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Our top 8 tips on how to write your National 5 English Critical Essay

Your critical essay is an essay that allows you to demonstrate your analysis, interpretation and evaluation of pieces of literature. Your national 5 English critical essay is worth 20 marks (or half of the critical reading exam) so it is important to make this count. In this post, we have outlined our top 8 tips on how to write and pass your National 5 English critical essay.


Remember: The N5 English Critical Essay questions are found in Section 2 of the Critical Reading paper. You must only answer one question.


1) Choose the right genre!


Ensure you select the correct genre for your essay. The Critical Essay paper will give you a choice of genres: Drama, Poetry, Prose and Language. You can only write an essay on a novel or short story using one of the Prose questions.


Writing about the wrong genre will stop you getting the grade you deserve.


Remember that your Critical Essay cannot be from the same genre as your Scottish text.


2) Choose the right question!


Under each genre heading, you will have a choice of two questions. Make sure that you read both of them carefully and select the one which you feel you could write about best.


3) Identify the key words in your chosen question! These words will be the focus of your essay.


For example:

Choose a poem in which the poet creates a powerful sense of place

Choose a novel in which there is an interesting character.


In each of these examples, you would use the underlined phrase as your key words.


4) Introduce the text! Your introduction should consist of a brief paragraph consisting of two parts. Firstly, include the title, author, form and subject of your text.


E.g. ‘Dracula’ by Bram Stoker is a powerful gothic novel based upon an ancient vampire’s attempt to move from Transylvania