creative writing exam structure

Mastering Creative Writing 11 Plus: Essential Strategies & Examples

Struggling with preparing your child for the 11 Plus creative writing exam? Fear not. This definitive guide offers proven strategies, vital skills insight, and inspiring examples to ensure young writers are primed for success. No fluff, just actionable advice for mastering the creative writing 11 plus exam .

Key Takeaways

  • The 11 Plus creative writing exam assesses a wide range of skills including story structure, vocabulary, grammar, and the ability to engage and evoke emotions in the reader, forming a significant part of the 11 Plus English exam.
  • Skills crucial for success in the exam include a strong vocabulary and grammar, well-planned and structured writing, the use of sensory details and literary devices , as well as crafting memorable characters and incorporating various types of writing tasks.
  • Preparation for the 11 Plus creative writing exam should involve understanding test requirements, regular practice, receiving feedback, employing time management strategies during the exam, and utilizing resources like books, worksheets, and personalized tuition.

Mastering Creative Writing 11 Plus

Understanding the 11 Plus Creative Writing Exam

The 11 Plus creative writing exam is designed to evaluate a student’s ability to produce engaging and well-structured written work.

It focuses on their narrative and language skills, assessing their:

  • Punctuation
  • Complex sentence structure

Examiners look for evidence of planning, creativity, and an extensive vocabulary as the backbone of a well-crafted story.

So, what does this mean for your child? It means that the creative writing exam is more than just a test of writing ability. It’s an assessment of how well they can craft a story, how vividly they can describe a scene or character, and how effectively they can engage a reader with their writing.

But don’t worry, in the coming sections, we’ll break down the skills your child needs to excel in the 11 Plus creative writing exam.

Importance of Creative Writing in 11 Plus

The creative writing task is indeed a substantial component of the 11 Plus English exam, accounting for 50% of the total marks. Its significance lies in its ability to assess students’ overall language skills, including their knack for evoking emotions through their writing.

The 11 Plus creative writing exam evaluates key writing skills such as:

  • Character creation
  • Use of descriptive language

Examiners look for effective planning, creativity, fluency, sound grammar, and a strong vocabulary – all attributes of great writers.

Mastering Creative Writing 11 Plus

Common Types of 11 Plus Creative Writing Tasks

The 11 Plus creative writing exam, also known as the creative writing test, can be quite diverse in its requirements, and preparing for creative writing exams encompasses various types of writing tasks, notably descriptive, persuasive, narrative, and expository.

Narrative tasks require storytelling with a clear beginning, middle, and end, while descriptive tasks focus on painting a vivid picture of a scene or character.

Persuasive writing challenges the student to convince the reader of a particular point of view, and expository writing aims to explain or inform about a topic.

Students may also be asked to continue a provided storyline or craft a piece based on a visual prompt. Each of these types of tasks calls for different writing techniques and skills, which we’ll explore later in this post.

Developing Key Skills for 11 Plus Creative Writing

Now that we understand what the 11 Plus creative writing exam entails, let’s delve into the key child’s writing skills your child needs to develop to excel in this exam. Having an extensive and engaging vocabulary along with a well-planned structure in writing is critical for success.

Moreover, students should practice creative writing regularly by exploring a wide range of topics. This helps to improve their adaptability and proficiency in different writing scenarios. But, what does this regular practice look like? And what specific skills should your child focus on?

Let’s delve deeper.

Enhancing Vocabulary and Grammar

A key area to focus on is vocabulary and grammar. Utilizing a wide array of adjectives, nouns, and adverbs can help students avoid monotonous descriptions and create more engaging narratives. Incorporating even a few complex words can significantly showcase a student’s command of advanced vocabulary.

Developing strong grammar skills, particularly in comma usage and character dialogue formatting, is crucial for enhancing the quality of creative writing.

Regular practice with grammar and punctuation is essential for students to write fluently and competently during the 11 Plus creative writing tasks.

Building Strong Story Structures

Another key skill to master in story writing is building strong story structures. A creative writing piece should be structured with a classic story arc comprising a beginning, middle, and end.

The beginning of a story should introduce the main character, and their environment, and potentially set forth a goal to generate interest. An effective middle of the story should present goals for the characters and introduce problems or conflicts they need to navigate or solve.

Essentially, when planning a story, ensure there is a clear and engaging plot with a defined beginning, a well-developed middle, and a satisfying end.

Mastering Punctuation and Spelling

Punctuation and spelling may seem like basic components of writing, but mastering them is essential for clarity and accuracy in creative writing. Precise use of punctuation, including the correct use of quotation marks, commas, and full stops, is necessary for clarity in writing.

Students should familiarize themselves with the following:

  • The correct use of capital letters
  • Punctuation to end sentences
  • Using commas correctly in long sentences
  • Formatting character dialogue properly
  • Ensuring complicated words are spelled correctly

These skills are critical to maintaining accuracy in creative writing.

Effective Creative Writing Techniques

Effective Creative Writing Techniques

In addition to mastering the basics of writing, students need to employ effective creative writing techniques.

These techniques should utilize sensory details to create vivid descriptions, allowing readers to:

  • See the story environment
  • Hear the sounds in the story
  • Smell the scents in the story
  • Feel the textures and sensations in the story
  • Taste the flavors in the story

Successful creative writing captures a reader’s attention by showcasing the writer’s creativity, imagination, and fluent writing style. Mastering these creative writing techniques is a common factor among great writers, which is also essential for excelling in 11 Plus creative writing tasks. Let’s delve into these techniques.

Engaging the Reader with Sensory Details

Engaging the reader with sensory details is a powerful tool in creative writing. Effective sensory details should consist of specific, descriptive words that appeal to the senses beyond sight, allowing readers to visualize the story.

It’s important to include these details in a way that is relevant to the plot and characters and to balance them with other elements to avoid over-describing.

Sensory details not only bring scenes to life but also provide insight into characters’ personalities and internal conflicts, contributing to a more immersive and believable world.

To write imaginatively about sensory experiences, writers should draw on their real-life observations and memories, imagining themselves in their characters’ situations.

Crafting Memorable Characters

Crafting memorable characters is another effective technique. Fictional characters with a mix of motivations and goals, such as those seen in Harry Potter, are more engaging and drive the narrative effectively.

A detailed backstory for significant characters informs their decisions, enhances credibility, and adds depth, even if not fully disclosed to the reader. Secondary characters, like sidekicks or foils, are crucial as they highlight the main character’s traits and contribute to story dynamics.

The choice of narrative perspective, whether it is the first person or third person, shapes how a character is perceived and what information about them is revealed. Introducing conflict tests characters’ resolves reveals their weaknesses, and propels the narrative while adding character depth.

Incorporating Literary Devices

Incorporating literary devices like metaphors, similes, and alliteration can enhance a student’s writing style. However, they should be prioritized for story enhancement rather than just inclusion.

The purpose of using similes and metaphors in creative writing is to enhance clarity, ensuring that they contribute to the reader’s understanding rather than confusing. Transforming a descriptive simile into a concrete and relatable comparison can distinguish a student’s work.

Mastering Creative Writing 11 Plus

Preparing for the 11 Plus Creative Writing Exam

Preparing for the 11 Plus creative writing exam involves:

  • Understanding the test format
  • Honing writing skills
  • Regular practice on various creative writing topics
  • Guidance from parents, teachers, or tuition, especially when formal school support is not sufficient.

Refresher courses before the exam can recap key concepts and exam techniques, and provide mock exams as homework to boost confidence on the exam day.

Preparation should include:

  • Focusing on the resolution of storylines and the emotions of characters to ensure a compelling ending
  • Attention to detail in grammar, punctuation, and use of tenses forms the backbone of a well-written creative piece
  • Proofreading is paramount in creative writing to prevent errors in grammar, punctuation, spelling, and tense usage

Regular Practice and Feedback

Regular practice and feedback are crucial for improving creative writing skills. Utilizing the technique of writing about daily activities or travels consistently can substantially improve the creative writing skills required for the 11 Plus exams.

Enrolling in creative writing courses or taking creative writing lessons can also be beneficial in honing these skills. In addition, following creative writing tips can further enhance one’s writing abilities.

Establishing a routine practice schedule that involves writing exercises and checking off criteria sought by examiners aids in pinpointing areas that need enhancement.

Parents can support their child’s 11 Plus exam preparation by helping their child prepare through:

  • Encouraging reading
  • Expanding vocabulary
  • Using practice papers
  • Providing targeted feedback to address weaknesses.

Mock tests serve as an indispensable tool for students to familiarize themselves with the 11 Plus exam structure and to take advantage of learning opportunities from their mistakes before facing the actual examination.

Utilizing Resources and Support

In addition to regular practice and feedback, utilizing resources like books, worksheets, and personalized tuition can enhance exam preparation for 11 Plus creative writing.

Books such as ‘11+ Essentials Creative Writing Examples’ and ‘Bond 11+: English Focus on Writing’ are specifically recommended for students preparing for the 11 Plus creative writing exam.

Apart from books, creative writing worksheets and personalized tuition can be beneficial in enhancing exam preparation . Personalized tuition offers individualized attention and can provide targeted feedback to help students improve their writing skills.

Time Management and Proofreading

Effective time management and proofreading are vital for presenting a polished and error-free final piece in the creative writing exam. Pupils typically have under an hour to draft, write, and review their work during the 11 Plus creative writing task, with the exam often lasting between 30-45 minutes.

Effective time management is critical and requires strategic planning to ensure that all parts of the writing process are completed within the limited time frame. Proofreading is a vital step in the creative writing process, allowing students to present a polished and error-free final piece.

During proofreading, students should focus on correcting grammar, punctuation, and spelling mistakes, and ensuring proper use of capital letters and quotation marks.

Real-life Examples and Success Stories

Seeing success can be an excellent motivator. Let’s take a look at some real-life examples and success stories. One student’s journey began with average marks in creative writing but grew to consistently attain top marks in the 11 Plus creative writing section due to regular practice and feedback.

Another student’s passion for reading a variety of genres played a crucial role in their creative writing development, enabling them to write compelling and diverse content.

A strong correlation was noted between frequent writing practice and a student’s subsequent improvement in creative writing scores for the 11 Plus, showcasing how creative writing tested their abilities.

Targeted and personalized feedback given to a student contributed significantly to the enhancement of their creative writing skills. Successful creative writing submissions often featured dynamic openings that captivated readers’ attention and imaginative endings that left a lasting impression.

In conclusion, the 11 Plus creative writing exam is a comprehensive test of a student’s narrative and language skills. It assesses their ability to craft engaging and well-structured stories and to use a range of writing techniques effectively.

From enhancing vocabulary and grammar to building strong story structures and incorporating literary devices, there are many skills that students need to master to excel in the exam.

With regular practice, feedback, the right resources, and effective time management, students can develop these skills and excel in the 11 Plus creative writing exam.

Frequently Asked Questions

In the 11 Plus creative writing exam, students’ narrative and language skills are assessed, including crafting engaging and well-structured stories, and the use of grammar, punctuation, vocabulary, and writing techniques.

The exam includes various types of writing tasks, such as descriptive, persuasive, narrative, and expository writing, as well as continuing a provided storyline or crafting a piece based on a visual prompt. Prepare for a diverse range of writing challenges.

To enhance their vocabulary and grammar for the exam, students should engage in regular practice, read diverse texts, and incorporate a variety of adjectives, nouns, and adverbs in their writing. This will help them improve their language skills and perform better in the exam.

Students can use books, creative writing worksheets, personalized tuition, and seek regular practice and feedback from teachers or tutors to prepare for the exam. These resources can be highly beneficial in achieving success.

Effective time management is crucial for completing all writing tasks within the exam time frame while proofreading ensures a polished and error-free final piece by correcting grammar, punctuation, and spelling errors.

Ten 11+ & 13+ Creative Writing Tips For Excellent Exam Stories

When my students get the hang of these techniques, it makes an enormous difference to their creative writing – but it takes practice.

M y advice for 11 plus stories in this article applies just as well to 8 plus, 13 plus or GCSE … in fact, although I have written with 11 plus creative writing in mind, my suggestions should be relevant at any level.

I’ve been teaching these things to young people for many years, and I hope you also find them useful. Please write a comment if you do!

The creative writing materials offered by 11 Plus Lifeline teach students to use all the techniques explained on this page.

Every writing paper has full example answers, as well as detailed step-by-step discussions, marking guidelines and story-planning advice. Papers are structured to help students develop high-level skills – and just as importantly, to enjoy themselves!

Click on the infographic to view a zoomable version in a new tab:

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1 – before you write, daydream.

If you can see your story’s world in your head, you will be able to describe it powerfully.

If you can’t, your descriptions risk being superficial and your writing uninteresting.

After a little daydream, your next step is to turn it into a simple plan:

THE STORY PLANNING PROCESS

1) the main event.

The first thing to write in your plan is the main event in your story (see point 2 , below). Keep this simple for now.

2) Your Main Character

Next, jot down a few notes about your main character (see point 3 ). What is interesting about them? Try to imagine them sitting in the place next to you. See them clearly in your mind. Who are they, really?

3) Getting There

Now note down some ideas for how you will get to the main event. Make this simple too: don’t write more than a couple of lines.

4) … And Getting Out Of There!

Finally, write a few thoughts about what will happen after the event: why does it matter, and – above all else – how does it affect your characters?

The reason I suggest this order of planning is that when you only have a short time to write, there are two important things which will hold your story together: the main event (what it is about ) and your central character (who gives us a reason to care ).

Everything else should be very simple, allowing you to focus on describing beautifully.

In fact, you can probably guess what the next of my 11 plus tips is …

2 – Keep things simple! In an 11 plus exam story, choose  one main plot event & bring it to life.

If there are too many things happening, your descriptive skills may get lost.

What’s more, once there are lots of dramatic events in a story, many students struggle to write about all of them properly.

Look at this example:

As they walked through the forest a tree fell and nearly crushed them. That was close , thought Claudia. Then they sat down to scrutinise the map.

It’s good to describe the small details of life – and especially with an interesting verb like “scrutinise”.

But if you forget to fully describe big events, such as a tree almost killing your characters, the effect is very peculiar. It implies that a near-death experience is no more interesting than reading a map!

Either give dramatic events their due importance, by describing them powerfully and giving a clear sense of your characters’ reactions, or steer clear of them altogether.

This is often a problem in exam stories with too much action, or with too many plot events in general.

It’s best to structure your story around one main event, which isn’t too extreme. Spend the rest of your time building up to it and showing its after-effects.

3 – Focus on one character

Just as it’s best to focus your writing around one main event, it makes sense to have one core character.

You probably won’t have time to make more than one person interesting and believable in a thirty minute writing exam. If you try, you’re at risk of coming unstuck.

(If you feel really confident, you might manage to develop two characters: a brother and sister, for example. But in the exam itself, ask yourself: Is it worth the risk? )

Make your main character really interesting, and only refer to others in passing.

4 – Put a little dialogue in … but don’t write a play script!

“Because writing dialogue is easier than thinking,” he said.

“That makes sense,” I said, “because otherwise I can’t explain why we’ve been chatting pointlessly for two full pages.”

Dialogue is excellent in an exam piece, and you should aim to include some in every story. However, there are risks, demonstrated by the example above!

Don’t let your story turn into a play script.

Use a little dialogue in 11+ creative writing, but focus on your descriptions of the setting, characters and events.

When you do write conversations, don’t stop describing. Avoid repeating “I said”, “she said”, “Mum answered”, and so on.

Instead, add little details which help the reader to imagine the scene as the characters talk.

Describe how people move around between saying things, the expressions on their faces, and so on:

“Because writing dialogue is easier than thinking,” he replied, a hint of a smile twitching like a worm at the edge of his mouth.

A quick note about paragraphing:

Examiners are likely to expect that a new speaker begins on a new line, if somebody else has already spoken in the paragraph.

This doesn’t happen in every book you’ll read, but it’s a convention – a normal way of doing things – which you are supposed to know about.

Look at this way of writing the example at the top, and think about where a sentence should begin a new line :

“Why are we still talking?” I said. “Because writing dialogue is easier than thinking,” he said. “That makes sense,” I said, “because otherwise I can’t explain why we’ve already been talking for two full pages.”

Now check the original again, to see whether you were right!

And now for the advertising break. Time to run away and make a cup of tea …

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It’s perfect for Key Stages 2 and 3 and for 11+ exam preparation, at home or in the classroom. It’s also ideal for anybody aged 9 or above who enjoys writing and wants to do it better.

Click on the covers to learn more and view sample pages from the books:

RSL Creative Writing: Book 1

Rsl creative writing: book 2, rsl creative writing: book 3, the rsl creative writing collection (£40.47), 5 – short stories don’t need an introduction.

Robert was 33. He lived in a small flat with his cat and his wife. One day, he decided to go for a walk to the shops. The shops weren’t very far away: it took about ten minutes to get there. It was a cloudy day. It was the middle of February and it was a bit cold but not cold enough for a scarf. The road was in need of some repairs. He was wearing a blue jumper and black shoes and some fairly old jeans.

You don’t need to introduce your story as though it is a 300 page novel!

The reader doesn’t have to know everything about the main character, and especially not at the start. This way you waste a paragraph, when you might only have time for four or five in your whole story.

Anything that really matters about your characters can be mentioned along the way. In creative writing for 11 plus exams, everything else can be left out.

Get into the main business of your story from the very first line.

6 – Show, don’t tell … Whether you’re writing an 11 plus story, or whether you’re a famous novelist!

In real life, we can’t see what is in other people’s minds.

We have to work it out from what they do – and sometimes from what they say, although this can be very misleading!

For this reason, other people’s creative writing is often most interesting when we have to work out what characters are thinking and feeling.

This makes the characters seem like real people whose thoughts we can’t immediately know.

It also helps to get us – the readers – involved in the story by making us do some thinking for ourselves!

You might initially want to write this:

Simon looked up. He was angry.

But this is much more interesting to read:

As Simon looked up I could see his jaw muscles flexing.

Have a go at re-writing the following paragraph to make it more interesting . You can change things around as much as you like.

I admit: this is the sort of thing which you will sometimes read in a book. It isn’t necessarily  always bad writing, in itself.

However, it is a missed opportunity to bring a character to life. In a time-limited 11-plus exam story, you need to take advantage of such moments.

The rule is:

Where possible,  show me  what a character is feeling … don’t  tell me .

Have a look at my way of re-writing the paragraph above:

All Anna’s thoughts have gone.

Instead, there are some strong clues which steer you towards a particular idea about what she thinks and how she feels: but you still have to decide for yourself.

This forces you to imagine Anna clearly in your own mind.

How does my answer compare to your approach?

7 – Use a range of senses throughout your story

This is good writing. The trees may be “green” (which is a bit dull), but they are “swaying”, which is an effective detail and more than makes up for it.

The simile in the second sentence (“like wisps of cigar smoke”) is vivid and well planned.

The sandwich bag is “crumpled”, and “bag of bacon” is a nice moment of alliteration to emphasise this robust, commonplace item of food.

But imagine a story which continues in the same way, all the way through.

Everything is visual: a sight image.

For the reader, it is like being in a world without the ability to hear, smell, touch or taste.

Furthermore, the narrator seems to be looking around constantly, noticing everything. Is this normal behaviour?

It’s an unrealistic way of seeing the world, and after a while it becomes exhausting to read.

For a student, there are two simple but very useful lessons:

1) Always think about the five senses (sight, hearing, touch, taste, smell).

2) Sometimes avoid the most obvious sense when describing a thing (see point 8 below).

These tips are easy to apply in your creative writing for 11+, but they make a huge difference.

What’s more, unlike a clumsy simile (see point 9 ), a sensory description rarely ends up  harming  your writing. It can be effective or ineffective, but that’s another matter!

Take the example above:

“The trees were green and swaying”  could become:  “The trunks were groaning, and overhead I heard the dull rustle of a thousand fresh leaves slapping against one another.”

There’s nothing startlingly original here, but because it is a slightly less obvious way of describing trees, it creates a much more powerful atmosphere.

If you want a metaphor as well, try turning  “dull rustle”  into  “distant applause” , which makes the leaves seem like a mass of enthusiastic people.

Similarly,  “I looked at the bag of bacon sandwiches crumpled on the seat next to me”  takes on more life like this:

I smelt something like old sick; then I remembered the bag of bacon sandwiches crumpled on the seat next to me.

Notice how easily similes (“like old sick”) and metaphors happen, almost by themselves, when you focus on describing with a range of senses .

This is one of my most important 11 plus writing tips.

8 – Sometimes describe things using a less obvious sense

Using a range of senses, as I discussed in point 7 , is really, really important.

But how can you come up with surprising, powerful descriptions – descriptions to make the marker stop ticking your work for a second, raise their eyebrows and smile?

Imagine that you are just about to write the following sentence:

It was a cold morning.

But you stop yourself, think for a second, and write this:

I could hear the crackle of thawing ice on car windscreens.

This is much more interesting. Rather than using the sense of touch (a “cold” feeling), you are using a sound: “the crackle of thawing ice”.

There’s a good chance that the reader will think:  “Yes! I never considered it before, but you really do hear a sound when ice thaws quickly.”

This version also tells you much more about the weather:

The reader can work out that the night has been exceptionally cold, but also that the temperature is now rising quickly.

The thought process to produce descriptions like this is much simpler than it seems:

1) Think of the sense which is most obvious to describe the thing you are writing about.

3) Think of the second most obvious sense.

4) Ban that too!

5) From the three remaining senses, pick the one which is most useful.

6) Ask yourself how the thing would sound, feel, smell or taste – whichever three of these you have left (you’ve almost certainly banned sight!).

7) Write about it.

9 – Use similes and metaphors carefully in your creative writing

Similes and metaphors are useful (and can be impressive), but they have to make things clearer for the reader, not create confusion.

“She won the sprint like a racing car” asks more questions than it answers.

Was she noisy? Was she travelling at 150 miles per hour?

On the other hand, “She ducked her head and slipped across the line as cleanly as a racing car” helps me to picture the event exactly as intended.

Here’s another simile for speed, which I’ve seen a great many times (you’d hardly believe how many) in 11-plus stories:

Donald wrote like a cheetah.

Does this mean that Donald wrote savagely and meaninglessly, like a wild animal with a pencil jammed between its claws ?

Or perhaps that he wrote largely about the themes of hunting and sleeping ?

My guess is that Donald wrote quickly , but I’m not sure … because if that’s all you meant, WHY DIDN’T YOU JUST SAY IT?

This sort of thing is not really the fault of a young writer, who after all is (hopefully!) doing their best.

It is the fault of those dastardly teachers who advise children to include, for example, “at least one metaphor and two similes” in each story.

The result of this, for most children, is a succession of poorly chosen descriptive tricks, which add nothing.

Indeed, we’ve seen how these things can end up making a story comical for all the wrong reasons!

The right approach to creative writing doesn’t start with the need to include a simile: it starts with the need to describe effectively .

To me, this means allowing the reader to imagine the situation fully, and helping them care what happens.

Let’s play around with the image of Donald writing “like a cheetah”.

What happens if we just get rid of the simile?

Donald wrote quickly.

OK, but it doesn’t tell us much: did he write quickly because he wanted to finish his story before  Newsnight , or because he was really excited by his work?

Let’s say that it was the first reason: he wanted to get his work out of the way. Perhaps he was feeling annoyed, given that it might interrupt his favourite TV show.

When somebody is writing rapidly while annoyed, what might this look like?

I imagine Donald’s arm wiggling as the pen moves — especially the elbow. The movement is fast and constant because he is worried about getting the work finished, and because in his irritation he doesn’t much care about its quality.

So I ask myself: What moves to and fro constantly, performing a task in an unimaginative way?

And the first thing I think of is a machine in a factory:

Donald hunched over the page, his arm jerking to and fro with the quick, regular movements of a factory robot.

This sentence by itself would go some way to making your story the best in the exam room.

I hope I’ve persuaded you that with a well-organised thought process, a good simile isn’t too difficult to write!

Because children have been taught to work in this way, a story will often contain the required two similes, a metaphor, a personification, even an interesting alliteration …

… but everything in between is lifeless.

What students need is a different sort of checklist, to help them make the rest of their writing interesting .

I hope this article will give you some ideas!

10 – Stephanie was writing a beautiful story in the 11-plus exam hall. Or was she …?

Suspense is good if it’s appropriate to the story, but don’t jack-knife it in clumsily!

“It was a calm, sunny day. Or was it?” doesn’t really make me curious.

It makes me think that you’re trying to pester me into being excited, rather than persuading me to feel that way through your excellent writing.

If you write in a way that builds suspense by making me interested in the characters and events in the story – while keeping some important information hidden from me, just out of sight – this will speak for itself.

However, not every piece of creative writing needs it!

If you found these story writing tips useful or if you have a question, please leave a comment below! I’d love to have your feedback. (Tick the “Receive email updates” box to receive an email when I reply.)

For the most comprehensive range of resources to help with preparation for the 11+ exam,  you might like to try 11 Plus Lifeline (with a money-back guarantee in the first month). Every practice paper has full example solutions, with a detailed discussion and explanation for every question – like being taught by an excellent private tutor. There’s lots of material to help develop creative, high-scoring exam stories!

According to Tutorful, it’s “ the gold standard for independent and grammar school 11-plus preparation ”.

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89 Comments

If you have any questions, feel free to ask me here. I’ll do my best to help you out!

Hi, I’m preparing my son for 11+. His story ideas are good but he needs to add more details/depth. How can I encourage that? Thanks

That’s a very difficult question to answer, because there is so much that I could say! Many of my suggestions are in the article above. The sample at http://digioh.com/em/27284/164929/84za5s4g4u may offer more ideas. If this is useful, then 11 Plus Lifeline offers many further resources.

What’s the syllabus of creative writing for 11plus. I understand there is no definitive one, it varies with target school as well, but still I’d like to know the min types of writing children should be knowing end of year 6 e.g. story writing, descriptive writing, poetry writing, persuasive writing, diary, reconnect, fiction, non fiction writing, script writing, book/film review, blog writing etc. Really confused with the list of categories and subcategories under each. I just need a good structure with every details. Please help with a detailed table of contents.

Hi Jay. I’m afraid I don’t have such a list – because there isn’t one. Schools can set anything that they like! However, I think getting children used to responding to a range of formats is more important than covering everything. The most common formats are probably: 1) A story based on a title or topic 2) A continuation of a passage (usually the passage already used as a comprehension text) 3) A story based on a picture

You provide excellent tips that we can use to guide our children. Done in a very simple but effective way. Even more – as times are hard and money is tight your generosity shows you truly do wish to help children and not just make money out of them. Thank you

Thank you Alison. I’m glad you found the article useful. Robert

Thank you ever so much for your very useful tips. Would you have some advice (or a sample essay) on writing a descriptive essay based on a given image?

