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English Set Books Essay Writing Skills – Latest Guide



  1. Interpreting the question
  2. Making an outline of your points
  3. introducing your essay
  4. Writing the body
  5. Concluding your essay
  6. The Dos and Dontsin essay writing.
  7. Episodes in A Doll’s House
  8. Questions for discussions.



Essays on set text are questions that add up to 40 marks in paper three.

Students have met a lot of challenges scoring these marks.

Among the reasons that account for this is poor/inadequate reading of the set books. Without a thorough grasp of the thematic concerns of the set books, you will score less marks. This is because you need a lot of details in your discussion to score mark. Obviously, you cannot get these details without reading the set books at least six times.


Secondly, our attitude towards writing on one hand and paper three on the other also puts the kibosh to our great performance here. We must therefore love writing and be positive.


Lastly, most students don’t understand the writing techniques required here.

It is in lieu of this that we have organized this lesson to take you through essay writing skills.

1.Interpretation of the question

In order to write a good essay, you must first understand what the statement means. Interpretation of the question is pivotal here. You will have failed once you misinterpret the given statement.

➡️The current KCSE setting trends are characterized by questions which encompass two sides. The action(virtue or vice) and the reaction( reward or punishment).

➡️When responding to KCSE essay questions in A Doll’s House and or any other text, always try to point out the *keywords* by *underlining* them. This will help you to have the correct interpretation of the question. Once this is done, you will find writing the essay a walk in the park.

➡️Since the question is two sided, the answer should also bring out the two sides fully.

For instance,

“A selfish individual who only cares about his reputation causes pain to himself and others. Basing your illustrations on Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House; write an essay to validate this statement.”*

While responding to the question above, you ought to first underline the key words; *selfish* and  *pain* then identify selfish individuals and how they only careabout their reputation* Then, you should illustrate *how this selfishness causes pain to the said individual and others.*

➡️ For a candidate to interpret the question well s/he must have a wide range of vocabulary without which the task will be tedious. This will help in writing the introduction/paraphrasing the statement.

2.Making an outline of your points

Planning is key in all our undertakings for it will determine the end results. Therefore, you should master the art of planning as it sets precedence for a good essay. If you get it right from the onset, that is interpretation and planning, you are on the way to great performance.

🔷Come up with at least four characters that will support your argument, this will enable you to plan your essay. This stage helps you come up with complete topic sentences.

In reference to our question on “A selfish individual who only cares about his reputation…, you may sketch down something like this👇🏻 as your outline/plan on the question paper.

a)Helmer doesn’t listen and understand Nora’s sacrifice/predicament

  1. b) Krogstad is mean towards Nora
  2. c) Helmer’s selfishness towards Krogstad

d)Mrs Linde’s selfishness towards Krogstad.

You should go a head and brainstorm on the details for each point before you begin writing your essay.


3.Introducing your essay.

🖊️The introduction falls on the first paragraph.

🖊️It earns you 2 marks.

🖊️It should address both sides of the question.

🖊️Should be drawn from within the text.

When writing your introduction you ought to take note of the following;

 🖋️Demonstrate your understanding of the question (What are you going to discuss?)

*what to avoid*

 🖋️Do NOT define terms

 🖋️Do not rewrite any words or phrase in the question; instead paraphrase (use your own words e.g. if the questions says materialism you should use the word greed. Or when the question says sacrifice you may use the word selflessness in your introduction)

*What an introduction should be*

🖊️Should be brief(not  more than 4 lines)

🖊️Should have:

➡️Name of the text

➡️Outline at least 2 points

*Types of introductions*


You can use any of the following ways to write your introduction.


  1. *Contextualized introduction* which involves using examples from the text.


For example

Helmer’s meanness cause Nora so much stress to the extent that she decides to sever a marriage that she had so much hope in.


  1. *General introduction*

*For example*

Most citizens suffer when the leaders they voted for forget about their needs and focus on working for their own stomachs. This is brought out clearly In Henrik Ibsen’sA Doll’s House.


  1. *A paraphrasing*

For example

Focusing on your own individual interest at the expense of others causes so much suffering not only to himself but also others.


  1. *Listing the points that the essay is going to address*

For example

Krogstad, Helmer and Mrs Linde are so mean in the text that they cause a lot of anxiety and torture to Nora, Mrs Linde and themselves as discussed below.






With the outline in mind, consider getting details that will buffer your topic sentence.

The body should include the following:

*The topic sentence(situation)*

*Background information*



*clincher sentence*


For example

*Betrayal leads to disintegration of relationships.*Discuss the validity of this statement with illustrations from A Doll’s House by Henrik Ibsen.


You need to get details of the following in your paragraphs :

✔Identify who betrays the other

✔Describe the relationships between the two friends or couple

✔Give finer background details on the circumstances/ reason(s) that led to the betrayal.

✔Identify the *action* of the traitor/actual betrayal

✔The *reaction*/ result of the betrayal.

✔ The clincher sentence.


In this case, breakage of/ strain in relationships. ( Betrayal being a vice can only lead to distraction/suffering)

That is the direction we should take when writing essays based on set texts.


