A long-form answer can seem very daunting at first. There is blank page after blank page and you’re expected to fill them up. What’s more, your writing must be on-topic, focused and informed. When you open that answer in the first minutes of the exam, it can feel like an impossible task.

However, by just bearing a few key things in mind, you will find that you know exactly what to do and where to take your answer.

1. Have a plan

The biggest mistake many students make is not having a road-map for how their answer will proceed. It might be tempting to jump right in and get going, and that’s a perfectly natural response – you just want to get started – but take five to ten minutes to write an essay plan.

 Taking this time to plan how you will begin and plotting the time you have for each section of your answer will aid you greatly in saying what you want to say. You know you have everything you need to answer in your head, so get it down and work out where it will all go.

This will ensure your long-form answers are coherent, well-planned and hit the right marks at the right time. Without it, long-form answers will quickly deteriorate into a scattergun approach and can become incomprehensible.

2. Write to the question

Questions that require a long-form answer can lead many students astray as they get away from their main points and end up writing an answer that’s little to do with the question at hand.

At every step of your long-form answers, ask yourself, ‘Is this answering the question?’ If it is, great! If not, focus on what was asked and bring your answer back to the points that need addressing. If you need help mastering your GCSE English exams, we offer past papers and multiple resources to help you succeed.

Revision and practice is the perfect time to practice this skill. And it is a skill. Staying on point and on task is hard when you’re writing at length, so put in the time to master it. You will see the benefits when it comes exam time.

3. Cover the vital points

If you’re writing and suddenly realise time is short, don’t panic and don’t try to cram everything you know into the space you have left. This is the time to prioritise.

When it comes to the crunch and you’re running out of time, take the most important points from your answer and get them down. You will get marks for including these, but you won’t for a half-finished answer.