Hi Aparna, There is some relevant content in 11 Plus Lifeline. For more along these lines, keep an eye on the website in the autumn …

Hi Robert, I found the article above very helpful. My daughter is in year 5 and we have just started our 11 plus journey. She seems to be struggling air with creative writing. She has such great ideas and an amazing imaginative mind, however she struggles to express this on paper as compared to her peers also studying for the 11 plus. How can I help her become a better writer?

Speaking as she writes might help: perhaps she will write more fluently if she just thinks of it as a way to record her verbal ideas.

My RSL Creative Writing books might help her to develop her ideas.

What is a good range for the word count for a “continue the story” creative writing task at 10+? I see suggestions of 4-5 paragraphs, but paragraphs vary hugely in length. My son is only writing around 150 words, and I fear this is taking “quality not quantity” to the extreme!

It really depends! Sometimes you’ll be given an 8-10 line answer space, in which case that would be appropriate. On the other hand, if you have 30-40 minutes, you should be pitching for 1 to 1.5 pages. Robert

Thank you so much! Very informative

I’m glad to help!

how much your fees for creative writing, and how many lesson? please let me know [email protected]

Hello Hemang. I’m afraid I don’t work as a tutor these days. However, you might be interested in my creative writing books at https://www.rsleducational.co.uk/rsl-creative-writing . These will take your child through their skills step by step, much as I would if I was teaching them. Good luck! Robert

Hi Sir! Sir, you suggestions are greatly useful. Sir, can you assist me on how to incorporate Strong Verbs in my writings as I do not know many and I struggle on account of it ?

There’s no easy answer, but the best starting point is to look for specific ways of describing things. For instance, instead of “he talked”, you might say “he muttered”, for example. You’ll learn more verbs if you look out for them as you read things, and perhaps note interesting ones down in a book. Good luck!

Dear Robert Hope you are doing well , my son is in year 5 and he is going to set for 11 plus exam for very highly competitive grammar schools , he need help for is creative writing . I advice that you are the best , I’m seeking help from you ,please . Yours sincerely Saha Mcewan

Hello. Have a look at 11 Plus Lifeline , perhaps, and my RSL Creative Writing books. I do intend to release some new things for creative writing in the future: watch this space!

Hi Robert. These are great tips. My question is how to come with effective descriptions that vary. When I do descriptive writing, I describe with only the five senses and often run out of ideas. Also, how can we write in a way that will make a clear image in the readers mind. Thanks for the time

Hi Yatharth! My video at https://youtu.be/LKnvrad6jpw is all about this, so why not have a look at that? If that’s useful, look at https://www.rsleducational.co.uk/product/rsl-creative-writing-1

I completely agree with your article, and as a teacher who prepares children for GCSE and the 11 tests, I employ a lot of the ‘strategies’ you mention. What children need ultimately is time to read, digest and above all enjoy stories and poems and then to talk about what they’ve read and in some ( or maybe a lot of cases) relate the themes and ideas etc in what they have read to their own lives. This I feel, can give a greater sense of ‘reality’ to what they can eventually write; and then we as teachers (and parents) can model how to write ‘good’ creative stories (and include all the SPAG) which can go a long way to ensuring children actually begin to feel that they themselves can be imaginative and write great stories.

Thank you for taking the time to comment, Molly. I very much agree with you.

What children need ultimately is time to read, digest and above all enjoy stories and poems and then to talk about what they’ve read and in some ( or maybe a lot of cases) relate the themes and ideas etc in what they have read to their own lives.

The only thing I’d add to this is that it works both ways: reading informs writing, but the very best way to develop critical reading skills is to become more sophisticated as a writer!

Hi Robert,l am a Creative Writing teacher for 8+ Do you think 6+ can be taught Creative Writing that will yield excellent result? I asked this question from my experience of teaching Creative Writing,I observe that more 6+ struggle with understanding and implementing Creative Writing stages than 8+ Also,I teach Creative Writing easily because I believe I have the skills to teach it but how can I come up with a special syllabus to teach my colleagues how to teach Creative Writing in the class that will be result oriented.

Hello Soremi.

I would not think too much about results, if by that you mean percentage scores, when children are 6 or so and developing their writing. I would focus on their enjoyment and on encouraging them to explore their imagination, creating interestingly described characters and environments. It’s a different situation in 11+ exams, where children must demonstrate certain skills and perform well in comparison with their peers.

However, it is very important to encourage the development of accurate and clear English from an early stage. Creative writing is a good opportunity to uncover and address problems.

I found this very useful and straightforward, and also very funny… The tips will take me flying in my writing!

Thanks Lily-Grace. The work you sent for me to look at this week was very impressive: you’re already flying!

Thanks Robert this description is very helpful

I’m very glad it’s useful. Thanks for commenting!

Hola me gustaria hacer unas infografias mas dinamicas

Thank you for the topic

It’s a pleasure. I hope the advice helps.

I thought that this was a brilliant summary. Thank you very much. Engaging and thoughtful. Very much appreciated.

I’m delighted to hear it. Thank you!

I found your creative writing tips very insightful, a real shame for us it was right at the end of our 11+/13+ preparation.

Thank you Sara. I hope they made some difference, even at a late stage.

Very useful tips! I like the way you have broken down the advice into bite-sized chunks! Thanks Robert

I’m glad you found them helpful! Thanks for commenting.

Great tips, thanks Robert. Do you have tips on non fictional writing as well? E.g. how a child can do a stellar job when asked to write a suggestion letter to the council. My child struggles with writing on everyday things that she deems uninteresting like describing everday things but is flying when writing on imaginary topics. Thanks in advance.

Hi Tolu. I have some resources for less creative subject matter in 11 Plus Lifeline .

I think the best way to add interest to potentially unexciting things, like letters, is with examples. “I think you should do more to reduce bullying, because it discourages children from studying” is not interesting. “Last week, a boy trudged towards me across the playground, clenching and unclenching his fists, with the dead-eyed look of meaningless aggression that I’ve come to know so well. This is happening too often in our school!” is much more impressive.

Thanks for these tips . Would you suggest any topics for DS to practice .

There are a great many writing topics with fully explained example answers in 11 Plus Lifeline . I might add a blog post with some suggested topics in the coming months. Robert

These SPECTACULAR tips helped me a lot when I was planning and writing a story. I think that these AMAZING tips will help me a lot when I am doing the exam. THANKS Robert!!!!

Thanks Raon! I hope you’ll share the link. Good luck in your exam. Robert

Thanks for the tips to improve the writing skill for the content writers and the students.

Thank you Nihal – I’m glad my advice is useful.

What can I Say?

My son is about to take the 11 + and part of the material is creative writing,

Can you recommend any good material please?

The key is reading and I don’t think he reads as much as he should do

Please advise

Hi Fazal. I would of course recommend my own creative writing material in 11 Plus Lifeline . There’s a free sample here .

Reading is certainly important, but it won’t do any magic without good writing practice alongside it.

If your son isn’t keen on reading, trying to push him to read more may not work. However, you can help to improve the quality of the reading he does do, by discussing it whenever possible in a way that encourages him to think about it in more depth. You can also introduce new vocabulary into your conversations, and so on.

Also, the reading list here may help him to find books that he does want to read!

Hi, my son 11, is really struggling with creative writing, the main problem being he can’t think of anything to write about. he’s a clever boy but more into science and computers. He thinks he can’t do it and I’m worried he’s going to freeze in the exam. how can i get him to access his imagination and not panic. Thanks

Practice is certainly the main thing. If he can start to “access his imagination” (a nice phrase) without exam pressure, he is more likely to be able to do so in the test.

When you say that he can’t think of anything to write about, you’re describing a problem that I can relate to. However, it should not be a big concern at 11+, for the simple reason that the best stories tend to be about very little! If he can construct a simple plot, focused on one event – even something very ordinary and apparently dull – then he has what he needs. From that point, all his effort should be focused on describing well, so that the story creates atmosphere and has a believable main character.

The real problem at 11+ is when children have too many creative ideas. They construct complex, overwhelming plots, about which it is impossible to write well – or even plausibly – in the time available.

Hi Robert Have you got any tips for the CSSE style quick 10 mins Continuous Writing tasks please. These have included instructions, descriptions and this year the exam paper included a picture to write about- what’s happening- story /description?

Many thanks for your help.

This is very difficult to answer in a brief comment. I do have some specially designed resources for these CSSE writing tasks in 11 Plus Lifeline , if that is of interest.

If writing creatively, keep the plot to an absolute minimum. Imagine that you are describing a ten second scene from a movie – not writing the plot for a whole film. Focus on effective use of the senses, in particular – very much as I outline in this article. Don’t waste any space introducing your writing.

If describing a picture, the same applies. Focus on details from it, and try to find a logical structure. For example, a character might move around the image, finding things; or you might imagine the scene changing over a period of time.

For instructions, try to visualise the activity as precisely as you can, then use words to convey your thoughts exactly. This will lead to good vocabulary. Rather than saying “Screw the lightbulb into the socket”, say something like this: “Steadying the socket with your spare hand, twist the bulb gently in a clockwise direction until you encounter resistance.” This doesn’t come from trying to be fancy: it comes from very clearly imagining the action before I write.

There is a great deal more to be said, but I hope these pointers are useful.

Great tips and advice here. I have 4 boys, all at different levels of education. This has helped me to help them. Thanks!

That makes me very happy. Good luck to your sons!

Anybody who found this useful might like to read more of my creative advice at https://www.rsleducational.co.uk/creative-writing-less-is-more .

This article is very helpful. Thank you.

Thanks for taking the time to say so!

I found this very helpful, thank you

Hello Good Afternoon and thank you very much for my help. I am a young child preparing the eleven plus. I don’t necessarily have any questions i just don’t have any questions. Good luck on your educative journey.

Good luck to you, Lukas! Well done for taking the initiative and researching your exams.

I am a 8 years old child and I am doing your 11+ RSL comprehension, do you have any tips that might help me improve my writing? Thank you for your help!

Hi Kate! I’d like to help, but I’m not sure how to. You’ve written this under an article about improving your writing, and you’re working on a book that also helps with this. I don’t know what tips to add here. If you could be more specific, perhaps I’ll be able to say something. Good luck with your work! Robert

Hi Robert! I really like your tips and they did improve my daughter’s writing! Thank you so much!

I’m so glad! Well done to her.

Hi Richard, Does cursive or printed handwriting affect the writing score a 11+ level? Thanks in advance.

No, it shouldn’t make any difference. All that matters is that the writing should be easy to read, and that the student can write reasonably quickly.

Hi there, I am doing 13+, My tutor says that I should not use metaphors or similes, but I think I should. Do you have any advice for me on descriptive writing? And can you explain what a metaphor is?

I think you are probably misinterpreting your tutor. A good simile or metaphor, in the right place, is a good thing, but I would guess that your tutor is concerned that you are over-using these things and that this is distracting you from simply writing well. An alternative is that you haven’t quite understood how to use them effectively. A misjudged simile can look odd: using no simile (or metaphor) is better than using a bad one!

For a good explanation of what a metaphor is, see https://www.grammarly.com/blog/metaphor/ .

Hi, I’m currently helping a student prepare for entrance exams, and I just wondered if you could help me with a question. He was struggling with the timed element of creative writing and wanted to know if he DID run out of time, what would a marker prefer? To just leave the piece unfinished, or to quickly make an ending for the story, even if it meant it was quite an abrupt ending that didn’t necessarily do the story justice?

I think it depends on the marker. I’d prefer an unfinished piece to one with something actively bad in it, like a bad ending. However, can they leave an unfinished ending that nonetheless has something final about it: for instance, zoom out and describe the trees swaying in the distance, or the waves, so that there’s a sense of the world rolling on, despite the events in the story? If this is done well, it might even appear that they intended to finish this way.

great work, keep it up.

Amazing website! The content is wonderful. Highly informative indeed.

That’s brilliant to hear. Thank you!

Do you have to pay to get your work marked?

Yes, that’s right. Most people do it via an 11 Plus Lifeline Platinum subscription .

My daughter is not good at creative writing and I am apprehensive as she writes her pre-tests on 11th November . How do I help her with the following formats?

1) A story based on a title or topic 2) A continuation of a passage (usually the passage already used as a comprehension text) 3) A story based on a picture

Hello! I cover all these things in my RSL Creative Writing books – see https://www.rsleducational.co.uk/rsl-creative-writing You will also find creative writing videos covering these things at https://go.easy11plus.org/VIDEOLIST Good luck! Robert

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creative writing exam structure

11 Plus creative writing tips and examples

creative writing exam structure

Preparing for your  11 Plus creative writing  exam doesn’t have to be a worry. We help you here with 11 Plus creative writing tips and examples to prepare you for the exam. We're here to help you practice and improve your writing techniques and creative writing skills so you’re ready for your 11 Plus exams . 

Creative writing can be really fun – you can explore something you really want to and write about something that means a lot to you. Although, we know it can be a little bit worrying for some students that don’t enjoy writing as much or don’t feel confident in their writing skills. 

So, ahead of your  11 Plus exams  we want to help you prepare with these 11 Plus creative writing tips and strategies.

What Is 11 Plus Creative Writing?

The 11 Plus creative writing exam assesses a child’s ability to compose structured and engaging pieces of written work. It’s designed to evaluate a student’s fluency, imaginative capabilities, grammar, punctuation and overall ability to write creatively.

What does the 11 Plus creative writing exam include?

The 11 Plus creative writing exam is usually 25-30 minutes and could involve the continuation of a storyline that you’ll be provided with. Alternatively you might be asked to write a short piece of your own in response to a visual stimulus – this could be describing a character or writing something from their perspective, like a diary entry. 

Here are some the potential writing tasks you could be given for your 11 Plus creative writing exam: 

Descriptive task – continuing on a short story that you’ll be provided with, or describing a place or situation that your character finds themselves in. 

Persuasive task – you could be asked to write a letter or an article with the goal to persuade the reader to feel or act in a certain way after reading it by using emotive language. 

Narrative task – this would usually involve writing your own short story. 

Expository task – this could involve writing an article or set of instructions designed to inform the reader how to go about doing something properly. 

What are the 11 Plus creative writing topics?

Prior to starting your creative writing piece, you’ll need to have a topic. It’s important that the topic remains at the centre of everything you’re writing, as it will shape the direction of the story and the characters

You can think of a topic as a theme for your story. This can be really simple, as a simple theme will really help write a story in your own way. 

For your 11 plus creative writing exam, you’ll likely be presented with a topic that you then have to write about. Often these topics will have you writing about: 

Being lost or scared, capturing the feeling of being alone and writing a story about overcoming it.

Doing something exciting or achieving something impressive, the best day of your life so far. 

A holiday or an adventure

Travelling to the city or countryside and what you might experience there.

Writing a short story on each of the topics above can be a great way to familiarise yourself with creative writing.

What do examiners look for in creative writing?

Successfully passing your creative writing 11 Plus creative writing exam is a lot less daunting if you know what the examiners are looking for in your creative writing. 

Unlike other exams, it can be difficult to prepare the exact answers. It’s not like a sum in maths, where there’s only one correct answer after your working out. That doesn’t mean there aren’t specific things that examiners are looking for. Let’s take a look at those:

A well planned piece of writing

Strong creativity and good imagination

A fluent writing style

Good and correct use of punctuation 

Good use of English grammar

Complex sentences that are broken in an easy-to-read way with commas

Good spelling

Good and exciting vocabulary

Neat, easy-to-read handwriting

You can use those things as a checklist for your creative writing. When you write practice pieces, read them back and see if you can check off everything on the list of things that examiners are looking for. This will not only highlight areas needing improvement but will also act as a confidence-building tool.

11 Plus creative writing marking scheme

Your creative writing task will be worth 50% of your  English 11 plus exam  paper. So, you’ll want to make sure you’re well prepared!

Part of preparing for the creative writing task is ensuring you know how the exam will be marked. Here’s what your examiner will look at when they mark your work: 

The plot – you need to write a piece that’s got an engaging plot, but more importantly it needs to follow a strong beginning, middle and end structure. We’ll be getting more detail about that further on. Make sure you plan your story to ensure you have a well-structured and easy-to-follow plot. 

Vocabulary – Make sure you’re using a wide range of adjectives, nouns and adverbs. Rather than describing everything the same way, come up with some other engaging ways to write something. Use a good amount of complex words that you normally wouldn’t use (and make sure you understand what they mean so you use them correctly). 

Writing devices – no, your examiner isn’t looking at what pen you used to write the exam. Writing devices refer to things like metaphors, similes, tension building short sentences, alliteration and irony. Try sentences like “he was as fast as a runaway train,” for a simile example. See if you can write a few sentences that each use a different writing device to practice.

Grammar – now is a good time to start practising your grammar skills. Make sure you’re using commas correctly when you write long sentences, and that you format your character dialogue properly. There are a few common grammar mistakes that may catch you out, so keep practising. 

Spelling – While avoiding spelling mistakes is good, to get great marks on your exams you’ll want to use complicated words and spell them correctly. It might be tempting to avoid complicated words if you’re not sure how to spell them but it’s actually not a bad idea to use one or two complicated words and spell them so they’re recognisable than to use no complicated words at all.

11 Plus creative writing tips and techniques

Every great writer has one thing in common – writing techniques! Everyone can develop their creative writing skills by practising these creative writing tasks.

Getting creative 

If you want to write a story this should be your starting point! Have a good think about the topic for your story and the character you’ll be writing about. Take a minute to sit back, close your eyes and think about the world of your story. Can you see it? 

If you can visualise the world of your story, then you’ve got a good idea to work with! Get creative about the story and think about directions that it can go, and the characters you can work with. 

Planning and structure

Once you’ve got your theme in place you need to have a think about the direction of your story. Think about how your story starts, how you want it to end and then think about how you want your main character to get there. 

Remember the classic story structure of beginning, middle and end:

Use the beginning of your story to introduce your character, where they are and maybe one of two of their friends. Maybe even try to set them a goal at this point, what’s something they really, really want? 

Introduce the middle of your story with a problem or an obstacle for your main character to overcome. This is going to be the longest section of your story, so make sure you don’t spend too long with the opening! Think about how your character would overcome the problem you’ve introduced for them. 

In the end your main character overcomes the problem that you introduced for them. Think about what they would feel, the relief they’d experience and how you can sum that up in a paragraph or two. 

There are lots of different ways to write a story, but following the beginning, middle and end structure like this will really help you plan. Try to just write a few short sentences from the beginning, middle and end, then expand it out from there. 

If you need more inspiration to improve your writing skills, why not see David Walliam’s top ten writing tips ?

Creative writing examples: using the senses

Remember – writing descriptively helps your ideas to really come across in what you’re writing. The person reading your creative writing piece can’t read your mind!

A great way to really set a scene in your creative writing is to use the senses:

Sight – what can your character see? Describe how the scene around them looks, and be sure to use some good adjectives.

Sound – can your character hear anything? Even if your character can’t hear anything, that can sometimes be a great way to set a scene. Or maybe your character can hear lots of noise? Either way, make sure the reader knows that.

Smell – what does the place your character’s in smell like? You can make a disgusting, murky bog seem even filthier by describing how smelly it is to the reader. We all react strongly to smells, good or bad, so make sure you’re describing them to your reader.

Touch – what can your character feel? Are they sitting on a really soft sofa? Is the cat they’re stroking extra fluffy? Describe everything your character feels!

Taste – is your character tasting anything? Of course, if your character’s eating you need to describe it. How sweet are the sweets they’re eating? How bitter is the medicine they had to take? You could even get creative and describe a smell so bad that your character can almost taste it!

Get creative when you write about senses. You don’t have to cover every sense in order, you can mix things up in a paragraph or two, and sometimes you only need to cover two or three senses in a particular scene. Make sure you’re always telling your audience what your character is experiencing so the reader can put themselves in your character’s shoes. Utilising this technique ensures the reader engages with your creative writing piece.

Fluent writing

Practice makes perfect when it comes to fluent writing. To practice fluent writing, set yourself a creative writing task as if you were taking your 11 Plus creative writing test.

Try keeping the stories short. Just a few paragraphs so you can do a few attempts. When you’re finished, read them back to yourself out loud. See if the sentences are easy to read out loud. If they’re not, it might be good to rewrite them in a way that makes them easier to say. Try doing this out loud too, rephrase the sentence so it means the same thing but is easier to say. 

Reading out loud is not something you will be doing at the exam, so practicing your fluency at home is the key. Never be scared to do a few practice stories before your 11 Plus creative writing exam.

Proofreading Your Creative Writing

Finally, once you’ve finished writing and you’re happy with how fluent your piece sounds you’ve got to proofread it! That means checking your grammar, your punctuation and spelling. 

Make sure you’ve only used capital letters where they need to be used – the start of sentences and the names of people and places. 

Make sure you’ve used quotation marks correctly – start a new paragraph for when a character starts speaking, open with a quotation mark and then write what they said before closing with a quotation mark. Make sure you carry on writing after they’ve finished speaking with a new paragraph!

Have you checked the tenses? Make sure you’re not mixing up  past, present and future tenses !

Have you used enough punctuation? Make sure all your sentences end with full stops, but also that questions end with a question mark. Space out long sentences with a well-placed comma and make sure if a character says something loudly or is surprised that you’re using exclamation marks. 

Check your spelling! Are there any words you struggle with? Go back and check them to make sure they look right. If you’re really struggling to spell a word, maybe use a different one for your creative writing piece – lots of writers do this! If you do this a lot, then it might be worth doing some spelling practice. 

How do I prepare for creative writing? 

When it comes to 11 Plus creative writing exams it’s difficult to find something specific to revise – unlike exams in maths or English spelling, creative writing exams don’t have a right or wrong answer. So, don’t get overwhelmed by reading countless creative writing books.

The best way to prepare for a creative writing test is to practice all the key points we mentioned above. Set yourself some small creative writing tasks, practice your spelling and get some help fromyour teachers. You could also ask your parents or guardians about tuition to help you prepare for your creative writing .

We also have some creative writing book suggestions and worksheets that could help you prepare. 

11 Plus creative writing examples books

If you’re looking for some books to help you prepare for your 11 Plus creative writing exam or want to find some creative writing examples, here are some of our favourites:

11+ Essentials Creative Writing Examples Book 1 (First Past the Post)

11+ Essentials Creative Writing Examples Book 2 (First Past the Post)

Bond 11+: English Focus on Writing: 9-11 years

RSL Creative Writing, Book 1: KS2, KS3, 11 Plus & 13 Plus – Workbook For Ages 9 Upwards

11+ Creative Writing

Remember to always ask a parent or guardian before buying anything online.

11 Plus creative writing tasks and worksheets

Here are some of our own worksheets that’ll help you prepare and improve your creative writing skills: 

Creating characters

Creating dilemmas

Creating settings

My favourite author

Try an 11 plus creative writing tutor

If you’re worried about your 11 plus creative writing exam, that’s okay. There are numerous ways you can prepare without getting yourself overwhelmed. We’ve already covered how practice makes perfect when it comes to writing, so creative writing courses could be a great way for you to improve your confidence.

11 Plus tuition  will also help with your creative writing. Explore Learning’s expert tutors can help you work on your story planning and structure, grammar, writing fluency and vocabulary. 

Don’t let yourself get overwhelmed about your 11 Plus creative writing task, we’re here to help you do your best.  

Tuition from £175 / month

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11 Plus creative writing FAQs

How to prepare for 11 plus creative writing.

Prepare by understanding the 11 Plus creative writing requirements. Engage in regular practice on various topics like adventures, challenges and feelings. Focus on grammar, punctuation, fluency, spelling and vocabulary. Always proofread and consider getting feedback.

Is there creative writing in the 11 Plus exam?

The 11 Plus exam may include a creative writing component, often lasting 25-30 minutes, where a student demonstrates their narrative and language skills.

What are the different types of creative writing 11+?

The 11 Plus creative writing includes descriptive, persuasive and narrative tasks. Studentsmay be asked to craft or add to stories, describe scenarios, write persuasive letters or informative pieces.

How do I study for a creative writing exam?

Study by practising various creative writing tasks regularly. Focus on language proficiency, structure your narratives and proofread. For tailoredsupport, consider 11 Plus tuition .

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creative writing exam structure

A Guide to 11 Plus Creative Writing Preparation

Updated: December 1, 2023 Author: Creative Hare

Introduction:

As children gear up for their challenging 11 Plus English exams, creative writing often stands as a significant hurdle. Mastering this section requires not just a solid grasp of ambitious vocabulary and literary techniques but also the ability to think outside the box and express ideas in a compelling manner. This takes confidence and experimentation. In this blog, we’ll delve into effective strategies to prepare for the 11+ creative writing exam and unlock the doors to imaginative excellence, happiness and success! 

Understand the Exam Format:

  • Before diving into preparation, it’s crucial to familiarise yourself with the exam format. There is no singular 11-plus exam format so it is best to check with the admissions team at your target schools what specific format they use. 
  • Understand the time constraints, the types of prompts, and the criteria by which your writing will be assessed. You generally don’t find mark schemes readily available on school websites. Although 11+ creative writing criteria is devised by the individual schools, aside from spelling and grammar, the skills and techniques commonly assessed include:

Where your child can win marks:

  • Use of ambitious vocabulary
  • Literary devices (personification, simile, metaphor, repetition, emotive language)
  • Imaginative and descriptive writing
  • Overall narrative flow and coherency
  • Ensure your child practises reading creative writing questions carefully so their written piece  addresses the exact question, rather than an interpretation. Click here for a creative writing mark scheme example which can be found on the Latymer School website. 

Read Widely and Often:

  • A well-read mind is a fertile ground for creativity. Encourage your child to explore a variety of genres, from fiction to non-fiction, poetry to prose.
  • Exposure to diverse writing styles enhances vocabulary and fosters creative thinking.
  • Use the Christmas holiday to visit your favourite book shop and encourage your child to browse freely - notice the types of books they are drawn to….light, frothy and funny books or perhaps fantasy books?

Build a Strong Vocabulary:

  • 11 Plus creative writing flourishes on a rich tapestry of words.
  • Make vocabulary building a daily habit.
  • Introduce new words, explore their meanings, and encourage their use in everyday conversation.
  • Children who take charge of their learning by recording words that they come across are empowered learners.

"The beautiful thing about learning is that no one can take it away from you."