*For example*


*Helmer betrays Nora her husband who she believes loves us so much.* *She tells Dr Rank how devotedly, how inexpressively deeply Torvald loves her and that he would never for a moment hesitate to give his life for her.* *Following Helmers diagnosis of fatigue by doctors and the need for him to go to Italy to rest as a form of treatment, Nora decides to sacrifice to help him get well.* *She takes a loan of 250 pounds without her husband’s consent and against societal norms.* *She has to forge her dad’s signature to get this money.* *Indeed, she feels proud of her deed telling Mrs Linde that her husband has never been sick since then saying that he has been as sound as a bell.* *However, upon realizing the secret, Helmer disowns her criticizing her for being immoral and not mother enough to instill morals in their children.* *He even tells her things will not be alright going forward between them.* *Nora feels so disappointed and decides to leave their marriage.* *Helmer is left begging for forgiveness in vain*. *It’s catastrophic to betray your spouse*.

This is a complete paragraph since it identifies the idea(betrayal), goes ahead to give background details about the relationship between the couple, circumstances surrounding the betrayal, the actual action of betrayal, the reaction and the clincher that summarizes the paragraph.

*Situation*: (The point/betrayal)Topic sentence 1

*Supporting sentences*

  • *Background*: Sentences 2, 3 4 and 5 provide background information on the betrayal.
  • *Action*:Sentences 7 and 8
  • *Reaction*: 9 & 10

* Clincher sentence* 11.


Example 2

*“Self sacrifice must be rewarded. Citing illustrations from Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House; write an essay to validate this statement.”*

*Situation* : Nora’s sacrifice to save her husband is rewarded.

*Background* : When they get married, Torvald leaves his office work because there is no prospect of promotion. With a view of providing for his family, he works early and late. In the process he overworks himself and falls dreadfully ill. The doctors tell Nora his wife that the only remedy is for him to take a rest in the south (Italy). The trip would cost a tremendous amount of money(250 pounds). Torvald is not willing to borrow. Nora’s cries and entreaties doesn’t change his decision. To make matters worse, he would not accept help from a woman.


*Action* : Nora is forced to borrow 250 pounds from Nils Krogstad and forge a name because a woman is not allowed to borrow without her husband’s consent. She takes Torvald to Italy. They stay there for a year.


*Reaction/ outcome /Values/ reward*

Outcome: Torvald comes back from the trip and he is as sound as a bell.

Clincher sentence: They stay happily without anxiety.


It should be written in continuous prose.



The conclusion should be done in the last paragraph.

You can do this by:

  • Doing a recap of your points Summary of your points
  • Using a relevant proverb
  • Or giving a comment


Avoid introducing new points here*




In conclusion, for us to enjoy our relationships, we must never disappoint. OR

Helmer, Mr Linde, Krogstad and Dr Rank suffer because of betrayal.


Example 2

In conclusion, Nora and Mrs Linde find joy in denying themselves for the sake of others.





  1. Do interpret the question correctly.
  2. Do always start discussing your points with a topic sentence based on characters, events/activities and episodes from the directed text.
  3. Do always write your paragraphs in a logical and coherent manner. Tie your points together in a paragraph.
  4. Do paraphrase or quite your illustrations from the given text. Here, you pick activities related to the question from the text in the exact way they appear.
  5. Do mention one or two examples of content points in your introduction.
  6. Do write your essay in well structured and connected paragraphs.
  7. Do write your introduction as the first paragraph of your essay.
  8. Do capture the two sides of the question by interpreting the key terms in the question, for example, correctly interpret the terms betrayal and mistrust or disintegration by using synonyms or a paraphrase if the meaning.
  9. Do write the name of the text and author in the introduction.
  10. Do write your essay in continuous prose (prose form)



  1. Do not write your essay in point form.
  2. Do not define key terms from the question but rather interpret the question.
  3. Do not use obscene or vulgar /impolite language
  4. Do not repeat writing the question or any part of it as it is.
  5. Do not underline your topic sentence.
  6. Do not narrate events as they are in the book.
  7. Do not introduce a new point or idea in the conclusion.
  8. Do not exceed the required number of words which is usually 450 words.
  9. Do not get personal or sentimental
  10. Do not write headings and subheadings in your essay.
  11. Do not include irrelevant or out of context information in your essay.


Now keenly go through the following essay and take note of the depth of details you are required to give as illustrations in your paragraphs.




*Self sacrifice must be rewarded. Citing illustrations from Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House, write an essay to validate this claim with close reference to female characters.*


In Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House, women are portrayed as being *selfless.* They give up their valuable time, comfort and possessions in order to help other people. This does not go *unrequitted.* An example would be Anne, the nanny, who half-heartedly leaves her own child in order to help Nora and her three little children. By so doing, she gets an income and a good place to live.

Nora borrows 250 pounds from Nils Krogstadin order to save her ailing husband’s life (topic sentence). When they get married, Torvald Helmer leaves his job because there is no prospect of a promotion. He then works early and late to provide for his family and soon falls dreadfully ill because of overwork (ill 1). The doctors tell Nora that the only thing that could save her husband’s life is to live in the south (ill 2). Nora then makes a tremendous sacrifice when she borrows a huge amount of money without her husband’s consent. Since her husband would not allow her to borrow the money, she takes this risk for the sake of love. (ill 3) After a year of staying in Italy, Torvald is as sound as a bell and has never be ill since then. Indeed self sacrifice is always rewarded (closing statement).


