To pass NCEA Level 1 English you will need to develop your writing skills so that they are top-notch at progressing your thoughts to answer the question at hand. It’s all about that question really! How you select your question is important, sitting in that sweaty exam room, thoughts racing, pen tapping- how are you going to select the right essay question to nail the answer?

Perhaps you are thinking about how you are going to pass NCEA Level 1 English? If so, then this could be good to check out! Or maybe you’re looking at how many credits will get you there? If you're feeling particularly philosophical then how about you read this blog on why English is important as a subject? Maybe you just need a brush up on your annotated exemplars then check this out.

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Get your plan on!

Well for starters, it takes a great deal of planning to write an effective essay. Just 5 minutes or more spent on dedicated planning time can really help you craft your essay and zero in on that question. What does good planning look like? For starters, if you are a visual learner and want a quick instant brain map of relevant thoughts, why not opt for a brainstorm? On a page, put the question in the middle of your map and highlight the keywords that feel important to the crux of the question. For visual text and written text, you will be needing those all-important pieces of evidence, also known as quotes. Get those down before you forget. Under these points, make sure you write down how each quote is relevant to answering the question. Bullet points are fine.

Find out about NCEA level 1 annotated exemplars here.

Brainstorming before you start writing your essay can be the difference between an achieved and merit. (NCEA Level 1 English Essay Questions).

How your argument is formed matters.

Unlike the other subjects you take such as maths and science, English has no standard ‘correct’ answers to know. Instead, it’s all about how well you structure your argument. In short, how convincing can you be? In what ways can you articulate your thoughts in a structured way and convince the marker that what you are saying is valid and important? Take the marker on a journey with your carefully selected points. They want to see a clear progression of thought and to see that you have really come to grips with some powerful conclusions.

First, let’s break down a question

In the 2018 essay exemplar, a student talks about the film Amelie, directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet. Here, the question selected was to ‘Describe at least one way that a character or individual changed in the text. Explain how this change was important to the text as a whole.’ There are two parts to this question. The first part is that you need to describe the change. In the second part, you need to have an awareness of the wider film to explain how this change was important. In your first year of NCEA English, you will learn that the ‘describe’ aspects of questions are for obtaining an achieved mark. On the other hand the ‘explain’ sits in the excellence territory. This will become more clear as your progress throughout your NCEA experience.

Learn to break down the components of the essay question to really answer effectively. (NCEA Level 1 English Essay Questions).
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Further unpacking assessments like Visual Text essay questions: Close reading of the text

The student talks about social isolation as one of the main hurdles for the main character Amelie throughout the film. First, to answer the start of the question, you will need to break it down into parts. So describing how Amelie was before she went through changes is important. For example Amelie was a very socially isolated child and spent lots of her time alone away from other children her age. You will need to give some examples as to how this was shown. This is what the student writes in the 2018 exemplar: director Jean uses close up camera techniques to illuminate the isolation of Amelie. In one scene she is seen pulling funny faces at other children, through a glass window. This shows how there was a metaphorical barrier between her and the rest of the world, making it hard for her to connect. Remember to add another two pieces of evidence to address this aspect of the question.

How did Amelie change as a character? What pushed her into developing and changing her ways? Let’s unpack this part of the essay question. A moment when this happened in the film was when Amelie’s only friend Dufayel compares her to a painting. The painting showed a girl in a scene who was not really participating, as she seemed removed from others around her. Dufayel states, “she’s on the middle, yet she’s on the outside”. This abrupt comment ignites something within Amelie and provides the catalyst for her wanting to change. The painting makes Amelie feel both self-conscious and self-confident: she is ready for change. The woman appears to be unaffected by her loneliness. This could be potentially empowering for Amelie, who does want to connect more, but ultimately also wants to be accepted for who she is. Amelie still has a need for connection and this is shown in how she meddles with the lives of those around her, helping them along their way. But perhaps this painting is the final straw to her wanting to reach out more and be involved directly in the lives of others, most importantly so she can get closer to her love interest,  Nino. It is Nino who provides a huge catalyst for change for Amelie also. She still remains socially distanced but leaves little clues to get his attention. Through Amelie and Nino’s relationship, we receive insight into the text as a whole. Amelie branches out and loses the hold that social isolation has had on her through pursuing her romantic connection.  We see that Amelie is a strong, independent and confident woman who has progressed greatly from the timid, shy and awkward girl we saw at the start of the film. Here you have described what Amelie was like at the start of the movie and unpacked a critical change that was depicted. Think about the question always, marry your ideas to the key-words expressed in that statement. In this case, it’s ‘change’, ‘character’ and ‘text as a whole'.

How about essay questions on texts you haven’t studied?

Again, like in visual and written text, it’s all about that question. Make sure you brainstorm prior to jumping into answering the question. Since you will be unfamiliar with the texts presented, make sure you read them through twice quickly so you can get a good reference point and basic understanding of each text. Remember to highlight and bullet point key ideas and phrases that you can use for your evidence later on.

To answer that essay here is a T.E.X.A.S tip

Throughout your externals and internals, you will need to have a good hold on your words! You will be wanting your essay writing skills to be up to scratch, in order to pass your NCEA Level 1 English year and pass it well. So how do you go about this? Well, there is a good rule of thumb to live by when it comes to writing your essay and that is using the T.E.X.A.S method. For starters, you have a ‘Topic sentence’ where you simply state the purpose of the paragraph. Why are you writing this today? Then next up we have ‘Evidence’. How are you going to back up this claim that you have made in your topic sentence? Ah yes, you will be knitting in examples from the text or outside sources to integrate within your piece of writing. Next up we have ‘eXplain’ where you will clearly explain how your pieces of evidence prove your topic sentence or thesis. If you're wanting those higher marks, then next up we have ‘Author’s purpose’. This is where you talk about the purpose of the book, film or text in relation to the intentions of the author and what they were trying to address. Then finally, we have ‘Summary’ which is all about bringing your points together in a formulated way, where you sum up everything that you have neatly unpacked within the body of the essay. Another good rule of thumb is to stick to 3 paragraphs for your essays, integrating 1 to 2 pieces of evidence throughout each paragraph. If you end up nailing the T.E.X.A.S method you’ll be well on your way to passing NCEA Level 1 English. You can even use these tips when writing your internals like formal writing and speech-making also.

Learn to nail off by heart the T.E.X.A.S. Method (NCEA Level 1 English Essay Questions).

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Are you wanting some more hands-on approach to writing the best essay you can write? Maybe you're feeling stuck with how your progress is going in class? Or perhaps even you just think you are needing some more guidance with those menacing exams at the end of the year? In any case, have a log on to Superprof, which is an online tutoring website that specializes in helping to get you to the next level of your NCEA Level 1 journey. The first lesson is free so there is really a strong incentive to get involved and have a look to see if tutoring is right for you. There are hundreds of tutors, each there for you to help with providing extra resources, insights into exam writing, practical tips and just simply some extra support for when you’re feeling swamped from all the things you need to do. Log on to Superprof today and start learning how to absolutely nail those NCEA Level 1 exams and internals!

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