1. You’re using quotes for what, rather than why.
Evidence is one of the most important components of your essay, but it’s something most often misunderstood. Your teacher has read the text and they don’t need to be told what happens in it. Choose quotes not for their significance to the plot, but rather, what they reveal in terms of authorial intent.
2. You’re quoting in sentences rather than short phrases.
Your essay should be able to smoothly transition between evidence and explanation without any lag in between. This means ditching the full-sentence quotes and opting for short, snappy ones instead.
3. You’re not being careful enough with your expression.
Time and time again, I see people one or two marks off a perfect score, let down simply by their expression. It can be a difficult thing to master, but some things I like to remember are:
- You are not speaking, you are writing an academic paper. Therefore, before your thoughts meet the page, you should take a second to re-frame them in a scholarly and readable manner. This means avoiding colloquial expressions, contractions and unnecessary jargon. This can be difficult under timed conditions – but it’ll save you a lot of editing later on!
- Try to make things as easy as possible for your assessor. If you can flag something, flag is as early as possible! If you can explain something with a simple but effective word, don’t take out your thesaurus. If you go ahead and try to use that big word to sound smart but it ends up in the wrong context, its a dead giveaway that you don’t know what you’re writing about.
- Be very careful with your commas! In my experience, commas are the most abused form of punctuation on the planet. Before you allow yourself to warble on, consider ending your sentence. Also, consider whether or not a comma is actually necessary. Shakespeare would be, terribly disappointed, if you kept adding commas, where unnecessary.