Nora also sacrifices for the sake of her three little children (topic sentence). At the end when Helmer decides that Nora is not worthy even for her little children, she decides to leaves the home fearing she might corrupt her children. Due to societal expectation, she is convinced that she is a corrupt person as a result of the lies that she has had to exhibit in her marriage (ill 1). She has lied about little things like eating macaroons to serious issues like borrowing money from Krogstad and lying to her husband that she got it from her father (ill 2). Helmer argues that such an atmosphere of lies infects and poisons the whole life of a home thus she chooses to leave. (ill 3). Leaving her children is an incredible act of self sacrifice. Ultimately she achieves her independence from a suffocating male-dominated society and thus moves out to try and understand her role in society (closing statement).


Mrs Linde also plays a sacrificial role in the lives of her mother and siblings (topic sentence). She abandons Nils Krogstad, the man she loves, and marries a rich man who she does not love for the sake of her family (ill 1). Her mother is bedridden and helpless and her bothers depend on her so she has no choice but to leave her penniless love-Krogstad and marry a man of means (ill 2). She is glad that she makes the end of her mother’s life almost free from care. She is also proud that her brothers are now fully grown and independent (ill 3). These sacrifices made for her family qualifies her selflessness and the fact that her mother is afforded good care and her brothers are now fully grown is a reward to Mrs. Linde (closing statement).


Lastly, Anne is also portrayed as a selfless woman who sacrifices her happiness for the sake of Nora and her children (topic sentence). To do this, Anne leaves her own child among strangers (ill 1). Nora wonders how she could leave her child but Anne indicates that she was obliged to if she wanted to be Nora’s nurse since Nora had no mother and indeed Nora confesses that indeed Anne was a good mother to her when she was little (ill 2). As a result, Anne gets a salary and a good place to live (closing statement.


In conclusion, it is true to say that most women are selfless and thus play sacrificial roles in the societies in which they live. There acts never go unrewarded as seen in A Doll’s House.





7.Episodes in A Doll’s House.

How to identify episodes in a text

  1. a) What is the event?
  2. b) Who are the characters involved?
  3. c) What actions or activities are they involved in?
  4. d) How do the characters react to those events?
  5. e) What is the moral lesson in that episode?



Preparation for Christmas 1-9

Nora’s reunion with Mrslinde 9-23

Krogstad’s intention of seeing Helmer 23-24

Moral corruption 24-28

Helmer to give Mrs Linde a job 28-31

The blackmail 31-42

Nora’s effort to have Krogstad retained 42-48



Nora’s anxious mood 49-51

The misunderstanding 51-56

Nora begs Helmer again 56-62

Dr. Rank’s confessions 62-71

Letter to Helmer 71-77

Nora’s secret 77-79

Helmer’s mailbox 79-82

The crazy dance 82-84



Mrs. Linde &Krogstad’s second chance 85-91

The borrowed money 91-94

Romantic Helmer 94-96

After the ball 96-100

Helmer goes for his letters 100-102

Nora’s decision 102-120



1) Women play key roles in the society but more often than not their roles are never recognized.Using illustrations from “A Doll’s House,” support this assertion.

2)The playwright of ADoll’s House communicates that a formed perception about someone is normally too far from reality. Use appropriate illustrations to support this.

3)Many homes are built on lies. Support this using Helmer’s home as presented in A Doll’s House.

4)Choices have consequences. Support this with illustrations from A Doll’s House.

5)Circumstances and situations surrounding an individual have a great effect on the individual’s character. Using Nora and Krogstad in ADoll’s House, support this assertion.

6)Selflessness should have limits, drawing illustrations from the play A Doll’s House, write an essay showing to what extent you agree with this assertion.

7)One needs friends to support him or her in times of need. Support this with illustrations from Henrik Ibsen’s ADoll’s House.

8)Using illustrations from the play, A Doll’s House by Henrik Ibsen, show how lies and deceit are exposed in the play

9)”Money is the source of all evil.“Support this statement with illustrations from the play, A Doll’s House byHenrik Ibsen.

10)”Never judge a book by its cover.” Using illustrations from the play, A Doll’s House by Henrik Ibsen,support this statement.

12)’Women are portrayed as loving and self-sacrificing in Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House,’ Write an essay toshow the truth of this statement.

12)Write an essay to show that appearances can be misleading. Draw your illustrations from Henrik Ibsen’s ADoll’s House.

13)Drawing illustrations from Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House, write an essay to justify the statement: All her life, Norah has been treated like a doll to be petted and shown off.

14)Relationships are bound to disintegrate where one party feels superior,’ Using examples from Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House, justify this statement.

15)Preserving the respect of the community preoccupies the characters in Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House. Drawing illustrations from the text, write an essay to show the truth of this statement.

16)Women are generally loving and self-sacrificing. Validate this statement basing your illustrations from Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House.


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