Practice, Practice, Practice:

  • Creative writing is a skill honed through practice. Set aside dedicated time for writing exercises regularly. Provide prompts that challenge your child’s imagination, encouraging them to create stories with a distinct beginning, middle, and end. Check out 6 Creative Writing Tips for Children for the best websites for free, fun writing prompts.

Develop a Writing Routine:

  • Establishing a writing routine creates a sense of discipline and familiarity. Consistent practice helps build confidence and improves the ability to think creatively under pressure.

Explore Different Genres and Styles:

  • The 11 Plus English exam might present prompts from various genres. Prepare your child by exposing them to different styles of writing—mystery, adventure, fantasy, and more. This versatility will prove invaluable during the exam. My new Bright to Brilliant 12-week Creative Writing programme equips children with the full-range of 11-Plus creative writing question types. 

Encourage Thoughtful Planning:

  • Before jumping into writing, teach your child the importance of thinking ahead. Whether that’s sitting quietly with their ideas or jotting down their ideas in a quick planning format, this will help ensure their writing stays on track! 

Seek Constructive Feedback:

  • Share your child’s writing with teachers, peers, or family members. Constructive feedback is an invaluable tool for improvement. Encourage your child to identify their strengths and areas to further improve to refine their creative writing skills. This is isn’t easy, it takes practice. However, empowering your child to self-evaluate their writing in a positive light is a key characteristic of awesome, confident writers. 

Learn from Examples:

  • Analyse various pieces of creative writing. Identify what makes them compelling—the use of descriptive language, character development, plot twists. But encourage your child to ask how they could improve the writing. Children love to offer improvements on what they could do better, so it’s a great way to engage them. Learning from other’s writing can inspire and guide your child’s own writing.

Time Management Skills:

  • The 11 Plus exam is as much about managing time as it is about writing skills.
  • Practice timed writing sessions to ensure your child can express their ideas effectively within the given constraints.
  • Ensuring your child is confident in expressing their ideas in writing before introducing exam style timing will make the experience more comfortable and worthwhile for them.

"I can see my competitors sweating, and I am cool as a cucumber."

Adam Rippon

Preparation for the 11 Plus Creative Writing component is not just about mastering accurate spelling; it’s about cultivating a creative mindset. Through a combination of regular practice, diverse reading, and constructive feedback, students can sharpen their creative writing skills and approach the exam with confidence.

Remember, creativity is a skill that can be nurtured and developed with dedication and the right strategies. Best of luck to all the young writers embarking on this exciting journey!

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11 plus creative writing

By Atom | Jun 3, 2024, 3:35 PM

Child concentrating while writing in a notebook with a pencil

If your child is preparing for secondary school entrance exams, you may have heard conflicting information about whether there will be a creative writing task. Read on to find out:

what to expect from 11 plus creative writing exams

how to help your child prepare

which schools will require your child to do a creative writing test

What is 11 plus creative writing?

Children applying for 11 plus entry to selective schools may need to complete a creative writing task as part of the exam. The task could be to write an original short story or continue a story from a given text.

The main 11 plus exam boards ( GL Assessment and the Independent Schools Examinations Board (ISEB) ) do not include creative writing tasks in their tests. If a school includes a creative writing element, it has likely been set by the school itself.

Some grammar schools include creative writing as part of their 11 plus exams. We've included a list of these below.

Many independent senior schools include creative writing tests in their English exams. You can find out whether your child's target school includes creative writing in the entrance exam by visiting the 'admissions' page on the school website.

Free creative writing course

Improve your child's writing skills with Atom's free creative writing course. Get four free video lessons and downloadable resources (including a creative writing practice paper!) sent straight to your inbox.

creative writing exam structure

Which grammar schools use creative writing exams?

Children applying to Reading School take an 11 plus exam set by Future Stories Community Enterprise . This includes a creative writing task.

What are common 11 plus creative writing themes?

The content and format of 11 plus creative writing tests can vary depending on the school. Some tests might ask your child to:

continue a short story based a paragraph of narrative text

describe a place or a situation

write a letter or an article to persuade the reader to feel a certain way

write their own short story based on some bullet points for guidance

write their own descriptive or narrative piece based on a picture

Getting used to writing for different audiences and purposes can put your child in good stead for 11 plus creative writing exams. Why not download Atom's creative writing prompts to get started?

What are examiners looking for?

Creative writing is subjective. After all, everyone has different interests when it comes to reading for pleasure! However, there are specific things examiners are looking for when marking 11 plus creative writing papers. These include:

Structure – does the piece have a clear beginning, middle and ending?

Creativity – has your child introduced unique ideas and demonstrated a strong imagination?

Spelling, punctuation and grammar – are they all accurate, and have they made use of sentence variety?

Vocabulary – have they used more advanced vocabulary (while making sense in context) than others their age? Have they introduced a wide range of adjectives, nouns and adverbs?

How to prepare for 11 plus creative writing tests

Developing creative writing skills can be one of the most challenging parts of preparing for exams. Here are our top tips to help your child become a confident writer!

Developing a wide and varied vocabulary is key for children to produce an interesting piece of writing. Including lots of adjectives and adverts is one of the best ways to grab a reader's attention.

We recommend that your child keeps a vocabulary log . As they read, they should record any new words with their definition and an example of the word used in a sentence.

In 11 plus exams, creative writing tasks usually last around 30 minutes (although this can vary from school to school). This isn't very long to produce an extended piece of writing – including planning time!

While it can be tempting to skip planning and start writing immediately, this will result in an unstructured piece of writing. As examiners are looking for evidence of a clear structure, your child may lose important marks.

We always recommend spending at least 5 minutes planning at the beginning of any creative writing exam. Your child should use this time to define what they will include in the beginning , middle and end of their piece.

Spelling, punctuation and grammar

Creative writing marks are not only awarded for content and creativity, but also for accurate spelling, punctuation and grammar. Your child can practise these topics on Atom Home .

Your child's learning plan includes questions and activities in Key Stage 2 English. These adapt to their performance, so they'll see questions at just the right level of difficulty to keep them motivated. On your 'Track' page, you can see how your child is progressing and any topics which need improvement.

Child's performance in punctuation on Atom Home

One of the most effective ways to improve writing is through reading . Reading is a fantastic way to introduce your child to new vocabulary, as well as accurate grammar and punctuation. Reading a wide variety of content and genres will expose them to new writing styles and ideas that they can incorporate into their work.

If your child enjoys a particular book, ask them why they like it. Is it the vivid character descriptions, use of adjectives, or adventurous plot? This can help your child recognise what to include in their own writing.

You can use prediction and storytelling games to help develop your child's creativity. Once they reach the end of a chapter, get them to write a paragraph on what they think will happen next. If they didn't like the end of a story, they can have a go at writing an alternative ending.

Looking for reading inspiration? Download Atom's free Key Stage 2 recommended reading list .

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You don't need a tutor to get into your top-choice school. You just need Atom. We'll create a tailored plan for your child and support them along their fun revision journey.

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11 Plus Creative Writing: Exam Preparation Guide

What is the creative writing element of the 11 Plus and what does it include?

Both 11 plus exam boards (GL and CEM) don’t have a creative writing element, however some schools may decide to add this element in to assist with the selection process. For instance, it may be used in cases where two students have very similar scores and so the creative writing piece will be the deciding factor.

Each school will have a different format for the writing element; some schools may ask for a creative piece of writing from scratch and others may ask students to complete a story from a passage they‘re provided with. Independent schools, on the other hand, usually require an essay or creative writing piece as part of the exam. 

In private schools, this section is crucial and is always marked, however in grammar schools this section may not always be marked. Nonetheless, it shouldn’t be overlooked as it could be a deciding factor of whether or not your child gets an offer at their target grammar school.

creative writing exam structure

This element of the eleven plus will require students to manage their time well and be able to complete their story in just under an hour. Generally, students are given a scenario or prompt that they are free to interpret in their own way. Students will then be required to put their ideas together in a creative style.

Some examples of past prompts that have come up in grammar and private school 11 Plus exams include:

  • Describe a situation which you have experienced which might also be called A Magical Moment, showing what your thoughts and feelings are
  • The Prince of Darkness is a Gentleman
  • The Broken Window

As you can see from these titles, there’s no specific category that they fall into and they are very unpredictable. The trick here is to ensure your child has lots of practice with these past paper questions, so they can better understand how they’re going to draft their ideas together coherently.

The structure of the writing piece should include:

  • A beginning that sets the scene
  • Characters who have a motivation behind their actions and drive the plot forward
  • An ending that wraps up the original idea that was set out at the beginning 

How to prepare for the creative writing part of the exam?

Practice is of course a crucial element of the revision process. It may also be useful to jot down ideas and descriptions of: emotions, actions, characters and the environment. Having these sets of descriptions ready will save lots of time in the actual exam. Even though the emotions and characters your child has practised writing don’t match the question in the exam, they will have a better idea of how to formulate the structure and plot in a timely manner by developing the descriptions they practised. 

Themes to practice writing about:

  • Nature : this could be rivers, rain, mountains, lightning
  • Emotions : this is an essential part of the story as it helps to set the tone. Some emotions can be: joy, anger, sadness. It may be beneficial to visualise the ‘inside out’ movie and write out the emotions according to how each character behaves
  • Activities you enjoy : this will help with writing the plot in the eleven plus exam since you can adapt and build on these descriptions based on the title question
  • Animals : this may be your favourite animal or your pet
  • Your surroundings : this could be houses, parks, churches, villages, roads. Understanding how to write about basic structures in a captivating way is a very important of this writing element

Techniques to practise using in your writing:

  • Personification : This technique involves associating something that isn’t human with human qualities. For example: the trees danced in the wind . This technique allows the objects throughout the story to have meaning and gives energy to something that is usually expressionless. 
  • Metaphors : This is a figure of speech, where a word or phrase is defined as another object or action to which it is not literally applicable. A famous example is from one of Shakespeare’s plays, As You Like It, is: ‘all the world’s a stage. ’ This metaphor compares the world to a theatrical stage. While this is not literally true, the metaphor demonstrates that the world is like a show and the people are like actors. Metaphors allow the reader to think more deeply about a subject, and they can also add emotion and dramatic effect.
  • Similes : This is like a metaphor, except similes use the connective words ‘like’ or ‘as’ to draw comparisons. For example: her eyes were like diamonds . The purpose of similes is to make comparisons to better illustrate your ideas, which makes the story more vivid and entertaining for the reader. 
  • Hyperbole : This is an exaggeration to emphasise a point to the reader. For instance: I have waited forever for this to happen . This makes the sentence more dramatic and grabs the reader’s attention, which makes the emotions more memorable.
  • Alliteration : This is having two or more words with the same letters consecutively in a sentence. An example of this could be: the big bug bit the little bee . This will have a different effect depending on whether the letters sound soft or harsh, but generally alliteration adds a rhythmic sound to the sentence and accentuates your descriptions.

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Some revision techniques

Although the topics for the creative writing section are unpredictable, they are usually very broad so your child can use their imagination to think of a plot or build on the descriptions they have already practised. They can start off by writing short stories on the themes mentioned above in this article, and attempt to implement the literary techniques throughout their writing.

It’s crucial to keep your reader hooked throughout your story, so having an interesting plot and characters will help, but it’s also important to focus on developing the techniques listed. Use past paper questions and practice writing short stories under timed conditions, then read over it and see how many techniques your child managed to implement. 

If your child is struggling to come up with ideas, it may be useful to encourage them to pick up one of their favourite books and allow them to get inspiration from there. This will encourage their creative thinking skills to grow; the first few pages of a book are especially important as they sometimes outline the main characters and setting of the entire story. 

Reading and analysing the first few pages can allow them to imagine how they’re going to start their own. Even better, try to encourage them to annotate the pages they read with how the characters are displayed, the emotions, actions and the techniques used. After this, they can try to use their structure and techniques in their own writing. Adding these techniques can improve their score tremendously in the eleven plus creative writing section.

General tips and informative articles on 11 Plus:

  • 11 Plus for Parents
  • 11 Plus Creative Writing
  • 11 Plus English
  • 11 Plus Non Verbal Reasoning
  • 11 Plus Maths
  • 11 Plus Verbal Reasoning
  • 11 Plus Comprehension Tips
  • 11 Plus Reading List
  • What Is 11 Plus Exam
  • 11 Plus Maths Questions

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  • 11+ Creative Writing Exam Guide

by Coriden Francis | Mar 26, 2024 | 11+ exams , creative writing | 0 comments

cute pupil writing at desk in classroom

 Are you looking for help with preparing your child for the 11+ creative writing exam? It can be daunting for both parents and children to tackle, especially if it’s the child’s first time taking an exam. But don’t worry! This blog post provides an extensive guide to the 11+ creative writing exam, what to expect, how to prepare, and the  best tips and techniques to succeed. I also provide a list of 11+ creative writing exam prompts and activities to help your child ace the exam. So let’s get started!

What is the 11+ Creative Writing Exam?

The 11+ exam is taken in Year 6 to gain admission to either a grammar or independent senior school in the UK. These entrance exams are highly competitive with an increasing number of children chasing places each year.  

The main 11 plus exam boards ( GL , CEM and ISEB ) do not include creative writing tasks in their tests. However, independent school papers offer a variety of creative writing task options.  Some highly competitive grammar schools will have a creative writing test in the second round of their admissions process.

The 11+ creative writing exam is an assessment of your child’s writing skills. The exam assesses your child’s ability to write imaginatively, to structure their writing clearly, and to use grammar and punctuation accurately. It is not a test to see if they are the next J K Rowling!

What to expect in an 11+ Creative Writing Exam

Typically, the creative writing element follows on from the reading comprehension section in an 11+ English exam.  The writing section consists of a number of open-ended writing prompts – fiction and non-fiction –  that require the student to compose a piece of creative writing in response.  These may include the following:

  • a short story
  • a continuation of the comprehension passage
  • an imaginative response to a picture prompt of character or setting,
  • a personal recount
  • a persuasive formal letter 
  • a discursive essay in the form of an article or even a speech.

Students are given a set amount of time in which to complete the task, which can range from 30 minutes to an hour, depending on the requirements of the school.  That’s not a lot of time, so it’s important for your child to have a plan so that they can make the most of the time they have. 

How to prepare your child for the 11+ exam

Here are some tips for preparing for the exam:

  • Understand the format of the exam and the type of tasks for your chosen schools.
  • Research the topics and the prompts that are likely to be used in the exam.
  • Plan time and practise writing stories and essays within the time limit.
  • Have a clear structure for writing stories and essays with a strong beginning, middle and end.
  • Become familiar with the marking criteria and practise writing stories and essays that meet the criteria.
  • Read as much as possible to improve writing skills.
  • Read and edit writing to make sure it is error-free.
  • Get feedback from an experienced 11+ creative writing tutor to identify areas for improvement.

A word of warning. These days 11+ creative writing exams are designed to be tutor-proof so the exam format of your child’s chosen school may change. The best way round this is to make sure that your child has practised a wide variety of creative writing tasks so that they can tackle any questions that might be set in an exam. Joining a course like the 11+ Creative Writing for Exams Summer Course will ensure that your child has learned how to tackle all the different writing tasks with confidence. 

Techniques for planning and structure

A writing plan is essential for structuring a successful 11+ creative writing exam piece. Having a plan will help your child structure their piece, focus on the main points, and ensure that their writing flows logically. You child could use a mind map, a flow chart , a spider diagram or a list of bullet points. It’s important that they get plenty of practice and find a method that works best for them.

Top tips and strategies to ace the creative writing paper

Your child should be able to:

  • use a wide range of figurative language and literary devices
  • use a rich and varied vocabulary
  • vary their sentence starters to create flow in their writing
  • vary their sentence lengths to create tension and build atmosphere
  • use good range of sophisticated punctuation
  • paragraph their writing clearly
  • edit and proofread their writing

These are the criteria that the examiner will be looking for in a piece of creative writing.

Editing and Revising Writing

Editing and revising writing is a crucial step in the creative writing process. It’s important for your child to be able to identify weaknesses in their work and make improvements to ensure that their writing has maximum impact. Revising and editing are also essential for achieving good results in the 11+ Creative Writing Exam.  Children who check their work thoroughly tend to score higher marks than those who don’t.

When editing and revising their work, it’s important for your child to be aware of common mistakes that can easily be overlooked. For example, make sure to check for subject/verb agreement, incorrect verb tenses, redundant words and phrases, and misspellings. It’s also important to ensure that your narrative is consistent and that there are no plot holes.

​​What if my child has a specific learning difficulty such as dyslexia, ASD, ADHD?

For many schools and exam boards, inclusivity is a top priority. To ensure that your child can receive the best support possible during the entrance exam, simply provide a formal report or letter of diagnosis from a professional such as an educational psychologist or psychiatrist when registering.  The school can make arrangements such as extra time or a quiet room to suit your child’s needs.

Children with learning difficulties often struggle with low self-esteem and confidence – and I say this both as a mum of two children with specific learning difficulties and a tutor! Getting your child extra support to help them prepare thoroughly for the exam can make a world of difference to them – and you.

Creative Writing Exam Tasks

Here’s a list of creative writing questions from 11+ papers for your child to practise:

Write a short story using on of these titles: The Storm, The Treehouse, Alone, Run for Cover!, The Last Day, The Railway Carriage, A Mysterious Stranger, The Mist, The Magic Door, The Secret Letter.

Write a short story which features a talking animal; write a story where someone’s wishes come true in an unexpected way; write a story in which a journey goes wrong in a real or imagined way.

NON-FICTION

Write a letter to your headteacher asking for school uniform to be abolished. Write a letter to the Prime Minister arguing for a four-day working week. Write an article for a school magazine discussing the use of mobile phones for primary school children. Write about your favourite holiday.

At the end of the day, passing the 11+ Creative Writing Exam is about practice, preparation and hard work. By putting in consistent effort, your child will be well on their way to acing the creative writing exam and showing off their writing skills.

If you would like more help with your child’s writing as the exam approaches, then book them a place in the 11+ Creative Writing for Exams Intensive Course this August!

11+ Creative Writing Checklists!

Help your child edit their writing and tick all the right boxes!

Get our list of 5 essential 11+ Creative Writing Checklists to help your child ace their 11+ English exam.

Our handy booklet includes the following checklists:

  • Narrative writing
  • Descriptive writing
  • Persuasive writing
  • Newspaper article
  • Personal recount

Each checklist is separated into two sections: features and text and structure.

To get your copy, please click the button below!

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Insider GCSE creative writing tips + 106 prompts from past papers

by Hayley | Mar 9, 2023 | Exams , Writing | 0 comments

Are you feeling a little bit twitchy about your child’s English GCSE writing task?

Sciences and humanities – although sometimes daunting in their content – seem a fair bet as ‘revisable’ topics. But the creative writing element of the English Language GCSE is less knowable and ultimately more of a frightening prospect for a student keen to do well.

Preparing for the GCSE writing task? You don’t need to do it alone.

We run a weekly online writing club which prepares students to write high-scoring content. Our “Higher” level club is designed to transform your writing so that you can ace the GCSE language paper.

What is the GCSE writing element of the GCSE Language Paper?

There are 5 key GCSE exam boards: AQA , OCR , Pearson Edexcel , WJEC Eduqas and CCEA . Each board sets their own papers which may appear much the same at first glance (bizarrely they all have a similar front cover layout and fonts). Certainly there is plenty of overlap between their mark schemes and the comments and tips they share in their Examiner Reports.

However, as with all your child’s other subjects, it is essential to know which exam board they are preparing for. You may be surprised to discover that schools pick and choose boards by subject, perhaps choosing AQA for chemistry and OCR for mathematics. Individual school departments have their own preferences. My brother teaches at a school where their English Literature and English Language exams have been split between two different boards. This is unusual though, not the norm!

What forms (question formats) can the test take?

It varies by board.

The AQA board has a writing task in their Question Paper 1 called Explorations in creative reading and writing . Students are given two prompts to choose between. The AQA board also has a second persuasive writing task in Paper 2 called Writers’ viewpoints and perspectives.

Jump ahead to AQA creative writing and persuasive writing prompts from past GCSE papers

The Pearson/Edexcel international iGCSE favoured by many UK private schools has two prompts to choose between for each section. The student is asked to complete a piece of transactional writing (perhaps a persuasive speech or an advertisement leaflet) and additionally a piece of imaginative writing.

Jump ahead to Pearson/Edexcel transactional writing and imaginative writing prompts from past GCSE papers

Interestingly, the WJEC Eduqas board favours non-fiction writing. Unit 2 Reading and Writing: Description, Narration and Exposition gives two prompts to choose between, for an account and an essay perhaps, and Unit 3: Reading and Writing: Argumentation, Persuasion and Instructional sets up a letter, or similar.

Jump ahead to WJEC Eduqas non-fiction writing prompts from past GCSE papers

The OCR board offers two prompts to choose between. One might be a talk for other students and the other might be a letter on a difficult subject .

Jump ahead to OCR creative writing prompts from past GCSE papers

The CCEA board has a writing task in called “ Writing for Purpose and Audience and Reading to Access Non-fiction and Media Texts” and a second writing task which offers a choice between personal writing and creative writing.

Jump ahead to CCEA persuasive writing, personal writing, and creative prompts from past GCSE papers

How long do students have to craft their piece of writing?

Creative writing tests are timed at either 45 minutes or 1 hour. The last thing your child will need is to prepare to write for an hour, only to find they have just three-quarters of an hour on the day. If in doubt, insist that they check with their teacher.

AQA students are given 45 minutes to produce their writing response. The introduction advises: ‘ You are reminded of the need to plan your answer. You should leave enough time to check your work at the end.’ What this means is that 30–35 minutes max is what’s really allowed there for the writing itself.

Pearson/Edexcel allows 45 minutes for each of the two writing tasks.

OCR students are given an hour to complete this section of their exam. The introduction states: ‘You are advised to plan and check your work carefully,’ so they will expect the writing itself to take 45–50 minutes.

How long should the completed GCSE writing task be?

Interestingly, although the mark schemes all refer to paragraphingthey don’t state how many paragraphs they expect to see.

‘A skilfully controlled overall structure, with paragraphs and grammatical features used to support cohesion and achieve a range of effects’ (OCR)
‘Fluently linked paragraphs with seamlessly integrated discourse markers’ (AQA)

Why? Because management of paragraph and sentence length is a structural technique available to the student as part of their writers’ toolkit. If the number of optimal paragraphs were to be spelled out by the board, it would have a negative impact on the freedom of the writer to use their paragraphs for impact or to manage the pace of the reader.

For a general guide I would expect to see 3 to 5 paragraphs in a creative piece and 5 paragraphs in a persuasive piece. Leaflets have a different structure entirely and need to be set out in a particular form to achieve the top notes of the mark scheme.

What are the examiners looking for when they are marking a student’s creative writing paper?

There are two assessment objectives for the writing itself:

  • It has to be adapted to the form, tone and register of writing for specific purposes and audiences.
  • It has to use a range of vocabulary and sentence structures, with appropriate paragraphing, spelling, punctuation and grammar.

As a GCSE English nerd, I really enjoy delving deeper into the Examiner Reports that each board brings out once the previous cohort’s papers have been marked. They are a fascinating read and never disappoint…

Within their pages, examiners spell out the differences they have spotted between the stronger and the weaker responses.

For example, a creative task set by the AQA board was to describe a photograph of a town at sunset. The examiners explained that some of the strongest responses imagined changes in the scene as darkness descended. They enjoyed reading responses that included personification of the city, and those that imagined the setting in the past, or the weariness of the city. Weaker candidates simply listed what was in the picture or referred directly to the fact it was an image. This chronological-list approach weakened the structure of their work.

No surprises that some weaker students relied heavily on conversation. (As an exam marker myself, I dreaded reading acres of uninspiring direct speech.)

Pearson/Edexcel explain that weaker persuasive pieces (in this case on the value of television) simply listed pros and cons rather than developed ideas fully to clarify their own opinions. The higher-level responses here were quirky and engaging, entertaining the reader with a range of appropriate techniques and making the argument their own.

What accommodations are possible for students who have specific learning difficulties?

The UK Government’s Guide for Schools and Colleges 2022: GCSE, AS and A Levels includes information about changes to assessments to support ‘disabled students.’ Their definition of disabled includes specific learning difficulties (dyslexia, dyspraxia, ADHD, ADD, ASD etc).

Exam boards can make a wide range of adjustments to their assessments. Some of the most common adjustments are:

  • modified papers (for example, large print or braille exam papers)
  • access to assistive software (for example, voice recognition systems or computer readers)
  • help with specific tasks (for example, another person might read questions to the student or write their dictated answers)
  • changes to how the assessment is done (for example, an oral rather than a written assessment, word-processing rather than hand-writing answers)
  • extra time to complete assessments
  • exemptions from an assessment

The exam board will expect paperwork to be in place where your child’s specific needs are formally reported by an appropriate professional (Educational Psychologist, Clinical Psychologist, Consultant). The report needs to be recent, but how recent is difficult to confirm.

If your child is likely to need adjustments to their access arrangements you will need to discuss this with their school in plenty of time before the exam itself.

A close friend of mine realised in the final few weeks before her son’s GCSE exams that his tinnitus would have a negative impact on his performance. She approached the school to ask if he might take his exams in a separate room to minimise noise disturbance. Unfortunately, it was far too late by then to apply, and her son was denied the request.

Your child’s school will explain the process for applying for special arrangements and will be able to advise you on what your expectations should be. Never presume your child will be given what they need – but plenty of requests are successful, so stay positive and make sure your paperwork is in order beforehand.

Tips and strategies for writing a high scoring GCSE creative writing paper:

1.         learn the formats.

Know the different formats and conventions of the different GCSE writing tasks. There is a standard layout for a leaflet, for example, where including contact details and a series of bullet points is part of the mark scheme. Not knowing these conventions will knock back a student’s score.

2.         Plan ahead

Prepare a planning structure for each of the written forms you might encounter during the exam. It may need to be flexed on the day, but it will banish fear of the blank page and allow you to get started.

3.         Prepare sentence-openings

Familiarise yourself with appropriate sentence-openings for each type of GCSE writing task. Fronted adverbials of time and place will improve the quality of a creative piece, whereas access to varied and specific conjunctions might push up the mark of a transactional piece.

4.         Check your speaking

Ask your family to check your speech at home. Every now and then try to flip a sentence into formal language, using more interesting synonyms for your usual spoken vocabulary. This will help you to write formally on paper, avoiding colloquialisms.

5.         Forget finishing

Finishing is less important than you might imagine. Sloppy, hurried work is your enemy. GCSE examiners will follow your clear planning and mark you accordingly, even if you’ve not managed to complete that final paragraph.

