Thursday, December 28, 2006


Hi, I'm starting to worry about the writing part of my prelim. Every essay I have written this year has only been worth 16 marks no matter how much I try to improve it. The interpretation should be ok-I got 35/50 for a timed interpretation we did in class-but the writing scares me! Have you got any advice on how to prepare well for this and what makes a good critical essay?
Thank you and I hope you had a good Christmas!



Chris said...

I did, thank you - tho' being a Domestic Goddess takes its toll!
However: remind me of what exactly you'll have to do in the prelim - it's an interp paper and two critical essays?
A good CE shows that you fully understand (a)the text in question and (b) the question you have chosen to answer. This is really important - you have to answer the set question and not the one you wish had been asked to suit what you know!
You need to choose your question with care, and make a quick plan to remind you of what quotes and references you will use to illustrate your answer.
Embed your quotations sensibly into the body of your answer.
Address all the points of the question and do not, under any circumstances, "tell the story" of the text. Instead, demonstrate by your confident response that you have understood its theme, the power of any imagery (esp in poetry), characterisation (prose/drama).

For preparation, I'd go for a decent selection of texts which fit more than one type of question (do this by checking types of question in past papers) - don't pin all your hopes on one or two which might not be terribly useful.
Learn themes and any other relevant literary devices, with quotations to fit them. (You can test yourself in this by using index cards - write the quote on one side and the lit. device or what is illustrated on the other, and see if you can "do" them from either side of each card)

Go through past papers. Start by choosing questions which jump out at you as suitable, and make a plan as if you were going to write the essay. (You can write one or two, but it's better practice to do only the plans of several questions)
Then do all the others, and see how many you absolutely can't do with the texts at your disposal. Ask yourself if you have enough learned once you've gone through, say, 5 papers.

There. That's enough for one post or you'll get indigestion. Don't panic - just do some of this every day.


Matthew Mueda said...

Don't worry. Do what you want and be happy.