#14 How to write a kick-ass essay

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I know that this post will not apply to everyone, but I think that I would find it useful either going into GCSE’s or A levels- and whatever the equivalent may be wherever you study.

Back in Year 11, the wonderful me decided that I was going to take on three essay based subjects for A-level- this was a horrible idea, do not do unless you have a bionic hand and can recite a dictionary.

I have had my exam timetable and on one day, I have five hours worth of non-stop writing- wooh- NO.

Essay’s are really difficult because you could know everything there is to know about Of Mice and Men, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Russian Revolution or all of the British reforms from 1900-51, but if you cannot structure your essay properly then you have pretty much failed. This is often why I find my subjects so stressful because I am scared that a question might come up that I have no idea how to answer.

However, throughout the past two years, it is safe to say that I have picked up a few tricks of the trade when it comes to essay writing and hopefully, this skill will only improve as I go on to study history at University. I am not saying that by reading these tips that you will immediately gain full marks in every essay you write because if it is history then you need to know context and exact details, be that dates or names and in English you definitely need to go to an exam with your terminology and analysis hat on. But this should give you some basis.

So whether you are just embarking on your English GCSE, or tackling your final A-level year, this advice should apply to you all and I hope that you find it helpful. I am going to use one of my recent 10 mark essay that I got full marks on to make examples (it is in Classical Civilisations so don’t worry if you have no idea who Hippolytus is).

1. “You lose the ability to read and write, you take a breath and you?…” READ THE QUESTION! This was a famous quote from my history teacher last year and yes, when I get into an exam hall, my hands often get really sweaty, my throat goes dry and time seems to go faster than ever before. Amidst all of this panic though, it is really important to read the question carefully and make sure you fully understand what it is asking you to do.

“How far is the whole speech typical of the way in which Hippolytus is presented throughout the play?”

Take a highlighter into the exam with you and underline which of the words are most important in what it is asking you to do- at this point you have got to think like the examiner; what do they want to see from you?

2. Always make a plan. It doesn’t matter what your teacher has told you. If you are sat in an hour and a half exam and start writing the second that you get in there, you are going to run out of steam. It is much better to scribble out a few topic sentences so that you have a basic idea of what you are doing.

3. Make a judgement! Sitting on the fence in essays and not making a proper judgement will get you nowhere. Even if you really do believe in both ideas, you have to pick which point is the easiest to argue because nobody is going to come looking for you in ten years time saying, “you told me that you thought this was typical of Hippolytus, you were lying!” As long as you make a convincing argument, it doesn’t matter whether or not you believe it.

4. DO NOT use I. Please, please, please. Using I in an essay as in “I think that…” or “I agree with this…” is wrong! An essay is a formal piece of writing and your own thoughts are informal. Of course, it will be written from your own opinion but beginning an essay with ‘I’ just doesn’t make your argument seem very strong. Some other ways you can begin essays or sentences are: ‘Both of these arguments are…’ ‘The speech is typical of Hippolytus because…’ Of course these all depend on your question and the type of essay you are writing.

5. PEE, PQA, PEA, PQER, PEEL… Yes there are many more where that comes from. I hope that you are all well acquainted by now with the wonders of PEER (this is how I was taught first, so I will stick with it). For those of you who have no idea what I am on about, PEE stands for Point, Evidence, Explain and then later on Refer/Link. This is a really helpful structure to use and unlike many methods you are taught at highschool which they tell you to scrap at college, this method should stick with you.

For your point you should always be clear, and make it into one sentence so that you can’t divert onto anything else. When finding evidence, make sure it proves your point exactly and there is a lot that you can talk about- make sure you find three to four pieces of evidence. Explain is clear enough, analyse your evidence using the question to help keep you on topic. Finally, to close your paragraph, I always use a mini conclusion in which I refer back to the question and my argument for or against.

In the speech, Hippolytus presents his chaste character to the nurse by insinuating that, ‘even to hear such things makes me feel impure.’ Hippolytus prides himself on his chastity which is the cause of his lack of respect for women and disregard of Aphrodite in the prologue when he refuses to pray to her. This is, of course, what leads him to become a tragic figure; his lack of desire for anyone. These are his true beliefs and therefore, his mention ofimpurityrings true throughout the rest of the play.

6. Know the structure. Different exams require different structures; not all of them can be done with an introduction, a few paragraphs and a conclusion. Your teachers should tell you what the structure is for the exam you’re taking, but if you are unsure then just ask them what they would recommend.

