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How To Pass Higher English Critical Essays

Higher English poetry critical essays are not analysed the in the same way as a Higher English prose critical essay or a Higher English drama critical essay. For the analysis part of your critical essay, you have to do what some call ‘micro-analysis’. This means picking out different poetic techniques/devices and then explaining their effects. You do NOT do this in prose or drama critical essays.

To do this, you have to be able to know the following:

Your quotations from the poem.

The techniques in those quotations.

The effects of those techniques on a reader (you).

How those effects relate to a main theme in the poem.

(Remember that techniques create effects, and these effects can be an idea, a feeling or an image. Also, ‘image’ is a picture in the head. ‘Imagery‘ as used by the SQA in close reading means simile, metaphor, personification and other figures of speech.)

You will always have to relate techniques’ effects to the second part of the task in an Higher English poetry critical essay.  This relating effects to the task is what makes Higher harder than Intermediate 2 English or Standard Grade English.

Here’s a video that highlights these points.


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The almond tree is rife with biblical meanings. Moses’ brother, Aaron, carried a rod cut from an almond tree. When almond blossoms and leaves suddenly sprouted on the rod, this miracle was attributed as a sign that God had chosen Aaron and his tribe to be His priests. Almonds were mentioned often in the Bible, possibly because they are native to the Middle East and would have been widely available during biblical times.

Priestly Meaning

During the many years in the wilderness, the people of the Lord quarreled between themselves trying to determine who should be the priests and directly serve God. So, representatives of all 12 tribes brought their rods and placed them within the tabernacle. The next day, when Moses went into the tabernacle, he discovered that Aaron’s rod which was cut from an almond tree had miraculously burst into flowers. This meant that God had chosen Aaron and his family, from the tribe of Levites, to be His priests.

Old Age


In Ecclesiastes, the almond is indicative of old age. This is an apt description since the almond bursts into flowers in late winter—and winter is often considered anthropomorphically as an old man. The almond blooms are borne on naked stems before the leaves emerge, and the old blossoms often look like white snowflakes when they fall to the ground.

Watchful Tree

The almond tree is also referred to as a “watchful” tree by the Prophet Jeremiah when he talks to God in a vision. Yahweh asks Jeremiah what he sees and Jeremiah mentions that he sees “a branch of an almond tree.” Yahweh answers: “You have seen well: for I keep watch over my word to give effect to it” (Jer.1:11-12).

Rod of Authority

In their book “Rod of an Almond Tree in God’s Master Plan,” Peter Michas and Robert Vander Maten propose that the Rod of Authority made from the Tree of Life was passed down through the ages by the biblical patriarchs. Eventually, King David planted it and centuries later it formed the cross on which Jesus was crucified. They believe that Revelation 22:2 states that the relic of the cross will reappear and flower. This will be a sign of God’s authority just as it was in the days of Aaron.


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Barry WrightTagged Almond Tree, Higher English, Poetry

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