6.         Note the details

The question often gives additional information the examiner would like to see included. Note it in your plan to make sure it doesn’t get forgotten.

7.         Start strong

Use your best sentence-opener at the start of each paragraph. It will set you up as someone to be taken seriously.

8.         Cut back dialogue

Keep dialogue contained in a single paragraph. Focus on description of the speaker and their actions before noting the second character’s reply.

9.         Revise

Do this by prepping work as above. Nothing beats it.

Would you like me to transform your child’s writing in my higher writing club?

Each week in my higher writing club , we spend 20 minutes on Zoom together. After the task has been introduced, the students write for 15 minutes. Next, they upload their work for 1:1 video marking.

There is no point prepping essays/creative pieces for the GCSE English Language exam if your child’s writing is poor. First, their scruffy presentation, attention to detail, punctuation, grammar and vocabulary need to be addressed.

After 2 months in the higher writing club your child’s written technique and fluency will be transformed by our 1–2-1 video marking system (consistent messaging is achieved by matching your child with their own teacher).

Each weekly activity is drawn directly from the GCSE English Language Subject Content and Assessment Objectives , published by the English Department of Education.

Here’s an example of a student’s writing, BEFORE they joined our club:

Handwriting and creative writing sample from a GCSE level student - before online writing lessons

It is chaotic, poorly-presented and nonsensical. Letter-sizing is confused and the student is clearly anxious and repeatedly scribbling through small errors.

Below is the same student 2 months later:

Handwriting and creative writing sample from a GCSE level student -after 2 months of weekly online writing lessons with Griffin Teaching

Observe the rich vocabulary, authorial techniques (the jagged rocks are ‘like shards of broken glass’) and general fluency and sophistication.

Real and recent GCSE example questions/prompts from each of the 5 key exam boards

Aqa english language gcse questions, paper 2 writers’ viewpoints and perspectives:.

  • ‘Our addiction to cheap clothes and fast fashion means young people in poorer countries have to work in terrible conditions to make them. We must change our attitude to buying clothes now.’ Write an article for a magazine or website in which you argue your point of view on this statement. ( Source )
  • ‘People have become obsessed with travelling ever further and faster. However, travel is expensive, dangerous, damaging and a foolish waste of time!’ Write an article for a news website in which you argue your point of view on this statement. ( Source )
  • ‘Cars are noisy, dirty, smelly and downright dangerous. They should be banned from all town and city centres, allowing people to walk and cycle in peace.’ Write a letter to the Minister for Transport arguing your point of view on this statement. ( Source )
  • ‘All sport should be fun, fair and open to everyone. These days, sport seems to be more about money, corruption and winning at any cost.’ Write an article for a newspaper in which you explain your point of view on this statement. ( Source )

Paper 1 Explorations in creative reading and writing:

  • A magazine has asked for contributions for their creative writing section. Either write a description of an old person as suggested by the picture below or write a story about a time when things turned out unexpectedly. ( Source )

Image of a man with a beard, example image to use as a GCSE creative writing prompt

  • Your school or college is asking students to contribute some creative writing for its website. Either, describe a market place as suggested by the picture below or write a story with the title, ‘Abandoned’. ( Source )

image of a market scene to use as a creative writing prompt

  • Your local library is running a creative writing competition. The best entries will be published in a booklet of creative writing. Either, write a description of a mysterious place, as suggested by the picture below or write a story about an event that cannot be explained. ( Source )

image of a round entrance to a spooky scene to use as a gcse creative writing prompt

  • A magazine has asked for contributions for their creative writing section. Either, describe a place at sunset as suggested by the picture below or write a story about a new beginning. ( Source )

OCR English Language GCSE questions

Paper: communicating information and ideas.

  • Either, Write a post for an online forum for young people about ‘A moment that changed my life’.
  • Or, You are giving a talk at a parents’ information evening about why all children should study science at school. Explain your views. ( Source )
  • Either, Write a letter to a friend to describe a challenging and unpleasant task you once had to do.
  • Or, Write a short guide for new workers about how to deal successfully with difficult customers. ( Source )
  • Either, “Was it worth it?” Write an article for a magazine to describe a time when you had to do something difficult.
  • Or, Write a speech for an event to congratulate young people who have achieved something remarkable. ( Source )
  • Either, Write the words of a talk to advise pet owners how to make life more enjoyable for their pet and themselves.
  • Or, Write an article for a travel magazine to describe your dramatic encounter with an animal. ( Source )
  • Either, ‘How I prefer to spend my time.’ Write the words of a talk to young people about your favourite activity
  • Or, Write a magazine article to persuade parents to allow their teenage children more freedom. You are not required to include any visual or presentational features. ( Source )
  • Either, Write a talk for other students about a person you either admire strongly or dislike intensely
  • Or, Write a letter to a friend to explain a difficult decision you had to make. ( Source )

Paper: Exploring effects and impact

  • Either, Hunger satisfied. Use this as the title for a story.
  • Or, Write about a time when you were waiting for something. ( Source )
  • Either, The Taste of Fear Use this as the title for a story.
  • Or, Write about a time when you were exploring a particular place. ( Source )
  • Either, Alone. Use this as the title for a story.
  • Or, Describe a time when you found yourself in a crowd or surrounded by people. ( Source )
  • Either, Land at Last. Use this as the title for a story.
  • Or, Imagine you have visited somewhere for the first time and are now reporting back on your experience. ( Source )
  • Either, The Playground Use this as the title for a story
  • Or, Write about a memory you have of playing a childhood game. ( Source )
  • Either, It seemed to me like I had been magically transported. Use this as the title for a story.
  • Or, Describe a place where you have felt comfortable. ( Source )

Pearson Edexcel English Language iGCSE questions

Paper 1: transactional writing.

  • Either, ‘In our busy twenty-first century lives, hobbies and interests are more important than ever.’ Write an article for a newspaper expressing your views on this statement.
  • Or, ‘We are harming the planet we live on and need to do more to improve the situation.’ You have been asked to deliver a speech to your peers in which you explain your views on this statement. ( Source )
  • ‘ Zoos protect endangered species from around the world.’ ‘No wild animal should lose its freedom and be kept in captivity. Write an article for a magazine in which you express your views on zoos.
  • Write a review of an exciting or interesting event that you have seen. ( Source )
  • Your local newspaper has published an article with the headline ‘Young people today lack any desire for adventure’. Write a letter to the editor of the newspaper expressing your views on this topic.
  • ‘The key to success in anything is being prepared.’ Write a section for a guide giving advice on the importance of preparation. ( Source )
  • You and your family have just returned from a holiday that did not turn out as you expected. Write a letter to the travel agent with whom you booked your holiday, explaining what happened.
  • A magazine is publishing articles with the title ‘Friendship is one of the greatest gifts in life’. Write your article on this topic. ( Source )
  • ‘Important lessons I have learned in my life.’ You have been asked to deliver a speech to your peers on this topic.
  • Your local/school library wants to encourage young people to read more. Write the text of a leaflet explaining the benefits of reading. ( Source )
  • ‘Most memorable journeys.’ A website is running a competition to reward the best articles on this subject. Write an article for the competition about a memorable journey.
  • ‘Cycling is one form of exercise that can lead to a healthier lifestyle.’ Write a guide for young people on the benefits of exercise. ( Source )
  • ‘Television educates, entertains and helps global understanding.’ ‘Television is to blame for society’s violence and greed and delivers one-sided news.’ You have been asked to deliver a speech in which you express your views and opinions on television.
  • ‘Choosing a career is one of the most important decisions we ever make.’ Write the text of a leaflet that gives advice to young people on how to choose a career. ( Source )
  • Write the text for a leaflet aimed at school students which offers advice on how to deal with bullying.
  • A museum is planning to open a new exhibition called ‘Life in the Twenty-First Century’. ( Source )

Paper 2: Imaginative writing

  • Write about a time when you, or someone you know, enjoyed success
  • Write a story with the title ‘A Surprise Visitor’.
  • Look at the two images below. Choose one and write a story that begins ‘I did not have time for this’ ( Source )

two images to choose to use as a story starter for a gcse creative writing prompt that begins with "I did not have time for this"

  • Write about a time when you, or someone you know, challenged an unfair situation.
  • Write a story with the title ‘Bitter, Twisted Lies’.
  • Look at the two images below. Choose one and write a story that begins ‘It was a new day …’ You may wish to base your response on one of these images. ( Source )

two images to use for GCSE creative writing practice. Image 1 is of a woman on top of a mountain at sunset, the second image is of a harbour at sunset with a bridge in the field of view

  • Write about a time when you, or someone you know, visited a new place.
  • Write a story with the title ‘The Storm’
  • Look at the two images below. Choose one and write a story that ends ‘I decided to get on with it.’ ( Source )

Two images to use as GCSE writing prompts. Students are asked to choose one and start their story with the words "I decided to get on with it"

  • Write about a time when you, or someone you know, saw something surprising.
  • Write a story with the title ‘The Meeting’.
  • Look at the two images below. Choose one and write a story that starts ‘Suddenly, without warning, there was a power cut.’ ( Source )

Two images to use as GCSE writing prompts. The first shows two children sitting at a table lit by candles, the second is of a city scene with half of the buildings lit up and the other half shrouded in darkness

  • Write about a time when you, or someone you know, went on a long journey.
  • Write a story with the title ‘A New Start’
  • Look at the two images below. Choose one and write a story that begins ‘I tried to see what he was reading. ( Source )

two example images students can use while revising for the GCSE wri5ting task. Both are on the theme of reading.

  • Write about a time when you, or someone you know, felt proud.
  • Write a story with the title ‘The Hidden Book’.
  • Look at the two images below. Choose one and write a story that begins ‘It was like a dream’ ( Source )

Two images from past GCSE papers to use as a prompt for creative writing.

  • Write about a time when you, or someone you know, had to be brave
  • Write a story with the title ‘Everything Had Changed’
  • Look at the two images below. Choose one and write a story that begins ‘It was an unusual gift’. ( Source )

Two images of presents that students can use to start a story with "it was an unusual gift."

WJEC Eduqas English Language GCSE questions

Unit 2 reading and writing: description, narration and exposition.

  • Write an account of a time when you enjoyed or hated taking part in an outdoor activity.
  • “It’s essential that more people are more active, more often.” (Professor Laura McAllister, Chair of Sport Wales) Write an essay to explain how far you agree with this view, giving clear reasons and examples. ( Source )
  • Describe an occasion when you did something you found rewarding.
  • Famous chefs such as Jamie Oliver and Mary Berry have spoken of the need for better food and better education about food in schools. Write an essay to explain your views on this subject, giving clear reasons and examples. ( Source )
  • Write an account of a visit to a dentist or a doctor’s surgery.
  • NHS staff, such as doctors and nurses, provide excellent service in difficult circumstances. Write an essay to explain your views on this subject, giving clear reasons and examples. ( Source )
  • Write an article for a travel magazine describing somewhere interesting that you have visited.
  • You see the following in your local newspaper: ‘Young people are selfish. They should all be made to volunteer to help others.’ Write an essay to explain your views on this subject, giving clear reasons and examples. ( Source )
  • Describe an occasion when technology made a difference to your life.
  • Write an account of a time you were unwilling to do something. ( Source )
  • Describe a time when you faced a challenge
  • Write an essay explaining why charity is important, giving clear reasons and examples. ( Source )
  • Write an account of a time when you did something for the first time.
  • “It’s time for us to start making some changes. Let’s change the way we eat, let’s change the way we live, and let’s change the way we treat each other.” Tupac Shakur Write an essay on the subject of change, giving clear reasons and examples. ( Source )
  • “School uniform is vitally important in all schools.” Write an essay explaining your views on this, giving clear reasons and examples.
  • Describe a time when you had to create a good impression. ( Source )

Unit 3: Reading and writing: Argumentation, persuasion and instructional

  • Your school/college is considering using more Fairtrade items in its canteen. Although this will help to support Fairtrade farmers, it will mean an increase in the price of meals. You feel strongly about this proposal and decide to write a letter to your Headteacher/Principal giving your views. ( Source )
  • Increasing litter levels suggest we have lost all pride in our beautiful country. Prepare a talk for your classmates in which you give your opinions on this view. ( Source )
  • Write a guide for other students persuading them to stay safe when using social media and the internet. ( Source )
  • According to your PE teacher, ‘Swimming is the very best form of exercise.’ You have been asked to prepare a talk for your classmates in which you give your views about swimming. ( Source )
  • You read the following in a newspaper: ‘Plastic is one of the biggest problems faced by our planet. Why would we use something for a few minutes that has been made from a material that’s going to last forever?’ Write a letter to the newspaper giving your views on the use of plastic. ( Source )
  • “People today never show enough kindness to one another. We must make more effort to be kind.” Write a talk to give on BBC Wales’ new programme Youth Views persuading young people to be kind to others. ( Source )
  • ‘We have enough problems in the world without worrying about animals.’ Write an article for the school or college magazine giving your views on this statement.
  • You would like to raise some money for an animal charity. Write a talk for your classmates persuading them to donate to your chosen charity. ( Source )

CCEA English Language GCSE questions

Unit 1: writing for purpose and audience and reading to access non-fiction and media texts.

  • Write a speech for your classmates persuading them to agree with your views on the following issue: “Young people today are too worried about their body image.” ( Source )
  • Write an article for your school magazine persuading the readers to agree with your views on the following question: “Should school uniform have a place in 21st century schools?” ( Source )
  • Write a speech for your classmates persuading them to agree with your views on the following question: “Are celebrities the best role models for teenagers?” ( Source )
  • Write an article for your school magazine persuading the readers to agree with your views on the following statement: “Advertising is just another source of pressure that teenagers don’t need!” ( Source )

Unit 4: Personal or creative writing and reading literacy and non-fiction texts

  • Either, Personal writing: Write a personal essay for the examiner about what you consider to be one of the proudest moments in your life.
  • Or, Creative writing: Write your entry for a creative essay writing competition. The audience is teenagers. You may provide your own title. ( Source )
  • Write a personal essay for the examiner about an experience that resulted in a positive change in your life.
  • Write a creative essay for the examiner. The picture below is to be the basis for your writing. You may provide your own title. ( Source )

Picture of a family waiting at an airport.

  • Personal writing: Write a speech for your classmates about the most interesting person you have ever met.
  • Creative writing: Write a creative essay for your school magazine. The picture below is to be the basis for your writing. You may provide your own title. ( Source )

picture of two elderly men playing soccer

  • Personal writing: Write a personal essay for the examiner describing your dream destination.
  • Creative writing: Write a creative essay for publication in your school magazine. The picture below is to be the basis for your creative writing. You may provide your own title. (Source)

picture of a two people mountain climbing

Get 1:1 support and personalized feedback on your GCSE creative writing practice

For 1–2-1 writing support for your pre-GCSE child, join the Griffin Teaching Higher Writing Club—online weekly writing classes specifically tailored to English GCSE creative writing preparation.

In just 20 minutes per week and their writing will be transformed.

creative writing exam structure

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Creative Writing: How to Sculpt My Narrative Vision?

Creative writing traditionally stands in opposition to technical writing, so named because it is used to differentiate imaginative and particularly original types of writing from more rigid types. However, creative writing is just as technical, and difficult, as these other types. The assumption is often made that creative writing is a talent – “can I really learn how to write creatively?” – but the true keys to creative writing, whether writing for your own enjoyment, preparing for a school or GCSE exam, are imagination, content, and organisation .

Creative Writing GCSE

What do these three things mean?

Imagination – the GCSE prompts are usually very open-ended and broad, remind yourself that broad questions are not restrictive, and allow your mind to explore all caveats of the question, and take the reader on a truly original journey

Content – to showcase your ideas you need to be able to show your skill with tone, style, and vocabulary; we will touch on just how to do this later!

Organisation – planning the structure of your answer is key, even though creative writing can be seen as ‘looser’, remember that a good structure is a good way to ensure you are staying in control of the piece. We will touch on how to plan effectively later too!

Focussing on the ‘how’ and developing it:

It can be very daunting when you are presented with a vague prompt to think about how you might achieve all of these things, now we know what they mean let’s look at how we might break them down with an example.

Take the prompt: ‘ Think about a time you were afraid ’.

1) Imagination – where are you going with this? The prompt allows a lot of scope for you as a writer to take this piece wherever you want. You want to plan a piece you are excited by, that you are confident writing, and that is a little bit ‘outside the box’.

We can anticipate many students’ answers describing a spooky forest or a secluded house at night-time; if you are pushing for the higher boundaries, you want to write something that will make the examiner notice you.

Think about the last time you were afraid – how likely is it that you found yourself in a horror-film-esque eerie setting? Perhaps you want to describe the time you auditioned for the school talent show, or your first trip into the dentist alone. You don’t have to be totally avant-garde but remember a skilled writer can create a sense of unease using literary technique alone – don’t rely on a traditional ‘spooky setting’.

2) Content – how are you going to take us there? You want to ensure your communication is convincing and compelling. This means your need to maintain style and tone throughout.

Make a decision about the characteristics of who is narrating your story early on and stick with it (it will often be directed at you, but the examiner doesn’t know you as a person – be creative! If it suits your story to make yourself smarter, more anxious, quieter etc, then do it). Let’s look back to our prompt above. Perhaps you make the decision that you’re writing the piece as you, and you’re incredibly forgetful. This might mean you ask short questions throughout the piece, raising the tension. Maybe you feign confidence and so while the speech of the piece seems assured and at ease, the internal monologue is vastly different, throwing a sense of unease to the narrative early on.

Be ambitious with your vocabulary! Vocabulary is a great way to help set the tone of a piece. Likewise, explore a wide use of linguistic devices (metaphor, simile, imagery, personification, repetition, symbolism – we will come back to these later!)

3) Organisation – how can you plan effectively? When writing a creative piece, first and foremost, you want to ensure you have a varied use of structural features within your paragraphs.

As a rule of thumb, each new paragraph should aim to develop the story and either bring a new idea into the story or develop a previous one. Within each paragraph, aim to show the examiner that you are capable of developing your idea (i.e. continuing the narrative and plot), but also that you are able to detail this from a different perspective.

An effective way to do this is with a structural feature: pick an interesting way to start a new paragraph, focus on contrast, play around with repetition (if you can, play around with the pace of the writing too – see below!), withhold information, use dialogue, experiment with different sentence structures and paragraph lengths, etc.

Some specifics on: ‘linguistic devices’ and ‘structural features’

Linguistic devices and structural features, when used well, can help to make your writing incredibly compelling. Let’s look at some specifics on how we can play around with these and incorporate them into our writing.

1) Linguistic devices

Metaphor and simile – metaphors and similes are both ways to introduce comparisons into your work, which is a good way to bring some variety when describing something instead of just listing off more adjectives. Similes are used specifically with the words ‘like’ or ‘as’ (“life is like a box of chocolates”); metaphors are a direct statement of comparison (“life is a rollercoaster”).

o   How can you use these originally? When using these, we want to showcase not just our ability to use them, but also our imagination and vocabulary. With both of these, think of appropriate comparisons which develop the tone of your piece. For example, if you are writing a piece about happiness – ‘his smile was like that of a child at Christmas time’ (simile), or, if you are writing a piece about loneliness – ‘loneliness was a poison’ (metaphor). See how both comparisons match the tone – when writing a happy piece, we use specific things about happiness (e.g. Christmas), when writing a sadder piece, we use sadder objects for comparison (e.g. poison). This will help develop tone and showcase originality.

Imagery – this is used to develop key motifs within the mind of the reader; again, this is a tool for comparison whereby we are comparing something real with something imagined or ultimately non-literal.

o   A good way to think of imagery is to appeal to the reader’s senses: how can you create a sensory world for them? Take the brief above once more. We could say “I was afraid when I left the house”, or, we could appeal to sensory imagery: “I pulled my auburn hair into my mouth to chew it as I closed the door to the house. Thud. The air was cold on my cheeks, and my pink nose stood out against the grey sky and grey pavement.” Here, we paint a far richer picture, even though we don’t necessarily develop the story.

Personification - when a personal nature is given to a non-human object. This can be useful when you are faced with long descriptive paragraphs as it serves as another way to break up boring adjective listing.

o   Be imaginative and try and include this once in every piece if you can. Remember to tie it in with developing the tone of the piece! I.e. if you are writing a happy piece: “the sun smiled down on me, and I beamed back with gratitude” – this sentence creates an immediately positive atmosphere. However, the sentence: “the wind whispered quietly through the long grass” creates a sense of uncertainty. NB: notice how the weather is an easy and subtle way to help develop a ‘feeling’ throughout your writing.

Repetition – a word or phrase is repeated in order to achieve a certain desired effect. We can use different types of repetition to remain original and keep our writing sophisticated:

o   Try repeating only the last few words of a line – “If you don’t doubt yourself, and you can keep a clear head, then you can do it. You can do it.”

o   Try repeating the same phrase at the end of following sentences – “On the fields there was blood, in the sea there was blood, on the sand banks there was blood, on the ships there was blood…”

o   Try repeating the same words in a new sense to reveal information in a new light – “I don’t dance because I am happy, I am happy because I dance”

creative writing exam structure

2) Structural features

Openings – you want to make sure the start of your text entices the reader, so you may want to start with a very developed complex sentence, with heaps of sensory imagery that immediately immerses the reader in the world of the piece; alternatively, or you may wish to grab their attention in a more direct way – “Bang! Oh god, how was I going to get out of this?”

Contrast – highlighting the difference between two things is a compelling way to describe and develop ideas; we have talked in depth about ways to do this above (simile, metaphor, imagery, sometimes repetition for effect)

Pace – experimenting with the pace of the piece is a very sophisticated way to create a mood. For example, if it is a summer’s day and time does not seem to pass, find a way to highlight this using some of the techniques outlined above – “the sun sat high in the sky, unwavering, for what seemed like forever”, “the sounds of the crickets chirping and the birds merriment overpowered the sound of my watch – we felt truly timeless”. Equally, if you want to build tension, find a way to increase the pace; generally, this can be done by piecing together short, simple sentences: “I knew I had to move fast. Round the door. Up the stairs. Wait. Breathe. Move. Up the next flight. Clear. Move.” Etc, this helps immerse the reader in the mental world of the narrator and as a result they engage far more with the piece.

Dialogue – inserting dialogue into a piece can be a convincing way to introduce new information to a text, think of ways to be inventive with this: does our narrator talk to themselves? What information are we told about additional characters that are introduced? What new approaches have we learned to aid with describing these new characters – and remember – always choose these in line with developing a tone for the piece.

Withholding information – this can be a useful way to build a sense of uncertainty and unease into a piece. Perhaps the narrator is withholding information from other characters, perhaps the narrator is withholding information from the readers themselves! “I knew it had to be done. I didn’t have time to consider the what-if’s and the maybes of it. It had to be done. And it had to be done now.” How much more unsettling is that sentence when we don’t discover what the ‘it’ is – if we want to create humour for a light-hearted piece, perhaps it is getting a tooth removed; if the piece is darker, perhaps the ‘it’ is something far more sinister…

Sentence length – Play around with a variation of simple and complex sentences. Complex sentences can be difficult to construct at first. Remember a few key rules: they are either used effectively to develop one key motif: ‘the snow was white and fell down like tiny elegant dancers in the wind, until at just a moment’s notice, it would land and join a far larger flurry of white across a thousand snow-drenched fields’. Additionally, complex sentences can be used to introduce a lot of new information in one succinct way: ‘It was autumn when he last came, not that I had been counting, but when he last came my hair came only to my shoulders, and I was not yet tall enough to reach the apples on the tree – gosh, what would he think of me now’. The difference between the two is clear, one develops a singular motif and one introduces new ideas quickly – both are effective, and you should aim to be able to write both types well.

While creative writing can seem daunting at first, using the three keys to success (imagination, content and organisation) alongside these advanced linguistic devices and structural features is a great way to develop and succeed in the creative writing exam. Start to enjoy taking the reader on a journey, learn to navigate the realms of description, experiment with tone and you will be well on your way to success! 

“Write it like it matters, and it will.” – Libba Bray

By U2 mentor, Hazel (Philosophy & Theology, University of Oxford and a published poet!)

Looking for a Creative Writing tutor to develop written skills?

If you are interested in support for your GCSE English Language or Literature papers, or general Creative Writing endeavours, why not check out our offerings on the GCSE page and book a free consultation to discuss how we can boost your chance of success. We have a large team of predominantly Oxbridge-educated English mentors who are well-placed to develop students’ written skills, teaching how to structure writing, and the literary and rhetorical techniques that this requires.

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Creative writing in english in exams and in the classroom.

Hints and Tips - 7 minute read

Isobel Woodger, OCR English Subject Advisor

Isobel Woodger

Reading as a writer, writing as a reader

Our approach tries to marry students’ experiences as readers and writers. This is why the creative component for Language and Literature is called “Reading as a writer, writing as a reader”, to emphasise that students should see elements they’ve explored in their texts not just as inspiration, but as a set of tools they can use in their work.

Equally, as I saw during a recent English and Media Centre (EMC) course on teaching The Bloody Chamber , creative writing can create powerful, conceptual responses to texts as well as deepen understanding of the author’s process.

What is our approach to creative writing tasks?

Crucial to our approach, at all levels, is the dual focus on narrative and choice. We believe in offering students a choice in which narrative they are asked to create to enable better, more authentic responses. It’s important that students feel they are involved in the assessment as opposed to simply sitting it.

Additionally, we focus on narrative over pure descriptive writing as we think this helps generate truly creative, imaginative work. In Component 2 of our GCSE English Language course , students are asked to write a creative response to one of two prompts, like those below from the 2018 June series .

One is narrative based, e.g. giving a title as a prompt for a story; the other is more of a personal, reflective response, giving a scenario to develop.

From June 2018, GCSE English Language Component 2:

Hunger satisfied.

Use this as the title for a story.

In your writing you should:

Write about a time when you were waiting for something.

You could write about:

This links neatly to the tasks we set in A Level Language & Literature course which we co-developed with EMC. In the second part of Component 3, students choose one of two narrative prompts like these from the 2018 June series:

toryline 1

Students should write approximately 500 words of an opening to a narrative, clearly using some of the bullet points provided. They are, in the next question, asked to write a commentary on their work.

What are our examiners saying?

Our examiners are aware that writing creatively on demand is a complex brief to fulfil. We also know that what we respond to as readers is often the author’s control: how they guide our responses to places, people and topics, as well as play with our assumptions and expectations.