7. Read. It sounds simple, maybe even obvious, but reading is a really good idea when you are taking an essay based subject. By this I don’t mean you need to reread your material for the exam- but please tell me you have read it at least once? There is nothing worse than someone turning up to an exam and admitting that they haven’t actually read the book that it was on. “B-but I watched the film- doesn’t that count?…”

What I mean is subjmerge yourself in books and if you are already an avid reader then maybe switch up your genre; start reading a newspaper, or an online column. This will suconsciously broaden your vocabulary and ability to write.

That is all I have for now, but if you found this helpful then I would be happy to do more like this about exam/revision technique. I hope that you all do incredibly in your upcoming exams.

PSL x

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#13 The Greatest Showman… WOW

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I know that I will not be the first to tell you that this film was incredible. I went into the cinema with no expectations because I really didn’t have any idea what the story would be like, or the music, but with my love of circus themed things, as you should all know by now, I just had to go!

It was also a really fun night out with my sister and within the first twenty seconds of the film beginning, I had turned to her and said, “I already know that I am going to love this!”

The Music

I honestly cannot fault any of the songs and I have been listening to the soundtrack on repeat ever since I watched the film. Of course I loved to hear Hugh Jackman’s voice after his incredible performance in Les Miserables and I will not lie and tell you that I was not a total sucker for Troy Bolton in high school, so it was so much fun to see Zac Efron in another singing role.

It is so difficult to try and pick out my favourite songs, but ‘The Greatest Show’ is at the very top of the list. It is such a powerful song and makes me want to jump up and throw an impromptu dance-athon. Another that I cannot get out of my head is ‘Rewrite the stars’ which was sang by Zac Efron and Zendaya. Their voices worked so perfectly together and the choreography was amazing.

The Bearded Lady’s belted lines are amazing and I think that her character made me smile the most. She had such a powerful voice and her confidence was inspiring (Yes, I do realise that this was just a film).

The Story

There are so many issues breached in this film; it is very much about acceptance from other people and also accepting yourself as you are. For that reason, it was such an uplifting story.

The colourful outfits to the dance moves made this film a must for anybody who loves musicals, or just a film that will make you grin from ear to ear.

Apparently, this film is based on a real person names P.T. Barnem who was a complete fraud which wasn’t shown through the movie. However, I do not believe that this was an intentional pardon for any of the things that Barnem did, and that the film only used this character to show what could have been.

I must admit that I wasn’t always a fan when the focus was taken off the main stars for me; the rag-tag bunch of misfits that Barnem had rounded up. The ‘Swedish Nightingale’ Jenny Lind was a huge distraction from the main act and I wasn’t the biggest fan of her character nor the way she lashed out at Barnem for using her when it was quite clearly a mutual thing between them. I had the same problem at the end when circus animals (that had not been used anywhere else in the film, may I add) appeared and took some of the limelight off the actors.

Despite this, it was such a fun film, incredible music and I am desperate to go and see it again!

PSL x

#12 The magic of Caraval

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This is my first book review so far, and I intend to keep them up as monthly reviews. I have only read the one book so far in 2018 because of the busy month January has turned out to be.

I am kicking off the New year with the magic that is: Caraval. I was completely drawn to this book as soon as I caught sight of it on the shelf because of its complete ‘Night circus-esque’ name and cover. I should probably add now, for those of you who do not know me, that The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern has been my favourite book for four years now and I will never not recommend it to anyone. So therefore, from the very beginning, this book had some high expectations to live up to.

The base settings are very similar; a circus/carnival, magic and a game. But from there, the stories are completely different. A basic overview of this story would be that two sisters: Donatella and Scarlett are desperate to get away from their abusive father, but one has a much more elaborate idea than the other. They find themselves in the middle of ‘Caraval,’ a game in which nothing is as it seems. The sisters are soon seperated by the mysterious, but no less dashing show master and Scarlett must do everything that she can to find Tella and get back home before their Father realise where they have gone.

It is a story of magic, believing in yourself as well as strangers and heartbreak (mostly mine, of course). A stunning story with beautiful scenes and carefully created characters.

The author, Stephanie Garber has a very unique way of describing the scenery which I absolutely love because as a writer myself, I am always trying to find new and more exciting ways to describe things.

An iridescent blue waterfall streamed down like melted peacock feathers, disapearing into the ring of sun-rise tinted clouds.

