writing
TAKE TIME TO PLAN
Write down your heading in the centre of the
page
Build around it 3 or 4 relevant points, brief
memory triggers of suitable quotations
Setting out your answer (2)
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Try and form a line of thought through your
essay. A critical essay is not a list of what
you know, nor is a splat or a spew …
Use linking words or phrases that will give
your essay a sense of structure or cohesion
Linking words
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At the start …
Furthermore … A further idea
However …
Therefore …
On the other hand …
Clearly …
In conclusion … Finally …
Introductions: What’s wrong with this?
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A novel which I have read in class which was
influenced by an overbearing character was the cone
gatherers by Robert Jenkins.
Although the essay is looking for your opinion you
should avoid introducing yourself in your answer.
That is, avoid “I”.
The title is not in inverted commas nor does it have
capital letters.
The author’s name is Robin Jenkins.
Introductions: What’s wrong with this?
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I am going to write about “The Cone Gatherers” and
I am going to show how the writer makes the
character of Duror overbearing. In this essay I will
show how he does this through using contrast, key
incidents and metaphor.
Useless introduction – what else is this but writing?
You going to sing it?
Three references to “I”
Why mention “in this essay” – where else you going
to do it? On the toilet wall?
Introduction: What’s right with this?
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In “The Cone Gatherers” Robin Jenkins creates the
impression that John Duror is an overbearing
character by contrasting him with the character of
Calum McPhie, through an extended metaphor and
key incidents such as the deer drive.
Title in inverted commas and capital letters
Author correctly named in capital letters
Relevance established by using the vocabulary in
the question
Critical terminology
A plan is evident – now prove it!
Topic sentences (coherence)
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Use your plan to create topic sentences. As far as possible use
your highlighted vocabulary in these topic sentences
Look out for opportunities to use evaluative words and to use
critical terminology (analysis).
The first way that Jenkins effectively creates the overbearing
presence of Duror is through the use of contrast.
The overbearing presence is furthered by Jenkins’ use of a
turning point incident, an event which also changes the reader’s
sympathies towards Duror.
Jenkins also brings out Duror’s overbearing presence through
the use of a metaphor which is skilfully extended throughout the
novel.
Coherence is established through words such as “first”
“furthered” and “also.” Note that each topic sentence is very
relevant to the question.
Quotations (NOT QUOTES!)
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You should weave in as many relevant quotations as
you can, either by quoting them exactly or by
referring to the text.
Try and have one or two supporting quotations for
each point you make. Take time to analyse any
significant techniques, or words.
Build your quotations into the structure of your
sentence/paragraph using quotation marks correctly.
Quotations (a bad example)
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The persona is shocked by the attack on her
by the German soldiers. A quote which
shows this is “my bowels opened in a ragged
gape of fear.” The word gape shows that she
was gaping at the soldier. The word “ragged”
shows how rough the attack was.
Quotations (A good example)
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Carol Ann Duffy describes the persona’s
rape in violent terms: “My bowels opened in
a ragged gape of fear.” Here she uses
inversion, “gagged rape” becomes “ragged
gape” to draw attention to the violence and
unpleasantless. The word “gape” suggests
that the personal was shocked and startled
by the attack on her.
Conclusions
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It is important to the structure of the essay
that there is a conclusion. You will be marked
down if you do not conclude.
No new points should be raised in the
conclusion.
Remember – your conclusion is your final
opportunity to remind the examiner of your
essay – you want to conclude effectively.
The language of conclusion
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In conclusion
Finally
Thus
Clearly, it can be seen that …
Conclusions – an OK one
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In conclusion Jenkins has successfully
created an overbearing character in John
Duror. Duror literally casts a shadow over all
the characters in the story spoiling their lives
in many ways. In particular the use of the
extended metaphor helps the reader to see
that this evil had roots which creates some
sympathy for Duror. However by the end of
the novel all sympathy is gone.
Conclusions – a better one
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Clearly, it can be seen that the character of Duror
casts a shadow throughout the novel. His
overbearing presence, created through the use of
contrast, key incident and metaphor is especially
evident in the way that he treats the Cone Gatherers.
Even though the metaphor of the “tree” makes it
clear that Duror’s evil nature had roots, his murder of
Calum effectively causes the reader to lose all
sympathy for the character. The reader is glad when
Duror kills himself thus bringing his overbearing
presence to an end.
What to do when finished
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Re read your essay (proof read) check for basics:
capital letters, inverted commas. Pay special
attention to the first and last paragraphs.
Look at your highlighted vocabulary list, have you
used most / all of the words?
Look for topic sentences / linking words
If these are all in place then relax and good luck!