At GCSE, the mark scheme talks about Level 6 students adapting the form of their writing “to position the reader” as a way to demonstrate “sophisticated control of purpose and effect” alongside “skilfully control[ing] overall structure.” Ultimately, whatever their level, students should aim to write a piece that demonstrates a sense of narrative control over its style and is structured to direct their reader’s response.

Without taking the time to plan a response, it can be hard to demonstrate this control. As the June 2018 GCSE Examiners’ Report says, “The best work has been carefully planned and builds to a clear and effective conclusion.” Knowing what and how they want to write offers students more control over their work and gives them greater scope for inventiveness.

A crucial way to approach students’ ability to plan is to build their understanding of structural choices. Being able to choose what narrative voice they wish to use, where the story should open and close, how the story ought to progress – these are structural decisions that can enable students to write more imaginatively, without a dependence solely on vocabulary extension. Naturally, exposing students to a wide range of texts of different kinds is what aids this understanding.

Some consideration of time can be a great way for students to be more formally and structurally inventive, as outlined in the same report: “The use of flashback, flash forward, starting at the linear conclusion and working back to the beginning […] can all bring a great deal of creative originality to straightforward or even rather mundane content.”

Creative writing strategies for the classroom and the exam:

Use analogies both as instructions and models. For example, ask students to think of perspective as being like directing a film scene, where your decisions about where the camera should be and who it should focus on can change how the audience feels.

Don’t be afraid to use creative writing as tool for understanding other texts or ideas. Teaching students to write creatively only in response to examination prompts isn’t the way to broaden their ideas. Instead, use creative writing as a way for them to respond to a Literature text; use it as a way for them to express their thoughts about a concept like inequality, or relationships.

Using style models is underrated. Get students to write in the style of a range of authors, so they can learn from the inside out how voice is constructed in different ways depending on the writer.

Exploratory writing could form part of the planning process. Often students think planning means coming up with a list straight away. It’s worth asking students to write in an exploratory way about a text or a task before getting them to consider which of those ideas might form a road map for their own writing.

Effective description moves beyond modifiers. Adjectives and adverbs are important but should be used with judgement. Having a wider range of descriptive, precise verbs will give students more control over their work.

Plan to write something ‘real’. This isn’t a plea for realist fiction, but rather, responses that have a sense of emotional reality. This can help ground writing, giving it depth and direction. This can be easy to miss when trying to plan for something dramatic or surprising.

In short, we want students to write pieces that demonstrate control and consideration, which show they can choose words with care to craft a planned narrative. We think the more students are aware that their experiences as readers can be used or adapted for themselves in their own work, the wider range of tools students have at their fingertips.

Stay connected

Have you got any creative writing strategies you’d like to share? Or perhaps there’s a particular area of the subject you’d like us to talk about. In either case, do submit your comments below or email us at [email protected] . You can also sign up to receive email updates or follow us on Twitter at @OCR_English .

About the author

Isobel joined OCR as a member of the English subject team, with particular responsibility for A and AS Level English Literature and A and AS Level English Language and Literature (EMC).

She previously worked as a classroom teacher in a co-educational state secondary school, with three years as second-in-charge in English with responsibility for Key Stage 5. In addition to teaching all age groups from Key Stage 3 to 5, Isobel worked with the University of Cambridge’s Faculty of Education as a mentor to PGCE trainees. Prior to this, she studied for an MA in film, television and screen media with Birkbeck College, University of London while working as a learning support assistant at a large state comprehensive school.

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How to Structure Creative Writing for GCSE (Creative Writing Examples!)

Posted on August, 2022

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Structure Creative Writing for Success

Having plenty of ideas for creative writing is one thing, but nailing down the right structure can be a bit more challenging.

There are several steps for children to think about before they begin writing, and that includes creating a structure or plan for how their story will flow.

Creative writing is all about grabbing the reader’s attention immediately, so children in their GCSE years need to understand the importance of structure when writing, in order to organise their ideas and make sure their work reads cohesively.

In this post, we will go through everything your child needs to know from paragraphing, to creating a satisfying ending, providing examples along the way to demonstrate the best way to structure their creative writing.

How Should I Structure Creative Writing?

There are several types of creative writing questions that could come up on the GCSE reading and writing exam. There will be the option to either write creatively based on an image, or a made-up scenario.

Having a solid structure for longer creative writing questions and exercises helps to ensure your child is prepared.

By using a structure that helps to organise your child’s ideas, it helps their writing to flow. It also allows your child to become more confident in their creative writing process.

Planning is more important than you might think, as mark schemes from most exam boards include ‘well-controlled paragraphs’ or something very similar within the top band of criteria for creative writing.

Therefore, children should practise planning out creative writing structures well before their writing exam. Planning gives them time to get into the habit of always providing themselves with a simple, but focused idea of what they are going to write.

Structure Creative Writing with Seven Story Archetypes

Introduction.

Understanding the fundamental structure of a story is crucial for crafting engaging narratives. Beyond basic sequences, story archetypes provide a deeper framework. Christopher Booker , a renowned scholar, identified seven main story archetypes.

Each archetype outlines a distinctive journey and the challenges faced by characters.

1. Overcoming the Monster

This archetype portrays an underdog’s quest to conquer a formidable evil. Examples include the epic tales of Harry Potter battling Lord Voldemort, the classic struggle in Jurassic Park, and the timeless narrative of Jack and the Beanstalk.

2. Rags to Riches

Embarking from a starting point of poverty or despair, characters rise to newfound wealth and success. Witness this transformation in stories like Slumdog Millionaire, The Pursuit of Happyness, and The Wolf of Wall Street.

3. The Quest

A hero’s journey to discover something, overcoming trials and tribulations along the way. Iconic examples include the Fellowship of the Ring’s quest in The Lord of the Rings, Marlin’s journey to find Nemo, and the epic adventures of Odysseus in The Odyssey.

4. Voyage and Return

Protagonists venture into unknown territories, facing adversity before returning home transformed. Dive into this archetype with examples like the curious escapades in Spirited Away, Bilbo Baggins’ journey in The Hobbit, and the enchanting Chronicles of Narnia.

Contrary to our typical perception of humour, this archetype involves destined lovers kept apart by conflicting forces. Delight in the comedic twists of relationships in classics such as 10 Things I Hate About You, When Harry Met Sally, and Notting Hill.

Protagonists with major flaws or errors leading to their inevitable downfall. Witness the unraveling of characters in tragedies like The Great Gatsby, Requiem for a Dream, and the Shakespearean masterpiece Othello.

Characters succumb to darkness but redeem themselves throughout the narrative. Experience the transformative journeys in stories like Atonement, American History X, and the animated Beauty and the Beast.

Application Across Mediums

Beyond literature, these archetypes seamlessly apply to filmmaking and photography. A well-crafted photograph or film can mirror the same narrative arcs, captivating viewers on a visual adventure akin to storytelling. Explore these archetypes to infuse depth and resonance into your creative endeavors.

Paragraphing for a Solid Creative Writing Structure

First of all, paragraphing is central to creative writing as this is what keeps the structure solid.

In order to stick to a creative writing structure, children must know exactly when to end and start a new paragraph, and how much information each paragraph should contain.

For example, introducing the main character, diving into the action of the story, and providing 10 descriptive sentences of the weather and location, could be separated and spread throughout for impact.

Structuring a creative writing piece also involves creating an appropriate timeline of events. Then, you must map out exactly where the story will go from start to finish. This is assuming the writing piece is in sequential order.

Occasionally, there may be a question that requires a non-sequential order.

Master creative writing with our Ultimate Creative Writing Workout!

The Ultimate Creative Writing Workout!

What does a Solid Creative Writing Structure look like?

This list below details every section in a creative writing piece and should look something like this:

  • An engaging opening
  • A complication
  • The development
  • The turning point
  • A resolution or convincing close

With this structure, it is important to bear in mind that for the AQA GCSE English Language paper 1 reading and creative writing exam.

You can also use Freitag’s pyramid or a story mountain to help you understand the basic structure of a story:

Children will be expected to spend about 50 minutes on the creative writing section. It’s therefore vital to get them into the habit of planning their writing first. As with anything, practice makes perfect.

If you want to find out more about GCSE English Language papers 1 and 2, check out our blog .

We will dive deeper into the creative writing structure further on in this post, but first, let us go through the importance of paragraphing, and how TipTop paragraphs can help to improve children’s writing.

Paragraphing and TipTop Paragraphs

Before children begin to plan out the structure of their stories, it’s essential that they know the importance of paragraphing correctly first.

At this stage of learning, your child should be comfortable in knowing what a paragraph is, and understand that they help with the layout of their stories throughout the whole writing process.

Paragraphs essentially help to organise ideas into dedicated sections of writing based on your child’s ideas. For example, having a paragraph for an introduction, then another paragraph introducing the main character.

This means your child’s writing will be in a logical order and will direct the reader further on into the writing.

Be as creative as Kevin’s booby traps from “ Home Alone “.

To avoid your child straying from their creative writing structure and overloading paragraphs with too much information, there is a simple way to remind them of when they need to start a new paragraph.

TiPToP for a Clearer Creative Writing Structure

Using the TiPToP acronym is such an easy way for you to encourage your child to think about when they need to change paragraphs, as it stands for:

When moving to a different time or location, bringing in a new idea or character, or even introducing a piece of action or dialogue, your child’s writing should be moving on to new paragraphs.

During creative writing practice, your child can ask themselves a series of questions to work out whether they need to move onto a new paragraph to keep their story flowing and reach that top band of criteria.

For example:

  • Is the story going into a new day or time period?
  • Is the location staying the same or am I moving on?
  • Am I bringing in a new idea that I haven’t described yet?
  • Am I going to bring in a new character?

Providing opportunities to practise creative writing will help your child to get into the habit of asking themselves these questions as they write, meaning they will stick to the plan they have created beforehand.

Now it’s time to get into the all-important creative writing structure.

Structure Creative Writing: A Step-by-Step Guide

Producing a creative writing structure should be a simple process for your child, as it just involves organising the different sections of their writing into a logical order.

First, we need to start at the beginning, by creating an engaging opening for any piece of writing that will grab the reader’s attention. You might also be interested to check out this blog on story structure that I found in my research.

This leads us nicely onto step 1…

1. Creating an Engaging Opening

There are several ways to engage the reader in the opening of a story, but there needs to be a specific hook within the first paragraph to ensure the reader continues.

This hook could be the introduction of a word that the reader isn’t familiar with, or an imaginary setting that they don’t recognise at all, leaving them questioning ‘What does this all mean?’

It may be that your child opens their story by introducing a character with a description of their appearance, using a piece of dialogue to create a sense of mystery, or simply describing the surroundings to set the tone. This ‘hook’ is crucial as it sets the pace for the rest of the writing and if done properly, will make the reader feel invested in the story.

Read more about hooks in essays .

If your child needs to work more on description, I definitely recommend utilising the Descriptosaurus :

Additionally, it’s important to include a piece of information or specific object within the opening of the creative writing, as this provides something to link back to at the end, tying the whole storyline together neatly.

Engaging Opening Examples:

  • Opening with dialogue – “I wouldn’t tell them, I couldn’t”
  • Opening with a question – “Surely they hadn’t witnessed what I had?”
  • Opening with mystery/ or a lack of important information – “The mist touched the top of the mountains like a gentle kiss, as Penelope Walker stared out from behind the cold, rigid bars that separated her from the world.”

2. Complication

Providing a complication gets the storyline rolling after introducing a bit of mystery and suspense in the opening.

Treat this complication like a snowball that starts small, but gradually grows into something bigger and bigger as the storyline unfolds.

This complication could be that a secret has been told, and now the main character needs to try and stop it from spreading. Alternatively, you could introduce a love interest that catches the attention of your main character.

In this section, there should be a hint towards a future challenge or a problem to overcome (which will be fleshed out in the development and climax sections) to make the reader slightly aware of what’s to come.

Complication Example:

  • Hint to future challenge – “I knew what was coming next, I knew I shouldn’t have told him, now my secret is going to spread like wildfire.”
  • Including information to help understand the opening – “Bainbridge Prison was where Penelope had spent the last 2 years, stuffed into a cell the size of a shoebox, waiting for August the 14th to arrive.”

3. Development

The development seamlessly extends from the previous section, providing additional information on the introduced complication.

During this phase, your child should consider the gradual build-up to the writing piece’s climax. For instance, a secret shared in the compilation stage now spreads beyond one person, heightening the challenge of containment.

Here, your child should concentrate on instilling suspense and escalating tension in their creative writing, engaging the reader as they approach the climax.

Development Example:

  • Build-up to the challenge/ climax – “I saw him whispering in class today, my lip trembled but I had to force back my tears. What if he was telling them my secret? The secret no-one was meant to know.”
  • Focusing on suspense – “4 more days to go. 4 more days until her life changed forever, and she didn’t know yet if it was for better or for worse.”

The climax is the section that the whole story should be built around.

Before creating a structure like this one, your child should have an idea in mind that the story will be based on. Usually this is some sort of shocking, emotion-provoking event.

This may be love, loss, battle, death, a mystery, a crime, or several other events.  The climax needs to be the pivotal point; the most exciting part of the story.

Your child may choose to have something go drastically wrong for their main character. They must regardless, need to come up with a way of working this problem into their turning point and resolution. The should think carefully about this will allow the story to be resolved and come to a close.

Climax Example:

  • Shocking event: “He stood up and spoke the words I never want to hear aloud. ‘I saw her standing there over the computer and pressing send, she must have done it.’”
  • Emotion-provoking event: “The prisoners cheered as Penelope strutted past each cell waving goodbye, but suddenly she felt herself being pulled back into her cell. All she could see were the prison bars once again.”

5. Turning Point or Exposition

After the climax, the story’s turning point emerges, crucial for maintaining reader interest.

During this post-climax phase, address and resolve issues, acknowledging that not every resolution leads to a happy ending.

Turning points need not be confined to the story’s conclusion; they can occur at various junctures, signifying significant narrative shifts.

Even in shorter pieces, introducing turning points early on can captivate the reader.

Creative writing allows for individual storytelling, and effective turning points may differ between your child and you.

Maintain suspense in this section, avoiding premature revelation of the ending despite the climax’s conclusion.

Turning Point Example:

  • Turning point: “Little did they know, I was stopping that file from being sent around the whole school. I wasn’t the one to send it, and I had to make sure they knew that.”
  • Turning point: “She forced herself through the window, leaving the prison behind her for good this time, or so she thought.”

6. A Resolution or Convincing Close

The resolution should highlight the change in the story, so the tone must be slightly different.

At this stage, the problem resolves (happily or unhappily) and the character/s learns lessons. The close of the story must highlight this.

The writer should also not rush the resolution or end of the story.

It needs to be believable for the reader right until the very end. The writer should allow us to feel what the protagonist is feeling.

This creates emotion and allows your reader to feel fully involved.

Remember the piece of information or specific object that was included in the story’s opening?

Well this is the time to bring that back, and tie all of those loose ends together. You want to leave the reader with something to think about. You can even ask questions as this shows they have invested in the story.

Resolution Example:

  • Happy resolution: “He came up to me and curled his hand around mine, and whispered an apology. He knew it wasn’t me, and all I felt was relief. Looks like I should have told them right from the start”
  • Unhappy resolution: “All she felt was separation, as she felt those cold, rigid prison bars on her face once more.”

How to Structure Your Creative Writing for GCSE (with Creative Writing Examples!)

To enhance your children’s GCSE creative writing skills, allocate time for practice.

Plan a structure for creative writing to guide children in organising their thoughts and managing time during the GCSE exam.

Apply this structure to various exam questions, such as short stories or describing events.

Focus each creative piece on a climactic event, building anticipation in the beginning and resolving it at the end.

Consider a tutor for GCSE preparation to help children focus on specific areas.

Redbridge Tuition offers experienced tutors for learning from KS2 to GCSE, providing necessary resources for your child’s success.

Get in touch to find out how our tutors could help.

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11 Plus Creative Writing Help: How to Ace the Exam

  • May 23, 2021
  • Posted by: Tutor Rise
  • Category: 11 English 11 plus Creative Writing 11 Plus Preparation How to pass 11 Plus exam

The 11 Plus exams are meant to test children’s understanding of subjects, such as; Maths, English, Verbal Reasoning and Non-Verbal Reasoning. In some 11 Plus English exam papers, children will be asked to complete a creative writing test – an important component that, unfortunately, many students fear.

At Tutor Rise , we are dedicated to helping your child succeed. In this article, we have prepared a comprehensive guide for your child to help them with their 11 Plus Creative Writing component.

11 Plus Creative Writing: Complete Guide

Creative writing for the 11 Plus Exam can last anywhere between 20 and 50 minutes. It may require you to either complete a continuous prose exercise (where you have to continue the start of a story) or write an original story from scratch. With either task, the goal is to examine your ability to plan and write in a structured and engaging way.

Below, you can find some tips that will help you to unleash your creativity and convey your writing abilities.

Free Your Imagination

Before you start to write (or even plan), take a little time to daydream and let your imagination do the work. If you can clearly see your story in your head, you will be able to describe it in a powerful way, with deep descriptions and engaging writing.

Create a Plan

Your next step is to create a simple plan. When you have a short time to write, there are two crucial things that will hold your story together: the main event and your central character. As such, your plan should include:

  • The main event
  • Your main character
  • Where and when the story is set
  • Getting there or how you will get to the main event
  • The ending or what will happen after the event

Choose One Main Event

For an 11 Plus Exam creative writing story, we recommend choosing a single main plot event – if there is too much happening, your descriptive skills may simply get lost. If there is a dramatic event, make sure to describe it powerfully and give a clear sense of the reactions of your characters.

Focus on a Single Main Character

Similarly, it is best to focus on only one core character. You likely won’t have enough time to make more than one person believable and interesting in a short thirty-minute exam. Therefore, make your main character stand out and only refer to others in passing.

Don’t Be Afraid to Skip the Intro

If you are writing a short story, it does not need the same introduction as a 300-page novel would. You do not have to give a full background on your character, and especially not in the beginning of the story.

Writing a full introduction will waste a paragraph, when you might only have enough time to write three or four five paragraphs in your entire story. Instead, you can mention any important information about your characters somewhere along the way.

Include a Little Dialogue

Including a dialogue in your exam story is an excellent way to showcase your punctuation knowledge and make your piece a little different. However, be careful not to turn your story into a script. Include a little dialogue for your 11 Plus creative writing test, but keep the main focus on your description of the characters, settings, and events.

Be Descriptive

Many creative stories have core themes or emotions embedded within them. To give you a better idea of what to expect, below are some common topics and tasks that have come up in 11 Plus writing exams:

  • You may be asked to write a story about your favourite animal, an animal you are afraid of, or your pet.
  • Activities you like. This is an opportunity to describe the activity itself, as well as how it makes you feel.
  • Emotions and feelings. Many times, stories include a requirement to describe a specific emotion like joy or fear that you have experienced in a certain situation.
  • The built environment. You may need to describe a build environment, such as office blocks or houses, castles or cottages, roads, churches, and more.
  • The natural world. Finally, another popular topic includes the description of the natural world. Think mountains and hills, streams and rivers, rain and sunshine.

To help you prepare, think about how you would describe any of these themes well before your exam. Show, not tell! Use a range of senses throughout your story and do not forget to include similes and metaphors where appropriate.

How is 11 Plus Creative Writing Evaluated?

Creative writing skills evaluated in the 11 Plus Creative Writing exercise include the following components:

  • Creativity and imagination. Some people are naturally creative, but do not be desperate if you are not. You can improve your imagination over time by reading a variety of books.
  • Effective planning. Never jump to writing right away. Creating a plan will help you organize your thoughts and give a structure to your story.
  • Correct use of English grammar . You will be expected to correctly apply the rules of grammar throughout your writing. All sentences should be complete and make sense, all word groups should be used correctly, and correct forms of verbs should be applied.
  • Correct use of punctuation. It is important to use all the correct punctuation marks in your writing piece. Review the standard simple forms of punctuation, along with less common punctuation marks like ellipses, brackets, hyphens, apostrophes, colons, and semicolons.
  • Correct spellings. Needless to say, correct spelling is essential in any type of writing. Review and practice spelling rules, as well as the spelling of irregular words.
  • An interesting and “fluent” writing style. Each person has an absolutely unique writing style. Aim to demonstrate your ability to write in an entertaining way that will keep your reader engaged.
  • A good structure of your text. Make sure to demonstrate that your text has structure with clear paragraphs that are organized by topic, characters, and time.
  • An interesting and extensive vocabulary. It may take years to develop an extensive vocabulary, but a proven method is to read numerous books and search for new words that you can use in your own writing.

Get Ready for 11 Plus Creative Writing Exam with Tutor Rise

Without a doubt, passing the 11 Plus Creative Writing aspect of the exam is no easy task. From use of advanced punctuation and grammar rules, to correct spelling and interesting vocabulary, there is a lot to keep in mind.

Fortunately, you and your child are not alone in this. At Tutor Rise , our 11 Plus Writing Course was created by 11 Plus exam specialists who have years of teaching experience. We are truly dedicated to using innovative strategies and tools to help your child progress quickly and truly excel in their exams and beyond.

Contact us today to learn more.

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English Creative Writings with Detailed Answers

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Yes, as a part of the 11+ Exam, aspirants might be required to complete a creative writing exam. CSSE exam board conducts 11+ Creative writing exam. You can practice 11+ Creative Writing papers to get high marks in the creative writing exam.

You can prepare for the 11-plus Creative Writing exam using 11+ Creative Writing papers . With regular practice of these practice papers, you will have a clear idea of what is being asked for the creative writing exams. You can also improve your creative writing skills by reading books by well acclaimed authors and writing short stories or essays.

No. Due to its digital nature, the English Creative Writing Pack is non-refundable.

Topics included in the 11+ Creative Writing exam:·        

  • Descriptive creative writing - Examples: continuing a story on a given line,ending a story on a given line, diary entry, picture response, describing an object & describing a person·
  • Persuasive writing – Examples : charity appeal, book review, restaurant review, letter of complaint & speech
  • Narrative writing - Examples : science fiction, play script, gothic.     
  • Argumentative writing – Example : arguing for or against a statement·              
  • Expository writing – Examples : instructions, an article about your home town.

With regular practice of 11+ Creative Writing papers , you will pass the exam with a high score.

Examiners mostly look for descriptive language -  similes, metaphors, adjectives, sibilance & alliteration. Being proficient in written English will help secure a good score. Students are expected to use proper grammar, punctuation, and spelling. You can practice 11+ Creative Writing papers to score high marks.

We keep on adding more Creative Writing Tasks throughout the year. The existing English Creative members get access to these new tasks.

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How to prepare for Creative Writing

This article provides advice for students about the creative writing task in the 11 plus / selective school entrance examinations.

  • 1 How is creative writing tested?
  • 2 What is the examiner looking for?
  • 4.1 1. Planning
  • 4.2 2. Using you creativity/imagination
  • 4.3 3. Fluent writing style
  • 4.4 4. Punctuation
  • 4.5 5. Grammar
  • 4.6 6. Spellings
  • 4.7 7. Vocabulary
  • 4.8 8. Structure
  • 5 Checking your work
  • 6 Can your handwriting be read?
  • 7 Practise your ideas

How is creative writing tested?

Creative writing for the 11+ may require you to write either an original story or complete a continuous prose exercise in the same style of writing (when you are given the start of a story/piece of writing and you continue it). Both types of task will examine your ability to plan, create and then write in a structured manner.

You may be given just one title/opening paragraph to write from or you could be given a set of options from which you choose your preferred one. A few schools may present the creative writing task at the end of a comprehension exercise where you are asked to continue writing the comprehension text or creative a piece of work about the comprehension text/information.

Some entrance examinations, for selective schools, will assess the creative writing task only as part of a borderline check in the review process if you have fallen marginally short or only just passed the given pass mark for that entrance exam.

Unlike creative writing lessons in school, there will no time allowed to do all the usual planning, drafting and revising required to produce a final piece of writing; the 11+ creative writing task is completed in a very short time, in one sitting, with no time allowed for any drafts.

What is the examiner looking for?

Creative writing skills include the following components:

  • Effective planning
  • Creativity/imagination
  • A ‘fluent’ and interesting writing style
  • Correct use of punctuation including the use of some ‘advanced’ types
  • Correct use of English grammar
  • Correct spellings
  • An extensive and interesting vocabulary
  • A well-structured piece of writing

There will be a specified time given for the writing task. The length of this will vary between schools. Ensure that you know what this is and keep an eye on your progress in order to be able to finish in time and include a check of your work.

Skills to practise

1. planning.

Never just start writing. Planning will help you to organise your thoughts and this will give your writing structure. It really does not need to take long but is always 5 minutes well spent. This planning time may form part of the whole time given to write or it may be an extra 5 minutes provided at the start before the writing is timed. Use a planning technique that works well for you e.g. flow-chart, mind map, spider diagram, chart. If you do run out of writing time you can ask the examiner to refer to your plan to see how you would have continued/ended your work.

2. Using you creativity/imagination

Some people are naturally creative with words, story-lines etc. and find this skill easy. However, your imagination can be greatly improved by reading a variety of books.

See this suggested reading book list .

3. Fluent writing style

Your writing style is unique to you. It should demonstrate ‘joined-up thinking’ and an ability to write in an entertaining manner that creates such an interest for the reader that they want to continue reading.

4. Punctuation

You will be expected to use all the correct punctuation marks in a piece of creative writing. The correct use of punctuation is required to make your writing clear and avoid confusion. Apart from the standard simple forms of punctuation you will already be familiar with, it is best to also demonstrate your knowledge and correct use of some of the less commonly used punctuation marks e.g. ellipses(…), brackets( ), colons(:), semi-colons(;), hyphens(–) and apostrophes(‘).

English Grammar follows rules and you will be expected to use them correctly in your writing. Speaking and writing use different accepted forms of grammar. It is therefore important that you do not write as you may speak or as you communicate in a text message. Your writing should use the word groups i.e. nouns, verbs, pronouns, adverbs, adjectives, connectives, prepositions and articles correctly and in the right order within your sentences. All sentences should be complete and make entire sense on their own, using the correct word endings as appropriate for the number of items and the correct form of the verb for the tense used. Use a variety of sentence structures, in addition to simple sentences, including compound and complex sentences to showcase your abilities.

6. Spellings

The use of correct spelling is essential in any form of writing. Some people are naturally good at spelling and others need to work at learning them. You will probably have been taught some spelling rules in English lessons, revise these and practise them however some awkward or irregular words just have to be learnt. Reading a lot will improve your spelling ability as will playing some word games e.g. Scrabble, Boggle and Hangman. Although a dictionary will not be allowed to be used in a test, make looking up spellings in a dictionary part of your 11+ preparation.