The images that Garber evokes are breathtaking and they continue throughout the book as the scenery changes and becomes much darker and twisted. Different to most other books that I have read in which there is a clear definition of whether the plot is set in that past, present or future, Caraval seems to be set in a world completely seperate of our own. However, through the dialogue and clothes, it is definitely presented in a historic way especially with Scarlett so keen on preserving her chastity. Whatever it was that Garber was trying to create, she did it brilliantly; I am in awe of the magic of ‘Caraval.’

Open: Sometime Around Midnight. Other signs said Come Back Yesterday.’

Being the sucker for romance that I am, it is no surprise that I completely fell in love with the hunky sailor ‘Julian’ even though Garber makes it impossible to know whether we should ever truly trust him or not. Furthermore, the characterisation of almost everyone in the story- be them major or minor characters- are given very believable and different personalities which I loved because in many books I have read, especially in teen novels today, characters can become quite repetitive. In Caraval, each person had their own desires and motives- even if we’re not sure of them half of the time.

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Something I am asked in my exam essays is: ‘To what extent was the ending of *insert name of book/play here* satisfactory?’ When applying this question to Caraval, I can assure you that the last few pages are jam packed with revelations and plot twists. Things happen that I could never have seen coming, and some of them I wasn’t completely taken with.

I was a fan of the plot twist every page for the final twenty pages for about the first three. The constant back and fourth of all of these questions had my head hurting almost as much as Scarlett’s must have been- I get that this is the point but a lot of the developments, I found uneccesary and quite frankly, I felt very sorry for Scarlett. She was the only one in the whole book not keeping a huge, bring the roof down on me, kind of secret.

Despite the busy ending, Carval was a complete pleasure to read and I would certainly recommend it to anyone looking for a change of normality and a mystery.

PSL x

 

#11. 13 Reasons why I loved and loathed PLL

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I am often very hypocritical when it comes to watching TV series and often have to eat my words. I have been known to laugh at Teen wolf, pull a face at The Vampire Diaries and roll my eyes at the thought of Pretty Little Liars. However, each of these I have sat through six/seven series and hundreds of episodes (most often when I should have been revising). I have loved a lot of series but Pretty Little Liars has left me with some pretty mixed feelings.

Although, I am perhaps seven years late to this particular party, I experience exactly the same ‘feels’ and reached the same conclusions as every one of you before me.

I will try my best to keep this as vague as possible, but there may be slight spoilers ahead.

  1. Ending up questioning your whole existence for the last two minutes of every episode. Many of the episodes drag along, and I got to the point in season 5 when I really didn’t think I could watch another 50 hours of it, but every episode cleverly ends with something that drags you in for another four hours into the night.
  2. Never really understanding what is going on. Whenever my friend would ask, ‘So what is going on at the moment?’ I would say ‘Honestly, I haven’t got a clue. I have been watching this all night and they broke up, and she died, and they think that someone else is A, but I am not entirely sure…
  3. A. Need I say more? If you have ever watched this show then you will understand how frustrating it is trying to work out who ‘A’ is, and let me just tell you now; you will never truly know until the very last episode in Season 7.
  4. Why does nobody EVER stay dead? This is a teen drama/murder mystery, and so there are many murders involved, but half of them do not stay dead and most of the time they are the ones you wished you never had to see again.
  5. Hannah’s sarcastic and brilliant quips. They may not make sense the majority of the time, but they made the show more worth while especially when she was more carefree at the beginning.f743062d1f4d35a9e1b36611b92af802
  6. Am I the only one who preferred the show without Ali in it? She was presented as such a horrible, selfish character and even when she was back she was horrible to all of the girls. Everybody seemed to accept her back into the group, but I really don’t think she was relevant.
  7. PLL LOGIC. There are a lot of things that do not make sense about many shows, but we overlook them because it is just television. However, the one thing that always got me was why the girls were so angry and confused whenever the police suspected them but they were the shadiest people in town.
  8. Speaking of the police… How frustrating was it that whenever they wanted to tell the police, something got in the way and something that lasted seven months could have been resolved in two at most.
  9. The amazing, yet predictable relationships. I need not say anymore.
  10. Aria is not a relevant character… I hated it when somebody told me this and then a glass smashed above my head *himym reference* Aria is creative, a photographer, a writer and I relate to her the most but she really does not contribute to the programme except for being pretty and her legendary love affair with the lovely, yet innapropriate, Ezra.
  11. Emily and her string of beautiful girlfriends. I do not think that much time passes at all between one girlfriend and the next with Emily. She is gorgeous, so I don’t blame the show but she also seems to have the worst luck out of any of the ‘little liars’ when it comes to relationships.
  12. The strange outfits. The girls go to a record amount of dances, balls and proms and even though you would expect them to dress up to the max, their dresses never completely meet expectations. 272237c04e524590d008aa25f014a467
  13. The end. Despite the comical accent, the final episode and the final uncovering of A (we finally got there) was brilliant and I wish that we had had a bit longer to bask in the evil genius of…

Whoop, nearly got you. I am afraid you will have to sit through the pleasure and horror that is Pretty Little Liars for yourselves.

