How do I Structure the Essay?

There are many different ways to ensure your essay includes all of the main points but one of the easiest is to use an essay plan. This allows you to follow a set structure when writing in the exam and ensure you don’t miss anything out. However, you must be prepared to manipulate the plan to accommodate the essay question you have been set.

Standard Essay Plan

This was the essay plan I used in the exam, it’s quite versatile and can provide an immense amount of help.


The poems ‘_poem_’ by _poet_, ‘_poem_’ by _poet_, ‘_poem_’ by _poet_, and ‘_poem_’ by _poet_ main purpose is to entertain the reader. However, both poems also share a much deeper (message). Both poems follow a common (theme) of_______________

The poets deal with this (theme) in a number of different ways. For example _poet_’s ‘_poem_’ uses its structure to great effect. It’s use of _______________ could suggest _______________ This is an effective technique because _______________ This has a _______________ effect on the reader and (creates/adds to) a _______________tone.

This (is similar/contrasts with) ‘…poem…’ which uses _______________ This has a (similar/different) effect on the reader and could suggest _______________. ‘…poem…’ use of _______________ could suggest which (is similar/contrasts with) ‘…poem…’ which uses _______________. In my opinion ‘_poem_’ is more effective because it_______________.

The poets have used a range of poetic and lingual devices to great effect. For example ‘_poem_’ uses_______________ This could suggest _______________ The poem ‘_poem_’ uses a (similar/different) technique. Its use of _______________ could suggest _______________ and has a _______________ effect on the reader.

In ‘_poem_’ the poet has selected to use _______________ such as “_______________”. This is another successful technique which has been selected in my opinion to have a _______________ effect on the reader. ‘_poem_’ use of _______________ for example “_______________” could suggest _______________ This is effective because _______________.

In conclusion the poems are very effective in portraying _______________ In my opinion ‘_poem_’ is the most effective because_______________.

This may look daunting but the essay plan is incredibly easy to use once you know how. Also note that this is only a guideline and must be altered to suit the question.



Example Exam Question

WB Yeats poem ‘Son of the Old Mother’ is sentimental rubbish. Discuss, comparing with the other poems?

I agree with the statement to an extent, ‘Son of the Old Mother’ by WB Yeats, ‘On my fist Sonne’ by Ben Jonson, ‘Mother any distance’ by Simon Armitage and ‘Before tou were mine’ by Carol Ann Duffy all follow a common theme of parenthood.

The poets deal with this theme in a number of different ways. For example Armitage’s ‘Mother any distance’ uses its structure to add depth to this theme. It uses a sonnet. Sonnet’s are stereotypically love poems, this could suggest the poets love for his mother, By using a sonnet Armitage benefits from the emotional force it induces, this creates a warm tone throughout the poem despite its subject matter being sad, for example: “something has to give” could suggest that the whole experience is so sad that someone or something has to creak. This helps us as the audience empathise with the narrator’s situation and deepens the emotions involved.

WB Yeats uses a different structural technique. It begins the poem with an image of a fire: “seed of the fire flicker and glow” and concludes with a similar image of the fire but this time it’s: “the fire gets feeble and cold”. Repeating the image of the fire could have been used to round the poem off. It also may have a deeper metaphorical sense; it could suggest the mother too is growing old. This could be viewed as a weak metaphor that isn’t very effective, which may contribute to the view that the poem is sentimental rubbish. However by mentioning “the seed of the fire£ the poet may be suggesting that although over time the seed of the fire does grow old is will be reborn again the following day. This could suggest that the old mother will continue to live on through her children and in this sense the fire and the seed could represent a phoenix as it rises from the ashes. This idea brings with it a feeling of hope and doesn’t justify the idea of ‘sentimental rubbish’ it is in fact in my opinion a powerful and effective technique.

‘On my first Sonne’ and ‘The song of the old mother’ both use rhyming couplets. In both cases the poets may have chosen to use these to make the poem easier to follow and in turn more memorable. ‘Before you were mine’ differs, Duffy has chosen not to use rhyming couplets and instead regular enjambment, for example: “holding/each other”. Duffy may have done this to suggest the rapid passage of time that occurs in the poem. This emphasises how time brings about change in the parent-child relationship. In my opinion the rhyming couplets used in ‘on my first sonne; and ‘song of the old mother’ is a more effective structural technique because it gives a defined rhythm which in my opinion prevents the poem from confusing the audience.

All four poems use a number of poetic devices, which have been selected by the poet’s to aid the implication of the theme of parenthood behind the poems. For example ‘on my first sonne’ uses metaphors to great effect: “Ben. Johnson his best piece of poetrie”. This could be a metaphor used by the poet to suggest he feels his son was his greatest creation. It must also be noted that here the poet has chosen to write in the 3rd person, this could be to suggest what others would say about his son, it also crafts what we as the audience should think and is very effective because it actively engages the reader. He also used sentence structure to further the effect on the audience: “Ben.” By using a short sentence it makes the message have a greater impact.

“Mother any distance” also uses metaphors to great effect. It uses the idea of a tape measure: “Spool of tape”, this could suggest the idea of increased emotional distance between the mother and son. It could also suggest the idea of the umbilical cord, the greatest physical bond between the two. ‘Before’ also uses metaphors to great effect for example: “ballroom with a thousand eyes” could suggest a mirror ball which allows the audience to imagine the situation more vividly and overall makes the poem more engaging.

In conclusion I don’t think ‘Song of the old mother’ is sentimental rubbish and instead think it explores the idea of parenthood. In my opinion ‘On my first sonne’ is the most effective due to its 1st person narrative which engages the reader and the audience invoking a feeling of sadness.

33/36 A*
Sensitive analysis
Conceptualised approach