Higher English Sample Critical Essays

You can keep your topic sentences in particular very short. In fact, it’s best to make them straight to the point. Using the “Jekyll and Hyde” example above, the topic sentence for the first paragraph could be: “The battle between Jekyll and Hyde is symbolic of the battle between good and evil in humans.” This is direct, and shows the reader exactly what you will talk about in the paragraph.

Make sure that you finish each paragraph with a one sentence mini-conclusion that links back to the question. Usually the question is split into two, and the finish of the sentence should refer to the second part of the question. So, using the “Jekyll and Hyde” example, the final sentence of the first paragraph could be: “Jekyll’s growing realisation that he cannot control Hyde forces him to isolate himself, and shows that Jekyll has come to regret his earlier immoral decisions.” Writing a one sentence mini-conclusion will help you when it comes to writing your final conclusions, and will also keep your work focused on the question.

In your paragraphs, the best sentence structure is the P.E.A. approach. This stands for Point, Evidence, and Analysis. Make your point, then back it up with a quotation or an example from the text, and then explain why this is important or relevant to the question. You can practice this simple approach by using the following framework in your revision:

Point – One of the key themes in the text is…

Evidence – This is shown when…

Analysis – This highlights/emphasises….

Although it is best not to use these exact phrases every time, this does give you an idea of how you should approach the content of your paragraphs.

There are many ways to approach the writing of a Higher English critical essay. At myetutor, we have a favoured structure and it would be difficult to change anything about that general structure without diminishing the essay. BUT, other parts of the essay have a structure and this can be done in a lot of different ways.

Take our preferred way of doing the main body of an Higher English critical essay. We think that the TEA structure is the best way to approach each paragraph. Yet we know it’s not the only way. It might be the best way for us and many students, but maybe not all students. It can require having a good memory for some quotations – you can paraphrase though. We think quotations make an Higher English critical essay look good, although we know that some people prefer to refer to parts of a text rather than quote. Sizable quotations are maybe not for everyone.

So, what other alternatives are there for writing paragraphs in the main body of your essay? Well, let’s look at one:


This means Statement, Evidence, Explanation and Comment. If you want to know more about Higher English critical essay tasks and making sure statements link to the task then follow the links.)

So that this all makes sense we’ll state the task:

Consider a novel that has something important to say about the world in which we live. By examining the use of character, setting and plot show how the writer has successfully conveyed his/her message to the reader.

Ok. Pretty standard task where we have to take a feature of the text (character or setting or plot) and explain how in an example the writer is getting across a message (theme) to the reader that is also relevant to the world we live in today.

Using Malcolm Bradbury’s classic futuristic dystopian novel Fahrenheit 451here is an example of SEEC that relates to this task.


Bradbury uses the character of Mildred, Montag’s wife, to highlight the emptiness and futility of life in the novel’s futuristic setting.

Evidence (short quotation)

When we first meet Mildred, she is having her stomach pumped as she has just attempted suicide. The description of this operation conveys a cold mechanistic approach to life: ‘They had this machine…the impersonal operator. Not unlike the digging of a trench…’

Explanation (we call this analysis and evaluation)

By describing this scene with such matter-of-fact language, Bradbury successfully reveals how little life is valued in this future world. It’s as if Mildred was worth no more than a disused car that is being serviced.

Comment (we would call this analysis and evaluation)

Her world is an empty hollow with no sense of purpose. It is made clear in the rest of the novel that far from being  abnormal, Mildred in fact represents the norm of life in the future – a norm that Montag rebels against.

Four of these in an Higher English critical essay would create an impressive essay with a good grade. Personally, we prefer our own method still,  as outlined in other blogs.  However, we accept that some students will find the above method preferable, so, hey, anything that helps with something as challenging as an Higher English critical essay is good.

If you need more help or advice, you can contact our tutors or you can send a completed essay to a tutor or your choice.

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