Kisses – PSL x

#10 My First Nomination

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My 2018 so far has been a rocky one. My mental health has really gone downhill and I am not in the place that I want to be; mood wise. However, I was so happy to recieve my first nomination for a blogging award because it has given me the confidence that my words here can be seen and used to help people, or just to let you laugh at some of the horrendous situations I have gotten myself into.

I would like to thank Lena: https://humbleperception.wordpress.com/2018/01/07/the-liebster-award/ for nomination me for my first blogging award. I do confess that I had to look up this so called ‘Liebster award’ to find out what it was all about and I found that it is an award based around discovering new blogs.

So the rules are as follows:

  • Acknowledge the blog who nominated you for this award.
  • Answer 11 questions that the blogger gave you.
  • State 11 random facts about yourself.
  • Nominate 11 blogs.
  • Give them 11 questions to answer.

And my answers to Lena’s questions below:

  1. Would you rather travel back in time or go to the future?

Speaking from the highly intellectual (not) historian that I am, I have no doubt that I would go back in time. Particularly to the time of Vikings, or frollick around in a ball gown in Downton Abbey- either or.

2. What is the first item on your bucket list?

I actually have created a bucket list:

The first thing on there is to go to a Drive-in movie but I think the first thing that I would like to do is see the Northern lights in Norway.

3. What is your favourite song?

Well how painstakingly difficult is that? Off the top of my head I have always said ‘Still into you’ by Paramore but at the moment I am in love with Sam Smith and Taylor Swift’s new albums.

4. What is your favourite food?

Lasagne. Lasagne. LASAGNE.

But only my Step Dad’s; he has a secret recipe and it is divine!

5. What is the one thing that you have been putting off doing?

I’m not sure if there is anything really… I desperately want to get back into sports and more clubs but I am saving that until Uni.

6. What is your guilty pleasure?

Chocolate. Please point me in the direction of which crazy persons isn’t!

7. Would you rather have no arms or no legs?

That is horrible to decide because I would hate being confined and not being able to move but I would really have to go with no legs because I could not do without my arms or hands.

8. Early riser or night owl?

I have always been an early riser annoyingly- I wake up at 6 most days but at the moment I have also become a night owl, so I am only getting four hours of sleep which is not great.

9. Sweet or Savoury?

SWEET! My boyfriend’s dad prefers savoury and I just shake my head, go right ahead and order the brownies and ice cream.

10. What is your earliest memory?

I honestly do not know… maybe doing ballet or something? Whatever it is, it isn’t interesting I can assure you.

11. What was/is your favourite year in school?

Year 10 most likely because it was the year before all of the stress of exams started and I was quite carefree about most things.

11 Random facts that you probably do not need to know about me are:

  1. I cannot stand sauce- any sauce, ketchup, mayonaise, mustard.
  2. I once won a cheerleading competition and went to nationals.
  3. I could talk your ear off about Russian history.
  4. I was born five weeks early
  5. And looked like Winnie the Pooh when I was born.
  6. My biggest regret is giving up football when I got to high school because I thought that it wasn’t very cool.
  7. I can bake a cake in the shape of a guitar.
  8. I want to be a teacher and a writer.
  9. I am a HUGE bookworm.
  10. Shawn Mendes is my favourite person in the whole wide world.
  11. I sang a solo of away in a manger while the rest of my school used sign language behind me.

As I have not been here long and have been incredibly busy, I don’t actually have 11 people to nominate but I will nominate some of the blogs that I have found so far and think that they are brilliant:

  1. Train of idea
  2. Consider yourself warned
  3. A light in the darkness
  4. Indy’s Soliloquies

And that’s everyone for now, hope you all have a brilliant week.

PSL x

 

#9 A reflection on 2017

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So here it is, we’re drawing to the end of another year and it is true what they say about years going faster and faster the older you get- not that seventeen is a wise old age just yet.

For me, the past two years have been the most challenging years of my life and I guess that that is how it’s supposed to go; each year gets harder especially at the moment. That might be half to do with the heightened school work and me wanting to try and cram as much as I can possibly fit into my life on top of A-levels, and the other has to do with figuring out who I really am as a person.

