Perfect A-Level Essay?

I teach the Edexcel spec and I love it. There I said it!

Some people seem to hate it, but I am really enjoying the set works and the approach to study. I also think that my students are starting to enjoy it. What I am finding is that now I am in my second year of teaching I am getting into it and starting to see what “might” be required in the summer. I say might because none of us really know what to expect and the AS has only given us hints of what might be required.

Undoubtedly the essay part of the course is something that may cause some degree of concern, worry, stress or frustration. There is a lot to learn and remember and then you throw in Wider Listening and you are putting a lot on the students. I have been pushing my Year 13 students really hard with essays and I make them write a fair number of them and try and give as much clear feedback as I can. I want them to do well and I want them to know exactly what they need to do to improve. So here are some thoughts and I have also attached an essay that I think is pretty good, it its possibly full-marks in my opinion. I have also attached a marking sheet that I have started to use.

  1. Wider Listening is key, if they don’t have it then they need to re-do the essay essentially.
  2. A clear line of argument needs to be established in the introduction. It seems to help the flow of the essay and give the something to pin all of their points to.
  3. They need to focus on what the composer is trying to achieve. Kate Bush is clearly someone who was seeking to break away from some of the conventions of pop music at the time and create something that was very much her. Establishing this kind of argument in the intro really helps the essay, and line of argument is referred to in the mark scheme.
  4. They should also be thinking about how the pieces typifies the genre or style of music and this can then be referred to throughout.
  5. An evaluative conclusion is absolutely essential in order to both round the essay off and also make the essay an evaluation.
  6. They need to avoid trying to pack everything in, but should pick salient points that they can link well to their line of argument.
  7. Key terms are just crucial and they need to pack their paragraphs full of them.
  8. I find that they do well when they put one element per paragraph and section their essay out clearly. This helps them and the examiner who will eventually read it.
  9. Wider Listening needs to be used to back  up a point and mustn’t just be loosely referenced. Wider Listening can refer to other set works in the anthology or other movements, songs, or pieces from the same composer.
  10. Bar numbers aren’t needed and will just slow things down. how can they possibly remember every bar in the entire anthology.

I have now started to use the following mark sheet for essays and not only is it nice and clear for students, but it is also saving me time.


It gives them clear points to develop on and gives space to respond to feedback. It also has the mark scheme there so that you can highlight where they are at. It is important that they see what they need to do in order to improve.

I think the essay part of the exam can be a positive experience, but the more they practice the better. They also need to have clear marking that they can then respond to. It is a lot to cover, but it is possible and the resources online and the textbooks are helpful. Listening is crucial and the more they listen the better. Wider Listening should be fun and enjoyable and embedded into every lesson.

Just some thoughts and i hope the attached documents are helpful. I am happy to email you essays to have a look at, ones that I have marked. And if you have any thoughts on the attached essay then let me know, but I think it is pretty good.

Kate Bush Essay 1

Kate Bush Essay 2



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