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Tips for writing a killer extended response

By Sam Di Sano on 18 July 2018Exam adviceStudy tipsHSCNSWblog

So, what makes a good extended response? Glad you asked. Be honest, how many times has your teacher pulled the old PEEL card trick out and you’ve just been sitting there in class thinking ‘wtf is this old guy going on about?’

Well I’ve gotta say - your teacher has a point. PEEL is the way to go if you want to write a solid extended response, with all the analysis, evidence and links that you need to get those top marks.

Let’s break it down

What is this PEEL concept all about? Pretty much it’s about breaking down your 4-6 sentence paragraphs into smaller chunks, which will help you write really concise statements that actually answer the question. To do this you need to include your Point or topic sentence, a little Evidence with an Explanation of that evidence and then finally a Link sentence.

Let’s break these down some more:

Point or Topic Sentence

This is your opening statement where in one sentence you essentially answer the question (so address that key term, i.e. 'explain', 'discuss', 'analyse') by using the words of the question and by stating your position and formulating your own argument or thesis. This can then be followed by another sentence or two giving a little more information for those people who are still a little confused and need it to be explained a bit more.

Evidence

This is where you start to bring in the proof you need to cement your position. Remember, you’re trying to argue your perspective so you have to be able to back up what you’re saying with actual evidence from the text or stimulus you’ve been given. Here you get the opportunity to bring in all those quotes or key dates you’ve spent the last 3 weeks trying to memorise. It’s also a good chance to show the marker that you’ve analysed the stimulus and have a good understanding of these.

Explanation

Your next couple of sentences now need to explain how that evidence is actually proving your point. This is your chance to really bring in those critical thinking and analysis skills that you’ve been practising. It’s also the perfect time to bring in any techniques that can also help you prove your point. Whether it’s the use of analogy in English, or the context of the source given in a History exam, these details can really bulk up your explanations and show the marker that you know what you’re talking about and are able to put together a really solid argument.

Like any good piece of writing, it’s all about structure. So, now it’s time to wrap it all up and bring it back to where you started. A little like public speaking I guess, you draw your audience back to the question and your point or topic. No, this does not mean you get to just restate your first sentence exactly. It’s all about summing up how every point you just made in that paragraph answers the question and reconfirms your point of view.

But it doesn’t stop there. Repeat these steps a couple of times per paragraph and that’s when you’ll get some really quality paragraphs starting to come together.

Why mine is better than yours

So if it is that simple, what makes one paragraph better than another? There are two things that will make your work stand out over the person next to you;

  1. The level of sophistication you put into the language you use.
  2. The level of sophistication you put into the techniques you use and facts you quote.

That’s where you can really develop an edge. Remember, you don’t want your extended responses to go over the word limit or be so long that you can't get the whole thing down in an exam, so make an effort to keep your writing really tight and succinct. You can't waste any time fluffing around with your words so choose every one of them carefully. Same with your evidence. Be well read and use a body of work to prove your point wisely. You don’t have to prove a theory is right - you need to prove your particular perspective is plausible and you do that by using sources of evidence that think the same way you do.

Cheeky tip

If it’s your first time writing out a paragraph using the PEEL method, a really good way to keep track of everything is to use different coloured pens or a different colour highlighter for each of your PEEL sentences. The more you do this, the easier it’ll become and before you know it you’ll be writing paragraphs that fit the structure without even trying.

See - it’s really not that hard to write a good extended response, but it does take heaps of practice to really sharpen and polish your work. The more you practice, the more sophisticated your writing will become. I see you band 6 👀!

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