Last New Year’s, I looked back on 2016 and was more than glad that it was over. It was difficult and heartbreaking in many different ways, and because of them, I overlooked all of the good things that happened. I met five of my best friends and spent tons of lunchtimes falling off my chair laughing. I also had my first kiss, and I caught myself an amazing boyfriend. Therefore, the next year I decided to keep a diary and write down only the good things that happened everyday and I am very happy to confess that I have kept it up for all of the 365 days of the year.

I am not a fan of new year’s resolutions so I can’t tell you if I have kept any of them but I do know that achieving yet another year of college is not to be underestimated. So far, I have managed to keep to all of my coursework deadlines, taught an enrichment class and somehow managed to bag an unconditional offer to my first choice Uni.

I have also had the record amount of breakdowns, petty arguments with my boyfriend, tears over school work and many hours of lost sleep.

I guess that I am writing this post to prove to myself that I can do it. A nine hour shift at work lies before me tonight until midnight, but I had the same feeling on boxing day. I did it once and I can do it again and sometimes I think we need reminding that even though something seems difficult, but it won’t last, everything ends eventually.

So, I won’t go on anymore about personal reflections. I am looking forward to this next year knowing that it will be even more challenging than 2017 which was consequently more difficult that 2016. And I hope you will follow through with me because together we can tackle 2018 just as well as the past year.

Goodluck to everybody tackling any kind of exams this year and a very happy New Year!

PSL x

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#8 The Best Gingerbread Recipe

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First things first, Merry christmas all! I hope that you have all had perfect days. I write this post now with a full belly and drowning in wrapping paper.

This year, we Britons have had the fortune of seeing snow for the first time in years- this was not our average dusting of icing sugar you see; this was full on melt down, grab your sledges, cancel schools, the world is ending kind of snow!

However, now it is all gone but the holiday season is far from over and my Christmas spirit is bursting through the roof. I want to let you guys in on the best gingerbread recipe of all time, and this is not just some hoax because I am a humble soul, modest as can be and I can assure you that it is in fact, the BEST.

Despite it now almost being boxing day, I am here to tell you all about my Christmas Eve tradition. I take the kitchen as my own, blast Michael Buble over the speakers and construct something out of gingerbread. In previous years I have made houses, a church, a sleigh and last year, the polar express. This year, I decided to go for a wrapped present- bow and all.

When it came to finding my famous recipe, I turned the house inside out but could not find it anywhere and therefore, had to improvise only slightly but it still tasted just as good:

Ingredients:

200g Butter

200g Caster Sugar

6tbs Golden syrup

500g Plain flour

1tsp Baking powder

1tsp Bicarbonate of soda

1tsp Ground cinnamon

1tsp Ground allspice

1tsp Ground nutmeg

2tsp (and a smidgen more) Ground ginger

 

Method:

  1. Combine all of your dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl.
  2. In a pan on low heat, heat the golden syrup (Use a metal spoon and twist it quickly when you get a spoonful to stop any drips) and then stir in the butter and sugar until it is all melted.
  3. Add the wet mixture to the dry and stir until the mixture in smooth. If the dough will not stick together, it is a good idea to use your hands- no matter how sticky- to combine all of the mixture.
  4. Wrap the dough in cling film and chill for an hour, better still, two hours and even better if you leave it over night as I did.
  5. Cut out any templates that you may need (you should be able to find these anywhere online). I only used one small square and a long strip for the bow.
  6. Preheat the oven to 180 C/ Gas 4.
  7. Unwrap the dough and on a floured surface, knead it until it is pliable.
  8. Roll it out until it is 2mm thick and cut out your templates. Place these onto a baking tray and bake for 8-10 minutes, until it is golden-brown.
  9. Once you have baked all of your pieces, leave them to cool and harden on wire racks whilst you make your royal icing.

Ingredients for Royal icing:

3 Egg whites

550g Icing sugar

3tsp Lemon juice

Method:

  1. Whisk your egg whites until they begin the froth and then add 450g of icing sugar- Careful; it goes everywhere!
  2. Once that is mixed in, add in the rest of the icing sugar until the icing is smooth and stands in firm peaks.
  3. Ice any decorations onto your biscuits now such as windows, tiles, or icicles (I drew on a criss-cross ribbon). Then construct your piece. It might be helpful to use tins/jars to help prop the pieces up while the icing sets. Leave overnight to set firmly.

I hope that this recipe is as tasty for you as it always is for me and my family at christmas.

PSL xDSC_0170