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English 11-12

How To Do Essay Scaffolding Drills And Boost Your Essay Marks

Are you not getting the essay marks you want or need? Do you not have the time to write a whole practice essay but need to improve your essay writing skills? Well, essay scaffolding drills are the solution for you!!!


How to do essay scaffolding drills and boost your essay marks

It doesn’t matter if you’re in year 7 facing down your yearly exams or are in Year 12 and are days away from Paper 1, you still need to practise essay writing if you want to improve. But that means investing time, a precious and limited resource.

But, if you want to boost your essay marks, practise you must!

But what should you do if you don’t have an hour or more spare to write that practice essay? Do essay scaffolding drills!


In this how-to, we’re going to discuss

What is a scaffolding drill?

A scaffolding drill is where you plan out your entire essay and write an introduction under timed condition – 10 minutes!

This practice trains you to gather your thoughts, formulate ideas quickly, and get them on to paper – just as you must in an exam!

Scaffolding drills are the equivalent of a movie montage, they help you prepare for exam day in short chunks!

Training Montage part 1 | DC Comics | Know Your Meme


Scaffolding drills aren’t a substitute for writing practice essays, but they are an excellent supplement! You should aim complete scaffold drills throughout the term. Ideally, you should be doing them at least once a week, and slowly ramping up when you are nearing your exam period.

A good schedule might be to do 2 per session, to different questions, 2-3 times a week. This way, you work on developing a sustained argument and putting together a good introduction consistently a couple of times a week in less time than a round of Fortnite.


What’s in a scaffolding drill:

To do a scaffold drill, you must:

  1. Unpack the question
  2. Write your thesis statement
  3. Write your thematic framework
  4. Write a linking/module statement
  5. Write your topic sentences for your body paragraphs
  6. And, if you’ve time left on the clock) list some evidence for each body paragraph

As you can see, this a challenging amount to get done in a small amount of time – an introduction and essay plan! But this is a great way to simulate exam conditions and help you get used to thriving under exam pressure!

What we’ll do now is break down how to do a scaffolding drill, step-by-step and show you how to do them.


How to do scaffolding drills, step-by-step

Okay, let’s break down these steps in greater detail and guide you through an example. This will help you understand the process in a practical and detailed manner. Depending on what you prefer, you can either watch our video, or read the guide below!



First, let’s pick an example question. For this demo, we’ll use the 2019 HSC Paper 1 Common Module Essay Question:


English Advanced
Paper 1 — Texts and Human ExperiencesSection II
20 marksYour answer will be assessed on how well you:

  • demonstrate understanding of human experiences in texts
  • analyse, explain and assess the ways human experiences are represented in texts
  • organise, develop and express ideas using language appropriate to audience, purpose and context


(h)  Arthur Miller, The Crucible

To what extent does the exploration of human experience in The Crucible invite you to reconsider your understanding of love? 



Step 1 – Unpack the question

The first step is to unpack the question and make sure you know what you’re answering!

The most common problems students have with writing essays, especially during exams, is not answering the question that’s been asked! Why? Students don’t answer the question because they’re regurgitating a memorised essay.

 It is crucial that you are reading your questions and anwering it properly.

The only way of ensuring that you understand what the question requires you to do is to unpack it.

This is the first step of your scaffolding drills.

To do this, you need to identify the following components of the question:

  • Key verbs: What are the instructional words in the question? What are they asking you to do?
  • Keywords: What are the central nouns? What are you being asked to investigate?
  • Themes and ideas: What ideas or themes from the text are you being asked to investigate?

Note: If you want to learn how to properly answer different NESA key verbs, then take a read of our How to Respond to NESA Key Words to Ace Your HSC.


So our question was:

To what extent does the exploration of human experience in The Crucible invite you to reconsider your understanding of love?

Let’s unpack this:

This is how you unpack the question. How to Do Essay Scaffolding Drills and Boost Your Essay Marks unpack the question image


In short, unpacking the key terms gives us –

  • To what extent – wants a nuanced response. Do you agree a little or a lot?
  • Exploration of human experience – Asks you to connect to the concerns of the Module.
  • Invite you to reconsider your understanding – Wants a personal response. What have you learnt in the study of the text? How has your view changed – a lot or a little?
  • Love – The key idea for the question. You will need to explain your understanding of this and how it connects to the text and Module.

Now we’re done with unpacking the question, let’s see how to craft an introduction:

  1. Thesis – Answer to the question
  2. Thematic framework – Supporting arguments to your thesis
  3. Module/linking statement – summation of intro and connection to Module or mode of study.


Step 2 – Introduction: Thesis statement

Now, you need to figure out a thesis statement. Your thesis is, first and foremost, your answer to the question!

A thesis statement should be 1-2 sentences. A 2 sentence thesis statement is good as it allows you to make a broad conceptual argument before drilling down into something more detailed.

Let’s see what that looks like.


Love is a multifaceted and universal emotion sought after by all of us. Arthur Miller’s tragedy The Crucible is a powerful depiction of a town turning against itself that compels us to evaluate love and what we will do in pursuit of it or driven by it.

This is a “double-barrelled” thesis statement as it gives a detailed answer in two parts.

