You’ve made it through NCEA Level 1 exams before and no doubt powered through those essays, burrowing a hole at your desk from your menacing pen grip. NCEA Level 2 is similar to Level 1, but naturally it is a bit of a step up for you. You will be honing and crafting your writing skills in a series of essays. You’ll also seek to nail those questions that are asked of you. Remember that how you answer that question matters! The more you unpack and fully comprehend what they are asking you- the better. What are the ways to best combat sweating away, nervously and anxiously staring at those exam questions? Together, we will go through some of the best ways to answer these and break it down into some easily manageable steps.

Wondering why English is a good skill for your career? Check this blog out here If you are needing some assistance with writing essays, then you can take notes from this.  Maybe you are wanting to have an overview of the whole year? How about some tips and tricks for navigating your internals

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Focus on your planning and you’ll have a great foundation!

You can have internalized a great deal of the text’s that you have studied and even committed a number of quotes to memory, but if you have not planned you are in for a shock. It’s paramount that once you get into that exam room that you set aside at least 5 minutes of planning time. Think about the crux of that question, what exactly are they asking of you? Get out your highlighter and go over those key points that they are wanting to know.  How can you plan you ask? Well, visual or not one of the tried and true methods is to make yourself a brainstorm addressing your main points. You might even want to jot down all your wonderful examples and evidence as soon as you get into the exam room. Make sure you write down underneath how these help to answer the question. Remember to plan, you don’t want to spend more than five minutes on this. Think brief, think bullet points. Get your points down quick. If you seek out some planning time early you could be on your way to achieving a higher mark potentially as you have been thoughtful and forward-thinking in your approach.

Planning is crucial to achieving a good mark for your essays. (NCEA Level 2 English Exam essay questions).

Pick your arguments. You frame your argument with what’s important.

English as a subject gives you a great deal of freedom in the sense that you can be extremely malleable with your answers. It’s all about your interpretations and how you engage with the text. As long as you provide insightful and relevant pieces of evidence you are on your way to creating a great argument for your essays. In contrast, Maths and Science often have specific correct answers where there is only one way to answer the question. There’s much more wriggle room with English as a topic. How are you going to articulate to the examiner that your argument is convincing and valid? By providing examples and using strong language with a high degree of perception. Take the marker on an exploration with all your points and then bring them home with your interpretations and conclusions.

It’s time to unpack that essay question.

In a 2020 exemplar, a student talks about the 1991 novel Regeneration, written by Pat Barker. Here the question selected was to

“Analyze how ideas were presented to be thought provoking and relevant? Ideas may refer to character, theme or setting.”

There are two parts to this question, one answering the thought-provoking element and the next asking if the ideas are relevant. 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. So answer the question with an explanation in mind.

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Lets dive into the 2020 exemplar more: Close reading of the text

The student talks about language features as a means of understanding the question. This gives the answer a bit more weight as language features help to illustrate the points more. So lets get into the book, shall we? Language features used in Regeneration were first-person narrative, vernacular language, allusions and direct speech. These all helped in illustrating what it was like for physicians in World War 1. They also address the impact on masculinity and the ideals that surround this. Also showing through the language features that it's not simply physicians that are affected by war, but everyone.  Here the student has addressed the question directly and explained what the contents of the essay will be about. Through the character of Dr Rivers, who is a psychiatrist we see the changing attitudes of this profession. We are constantly shown through Dr Rivers's eyes through third person what he is going through, hearing his thoughts and feelings surrounding the shell-shocked patients. The student gives the example that the compassion Rivers feels puts him in a moral quandary. He wants to help rehabilitate the soldiers to serve his country but also cares about their health and does not want them to return to go back into war. It appears that his duty is contradicting his personal opinions.

Come to master embracing the unknown with unfamiliar texts

Similarly, like visual and written text, the unfamiliar text is all about that million-dollar question. Remember to brainstorm before jumping into answering the question also. Even though you don’t have preconceived ideas like written and visual text, you still have all the coursework throughout the year to prepare you with nailing the exam. Try reading the question a few times to really get to the crux of exactly what it is asking you. Remember to highlight and bullet point key ideas and phrases that you can use for your evidence later on. Just a note to also remember those language features, they will come in handy with formulating your argument.

T.E.X.A.S will help your essay structure!

How you structure your words in your essays matters and we are going to dive into some techniques on how to tackle just that.  To pass your NCEA level 2 English exam you will need to be well versed in everything about essays. How can you go about this? Let's jump into the T.E.X.A.S method. This method is going to help you really formulate your points in an easy to understand concise and detailed manner. Right at the start of the method, we dive into our sentence first with  ‘Topic sentence’. This is all about saying what the purpose of the paragraph is. Why on earth are you writing this today? Give us the details as to your 'why'. We then have   ‘Evidence’. How are you going to back up the claim that you have just made? ah yes, by providing some much-needed evidence. To do this you will need to place relevant quotes and examples throughout your essay. Up next is ‘eXplain’ where you need to provide some linking sentences from your thesis. What does this example demonstrate?

If you are heroically aiming high for that excellence, then you will be wanting to talk about the Author’s purpose. This will be where you unpack the author's intentions and unveil what was important to them in writing the book or directing the movie.  ‘Summary’ is then there to tie everything up nicely all together in a ribbon of conclusions.  You will go over all the main points that you have addressed in your essay body and apply some judgements to them to make an educated conclusion about the author/director and the world of the book/film. It's also a great idea to only stick to 3 paragraphs for your essays, integrating 1 to 2 pieces of evidence throughout each paragraph. If you end up mastering the T.E.X.A.S method you’ll be more likely to pass your NCEA Level 2 English externals. You can even use these tips when writing your internals like formal writing and speech-making also.

Needing more help? Try Superprof!

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 2 English 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 2 exams and internals!

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