Listen to your teacher's instructions and listen to the passage being read out loud or read it yourself. Take notes from the passage, speech, quote or piece of literature you're being tested on. Notes should focus on the facts presented in the piece, the plot, examples and the key elements: "who, what, when, where and why." Include notes on tone, characterization, message, theme, moral, setting, conflict, imagery, symbolism and foreshadowing when examining passages from a literary standpoint.
Create a short outline, if allowed, from your notes for the essay you're writing. Format your outline in three main sections: introduction, body and conclusion. Include a thesis statement and briefly list points showing how you'll support it in the introduction. List the main points that strengthen the thesis and support your points by adding details and examples in the body. The conclusion section should close your essay, restate your thesis and summarize your main points. Re-read the passage and your notes to make sure you've included the important information. Your outline should give you a basic idea of how your essay will be formed.
Write your essay according to the topic and guidelines you're given. Structure it like your outline so that it has an introduction, body and a conclusion. Add the outline's information, explain each main point and include examples and details to support them. Remember that the general essay guidelines want you to show your understanding of information, reading comprehension, ability to interpret literary themes, and critically evaluating and analyzing passages.
State your thesis in the introduction. If the essay is persuasive, then state a point of view in your thesis and why it is correct. Explain how or why the audience should be persuaded to your side. The persuasive essays are usually about informational and speech passages provided in the exam. Form your thesis according to the exam instructions given for the essay because they usually ask you a question or tell you what they want from the essay.
Declare if you're comparing or analyzing a literary piece in the thesis of a critical lens or thematic essay. Identify literary elements or controlling ideas and briefly define them in the introduction in Task 3 of the exam, as you'll be discussing two different literary pieces. For the critical lens essay, present the lens in your thesis and state your position. Summarize your interpretation and why you agree or disagree in the introduction and mention the two pieces of literature you'll be analyzing to explain your reasoning.
Structure the body to include supporting ideas, details and examples to solidify your thesis. Use the passages provided for details in your persuasive or thematic essays. Take examples, quotes or literary elements from the works you're comparing for your critical essay and use them to explain, analyze and argue your point.
Avoid summarizing plot in your essays unless they are supportive examples. Make sure the body is coherent and logical.
Conclude your essay by restating your thesis. Summarize the points in it you used to support your thesis. For the critical lens essay, briefly point out why your argument was correct.