7. Vocabulary

An extensive and interesting vocabulary takes years to develop. Some tutors/parents like to use vocabulary lists LINK to extend a child’s vocabulary but the best method is to read numerous books and look out for new words that you can use in your writing. Keeping a word list of new words is useful and this can be added to when reading books, watching TV or out and about. When you are practising your writing skills use a thesaurus to improve and extend your vocabulary and make an effort to include lots of interesting adjectives and adverbs.

8. Structure

It is important to demonstrate that your writing has structure in the form of clearly demarcated paragraphs that organised by characters, topic and time. Ensure that you have a good opening paragraph, if this is not supplied, to draw the reader in and then a suitable closing paragraph to conclude your writing.

Checking your work

Always leave enough time at the end of your writing to check:

  • Punctuation
  • Consistent use of the same tense
  • Good vocabulary

You have to become your own spelling and grammar checker. Read through carefully with a critical eye and carefully, neatly correct any errors or omissions.

Can your handwriting be read?

There is no point in writing a stunning piece of work if the examiner cannot read it. Although your handwriting is not usually included in the creative writing mark/grade it will certainly influence decisions made about your work. Additionally, punctuation errors may be assumed if it is difficult to differentiate your capital letters from the lower-case letters.

It is never too late to improve, try using a different pen and practise writing at speed.

Practise your ideas

It is a good idea to have a few ‘stock’ essays and/or ideas already practised and prepared that you are able to use, altering as required, for the examination task. Creative writing for 11+/selective school exams tends to follow some fairly predictable themes and styles that can be practised in advance.

Try Chuckra’s  Writing Feedback Service for tailored guidance on how to improve.

What type of 11+ parent are you?

A Fussy Parent , a Tiger Mum , an Exocet Missile , a Give it a go Parent ...

Join The 11 Plus Group  on Facebook to find out.

3 comments on “ How to prepare for Creative Writing ”

Thank you for this useful and informative post. Writing is an essential part of a college education. Having become accustomed to short essays and articles, you may be afraid of such responsible work – it is a long work based on facts. The time limit is another problem. You need help for student , consultations with your teacher to resolve issues.

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creative writing exam structure

VCE Study Tips

English Language

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The Ultimate Guide to VCE Creative Writing

March 1, 2022

creative writing exam structure

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  • What Is The Creative Response?
  • What Are You Expected To Cover? (Creative Writing Criteria)
  • Literary Elements (Characterisation, Themes, Language, Symbolism, Imagery)
  • LSG's unique REPLICATE and IMAGINE strategy
  • Sample A+ Creative Response
  • Writing The Written Explanation
  • Resources To Help You Prepare For Your Creative Response

1. What Is The Creative Response?

The Creative Response, which forms part of the ‘Reading and creating texts’ component of the study design, is part of the 1st Area of Study (AoS 1) - meaning that the majority of students will tackle the Creative Response in Term 1. Unlike the analytical text response, in the Creative Response you will be asked to write your own imaginative piece in response to a selected text. 

You are expected to read and understand the selected text, analyse its key features, and write a creative piece which demonstrates your comprehension of the text.

2. What Are You Expected To Cover? (Creative Writing Criteria)

The creative writing task assesses your ability to combine features of an existing text with your own original ideas. The key intention here is to demonstrate your understanding of the world of the text. You can achieve this by exploring and applying selected elements from the text, such as context, themes, literary devices like symbols, and/or characters. You should also consider the values embedded within the text - this includes explicit values (which can be seen on the surface of the text) and implied values (values we uncover through analysis of the text’s deeper meaning). Try to reflect these values within your writing. 

Your piece will be a creative response, after all, so you should apply the conventions of this style of writing. Firstly, your creative should follow the structure of a beginning, middle, and end. We can also think of this as rising tension, climax, and resolution. Secondly, you should develop an authentic use of language, voice and style to make your writing more engaging and sophisticated. Thirdly, you can use literary devices to build meaning and depth within your piece. As always, your writing should be consistent with the rules of spelling, punctuation, and syntax (that is, written expression) in Standard Australian English.

Part of this assessment is the Written Explanation, which is a chance for you to explain and justify your creative writing choices. Within the Written Explanation, you should reflect on your writing process and analyse your own work. The primary goal here is to explain the links you’ve made to the original text, by considering features like purpose, context, and language. 

Ultimately, to put it simply, you are expected to understand the selected text and demonstrate this in your creative piece. If you're looking to quickly increase your creative skills, watch our incredibly popular video below:

3. Literary Elements (Characterisation, Themes, Language, Symbolism, Imagery)

Literary elements are different parts of the creative writing equation that ensure your piece is consistent with the expected features of this type of writing. When selecting which literary elements to include in your piece, remember to consider the original text and ensure that your work, while creative, also demonstrates your ability to replicate some of its elements.

Characterisation

As we know, characters are fictionalised people within the world of a creative text. Almost an entire century ago, the English writer E. M. Forster famously introduced the concept of flat and round characters in his 1927 book, ‘Aspects of the Novel’. According to Forster, flat characters can be defined by a single characteristic; in other words, they are two-dimensional. For example, the characters of The Simpsons could arguably all be defined as flat characters; Homer is characterised as a slob, Flanders is defined by his Christian faith, Lisa is stereotyped as the ‘teacher’s pet’, and Bart is portrayed as rebellious. We can define all of these characters as flat because they are labelled to the audience in these two-dimensional ways.

In contrast to this, round characters have multiple characteristics, which brings them closer to seeming like real, human figures. The personality of these characters extends beyond a single attribute. In Harry Potter , Harry himself is a round character because of how much we learn about him over the course of the series. For example, we find out about Harry’s difficult childhood, his personal challenges, his love interests, and we see his personality grow from book to book. 

Whether the characters of your creative are flat or round will depend on their involvement within, and importance to, the storyline of your piece. Generally speaking, however, you should aim for the central character(s) to be round, while any minor characters are likely to be flat. Developing round major characters will ensure that they are realistic and believable. In turn, you’ll be able to better demonstrate your imaginative skills and understanding of the text through these characters. 

Themes are the key ideas and issues that are relevant to the storyline of a fictional text. We can identify themes by labelling the main areas of meaning within a text and thinking about the messages that emerge throughout the text. To build your understanding of themes within a particular text and to evaluate the themes of your own creative, consider the following questions:

  • What is the text really about, beyond superficial elements like plot and character?
  • What is the text saying to its reader?
  • What are the core idea(s) or issue(s) within the text?
  • What idea(s) or issue(s) do the message(s) of the text correspond with?

To return to our example of The Simpsons , we could say that the themes within this sitcom include love and family, neighbourliness, and social class. From episode to episode, The Simpsons comments on these different issues. For example, Marge and Homer’s relationship, with its domestic setting and marital ups and downs, is a core aspect of the Simpsons household. Likewise, family is a major component of not only the Simpsons themselves, but also the broader Springfield community. The interactions between parents and children is evident on Evergreen Terrace with the Simpsons and the Flanders families, as well as in other settings such as Springfield Elementary School (where even an adult Principal Skinner is seen through his relationship with his elderly mother). These broad areas can be identified as the key thematic concerns of the series because each episode centres around these ideas.

Language refers to the way in which a piece of writing is expressed. We can define this as the ‘style’, or ‘tone’, of a text. The words and phrasing chosen by a writer determine how ideas are communicated. Effective language will be appropriate for the world of the text and contribute to the narrative in a meaningful way. There are a number of ways in which a piece of writing can be articulated and you should consider the nature of your piece and the language of the original text when deciding what type of language is most appropriate for your creative.

Dialogue, on the other hand, is an exchange of conversation between characters. Dialogue is often used to provide context to a text, develop its storyline, or offer direct insight into a character’s thoughts, feelings and personality. ‍

A symbol can be defined as a thing that represents something else. Symbols are typically material objects that hold abstract meaning. For example, in Harry Potter , Harry’s scar is a symbol of his difficult childhood. Because Harry’s scar causes him pain in Voldemort’s presence, it can also be said that the scar is symbolic of the connection forged between Harry and Voldemort when his attempt to kill Harry failed. As this example suggests, symbols are often associated with the text’s themes - in this case, Harry’s scar relates to the themes of childhood and death. 

The key with symbolism is to connect a particular theme or idea to a physical object. For example, the theme of grief could be portrayed through a photo of someone who has died. Likewise, the theme of change might be represented by a ticking clock, while a character’s clothing could be a symbol of their wealth or status.

For more literary elements, also known as metalanguage, check out our lists:

Part 1 – Metalanguage Word Bank For Books

Part 2 – Metalanguage Word Bank For Films With Examples

And if that's not enough, you'll also want to check out our How To Write A Killer Creative Study Guide where we unpack these elements in more detail AND analyse imagery, foreshadowing, flash-backs and flash-forwards! 

4. LSG's unique REPLICATE and IMAGINE Strategy

If we think about the criteria of creative writing, we’ll see that much of this task involves demonstrating your understanding of the text. For this reason, being able to replicate the world of the text will enable you to showcase your understanding and, in turn, to meet the criteria your teacher will be looking for. Let’s consider how you can strengthen your creative by taking the time to understand the text on a meaningful level and reflect this within your writing.

Step 1: Read

Writing a strong creative piece begins with reading. Reading the text (or watching, in the case of a film) is essential to developing an informed creative response. The more closely you read, the more confidently you’ll be able to engage with the important ideas and textual elements necessary to take your creative from good to great. 

While reading the text for the first time, focus on developing your understanding and clarifying any uncertainty. I would recommend taking the time to read a plot summary before beginning on the text - this will allow you to go in with a reasonable idea of what to expect, and also provide a security net to minimise your likelihood of misunderstanding the plot. 

While reading the text once is sufficient, you will benefit from reading it twice. A second reading enables you to take the time to annotate key sections of the text and to further your initial understanding. If you choose to read the text a second time, pay extra attention to the themes and inner-workings of the text. This means reading between the lines and starting to form an analytical understanding of what the text is about, beyond surface ideas like plot and character. 

Annotating the text (or note-taking, in the case of a film) is an important aspect of any academic reading. The key intention is to ensure your annotation approach is as convenient and accessible as possible. To achieve this, I suggest listing the key themes, allocating a different coloured highlighter to each, and colour-coding sections of the text which you think relate to each specific theme. This will give your annotating process more direction compared to the common approach of simply leaving notes in the margin, which may be time-consuming to read over later. 

I would also recommend making the most of coloured tabs - these enable you to immediately see the key sections of the text, rather than flicking through aimlessly. If you can colour-code these tabs according to the same key as your highlighters, you’ll be able to instantly spot which sections correspond with which theme (and trust me, this will come in handy if you decide to replicate these themes in your own creative).

Aside from annotating the text itself, try to ensure that the notes you write are concise - not only will this save you time, but it’ll mean you focus on condensing the key information. In turn, you’ll have less material to sift through later on, giving you the ability to jump straight into planning and drafting your own piece. This video, How to effectively annotate your books for school! and this blog post, How to effectively annotate your texts in VCE will provide you with more helpful strategies to get the most out of annotating. ‍

Step 2: Understand the World of the Text

‍ Regardless of how many times you read the text, your understanding will be strengthened by seeking out resources to help you think about the text on a deeper level. A good starting point for this is to have a look for LSG blog posts and videos that are about your specific text.

Watching or reading interviews with the author of the text is a fantastic way to hear directly about their intention in writing the text - after all, they are the single most authoritative source on the text. The goal here is to understand the author’s intent (something we’ll expand on in Chapter 8: Strengthening Your Creative ) so that you can reflect this within your own writing. Focus on how the author explains certain aspects of their text, as well as any points they make about its context and background. 

Additionally, peer discussions and asking questions in class will help you to further develop your understanding of the text and clarify any uncertainty. Seeing the text from another’s perspective will develop your knowledge beyond a superficial understanding of the text and introduce ideas you may not have otherwise considered.

Remember to take notes as you go - these will be useful to reflect on later. ‍

Step 3: Implement Your Understanding ‍

Okay, so you’ve taken the time to read and annotate the text, and you’ve sought out external resources to further develop your comprehension. Now we want to apply this understanding within a creative context. Reflect on what you know about the text. Think closely: What have you learnt about its context, characters, and themes? What elements of the text stand out? The goal here is to draw inspiration from the text and begin to think about which aspects of the text you might like to replicate within your creative piece. Begin to put together a shortlist to keep track of your ideas. The aim here is to develop a picture of the parts of the text you might decide to replicate in your own writing. 

Although understanding and replicating the text is important, if we were to only do this, your piece wouldn’t have much creative flair or originality. Here, we’ve taught you the ‘ Replicate ’ component of this strategy . If you’d like additional information about how to elevate this to an A+ standard AND a comprehensive explanation of the ‘ Imagine ’ component, check out our How to Write A Killer Creative study guide ! ‍

5. Sample A+ Creative Response

Here's a sample excerpt from a creative piece written by Taylah Russell, LSG tutor and 47 study scorer, in response to the short story 'Waiting' in Cate Kennedy's anthology, Like a House on Fire :

"The clinician presses forcefully into my lower abdomen, refusing to stop and accept my reality. The poor thing, deprived of such hopelessness as I, seems to honestly believe that the longer he agonises over finding something, the more likely it is that some form of life will appear. That those horoscopes in those grimy magazines, written by journalists who’ve probably been fired from their former reputable jobs, may actually hold some validity. I place my hands over my eyes, tentatively pressing against my eyelids, turning my surroundings a dark black and blocking the stream of water that has readied itself to spill when the time comes, when that young boy finally gives up and realises that his degree holds no value in providing me with happiness."

As we can see in this paragraph, the writer is replicating certain themes from the original text, such as grief. Additionally, this piece is written from the perspective of the original protagonist, which means that its characters and context are also directly inspired by Kennedy. Ultimately, by carrying across these text elements of theme, character, and context, the writer is able to clearly demonstrate an extensive knowledge of the text , while also showcasing their creativity. To see more of this creative piece as well as another A+ example, check out the How to Write A Killer Creative study guide !

6. Writing The Written Explanation ‍

For a detailed overview of the Written Explanation, check out our Written Explanation Explained blog post. ‍

7. Resources To Help You Prepare For Your Creative Response

Youtube videos ‍.

We create general creative writing videos where I explain the method behind this task: ‍

We also create videos that outline ways you can set yourself apart in this assessment:

‍ ‍ Check out our entire YouTube channel (and don't forget to subscribe for regular new videos!). ‍

Blog Posts ‍

Our awesome team of English high-achievers have written a number of blog posts about creative writing to help you elevate the standard of your work! ‍

5-Step Recipe for Creative Writing   ‍

How to achieve A+ in creative writing (Reading and Creating) ‍

"Creative Response to Text" Ideas ‍

Written Explanation - Explained ‍

Reading My 10/10 Marked CREATIVE GAT essay ‍

VCE Creative Response to Runaway by Alice Munro

VCE English Unit 3, Areas of Study 2: Creating Texts - What Is It?

VCE Creative Writing: How To Structure Your Story

Study guide ‍.

And if that isn't enough, I'd highly recommend our How To Write A Killer Creative study guide .

In this study guide, we teach you the unique REPLICATE and IMAGINE strategy, a straightforward and methodical approach to creative writing. The study guide also covers our step-by-step method to guide you through every phase of creative writing (no more not knowing where to start!) AND includes excerpts from multiple A+ creative pieces. Find out more and download a free preview here . 

Get our FREE VCE English Text Response mini-guide

Now quite sure how to nail your text response essays? Then download our free mini-guide, where we break down the art of writing the perfect text-response essay into three comprehensive steps. Click below to get your own copy today!

creative writing exam structure

Access a FREE sample of our How To Write A Killer Creative study guide

  • Learn how to apply key creative frameworks and literary elements to elevate your writing
  • Introduces the REPLICATE and IMAGINE strategy , a straightforward and methodical approach to creative writing
  • Includes a step-by-step method to guide you through every phase of creative writing
  • Explains the Written Explanation component, with multiple annotated A+ examples
  • Includes excerpts from multiple A+ creative pieces

creative writing exam structure

For a deep dive into the Creative and what it entails, check out our blog post: VCE English Unit 3, Area Of Study 2: Creating Texts - What Is It?

Leo Tolstoy wrote his magnum opus, War and Peace , over the span of six years. It took Harper Lee two and a half years to write To Kill A Mockingbird . Anthony Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See took ten years to complete.

The incredibly intricate and complex nature of stories means that it often takes time to fit all the elements in harmony. But for those of you studying VCE English Units 1 and 3 , you don’t have the luxury of two or six, let alone ten years to write your Creative. The time constraints you face can mean that it’s harder to put the metaphorical puzzle pieces together. 

Luckily, we can simplify the process for you by breaking down what makes a good story (using Cinderella to demonstrate).

The Skeleton of a Good Story (With Steps!)

In primary school, we were all taught the “beginning-middle-end“ approach to stories. Aside from being kind of vague, this overused approach doesn’t ensure a clear transformation between the “beginning” and the “end“. If nothing changes between the beginning and the end of your story, you have no story.

The skeleton approach is an effective alternative to other forms of story writing because it guarantees that your character has fundamentally changed by the end. Think of the following as criteria when you write your Creative - if you have (even slightly) addressed all of the following aspects, you can be sure you’ve written a story worth telling (and a Creative that’s going to score highly).

1) The Status Quo

Most stories feature a main protagonist, and your Creative piece should too! This is the main character who is in a zone of comfort/familiarity with some obvious shortcoming. This shortcoming can be a character flaw or something in the setting. This is Cinderella: she is used to her ordinary life in her small house, with her shortcoming being that she’s a servant to her evil stepsisters.

2) The Want

Additionally, your character has to want something (or at least, think that they want that thing). Since your time is limited, keep the desire simple. For instance, Cinderella’s main desire is to escape her life of servitude and be supported.

3) The New Situation

After you have established the character’s “want”, your character has to enter an unfamiliar situation that addresses their shortcoming. Continuing the example of Cinderella, this unfamiliar situation is the royal ball, which offers her the chance to marry the prince and live with him instead.  

4) The Plan

After the new situation is presented, the character must carry out a plan to get what they want, be it explicitly or subconsciously. This plan can either succeed or fail in getting them what they want. Cinderella plans to present herself as a viable option for the prince by ensuring she is well-groomed and presentable - a plan she fulfils.

However, the character must pay a very heavy price for it - mentally, physically or emotionally. This is the climax of the story, where the character is challenged and maybe even forced to change. For Cinderella, the clock striking midnight signals a limit on the amount of time she can maintain the princess persona and interact with the prince.

5) The “Eureka” Moment

This part of the story is potentially the most vital: when the character is forced to look within and reflect on who they are, what they actually need and want, and who they must be to achieve these things. Cinderella's initial reluctance to claim ownership of the shoe suggests her acceptance of a life of servitude, implying that she views the "aristocratic dream" as unachievable.

6) The Resolution

Finally, the character either returns to their familiar situation or a new situation is born. In Cinderella , a new situation arises when Cinderella marries the prince and escapes her previous life. This is when the situation has been “resolved ”, not “ended”.  

Experiment!

The other benefit of the skeleton approach is that you have the room to experiment with your Creative piece. For instance, you can do an allegorical text (like Animal Farm ) or maybe even a cyclical structure ( Gone Girl , film). Your Creative piece is inspired by your experiences and no one else’s so have fun with your creative control!

We’ve explored creative writing criteria, literary elements and how to replicate the text over on our The Ultimate Guide to VCE Creative Writing blog post . If you need a quick refresher or you’re new to creative writing, I highly recommend checking it out!

There are two types of people in this world… those who love creative writing, and those who don’t. But no matter which one you are, never fear, your saviour is here (in the form of this simple guide to writing creatively – whether it’s for school, for a writing competition or just for fun)!

What Are the Five Steps?

  • Do a brain dump of your ideas!
  • Stay true to yourself
  • Start small - keep it simple
  • Don't be afraid to add "spice"
  • Read your writing out loud

STEP 1: Do a brain dump of your ideas!

You’ll often find that your brain is buzzing with possible storylines or scenarios; you’ll feel so overwhelmed trying to pick just one! Or maybe, you’re experiencing  “writer’s block”,  a mind blank. My tip for this is to set a five-minute timer, get a blank sheet of paper and scribble down everything that comes to your mind! You’ll be surprised at how imaginative your mind can be under pressure! When the timer goes off, take a break and then read through each idea individually before choosing one to develop. This way you’ll be able to clearly see all your thoughts, and maybe even be able to link multiple ideas into a more detailed story !

STEP 2: Stay true to yourself

Creative writing is so different to other text types because it gives you the freedom to choose what you're writing about, and how you're going to do it! So, take advantage of this and write from the heart – don’t try to be someone you’re not. Let your personality shine through your writing. It's usually the stories that have some kind of personal backstory, or are based on a real-life experience that are the most enjoyable to read!

STEP 3: Start small - keep it simple

No one expects you to write a New York Times best seller novel in your first attempt! Even the most talented authors began with a dot point plan or a simple paragraph based on their idea. From my experience, the absolute hardest thing to do is actually get started. Keeping it simple and focusing on getting your ideas down on the page is the easiest way to overcome this hurdle. You can worry about the language and descriptions later, once you have a basic first draft, editing and developing is so much easier!

Want to also know the 11 mistakes high school students tend to make in creative writing? Check out this  

STEP 4: Don't be afraid to add "spice"

Now it's time for my favourite part; adding the flavour! This is what will make your writing stand out from the crowd! Take some risks , don’t be afraid to rewrite parts of your piece or use language techniques that are out of your comfort zone! 

Here are a few of my favourite features to use when creative writing:

  • Flashbacks / Foreshadowing (these are good tools to subtly suggest a character’s backstory and add some mystery – especially if you use third-person language to make it more cryptic) 
E.g. As he entered the quadrangle for the first time since the accident, a wave of nostalgia hit Jack… The boy chuckled as the girl ran across the quadrangle to meet him, her cheeks rosy from the frosty air. The pale orange sky was transforming into a deep violet and the new-formed shadows cast dancing silhouettes on the young couple. The boy took the girl’s hand, making a silent promise to himself to protect her smile forever. A promise he would fail to keep…
  • Personification (giving inanimate objects some life to spice up your descriptions!)
E.g. Her favourite oak tree stood proudly in the middle of the park, arms outstretched, waving to those that passed by.
  • Oxymoron (contradictory words or groups of words)
E.g. Deafening silence, blinding darkness, cold fire

If you want to enhance your language or use different adjectives to what you normally use, https://www.thesaurus.com/ is your best friend! 😉 

If you're stuck on how to develop your descriptions and make them more vivid, I suggest relating back to the five senses . Ask yourself, what can the character see? What can they smell? What does the setting they're in sound like?

E.g. He was paralysed in front of the caskets… the cotton wrapped, caterpillar-like bodies, the oppressive silence of the parlour made him feel sick. And the overpowering stench of disinfectant mixed with already-wilting flowers certainly didn’t help.

STEP 5: Read your writing out loud

It can be awkward at first, but have some fun with it! Put on an accent, pretend you're a narrator, and read your writing. It really helps you to gauge the flow of the piece , and also identify things you might need to change. Or even better, read your writing to a friend or family member - ask them how they feel and what their initial thoughts are after hearing your piece .

Either way, reflection is one of the best ways to improve your writing and get it to the next level.

That’s all there is to it folks! Follow this simple recipe and you’ll be cooking up a creative-writing storm! Good luck! 😊

Want more tips on how you can achieve an A+ in creative writing? Read this blog post.

It’s getting closer to the Literature exam and you’re probably starting to get more serious about avoiding dropping too many SAC marks! Depending on which order your school does Literature SACs in, you may be currently facing the often feared ‘Creative Response’. Whether you feel beyond excited to finally bring some creative flair to Literature, or you’re totally scared at the thought of creating something new, I wanted to use this blog post to help you achieve at least ten of the marks in this section. That is through the reflective commentary, which you can totally score full marks on if you put in the effort.

The VCAA Literature Study Design determines that students must submit ‘a reflective commentary establishing connections with the original text’. This aspect of the assessment counts for 10 of the 60 marks available for the Creative Response outcome. The study design further denotes that students must

‘reflect critically upon their own responses as they relate to the text, and discuss the purpose context of their creations’.

This allows your schools and teachers to direct in a relatively broad way on how you should form your reflective commentary, and may mean your friends at other schools write theirs in a very different way. In this blog post I will leave you with a suggestion of how I best believe a reflective commentary could be structured to include all important aspects, as well as tips on how to include all of what the study design asks. As I said, these are ten marks that can easily be snatched with just a little bit of hard work and attention to detail, so why not snatch them?

To induce the things needed to be included in the reflective commentary, we can look to the key knowledge and key skills points outlined in the study design:

Key knowledge:

- the point of view, context and form of the original text,

- the ways the central ideas of the original text are represented,

- the features of the original text including ideas, images characters and situations, and the language in which these are expressed,

- techniques used to create, recreate or adapt a text and how they represent particular concerns or attitudes.

Key skills:

- identify elements of construction, context, point of view and form particular to the text, and apply understanding of these in a creative response

- choose stylistically appropriate features including characterisation, setting, narrative, tone and style

- critically reflect on how language choices and literary features from the original text are used in the adaptation

What you’re really trying to do in your reflective commentary is prove to your teacher that you are hitting all these key knowledge and key skills points. As you write, ensure you are discussing how the author uses point of view, context, form, elements of construction and stylistic features in their text. It is than imperative that you describe how you have similarly used such device in your creative response. Ensure that you also discuss how you are involving the ideas and themes of the text in your creative piece, and how you are discussing them further, or exploring them in greater depth. Obviously only talk about those that are relevant to your creative response!

Sample reflective commentary

Having scored a 10/10 in my own reflective commentary, I will provide a structure that can be used to ensure you are including everything you need. I discussed my own reactions to the original text, and described how I wanted to rouse similar reactions in the reader of my creative response.

In your reflective commentary, it can be easier to put everything under subheadings. These are the ones that I used:

-Characterisation

-Literary features (here I chose 7 particular literary features used in my text and discussed how I emulated them)

Under each of these paragraphs, I analysed how the author used such features to create and convey meaning, and discussed how I, in my own piece, drew on her use of them and expanded on her ideas. Here is an example of my ‘Purpose’ paragraph, which will hopefully give you an idea on how you might write your own commentary! My text was Cate Kennedy’s  Dark Roots , in particular the short story ‘What Thou and I Did, Till we Loved’.

