Higher & National 5 Prelims

Close Reading, Creative Writing, Critical Essay Writing, Discursive Writing, Language, Welcome

Good luck to all Vale of Leven Academy pupils with their prelim exams on Monday. Work as hard as you can this weekend & do your very best. We have great faith in you all.


Exemplar Discursive Essay

Discursive Writing

I’ve attached the following exemplar discursive essay that appeared on the BBC Bitesize Website.


A subject which always arouses strong feelings on both sides of the argument is the use of animals in medical research. I believe that, though this may have been necessary in the past, other ways can be developed to test drugs and, in the future, animals should not be used.

One of my main reasons for saying this is that living tissues can be grown in test tubes and new drugs can be tested on these. Computers can also be programmed to show how medicines will react in the human body.

Moreover, animals are not always like humans. They do not suffer from all human diseases, so scientists have to give them the illnesses artificially. The joints in rabbit legs are inflamed with chemicals to help research in rheumatism. These tests do not always work because animals do not react to drugs in the same way as humans. Aspirin, for example, damages pregnant mice and dogs, but not pregnant women. Arsenic, which is a deadly poison for humans, has no effect on sheep, while penicillin, which is so valuable to humans, kills guinea pigs.

In addition, I believe that animal experiments should not be used because of the unnecessary pain that they cause to animals. The government introduced new rules about the use of animals in experiments in 1986. Scientists claim that these rules safeguard animals because they state that discomfort must be kept to a minimum and that painkillers must be used where necessary and appropriate. Surely this means, however, that scientists can still decide not to use painkillers in the animal experiments because they do not consider them appropriate. The British Union against Vivisection claims that 75% of animals experimented on are given no anaesthetic.

In spite of the claims of some scientists about the effectiveness of animal research, the death rate in this country has stayed the same over the last thirty years. There is also more long-term sickness, even though greater numbers of animals are being used in research.

On the other hand, scientists claim that some experiments are so small, for example giving an injection, that painkillers are not needed. They also argue that experiments on animals have been very useful in the past. For instance, the lives of ten million human diabetics have been saved because of experiments with insulin on dogs. Dogs also benefited, as the same drug can be used on them. In fact, a third of medicines used by vets are the same as those used by doctors.

It is argued by researchers that the use of animals in experiments cannot be replaced by methods using living tissue which has been grown in test tubes. These tests do not show how the drugs work on whole animals and so they only have limited effectiveness.

Although I accept that some drugs can be used on animals and humans, this does not mean that they have to be tested on animals in the first place when alternative methods are available. Alternative methods do work. Various groups have been set up to put money into other ways of researching. For example the Dr. Hadwen Trust has shown how human cartilage can be grown in test tubes to study rheumatism. Similar research is being done into cancer and multiple sclerosis. Tests can be done on bacteria to see whether a chemical will cause cancer. There is even a programme of volunteer human researchers, where people suffering from illnesses offer to help in research.

In conclusion, I accept that animal experiments have brought great benefits in the past, but now money needs to be spent on developing other methods of testing drugs and medical procedures, so that the use of animals can be phased out altogether.


Discursive Writing

Your folio pieces cannot exceed 1300 words. If they do, they will be subject to a penalty. Please ensure that the folio submissions you make this week do not exceed 1300 words – there is no leeway in this figure.

Nevertheless, folio pieces should be close to the 1300 word mark to enable you to convey the fullest possible array of your talents. Please append a word count at the end of your essay.

Folio Submission

Discursive Writing

Remember that you must submit the first two pieces of your folio on Friday 17th. This is of the upmost importance, so please make sure that you are working on this during the next few days. Remember to print your essays in advance – a memory stick is pretty difficult to mark!

Some advice:

  • Read over your work forensically – it is not enough to simply scan your final draft.
  • Work on vocabulary by using a thesaurus – I don’t want to read “good,” or “bad,”  nor do I want to read any clichés.
  • Take advantage of your family and friends – ask them to read your work and consider their opinions.
  • Discursive pieces should have a number of references, statistics, anecdotes and data.
  • Make sure that your name and a title are at the top of your work.
  • For your discursive piece, ensure you have noted all references in a clearly headed section at the end of your essay.

Good luck – remember that your folio constitutes 20% of your final mark. A good folio could get you an overall pass, even if you fall slightly short in the final exam.

Criteria – Discursive Essay

Discursive Writing

Your discursive essay should be a minimum of 800 words, but will, in all likelihood, be very close to the maximum word count of 1300 words. This is steadfastly enforced, so please do not write more than 1300 words. This is a real challenge – it is expected that there will be considerable depth in your essay.

You should make approximately four points that reinforce your argument, and four points that challenge your argument.

Technical accuracy is extremely important. If you make any technical errors, it will suggest to the marker that you have not taken sufficient care in crafting your essay. Likewise, you should read over your essay very carefully to ensuure that your expression, sentence structure and general meaning is strong.

It is expected at Higher that you will thoroughly reference the sources you have consulted. A brief, passing reference to Wikipedia or The Daily Record, will not suffice. You should note page numbers, URLs, full titles, and the names of authors.

Your essay must not be a collection of your random thoughts. It should include statistics, quotations, facts, and anecdotes. There is clearly a place for your own views, but these should be reinforced and justified by reference to texts you have read.

Good luck.

Great Articles for Discursive Essay Writing

Discursive Writing

Exploitation & Advertising:






Information Overload



The State of The Novel



Religion In Schools



A World Language





Discursive Essay Task

Discursive Writing

Go to the discursive writing section of the website. Chose a topic and write four arguments for and four arguments against. Bring these to class in note form tomorrow. Make them as thorough as possible – if you make a half-baked attempt, you will have half-baked notes to work with. This will make your task decidedly more difficult.

Then, write an introduction to your discursive essay. This must grab the reader’s attention and be attractive to your audience, who are ultimately SQA markers. Consider including an anecdote, a quotation, a statistic, or a fact.

State the argument and outline a topical issue that relates to it. For example, if you are discussing whether democracy is a basic human right, you might want to mention the Arab Spring Revolutions. Alternatively, if you are discussing the importance of social responsibility, you might wish to share an anecdote about the fate that befell someone who was not looked after by society, or a statistic about poverty or life expectancy.

Take your time over your introduction. When marking folios, it is difficult to pass an essay where a candidate has not put sufficient effort into how they state and frame their opening argument.