Foundation History Gcse Essay

Introduction to 20 mark essay writing

Essay writing in Higher History is very important. Overall, 70% of your grade will be ascertained from the essays you write, 30% from your extended essay and 40% from your 2 essays in Paper 1 of the final examination.

As you have advanced through the school in Standard Grade and Intermediate 2 you will have learned how to write short essays worth 8 marks. You will remember how daunting these essays seemed to be when you first started writing them. You will also remember how writing these essays became easier with practice.

Essay writing is a skill, something that has to be learned. You had to learn how to introduce your essay, develop the points and then conclude your argument when writing 8 mark answers.

Essay writing at higher takes you a stage further in your development as rational, discursive and deliberating beings and again you will have to learn how to write Higher Essays skilfully.

However, some words of warning! Your development of these “higher” skills will not come naturally, neither will they come from listening attentively to your teacher or copying your friends essays (it does happen and these people are invariably caught). Your development of these essay writing skills will be down to hard work, reading and practice. Simple.

Essay writing

In the exam you will also be asked to write an essay. There will be a choice of two essay titles and you will be asked to pick one. Your essay must focus on the novel as a whole and therefore it is very important that you know the novel extremely well before you sit your exam. You must make sure you have a clear idea about:

  • plot
  • themes
  • characters
  • language, form and structure
  • context

When you are in the exam, it is a good idea to write a brief essay plan before you start writing the actual essay. This will help you to have control of the structure of your essay and make sure that you do not end up repeating points or even worse, missing out valuable points.

Below there are examples of essay titles from a higher tier and foundation tier exam on To Kill a Mockingbird.

Higher tier

Who are the mockingbird figures in the novel and what is their significance to the novel as a whole?

Foundation tier

Why are Boo Radley and Tom Robinson considered to be the mockingbird figures inTo Kill a Mockingbird?

Planning your answer

  1. Introduction. explain who the mockingbird figures are and why they are important to the novel.
  2. Comment on Atticus’ belief that mockingbirds should not be shot and include details of why he believes this.
  3. Comment on Boo Radley and why he is considered to be a mockingbird figure.
  4. Comment on Tom Robinson and why he is considered to be a mockingbird figure.
  5. Conclusion - here you should provide a general summing up of your main points.

Higher tier sample answers

Here are two sample answers that refer to point one of the essay plan set out in step 4.

Sample answer one

The mockingbird figures in To Kill a Mockingbird are Boo Radley and Tom Robinson. They are the mockingbird figures because they are kind men who do not do anything wrong but they are still treated badly by the rest of the townspeople in Maycomb. Boo Radley rescues Scout and Jem from Bob Ewell and Tom Robinson is kind towards Mayella Ewell and helps her when she needs a wardrobe chopped up. In this essay I will be writing about Boo Radley and Tom Robinson and explaining to you how they are considered to be the mockingbird figures in Harper Lee’s novel.

Feedback comments – good but improvements need to be made

This answer does not clearly state what a mockingbird figure actually is. This needs to be included in the introduction.

Phrases such as should be avoided as they are a little basic. In fact you should try to avoid using the first person (I) completely.

In the introduction there is no need to mention specifics such as Tom Robinson chopping up the wardrobe. This should be saved for the main body of the essay.

The name of the author should be included at the start of the paragraph instead of at the end.

Sample answer two

Harper Lee’s novel To kill a Mockingbird includes several characters who could be referred to as mockingbird figures. Mockingbird figures are characters who are kind and caring and yet are treated badly in some way by the rest of society. They are linked to the actual mockingbird, who does nothing wrong except sing for the enjoyment of others and so should therefore never be hunted and killed. There are several episodes during the novel which highlight the fact that both Tom Robinson and Boo Radley can be considered as mockingbird figures and these will be examined over the course of this essay.

Feedback comments – a much improved answer

This answer begins with the author’s name and makes it clear what the essay will be about.

There is no use of the first person here which provides the answer with a more polished feel.

This answer makes it clear what a mockingbird figure is, giving a clear link to the next paragraph, which will be about Atticus’ views on mockingbird figures.

This answer does not give too many specifics about the actions of Tom Robinson and Boo Radley, meaning that there is scope to include these points later in the essay.

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