How to Write a Band 6 Essay for the HSC
Planning and preparation
A good essay starts with a solid understanding of the text. Talking the text out can be a great way to gather your ideas and start forming arguments. Try having a conversation with family or friends about your text – you might be surprised with what you come up with!
Get in the habit of making essay plans before each essay. Making an essay plan helps you gather your ideas and make sure everything you write is direct and follows the same line of argument.
Understand what a thesis actually is and how to write one
Theses are the least understood and most intimidating part of your essay. A thesis is
“ a line of argument that answers the question”
We’re going to break that down into two parts
Line of argument
A line of argument is an argument that logically flows towards a conclusion. If I am arguing that dogs are better than cats, my line of argument might be that:
dogs are companion animals -> companion animals provide comfort -> comfort helps people relax and feel happy -> cats do not provide comfort and are therefore not companion animals -> dogs are better because companion animals are better
This has a logical flow and builds on itself as it progresses. We can use this argument to break our essay up into two paragraphs:
dogs are companion animals -> companion animals provide comfort -> comfort helps people relax and feel happy –> cats do not provide comfort and are therefore not companion animals -> dogs are better because companion animals are better
Figuring out your line of argument before you begin writing can help you flesh it out and ensure that it is logically consistent.
Answers the question
This seems obvious, but a lot of HSC students make the mistake of writing an essay about a question, not an essay that answers a question. The purpose of writing an essay is to analyse and speculate about a particular topic, and use that analysis to form and prove a conclusion.
Your ability to use and understand essay structure effectively will depend on the strength of your line of argument. If you are struggling with structure, and unsure what belongs in each paragraph, go back to your argument and find a natural break point. If you are writing a comparative essay (one that compares several concepts or texts) try examining the same argument through each text, and account for the similarities and differences between the way the argument manifests itself in different texts and perspectives.
Use evidence that links back to the argument
Using evidence well is what distinguishes a good essay for a great essay. You cannot get a band 6 if you don’t support every claim with evidence. Remember that when you use evidence, you always have to explain and argue its significance. It’s not enough to say that companion animals bring comfort, you have to explain how (they like to snuggle) and why that is relevant to your argument (physical comfort releases oxytocin and dopamine which helps you relax and destress).