In my piece, I ultimately attempted to lead the reader to a place of discomfort, faced with a situation that they wish never to be faced with. When I first read What Thou and I Did, Till we Loved (Dark Roots, Cate Kennedy), I simply wished never to be in Rebecca’s position, as I was sobered by the sadness of her demise as she watched her lover fade away. I sought to elicit the same response from the reader, as I aimed to convey the deterioration that both lovers suffer, as well as the loss of communication between them. I also attempted to allow the reader to question the humanity in keep people alive by machines and drugs, and whether it is fair to force people to live an unnatural life. I have sought to explore this even further than What Thou and I Did, Till we Loved bringing in the question of euthanasia and whether we have a right to die as Kyle begs of Max to “kill me” at the end of the piece, and Max concedes that “[he] would if [he] could”. The themes of my piece seeks to explore are the ways of coping with grief, guilt at causing the illness of a loved one, a life with a lack of substance, and the loss of communication due to illness.

Hopefully you’re feeling better about how you might go about completing your creative response, and getting that 10/10 on your reflective commentary!

‍ We’ve explored creative writing criteria, literary elements and how to replicate the text over on our The Ultimate Guide to VCE Creative Writing blog post . If you need a quick refresher or you’re new to creative writing, I highly recommend checking it out!

Creative Responses in VCE Literature

This was my favourite SAC in Literature; it allows so much creative freedom in creating and recreating a literary work. When else will you be able to depart from the (admittedly rather boring) standard essay structure?!

In your adaptations and transformations SAC (see my blog post about this literature assessment  here !), you learnt how the  meaning  of the text changed as the form changed. Here’s  your  opportunity to change the meaning of the text, maybe emphasising a particular thematic idea, or perhaps recreating a completely new perspective. Remember – you have almost complete creative licence in this assessment…use it to your advantage!

But don’t forget that the most important part of this task is that you must have a  highly convincing connection between the original text and your creative response . There must be a tangible relationship present, through an in-depth understanding of the original text’s features. These features include characterisation (what motivates these characters), setting, context, narrative structure, tone and writing/film style. Establishing a clear nexus between the original text and your creative piece does not mean you need to replicate everything of the text; you can stylistically choose to reject or contrast elements of the original text – as long as these choices are deliberate and unambiguous. Therefore, your creative response must demonstrate that you read your original text closely and perceptively by acknowledging these features of the text.

You can establish this relationship by:

  • Adopting or resisting the same genre as the original text : e.g. an epistolary genre (written in letters) – do letters make an appearance in your text? Is that something you want to highlight? What about writing a monologue or a script if the text is a film or a play?
  • Adopting or resisting the author’s writing/language style : does your writer characteristically write plainly or with great descriptive detail? What about irony or humour? Consider the length and style of sentences. Are there frequent uses of symbols or metaphors?
  • Adopting or resisting the text’s point of view : do you want to draw readers’ attention to another thematic idea that was not explored in the original text? Will you align with the author’s views and values or will you oppose them? (See my views and values blogpost here!)
  • Adopting or resisting the original setting, narrative structure or tone
  • Writing through a peripheral character’s perspective : give a voice to a minor character that didn’t have a detailed backstory. Find a gap in the text and create and new perspective.
  • Developing a prologue, epilogue or another chapter/scene : what new insight can you add with this addition and extension of the text? It must add something new – otherwise it is a redundant addition.
  • Rewriting a key event/scene from another character’s point of view : does this highlight how important narrative perspective is?
  • Recontextualising the original text : by putting the same story or characters into a completely different context, for example in the 21st century with technology, how does the meaning change in the narrative?

I chose to write a creative piece from the perspective of an inanimate object that followed the protagonist’s journey throughout the entire film, providing an unexpected point of view of the text. Be original and most importantly, enjoy it!

If you're doing a creative piece - whether for English or Literature - you'll find the following blogs super helpful:

‍ 5-Step Recipe for Creative Writing

How To Achieve A+ in Creative Writing (Reading and Creating)

Here’s how to get ahead of this brand new VCE English Unit. 

What Is ‘Creating Texts’?

If you’re in Year 12 this year, chances are you will begin studying the Creating Texts Area of Study very soon (if you haven’t started already). This new AoS in the 2024 study design has essentially expanded and replaced the previous study design’s approach to creative writing, now placing a greater focus on the process of creating texts and embracing multiple forms of writing.

Here’s what the study design states the outcome of this unit is:

‘On completion of this unit the student should be able to demonstrate effective writing skills by producing their own texts, designed to respond to a specific context and audience to achieve a stated purpose; and to explain their decisions made through writing processes.’ (VCAA English Study Design, 2024-2027)

So, while before VCAA did not place a heavy focus on this unit, now it is heavily emphasised, being one of the three sections of the English exam. Now, more so than before, you are required to write – even if just a little bit – creatively.

Given that Creating Texts is now reflected in the end-of-year exam, it is very important to nail it. And to do that, you first need to know what this Area of Study is all about.

Framework of Ideas

A big part of this AoS is the Framework of Ideas , which provides students and, perhaps most importantly, schools, with thematic guides to encourage discussion and unique writing. The study design states:

‘ The Framework of Ideas presents four broad ideas through which students can engage with writing’. 

Here’s what they are, as directly taken from the study design:

  • Writing about country: 'Exploration of place and belonging'

You can also explore ideas of one’s sense of national belonging, the climate crisis, colonisation and decolonisation, and different forms of cultural identities in relation to the land. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander perspectives can also be addressed.

  • Writing about protest: 'Explorations of conflict and contest, what it means to protest, the value of protest, the outcomes of protest, personal stories of protest, struggle and war'

For this framework, you can dive deep into prominent figures who spearheaded social movements through protests, or you can look at protest more broadly and investigate its role and effectiveness within society, the history of protest and its many facets.

  •   Writing about personal journeys: 'Explorations of ‘life’ or biographical explorations'

Ideas surrounding the importance of storytelling and personal change, and invitations for students to create autobiographical written pieces are also outlined in the study design.

  •   Writing about play: 'Explorations of experiences and traditions of play and playing in many cultures and through history'

This framework also invites thought into how play intersects with technology, the role of play and make-believe in our daily lives, and even how performance and social media may influence how we view the world today.

NOTE: The study design also offers many other possible ways to explore these ideas, so make sure to check it out and read it carefully. It can be found HERE .

As you can see, the ideas within the frameworks are very broad. This was intentionally done, so that you have ample opportunity to find something within those ideas that engage you. Your school will choose only one of these frameworks, so you are in no way expected to dissect all four – that would be a huge undertaking!

Mentor Texts

There are also four mentor texts for each framework, which range from TED Talks, blog posts, short stories, speeches and argumentative articles, to name a few. Their purpose in the curriculum is to serve as examples of effective writing, as the selected texts show a competent understanding of context, purpose and audience , as well as confident use of textual features such as tone, vocabulary and authorial voice. This is similar to what you might have encountered in Year 11, where you were asked to read and analyse a range of creative texts to then inform your own writing.

When studying your mentor texts, make sure to keep all of this in mind and carefully analyse each text and what is successful about them in relation to your framework. This will make your life much easier when it comes to writing your own.

If you don’t feel very confident in creating texts or think these frameworks are very broad and hard to come up with good ideas for, just remember that you’re not going into this unit completely blind, neither are you expected to write completely from scratch.

Besides your experience last year, your given framework and mentor texts are there to provide a guide to effective writing and introduce you to many different ideas, so make sure to use them to your advantage! Besides, having more freedom in a creative writing task should definitely be viewed as a benefit rather than a hindrance. 

Oh No! Does This Mean I Have To Write a Narrative? 

No, it doesn’t! If the aforementioned formats of the mentor texts were any indication, this AoS encourages you to embrace the variety of different writing styles.

When before you might have been required to write within a narrative format or asked to ‘fill a gap’ in an already existing short story, now you have the freedom to write in whatever way you want, and it does not need to be a narrative, let alone fictional storytelling.

In the context of the Creating Texts AoS, ‘creative writing’ does not only equate to creating fictional characters, worlds and narratives. Instead, it gives way to the many other forms of writing that show off a writer’s creativity, which is not solely dependent on what is written, but also how and why the text has been written. This links back to the context, purpose and audience idea I talked about before.

The study design also heavily focuses on the process of writing and experimentation and not just the final draft. This AoS is your chance to fully immerse yourself in writing, so you should make sure to brainstorm and try new modes of writing you might not have thought of before. You might end up surprising yourself and coming up with great texts!

So, here’s a non-exhaustive list of writing styles you can choose to tackle:

  • Your classic narrative or short story
  • Argumentative article
  • Transcript of a Podcast episode
  • Poetry/Song (just remember you are not allowed to write in these formats for the Exam!)
  • Reflective essay
  • Biographical texts

You may find that, as you work through the unit, some formats may be more effective than others depending on your framework, chosen audience, chosen tone or even just your personal preference. For example, writing in a blog post format post would be more effective in engaging the particular audience of teens and young adults. 

Or, you may choose to convey your ideas with a specific tone in mind. For example, if you want to address your framework in an emotive way you might choose to write a first-person narrative short story. Conversely, if you want to address it in a rational and factual way, you might choose to write an article. 

That’s another reason why experimenting and trying new things is so important -  so that you can find out what, in your opinion, suits you and the framework best.

Check out our blog post on the Skeleton Approach for a suggestion of how you could potentially structure your Creative piece.

What Your SAC Will Look Like

This AoS is worth 60 of the 100 marks allocated for Unit 3, so it is a big deal. However, if you have a look at the study design, those 60 marks are split into three equal parts worth 20 marks each, which means your SAC will consist of three things:

‍ 1) ‘A written text constructed in consideration of audience, purpose and context.’ And, of course, your text will also need to be constructed in relation to your chosen framework.

2) ‘A written text constructed in consideration of audience, purpose and context.’ Yep, that’s right. For this SAC you have to create two distinct writing pieces. The assessment task as it is outlined in the study design does not mention whether they need to have completely different formats or audience/purpose/context from one another, so the specifics might be up to your school to decide.

3)   ‘A commentary reflecting on writing processes.’ This is the same as a Written Explanation , which you likely have come across before. This is where you write a couple of paragraphs outlining and justifying your choices for each written text you produced, especially in relation to your framework and your audience, purpose and context. Having a successful commentary means you clearly describe the authorial intent in your work, so make sure to be specific and self-analytical in your writing!

What the Exam Will Look Like

The 2024 English exam will be the first exam that follows the new 2024-2027 study design, and the biggest change between now and the previous years is that Section B, which used to ask students to write a Comparative Response to a set of texts they would have studied at school during the year, is now all about Creating Texts . So much so that now Section B is called – you guessed it – ‘Creating texts’.

VCAA has been kind enough to release a sample of this new requirement, which outlines very faithfully what this section will look like in the actual exam. The exam paper consists of a page of general instructions which apply to all students, and then four pages with three pieces of stimulus material each, which relate to each of the four frameworks.

The stimuli consist of one statement, an image, and a section of a poem/story, and the exam paper says you must use ‘at least one’ of them in your writing. (Here’s a quick tip: if the examiners are asking for at least one, use two or more.)

There is also a compulsory title given for each framework, which must be the title of your text.

The instructions in the VCAA sample exam also outline that in Section B ‘you must create one written text ( not including song, poetry or verse)’ , and that ’you must include meaningful connections with ideas drawn from one of the Frameworks of Ideas’ as well as the provided title and the stimulus material. You should choose the framework you have studied in depth at school to write about, and you are also able to refer to your mentor texts, although that is not compulsory in the exam.

Another point is that ‘you must develop your text with a clear purpose, incorporating at least one of the following: to explain, to express, to reflect, to argue.’

You may remember these purposes from the Unit 1 Crafting Texts Area of Study in Year 11. They are pretty much self-explanatory, and chances are that any writing you do will already serve one of these purposes without it being your conscious decision. Also, similar to the stimulus material, try to incorporate two purposes within your piece instead of just one, if possible.

And, as previously was the case as well, Section B is worth one-third of your full exam marks.

You can find the 2024 English sample exam and other very helpful resources such as past exams and exam reports by clicking HERE . 

Three Tips to Help You Ace Creating Texts

So, now that we know what Creating Texts is all about, here are three helpful tips to keep in mind as you make your way through this Area of Study:

1) Play to Your Strengths

As you experiment and become familiar with a range of writing styles and formats, you may find that you’ve become really good at writing argumentative essays, or you became more interested in writing short stories, or maybe you remember that in Year 11 you got a high mark for writing a strong reflective essay. Make sure to self-assess and keep in mind what your strengths are in writing, even if they might not be apparent at first glance.

Also remember that, in the exam, you have a very limited amount of time to come up with a unique piece of writing from scratch, so having a text format in mind that you feel really confident and comfortable writing with can provide at least a little bit of guidance and reassurance when you’re writing something new.

2) Choose Formats That Will Help You Show a Deep Understanding of Your Framework

For instance, if you have the ‘writing about play’ framework and you are deeply inspired by an example of how play can help people heal from trauma from one of your mentor texts which happens to be a memoir, you might deem it best to write a short story or a personal fictionalised diary entry which shows you have taken inspiration from that memoir’s central idea, but you are also engaging with the framework’s implications in society.

Of course, this should be judged on a case-by-case basis, but it can be a helpful guide if you feel stuck and unsure of where to start your writing process.

3) Be Flexible

This is especially important for the exam. You don’t want to walk in with a memorised text! Examiners can definitely tell when a student has just route-learned their way into essay writing, and this will undoubtedly be extra noticeable for creative texts, especially when the exam gives you no choice but to integrate their given stimulus material.

This is why becoming used to as many writing formats as possible, alongside consistent planning and brainstorming, are incredibly important skills to develop throughout the year, so that when it comes time to the end-of-year exam you are ready to go regardless of what the examiners throw at you!

The best way to succeed in this Unit, like pretty much all other tasks in English, is to consistently practice your writing and experiment with as many writing styles as you possibly can. Be open to new ways of thinking, not only about the framework you are given, but about the concept of writing itself! Although certainly challenging, the Creating Texts AoS can prove itself to be great fun. So, best of luck in creating texts, and happy writing!

Ransom and Invictus are studied as part of VCE English's Comparative. For one of most popular posts on Comparative (also known as Reading and Comparing), check out our Ultimate Guide to VCE Comparative.

Introductions

Clint Eastwood’s 2009 film ‘Invictus’ centers on the events following the election of Nelson Mandela, South Africa’s first black President in the post-apartheid era. The film follows President Mandela’s attempt to infuse a deeply divided country with new energy, by supporting the South African rugby team’s victorious 1995 World Cup Campaign. The unlikely bond formed between President Mandela and Francois Pienarr, the captain of the rugby team, illustrates themes of unity and reconciliation in a divided nation. The film begins with the image of a deeply divided society in 1990, as Mandela is released from 27 years of incarceration. A poignant opening scene sees Mandela drive along a long dirt road that runs between two playing fields, on one side, young black children shout excitedly as Mandela passes. On the other side, immaculately dressed white boys stare vacantly, as their coach proclaims, “This is the day our country went to the dogs.” This tumultuous period in South African history is of central concern to ‘Invictus’, as Eastwood portrays the lingering racial prejudices imbedded in this society. The film portrays the tension between the bitter resentment of black South Africans towards their former oppressors, with the fear and uncertainty of white Afrikaners under Mandela’s political leadership. Eastwood masterfully depicts the true story of the moment when Nelson Mandela harnessed the power of sports to unite a deeply divided South Africa.

Set during the Trojan War, one of the most famous events in Greek mythology, David Malouf’s historical fiction ‘Ransom’ seeks to explore the overwhelming destruction caused by war, and the immense power of reconciliation. Drawing on the Iliad, the epic poem by Homer, Malouf focuses on the events of one day and night, in which King Priam of Troy travels to the enemy Greek encampment to plead with the warrior Achilles to release the body of his son, Hector. Maddened by grief at the murder of his friend Patroclus, Achilles desecrates the body of Hector as revenge. Despite Achilles refusal to give up Hector’s body, Priam is convinced there must be a way of reclaiming the body – of pitting new ways against the old, and forcing the hand of fate. Malouf’s fable reflects the epic themes of the Trojan war, as fatherhood, love, grief and pride are expertly recast for our times.

Malouf and Eastwood both depict societies on the brink: Troy faces annihilation by the Greeks, while South Africa faces an uncertain future as it emerges from the injustices of the apartheid era, both worlds are in dire need of true heroes to bridge the great divide. Together, these two texts echo the significance of hope in the enactment of change. To learn more, head over to our full Ransom Study Guide (covers themes, characters, chapter summaries, quotes and more).

The power of shared human experiences

Both texts are centrally concerned with the significance of the universal experiences of love, loss, grief and hope to unite a divided people. Both Invictus and Ransom explore how societal forces divide people into different, often conflicting groups – whether this be race, history, culture, or war. Each text appeals to the universal experiences that define the human condition, and emphasise the significance of opportunities to cross-cultural divides.

In ‘Ransom’, Malouf is centrally concerned with the theme of fatherhood. This concept links the mortal and godly realms, which King Priam straddles over the course of his journey. The relationship between Priam and Somax illustrates this complex theme most clearly. The two men, despite being deeply separated by their class, education and power, share their common familial experiences. Priam confronts the poignancy of their shared experience of losing sons, questioning whether it “meant the same for him as it did for the driver”. Malouf thus presents Priam as initially lacking in terms of his understanding, Somax’s friendship and stories are the catalyst for Priam to engage in deeper, empathetic understanding. Somax’s trivial yet symbolically significant story about the griddle-cakes represents a moment of anagnorisis for Priam, wherein the shared bond of humanity in fatherhood allows Priam to obtain insight, and progressively grow as a human and as a leader. This incident fuels the journey to appeal to Achilles “man to man”, Priam’s insight into the power of empathy allows him to appeal to their shared bond as suffering fathers.

Just as Priam goes to Achilles “as a father”, using their common quality, fatherhood, to further understand each other, Mandela, too, emphasises the point that you must “know [your] enemy before [you] c[an] prevail against him” and thus he “learned their language, read their books, their poetry”. Mandela attempts to unite Black and white South Africans, despite the mutual animosity and distrust fostered by decades of apartheid. Black and White South Africans share almost nothing in common, with significant cultural and societal barriers to their reconciliation, including different dialects. Rugby emerges as the most poignant manifestation of this divide as the White South Africans support their national team, but the black south Africans barrack for the opposing side. The scene wherein Pienarr and Mandela meet over tea is symbolic of this sentiment of fostering unity amongst deep divisions. President Mandela literally hunches over to pour the tea for Pienaar, this inversion of status demonstrates his willingness to reduce his dignity as a superior and speak with Pienarr, and by extension, white south Africans, on an equal level, modelling an example of how race relations in his nation should be carried out. This equality is also symbolised by the passing of the tea to Pienaar, the close up shot where both arms of the individuals are depicted on an equal level reinforces this sense of mutual equality and respect, extolling the virtues of empathy and integrity as a uniting force.

Leadership and Sacrifice

Mandela and Priam symbolise how leadership must inevitably entail familial sacrifices. Both leaders self-identify with their nation and people. Priam embodies Troy itself, his body is the ‘living map’ of the kingdom.  The ‘royal sphere’ he embodies is constrained by customs and tradition, full of symbolic acts that separate him from the mortal world. To an extent, these royal obligations and ritual suffocate Priam’s individuality and he is unable to show his true nature, or connect with his family in the way he would desire to. He regards intimate relationships with his children as “women’s talk” that “unnerves him” as it is not “his sphere”. This articulation of the disassociation of the “royal sphere” with natural human bonds of family reveals the secondary role that family and love must take when one’s role as a leader is paramount. Similarly, Mandela claims “I have a very big family. Forty-two million people”. Unlike Priam, Mandela seeks human connection, predicating his leadership on democratic ideals. This takes a physical and emotional toll, as shown by Mandela’s collapse in his driveway. The cost of leadership here is evident, as Mandela has effectively sacrificed his family for the good of his nation. His strained relationship with his daughter Zindzi further reinforces this, as she disapproves of Mandela reaching out to Pienarr, likening him to one of the white “policeman who forced (her) out of her home”, showing the disconnect between father and daughter due to the sacrifices necessitated by Mandela’s life of leadership, including his 27 year imprisonment.

Fatherhood and Masculinity

In ‘Ransom’ Malouf presents an enclosed, limited and unemotional masculine world, with particularly stringent expectations for men’s behaviour. This is a world characterised by war, wherein the expectations of violent masculinity are paramount. In presenting Achilles inside of “a membrane stretched to a fine transparency”, Malouf reveals the constant tension between the emotional, domestic human nature inside Achilles and the hierarchical violent external society that he is expected to abide by, revealing the constricting nature that the society has on defining men’s actions. Malouf uses words like “knotted” and “rope-like” when describing Achilles’ muscles, implying that his conventional great strength, the source of his fearsome reputation, represents a confinement that the society enforces on him and other men. Further, through a degree of compassion, Priam is able to touch the “sore spot whose ache he has long repressed” in Achilles, a symbol of the emotions that have been supressed by the dominant patriarchal nature of this society.

Whilst the world of ‘Invictus’ is less overtly masculine and patriarchal, the narrative of the film is primarily focused on the male experiences, with female characters assuming a largely secondary role. Zindzi’s strained relationship with her father exemplifies the sacrifices involved in leadership. Whilst Mandela is seen to have sacrificed a close connection with his daughter, this is suggested to be in service of the nation, “I have a big family. Forty two million people”.

Character analysis and comparison

Character analysis/comparison.

- aging king of troy

- individuality has been subsumed by the ceremonial functions of his high position

- self-identifies with nation

- life of obligation

- foregoes convention and embraces chance with his proposal to offer ransom for his son’s body

- becomes more attuned to the natural world

- gains a greater appreciation of his true self as a man, rather than a symbolic figurehead

- historic figure, symbol of peace

- spent 27 years in prison for sabotage and conspiracy to overthrow the government while he was trying to gain civil rights for all south Africans

- tackled institutionalised racism, poverty and inequality

- suffered under apartheid

- pursues reconciliation, prepared to face down calls for retribution

- in his speech to the sports council, he defends the traditions of the people who persecuted him

- interacts easily with people of all social standings

- charismatic, in touch with the people

 Comparison

- embody essential role that leadership plays in achieving just resolutions to conflict

- sacrifice family for leadership

- illustrate that effective leadership takes a toll on the individual

- exemplify that reconciliation requires unexpected and difficult acts. Such as Mandela’s embrace of the Springboks and Priam’s appeal to Achilles “man to man”

- both show effective leadership involves expressing empathy and understanding the humanity of your enemies

Literary and cinematic techniques

- In one of the first scenes in Mandela’s office after he is elected President, Eastwood strategically frames the racial segregation and tension between the two groups via the mise-en-scene; they stand on separate sides of the room, wearing distinctly different clothing and calling Mandela either “Mr President” or “Madiba”, representative of their own identity. The lingering tension between the two groups permeates the entirety of the film, and the microcosm of the bodyguards acts as a symbol of the chasm within the wider nation.

- The deeply symbolic scene wherein Mandela and Pienaar have tea, Eastwood strategically uses a close up shot to frame the passing of the tea cup so that both arms of the individuals are depicted on the same level, reinforcing this sense of mutual equality and respect. It is this sharing of hope that ignites Pienaar to reciprocate Mandela’s egalitarian actions. As Pienaar brings a ticket for Eunice, recognising that “there’s a fourth” family member, he mimics Mandela’s value that “no one is invisible”. Consequently, it is demonstrated that regardless of skin colour, characters reciprocate Mandela’s empathy and compassion, revealing the limitless power such human qualities to reach across the boundaries of division.

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- The wide shot of the passing of the trophy from Mandela to Pienaar is framed against the large crowd, metaphorically representing South Africa’s support with the unity of the black and whites, reflecting Mandela’s desire to “meet black aspirations and quell white fears”. Their diegetic cheers work to create the idyllic depiction of the lasting power of this change, implying the true limitless nature of hope in their society.

creative writing exam structure

Learn more through Caleb (English study score 47) about Invictus Film Technique Analysis - How Can I Write About It?

- Priam’s moment of anagnorisis in which he discovers the concept of “chance”, marks the beginning of his enactment of change through the power of hope. Despite his family who wishes that he would “spare [himself of] this ordeal”, Priam’s vision guides him to overcome familial and societal obstacles in pursuit of reconciliation.

- Symbol: Griddlecakes – represent pleasure in common things, but also the growing realisation within Priam of his distance from such pleasures. The love and care with with Somax’s daughter cooked the cakes has a value that surpasses the conventional riches associated with the ruling elite. This is a catalyst for a moment of realisation for Priam.

Video Transcription

Introduction to animal farm:.

- Written in 1945 by George Orwell, Animal Farm is an allegorical novella about the 1917 Russian Revolution and the repressive Stalinist period which followed.

- As a democratic socialist, Orwell was an adamant critic of Joseph Stalin and his totalitarian dictatorship over Russia.  

- Thus, Orwell wrote Animal Farm as a satirical fable against Stalin’s tyrannical control, stating that he wrote it with the intention of ‘fusing political purpose and artistic purpose into one whole’.

- The novella is set in Manor Farm, located in Willingdon, England at an undisclosed time.

- As the events of Animal Farm symbolise the power struggle of early 20th century Russia, this ambiguity of time is intended to prevent Orwell’s warning against repressive tyranny from becoming dated.

- Orwell’s use of a farm as the main setting is also notable, as farms represent nations in Animal Farm ; both require a vast amount of work in order to function properly. Thus, the act of the animals cooperating to cast the humans out of the farm symbolises a workers’ revolution against their oppressive leadership.

Main Character Analysis:

Napoleon (pig):

- Based on Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin, he emerges as the leader of the Farm after the Rebellion.

- He consolidates his control over the farm with the violent force of his nine attack dogs, having raised them as puppies; these directly symbolise Stalin’s military force.

- He never contributes to other animals’ efforts at revolution, as he is only a corrupt individual who seeks to take advantage of opportunities created for him by others.

Snowball (pig):

- Based on Soviet rebel Leon Trotsky, he challenges Napoleon for control of the Farm after he takes control of the leadership.

- Similar to the leader he is modelled after, Snowball is eloquent, charismatic, intelligent and persuasive - thus, he wins the loyalty and support of other animals easily.

Boxer (cart-horse):

- Extremely devoted to the farm and the Rebellion, Boxer symbolises what Orwell believed to be the best qualities of the proletariat, or the exploited working class, such as loyalty, strength, camaraderie and hard work, perceivable by his personal motto of ‘I will work harder’.