  1. The 1st sentence focuses on the Module -Common Module: Texts and Human Experiences – key ideas and responds to the question
  2. The 2nd sentence drills into the question. it introduces the text and digs into the key ideas from the text.

This approach enables you to give a sophisticated and detailed thesis that is also direct and clear. It both frames and elaborates on your argument.


Step 3 – Introduction: Thematic framework

The thematic framework is where you introduce the supporting argument for your thesis.  here, you outline themes and ideas you will use in support of your argument.

This needs to be between 2-3 sentences, but, ideally, no more than 1 sentence each.

This is an essential part of a sustained argument as it introduces the signposting the reader needs to make sense of your argument as it develops throughout your essay.

Let’s see what this looks like in response to the question we’re considering.


In our thematic framework, we need to discuss 3 different ways Miller has represented love in The Crucible:

  1. Miller illustrates the paradox of how good intentions driven by love can lead to tragedy as Elizabeth and Hale’s actions cause harm, not good
  2. In contrast, Miller explores how hypocritical actions pursued under the veneer of love are often driven by anger or avarice as Abigail and Parris’ actions divide and devastated the town
  3. Ultimately, the way the remains of the community tries to rally around the individuals facing down Danforth’s corrupt court reveals how love is a powerful unifying force

As you can see, these ideas develop on our thesis and lay a clear framework for the argument that will follow. We will echo these directly in our topic sentences. This will signpost to the reader where they are in the argument.

Remember, most readers aren’t as good as remembering information as they think, signposting is essential to help them orientate themselves in your argument.

Now we’ve laid the foundations for our essay, let’s connect it back to the mode of study, in this case, the Common Module.


Step 4 – Introduction: Linking/Module statement

The linking or Module statement will connect your thesis and supporting arguments to the Module or focus of your study in class.

This will begin to demonstrate your mastery of the topic you’ve been studying at school!

The Common Module: Texts and Human Experiences is concerned with exploring the emotions and relationships key to being human. Our statement needs to reflect these concerns and respond to the question.

Let’s take a gander at an example.



Viewing and engaging with powerful literary works forces us to reflect on what makes us human and reevaluate what we know about key human emotions, such as love.

As you can see, this final statement connects everything we’ve discussed. It links our unpacking of love, summarises our approach to the question, and begins developing a personal response with the first person plural pronouns – “us” and “we.”

Whenever you craft a linking statement, aim to summarise the argument concisely and clearly.

Now, we’ve put together our sophisticated introduction, we need to draft the topic sentences to accompany it.


Step 5 – Body: Draft topic sentences

Whenever writing time starts in an exam, it will be to your benefit if you plan your essay AND draft your topic sentences. This means that when you begin writing your body, you can refine what you’ve already developed – ensuring that you’ll get better marks.

Topic sentences an essential part of a sustained argument.

Topic sentences connect directly to the ideas introduced in the introduction!

In essence, they say to the reader: “Hey, remember that thing I said I was going to talk about? This is where I am going to talk about it!” This will help inculcate your argument and persuade the reader.

Topic sentences need to be concise and reflect both your thesis and the ideas that you introduced in the thematic framework.

Let’s take a look at ours:

  • Topic sentence 1: Good intentions motivated by love can have paradoxically negative outcomes.
  • Topic sentence 2: Individuals will act under the charade of love, but their true emotional motivations have divisive consequences.
  • Topic sentence 3: Love is strongest as a unifying emotion as individuals and communities rally behind and support one another.

As you can see, these reintroduce the ideas from our thematic framework and signal how we will use them to support our argument. This means that we’ve developed the scaffold for a sustained argument in our essay!

Now, you’ve got the framework for an essay. But, how are you going for time? Do you have a few minutes left? Yes? Great, don’t stop now, think about some examples!


Step 6 – Body: Pick your Evidence (Optional)

This is where you see how good you are working against the clock! If you have one or two minutes left, take the opportunity to identify the quotations or examples that might best support your argument.

You don’t need to write out the whole quotation, that would be completely unfeasible given the time constraints. Buuuut, you can shorthand them to help YOU recall them.

For example, to return to the Crucible Question we could shorthand three examples for the first paragraph by jotting down:

  1. Elizabeth lies – “(A plea.) My husband… is a goodly man, sir… (She starts to glance at Proctor.)”
  2. Hale regret newlywed – “I came into this village like a bridegroom to his beloved, bearing gifts of high religion; the very crowns of holy law I brought, and what I touched with my bright confidence, it died; and where I turned the eye of my great faith, blood flowed up.”
  3. Hale guilt –  “I would save your husband‘s life, for if he is taken I count myself his murderer.”

These short-hand prompts will help you remember and recall examples. This is a very important skill for you to develop!


What next? Practise to the clock!

Okay, so now you’ve seen how to do scaffolding drills and what they entail, you will be able to go forth and boost your exam marks.

So, what do you need to do, now? Find yourself some essay questions, grab your pen and paper, and set yourself that 10-minute timer. Go!!

Looking for some HSC practice questions, try ours:


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Written by Matrix English Team

The Matrix English Team are tutors and teachers with a passion for English and a dedication to seeing Matrix Students achieving their academic goals.


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