For those sitting Paper 3, writing a synoptic essay, under timed exam conditions can be daunting! I have put this resource together over the past few years, but have recently updated it so it is inline with the recent guidelines about the essay and revised criteria for marking the essay. It provides the students with a bit of background, how the essay is (generally) marked and a few tips and tricks to try and help them consider how they can write a good essay. Although the price might seem initially a tad steep, it has taken hours and hours and hours to prepare, has been trialled, amended and can be spread over about 6-7 hours of teaching. Instructions below.
A few lessons after working through 'The Essay' PPT/handout, I use the session 1 resources, where students review two handwritten essays marked by senior examiners. Each essay has 10-12 electric tags (containing [very] small numbers) at various points that refer to a comment from a senior examiner, displayed on the PowerPoint. Students are tasked to match the examiners comments to the electric tags, and, using the tick grid in 'The Essay' handout, award the essays a mark.
In session 2 (which I usually do a week later), the students are given one of two handouts, which contain two essays that have been typed for ease of reading (the plans have been included), but also contain numbered tags that refer to a comment from a senior examiner. Every student reviews essay number 5 and then use the comments from the PowerPoint to match the examiners comments, and give the essay a mark using the marking guidelines (in 'The Essay' handout). However, the second essay is different (essay no. 1 or no. 8) and I tend to give out alternate essays to students sat next to one another. Students are then given a small slip of paper containing the first 7-9 examiners comments - the final 3-4 they have to attempt to determine what the comment might be about and use their intuition to then give the essay a mark. I then usually ask the students to talk about what was good about the essay and why they awarded it the mark they did. If you are not too pushed for time, this could obviously be taken further!
The other document, 'practice essay plans' contains a 15 essay titles and space for students to practice planning. I usually set these as starters, but in my experience I would strongly recommend the students complete the plans under timed conditions. While first attempting essay plans, I offer the option for students to use 'The Essay' handout, as this contains a list of all topic areas in the specification as some might not be able to recall topic areas relevant to the essay title. After a few (5-6) attempts at planning, I tend to remove this as an option and the students plan under timed exam conditions, with a particular focus on how they will consider the sequence of paragraphs, so there are links between paragraphs, and how they might focus the essay on the title.