- However, he simultaneously suffers from typical weakness of the working class, such as a naive trust in the intelligentsia and a slow-witted oblivion to political corruption, represented by his other motto of ‘Napoleon is always right’.

Squealer (pig):

- Manipulative and highly persuasive, he spreads Napoleon’s propaganda throughout the farm to intimidate uneducated animals into supporting Napoleon’s ideas and policies.

- Orwell uses the character of Squealer to warn against politicians’ deliberate manipulation of mass media in order to gain social and political control.

Old Major (boar):

- Based on the socialist revolutionary Karl Marx, as well as Russian revolutionary leader Vladimir Lenin, Old Major’s dream of a socialist utopia acts as a major motive for the Rebellion.

- Major’s death creates a political vacuum in the farm, leaving Napoleon and Snowball in a power struggle for control of his followers.

Themes and Motifs:

- By allegorising in Napoleon dictator Joseph Stalin, Animal Farm is first and foremost a satirical critique of politicians’ tyrannical misuse of power.

- This is epitomised by the deceitful methods Napoleon uses to gain support, such as lying to the other animals that Snowball is a political traitor in order to banish him from the Farm.

Naive Proletariat:

- Animal Farm explores the need for the working class to be educated, as the inability of the farm animals to question Napoleon’s authority directly leads to the perpetuation of his oppression.

- Thus, Orwell presents to his readership that the working class may suffer not only due to dictators’ abuse of power, but also from their own naive unwillingness to question the intentions of the authority.

False Allegiance:

- Orwell accurately exhibits treacherous aspects of the human condition in his portrayal of dramatised relationships between humans and animals.

- Just as the pig rulers of the rebellion eventually betray their own idealistic visions, the theme of alliance is shattered between Frederick and Napoleon when the latter learns that the former has been forging banknotes while buying firewood from him.

- Thus, Animal Farm depicts the idea that alliances formed in a tyrannical dictatorship are merely veneers of camaraderie, which hide each person’s capability to destroy others in their path towards control.

Analysis of Quotes:

‘Four legs good, two legs bad.’

- From Chapter 3, this slogan is based off of Old Major’s speech before his death about the need for animals to unite in the face of human oppression and tyranny.

- The quote is a noteworthy example of propaganda in Animal Farm, as the leaders utilise language in order to essentially brainwash the working class animals.

- Although it initially helps the animals to remember their goals, the phrase later loses its meaning of solidarity as it becomes a nonsensical noise made by sheep when used to drown out the voices of challengers to the regime.

‘All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.’

- This quote exemplifies the pigs’ abuse of logic and language to keep their power over their followers.

- The evidently senseless and illogical meaning behind this phrase is an example of the methods that the leader of the Farm takes in order to brainwash his followers.

- The quote also suggests that the pigs’ real intention to create an animal utopia is not, in fact, to rise up against the oppression of the humans, but to become part of the elite; the ‘some’ that possess greater rights and power than the rest of the underprivileged society.

5 Types of Essay Prompts

Your approach to each essay will depend on what type of prompt is being asked. Be aware that not all essay prompts are the same, which means that sometimes your preferred essay structure simply won’t suit the type of prompt asked. That's why it's important to be aware of the 5 types of essay topics – what you should watch out for and how you could approach your essay writing. The topics used in this blog post have been curated by Lisa's Study Guides.

1. Theme-based prompts :

Animal Farm is first and foremost a satirical critique of politicians’ tyrannical misuse of power.

Usually your paragraphs will be based around particular themes. For example in this case, paragraphs may be based on ‘love’, ‘escape’, ‘horrors of war’ etc. These paragraphs can have character discussions embedded within them in order to demonstrate how the characters represent each theme. Discussion of the author’s choice of language such as symbols or imagery can be essential to the analysis of a theme.

2. Character-based prompts :

Boxer is the only animal with redeeming qualities. Do you agree?

These prompts focus on one or more characters. In this case, you can structure your essay paragraphs based on particular characters or something in common with a set of characters. Essays can become quite repetitive if each paragraph is based around one character so try to add in discussion about themes or the character’s relationships with other characters. Remember that minor characters can be just as important as major characters.

3. How-based prompts : 

How does Napoleon exert control over the farm?

These prompts are usually structured, ‘how does the character do this,’ or 'how does the author do this'. In this case, since the prompt is focused on one main character, try to weave in the main character’s interactions with other characters and how other characters influenced them.

4. Metalanguage-based prompts :

The language in Animal Farm is crucial to Orwell's storytelling.

These types of prompts are the rarest of the 5 prompts but don’t be surprised if you’re asked one. They focus more on the  language  part of the text; rather than the plot, themes or characters. Your discussion will revolve around the author’s use of language (metaphors, prose, syntax etc.). These discussions are typically viewed as ‘harder’ prompts because you need to think about how the author achieves a particular message about character or theme through their choice of words. Check out our blog post on  metalanguage  and what you need to look out for.

Extra helpful resource by the BBC: Form, structure and language in Animal Farm .

5. Quote prompts :

'All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.’ How is this true in Animal Farm?

These prompts can be character- or theme-based. However, it differs from other essay topics because it includes a direct quote from the text. Remember that the quote is part of the prompt, so ensure that you address it. One of the best ways of doing so is to incorporate the quote into the essay itself.

creative writing exam structure

When faced with unknown prompts in a SAC or your exam, it's reassuring to have a formulaic breakdown of the prompt so that your brain immediately starts categorising the prompt - which of the 5 types of prompts does this one in front of me fall into?

To learn more, I discuss this and offer you practical strategies (so you never mind-blank again!) in my ebook, How To Write A Killer Text Response . Feel free to check it out, and good luck!

For many VCE Students, Language Analysis is most commonly their ‘weakest’ section out of all three parts of VCE English. Throughout my years of tutoring, when I’ve asked these students  why  they struggle, they usually blame the difficulty in grasping the  most  important component of Language Analysis:

Understanding  how   the author  intends  to persuade their readers.  

You’ll see that I have italicised the words, ‘how’ and ‘intends’ in the above statement to highlight where your focus needs to be. If you’re currently trying to get your head around Language Analysis, or if you don’t understand where you’re going wrong, don’t worry. We’re going to look at the incorrect assumptions students make about Language Analysis, how to avoid it and also what you  should  do instead! So first, let’s have a look at a couple of common student errors. Students (including yourself perhaps) may believe that:

1. Language Analysis is about  finding  language techniques that persuade readers.

Stop right there! This certainly isn’t a treasure hunt ( but that would be pretty awesome right? ). If an essay was just about identifying language techniques, everyone would get an A+ ( we wish! ). Once you’ve had some practice under your belt, you’ll notice that anyone can find rhetorical questions, inclusive language and statistics, so there is a lot more to it than simply pointing out language techniques. Also, steer clear from throwing in all the possible language techniques you’ve found in an article too, because it’s not a competition about who can find the most techniques and even if you did, it doesn’t guarantee you an amazing score on your essay.

2. Language analysis is about  if  authors successfully persuade their readers.

Sorry to tell you, but this definitely isn’t it either. Our job as the student isn’t to figure out whether or not the author successfully persuades their reader. You can’t really speak for all the people reading an article if they do or do not agree with the author’s contention. Just like if you see an advertisement on television for MacDonalds, you can’t tell if the next person who watches the ad will be persuaded to go out and buy a Big Mac meal. That’s why at the end of the day, it’s not up to you to figure out the extent to which the author persuades their readers. So in that case, what should you be doing instead?

The ultimate goal is to demonstrate your understanding of how the author attempts to persuade the reader to agree with his or her contention.

Let’s break up the essential parts of analysing language so we can pinpoint exactly the part that is most problematic and also how we can finally get a strong grasp of how to be successful in this area:

The  TEE  rule

—Technique  – what  persuasive technique  is used?

—Example  – which  text  that shows it?

—Effect  – what is the  intended impact  on readers’ attitudes?

1. Technique 

There are so many persuasive techniques around, once you’ve got your hands on a bunch of language technique lists then you’re pretty much set in this area. Be wary however, as I have mentioned in the past (and above)  how simply ‘labelling’ language techniques is not enough for you to do well in language analysis.

This is quite frankly, the easiest part of Language Analysis! All you need to do is quote your evidence! Straightforward? If quoting is not your forte, you can check out:  how to embed quotes in your essay like a boss

3.  Effect 

Ok, this is the core of most students’ issues. We already know that the author is trying to persuade readers but here, we’re going to look how their choice of words or phrases creates a certain  effect  on readers so that they will be encouraged to agree with the author. When thinking about the effect, the best way is to put yourself in the reader’s shoes – you are after all, a reader! So in order to understand the effect think about the following three points:

  • What readers may feel – emotions
  • What readers may think – thoughts
  • And what readers may want – wishes

Example 1: “You are my smartest friend, I’m really stuck on this question and I need help!”

—Think about it realistically. If someone said this to you, how would you feel? There must’ve been a time where you were complimented (whether it be about your clothes, how you did something well, or how friendly you are with others), and you used this experience to your advantage. Each time you analyse a language technique, contemplate on what emotions, thoughts or wishes emerge as a result. When someone gives you a compliment, you probably feel flattered, or maybe even proud. And this is exactly what you need to include in your analysis! You should garner these everyday experiences as a trigger to help you understand how readers may respond to a certain technique. So if we broke it down via the TEE formula:

T echnique: Compliment

—E xample: “You are my smartest friend, I’m really stuck on this question and I need help!”

— E ffect: You feel feel proud and as a result want to assist your friend.

And let’s put it all together coherently and concisely:

Analysis: The compliment, “You are my smartest friend, I’m really stuck on this question and I need help!” encourages the listener to feel a sense of pride and this in turn, may encourage them to assist their friend.

Example 2: “The pet puppy was stuck inside a car on a 32 degree summer day, with no windows left open, and no room for fresh air.”

Again, think about the three points – how do you feel? What do you think of this scenario? What do you want as a result? You probably feel sorry for the puppy and want to save it from this situation.

—T echnique: Appeal to sympathy

—E xample: “The pet puppy was stuck inside a car on a 32 degree summer day, with no windows left open, and no room for fresh air.”

— E ffect: You may feel that it is unfair for the puppy to be in such a horrendous and potentially life-threatening situation.

Analysis: Through the appeal to sympathy, “the pet puppy was stuck inside a car on a 32 degree summer day, with no windows left open, and no room for fresh air”, readers may believe that it is unfair for the puppy to be subjected to such a horrendous and potentially life-threatening situation and thus, may be persuaded to take action to prevent further harm to pets.

Ultimately, focus on the potential effect language can have on the reader and as a result, how this may encourage the reader to agree with the author. If you do that, then you’re definitely on the right track. If this study guide has helped you gain further insight into Language Analysis, then you may be interested in my upcoming workshop where I spend a few hours offering advanced advice on Language Analysis! No matter what scores you have been attaining in Language Analysis, whether high or low, my workshop is loaded with tips which will undoubtedly help you achieve the best you possibly can. You are welcome to register here:  VCE English Intensive Spring Break Workshop . Join the Facebook event  here  today to keep updated on all the latest information in the lead up to the workshop and invite your friends!

We all love hacks. Life hacks, game hacks, Netflix hacks  (wait, what) ? They're all fabulous. Even better is when we can use English study hacks - because who doesn't want to make English just that much simpler?

Watched the video above already? Awesome! Keep reading for extra life hacks:

Extra hack #11 - don’t just write essays..

There is a massive difference between writing an essay for the sake of writing an essay, as opposed to actively learning when applying your skills. If you feel yourself slipping into the dreaded ‘reusing the same evidence for every essay’, or you’ve somehow ended up doing 5 essay prompts based on the same character – STOP RIGHT THERE. Be proactive. You have to keep switching things up. This means constantly trying new prompts that are more challenging than the last and always trying to find new evidence you can use. Yes, there will always be our go-to pieces of evidence we like to use, like our favourite quote or symbol, but change it up often so that you don’t become complacent.

‍Extra hack #12 – Unique interpretations

The purpose of develop a unique interpretation of a text or film is so that you can demonstrate originality in your thinking and bring something new to the table that teachers have never come across before. After all, if you’re marking 30 essays in a row, you’d get pretty bored reading the same arguments again and again, wouldn’t you? Try to view the text from different lenses – feminist, Marxist, post-colonial perspective – and these will offer you new ways of interpreting the story.

Extra hack #13 – FOCUS

Some books can be very long (and no, we’re not talking about don’t need to go into detail with every single passage. Instead, have a selection of passages throughout the book that you know really well. It’s much better having an in-depth understanding of fewer passages, but produce a sound essay than to have a superficial overview of the book and struggle to write much at all!

English is not easy, but it doesn’t need to be hard either. Adopt only a few of these hacks and see your improvement in English – they really do work! Keep it up!

In your Language Analysis (or Analysing Argument) SAC, you will be required to analyse how language is used to persuade in three or more texts. While this may seem a bit daunting at first, it really isn’t much harder than a single text analysis once you know how to approach it. Of course, there are multiple ways to tackle this task, but here is just one possible method!

Introduction:

Begin with a sentence that briefly describes the incident that sparked the debate or the nature/context of the debate. Remember to use the background information already provided for you on the task book!

Next, introduce the texts one at a time, including the main aspects for each (eg. title, writer, source, form, tone, contention and target audience). You want to show the examiner that you are comparing the articles, rather than analysing them separately. To do this, use appropriate linking words as you move onto your outline of each new text.

Consider significant features for comparison, for example:

  • Is the tone/style the same?
  • Is there a different target audience?
  • How do their key persuasive strategies differ?

You may choose to finish your introduction with a brief comment on any key difference or similarity.

Sample introduction: The recent return to vinyls and decline in CD sales has sparked discussion about the merits of the two forms of recorded sound. In his feature article, For the Record, published in the monthly magazine Audioworld in June 2015, Robert Tan contends that vinyls, as the more traditional form, are preferable to CDs. He utilises a disparaging tone within his article to criticise CDs as less functional than vinyls. In response to Tan’s article, reader Julie Parker uses a condescending and mocking tone to lampoon Tan for his point of view, in a letter published in the same magazine one month later.

Body paragraphs:

Block structure

Spend the first half of your essay focused on Article 1, then move into Article 2 for the second half of your essay (and, for those doing three articles, the later part of your essay based on Article 3). This structure is the most simple of all, and unfortunately does not offer you ample opportunity to delve into an insightful analysis. Hence, we would not recommend this structure for you. If possible, adopt the Bridge or Integrated structures discussed below.

Bridge structure

Analyse the first text, including any visuals that may accompany it. Students often spend too long on the first text and leave too little time to analyse the remaining texts in sufficient depth, so try to keep your analysis specific and concise! Remember to focus on the effects on the reader, rather than having a broad discussion of persuasive techniques.

Linking is essential in body paragraphs! Begin your analysis of each new text with a linking sentence to enable a smooth transition and to provide a specific point of contrast. Continue to link the texts throughout your analysis, for example, you could compare:

  • The techniques of each writer and how these aim to position the reader in different ways.

Often your second and/or third texts will be a direct response to the first, so you could pick up on how the author rebuts or agrees with the arguments of the first text.

Integrated structure

In this type of structure, you will analyse both articles in each body paragraph.

For a detailed guide on Language Analysis including how to prepare for your SAC and exam, check out our Ultimate Guide to VCE Language Analysis .

If you'd like to see an in-depth explanation of these different essay structures with sample A+ annotated essays as examples, check out our How To Write A Killer Language Analysis ebook! This study guide includes heaps of other valuable content too, including the SIMPLICITY and SPECIFICITY strategy, which has helped hundreds of students achieve A+ in their assessments.

Conclusion:

In Lisa's videos above, she suggests a short and sweet summary in your conclusion by incorporating some quotes from the author's own conclusion. 

Alternatively, you could opt for a different approach. In your conclusion, aim to focus on how each text differs from the others in terms of the main techniques used by the author, and more importantly, the effect of these techniques on the reader or audience. You should summarise the main similarities and differences of each text without indicating any personal bias (ie. you should not state whether one text might be more or less persuasive than another). For example, a point of comparison could be the audience appeal - will any particular audience group be particularly engaged or offended? Why?

Finally, finish with a sentence suggesting a possible outlook for the issue.

Next Steps:

Watch our 'Language Analysis' playlist where Lisa analyses the VCAA 2016 exam over the span of 7 videos. From the first read all the way through to writing up the full essay, Lisa shows you step by step how you can improve your Language Analysis marks.

*This blog post was originally created by Christine Liu, with additions made by Lisa Tran to suit the new modifications in the English study design.

Stasiland and 1984 are studied as part of VCE English's Comparative. For one of most popular posts on Comparative (also known as Reading and Comparing), check out our Ultimate Guide to VCE Comparative.

‍ 1. Introductions

Stasiland is a memoir-style recollection of the author Anna Funder’s encounters with people affected by the years of the German Democratic Republic (GDR), or when Germany was divided into east and west. It marries the author’s personal growth and development during her period of research with the personal histories of those who acted as both perpetrator and victim of the regime’s atrocities. The result is an emotional and deeply human perspective of this heavily-documented period of history which delves into the lasting yet often invisible marks the GDR left on those it touched.

1984 is on the surface the dystopian narrative of the struggles and ultimate downfall of a man named Winston who lives in the depressingly grungy and hopeless world of Big Brother and The Party. In a more profound sense, however, it is author George Orwell’s warning concerning the possibilities inherent in the development of totalitarianism and how these might come to damage the human race.

creative writing exam structure

3. Character Analysis and Comparison

When comparing the characters presented in these two texts, it is important to remember that Orwell’s are fictional and Funder’s are her retellings of real people’s stories. Take care to avoid discussing Funder’s characters as constructions, and focus instead on how she has chosen to portray them.

creative writing exam structure

4. Sample Paragraphs

Prompt: Discuss the different ways in which the authors of Stasiland and 1984 explore the intricacies of state power and knowledge.

Sample Introduction

When significant knowledge in any form is gained, it follows that it can be used in any way an individual or group sees fit. Stasiland and 1984 both show that the same piece of information can be used in drastically different ways to suit the purpose of that information’s owner. In both texts, we can observe this in many areas: mass surveillance for security or espionage purposes, recordkeeping to retain the truth or warp it, and medical or physiological advancements used to solve humanity’s problems or deliberately harm and deform people. Such examples force us to consider two well-known maxims, and to decide between the bliss of ignorance and the power of knowledge.

Sample Body Paragraph

In theory, mass surveillance has many benefits; it could be used to prevent criminal activity such as large-scale terrorist attacks and ensure the happiness and wellbeing of citizens. However, it is almost never associated with anything positive. In George Orwell’s 1984 , we are introduced to his hypothesis concerning what it would be like if it were to become developed to its full extent. The concept can be divided into three levels; firstly there is the obvious, external activities that we observe in both texts, which include mail screening, a military or gendarme presence in the streets and a network of informers. Secondly there is the introduction of the state into the home, which is achieved by The Party mainly through the telescreen, the most prominent and sinister instrument of mass surveillance in Oceania which gives total access to individual behaviour in the privacy of the home. While Winston seems to have found a loophole in this area by being ‘able to remain outside the range of the telescreen’, The Party carries its mass surveillance to the truest sense of the expression by extending it to a seemingly impossible third level, which introduces the state into ‘the few cubic centimetres inside [the] skull’. Interestingly, while the Thought Police cannot truly ‘see’ what is inside someone’s head, they can still control it; as long as people think that someone can see their thoughts, they will censor them themselves. This shows that the beauty of mass surveillance is that it does not actually have to be universal or all-encompassing to be successful. This is why the Stasi did not need to go to the lengths of The Party to achieve a similar result; the people merely need to believe that it is so on the basis of some evidence, and through this they can be controlled. Ultimately, mass surveillance can never be anything but destructive for this reason; it could put a complete halt to all terrorist plots and it would still act against the people by insidiously forcing them to censor their own thoughts out of fear.

Sample Conclusion

Both Stasiland and 1984 show absolutely that knowledge is a fundamental and intrinsic part of power, as it cannot exist without knowledge. While it is true that knowledge can be held without exercising it in some external display of power, it always shapes the person who holds it in ways both subtle and direct. Knowledge can therefore be seen as similar to Pandora’s Box; once it exists in a mind, it alters it, and the actions it prompts depend only on the desires and will of that mind .

In order to properly understand either of these texts, you’ll need to put on your history hat. Both of them are very firmly rooted in historical events, and to get a good grasp on what they really mean, you need to understand these events. You should research communism and socialism fairly extensively as well as the GDR, but you don’t need to sit for hours and write a book on the subject. All you need to do is trawl through Wikipedia for half an hour, or as long as it takes to get a sense of the subject. They key is to not ignore things that you don’t understand; if you see terms like ‘Eastern Bloc’ or ‘Marxism’ or ‘The Iron Curtain’ and you’ve got no idea what they are, research them! Even terms that you might believe you’re familiar with, like ‘Communism’ could also use a refresher.

The other main point is that 1984 particularly deals very heavily in ideological and philosophical argument. Orwell constructed the events of the plot as one giant hypothetical situation, so try and think to yourself – could that really happen? Is that really possible, or is this whole thing just plain silly? Remember that this text is much, much more than a simple narrative, and address it as such

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7 Plus English: Creative writing prompts explained!

7 Plus English: Creative writing prompts explained!

April 26th, 2021 Last updated: July 6th, 2023

In this blog, the second in a series of 'Types of...' 7 Plus preparation posts, Meredith outlines a range of different creative writing prompts that can appear in the English paper and offers some useful insight and handy tips for preparing for each one.

The ‘composition’ aspect of the 7 and 8 Plus entrance exams can include a variety of different prompts for writing. Getting familiar with the different types of prompts that can appear and practising how to relate back to what is being asked is a crucial skill to practice ahead of the exams. 

Students will usually be given an option of two prompts to use with the words ‘either’, ‘or’. All types of prompts come with some bullet points ‘things / questions to think about / try to include’ that students should read and refer to in their writing. 

Continue the story 

Most often, students are given an option to continue the story from the comprehension passage they have read. This requires that students ensure they know the characters in the story, continue using the correct names and write in ‘third person’. They will also need to use consistency of tense e.g. if the story is written in the present tense, they will need to continue with the same tense and not switch to the past tense. Using clues from the text about the setting and characters are also important – for example, if the comprehension passage describes ‘Lucy’ as ‘quiet and shy’, it would be inconsistent to have Lucy ‘yelling at her friends to hurry up’ in the next part of the story! The same goes for the setting. If the story in the comprehension passage is set in an old, haunted house, it makes sense to keep it there! Another key point about continuing the story is to start where the passage left off, so it is helpful for students to read the last paragraph or few lines again before writing to think about what just happened and what will happen next. 

Write a story about a time when you… 

This is usually connected to the comprehension passage too. For instance, if the comprehension story involved a storm, students may be asked to write about a time when they were in a storm. Key to this is knowing to write in ‘first person’ rather than ‘third’. It is important that students get to practice the skill of writing stories from their own experiences. This can bring the added benefit of using first-hand memories and their own senses. Some students find it easier to rely on their experiences and memories rather than use their imagination so plenty of first-hand experiences of the world is crucial! 

Write a story entitled/ with the title… 

With this kind of prompt, it is essential to really use the title and refer to it somehow throughout the story. For instance, if the title is ‘The Magical World Beyond the Wardrobe’, students will be expected to use the title to write about a relevant setting e.g. a bedroom wardrobe / magical world, a relevant possible problem e.g. getting lost, relevant characters e.g. explorer children, magical creatures and a relevant resolution e.g. finding their way back. The key here is making reference to the title throughout and creating relevant story elements. This kind of prompt may also include a picture to use to spark imagination. 

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Picture prompt

Less often (but it does come up) is a prompt that is a stand-alone picture. This prompt may ask students to describe what they see in the picture or create a story from it. Either way, students should examine the details of the picture closely for a minute or two and let themselves note down any relevant words, phrases or ideas that begin to form in their minds. Describing the picture requires plenty of descriptive writing practice using adjectives, expanded noun phrases and figurative language (similes, metaphors, personification etc.) as well as drawing on the senses to bring the writing to life. If students are creating a story from the picture, they should let it spark their imagination and include the character and/or setting they see in the picture in their story. An excellent resource for practice with this prompt is the website https://www.onceuponapicture.co.uk/ which has a wealth of amazing and inspiring pictures! 

Character description  

A lesser-seen prompt is that of a character description. Brief character descriptions are important to include in stories (a sentence or two about a character e.g. ‘Imran had dark brown eyes and jet-black hair that was as dark as the night. He was the kind of boy who never seemed to get scared, or at least that’s what it looked like.’ However, this kind of prompt is asking students to write entirely about a character. Important elements to include in a character description are: appearance, personality, likes and dislikes. It is essential students know what these words mean and that they have a range of vocabulary they can draw on to describe a character’s appearance and personality (there are plenty of vocabulary sheets for this purpose). Practising writing character descriptions is hugely helpful, not only for the exams but for a student’s writing journey. 

Recount 

This is similar to writing a story about a time when… but slightly different! A recount is an autobiographical piece that should appear as non-fiction. That is, the student should write about their real experiences rather than using their imagination. However, one’s imagination can of course be useful to draw on if the student finds they have not had an experience such as ‘A day you spent at the fair’. Recounts should be written from a ‘first person’ perspective and in chronological order using ‘time’ connectives and sentence openers such as ‘First’, ‘Then’, ‘After that’, ‘Later on’, ‘Finally’ etc. 

Diary entry  

I have only seen diary writing once as a prompt in a 7 Plus paper referring to the comprehension passage but it is a useful skill to practice. If the student doesn’t already keep a diary it is helpful to get into the habit of asking the student to write a couple/ few sentences at the end of each day. I personally think keeping a diary/ journal is a wonderful practice for writing in general and helps children to see that writing can be purely for personal pleasure rather than for any external validation or grade. Get students into the habit of writing the date on the top line, beginning ‘Dear Diary’ and signing off with their name. A standard element of diary writing is to include one’s feelings. 

Letter writing 

I have never seen being asked to write a letter as a prompt before but it could come up! Students may be asked to write a letter to one of the characters in the comprehension passage or imagine they are one of the characters writing a letter home etc. Old-fashioned though it may sound, get students to practice writing letters to their friends or family to see the real-life benefit and enjoyment of sending and receiving letters! Personally, I see letter-writing as a beautiful life-skill to develop and enjoy. Ensure students are familiar with the structure and vocabulary for writing both formal and informal letters. 

Creative writing prompts can come in many forms so having some practice ahead of the exam at recognising and writing using the above range of prompts will ensure students feel confident and prepared for whatever appears!

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