Why plan?Although it may seem counter-intuitive to spend precious exam time planning out an essay response, it really is time well spent!The examiners are looking for well-structured, detailed essay responses which develop and sustain interpretations of texts through well-crafted, linked PEED paragraphs. You can only do this if you plan out your response.What should you be doing when you are planning?During the planning stage you should try to make a note of all the points you want to make about the text in relation to the specific question set. You should try to organised these so that they follow the structure of the text itself (the first point you make should be about something near to the start of the text, followed by points that come from subsequent places within the text rather than starting with a point about something in a random place in the middle of the text and then just flailing around as you try to cover the whole thing).Another important thing that you need to do whilst planning is identify the direct quotations and references you will use as supporting evidence in your essay. You can simply highlight these in the text itself and number them in the order you will use them; planning is a quick ordering of ideas to ensure a well-structured end result!How should you plan?There are lots of different ways of planing essays and it really is a case of working out the best method for you. Your plan needs to help you get your thoughts in order and find appropriate textual evidence to back up your points. Provided it does this then any method is fine.
Bullet point plans:These are the simplest of all types of plan and, for many people, the most effective.To create a bullet-point plan you simply write your points down in the order you plan to make them and indicate either with a number or colour-coding which quote you will use to support each point.Here is an example of a bullet point plan.
Mind-maps:These are an extension of spider diagrams but where spider diagrams just have the information written down in any order but mind-maps allow you to organise and group your ideas and quotes because each main road of the map has minor roads coming off it related to the main road.Here is an example of a mind-map. Notice how the branches all relate to one another and how the starting point is off to one side rather than in the middle
Venn diagrams:You may have heard of Venn diagrams in relation to maths but they are also useful as a planning tool, especially when planning comparative essays.Venn diagrams are basically two over-lapping circles. When using them to plan a comparative essay you put all the points about text 1 in one side, all the points about text 2 in the other and all the points of comparison in the overlap in the middle.
Whichever method you choose make sure that you do plan before starting any essay and that you keep referring to your plan as you write!