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Posted by bitesize_english_teacher (U15197928) on Tuesday, 15th January 2013
LAST MINUTE REVISION TIPS
Many schools are running their prelims at the moment. Here are a few last minute tips for the Higher English Critical Essay paper.
(A) BEFORE THE EXAM
By this stage you will have amassed pages and pages of notes on each of your text and will have done numerous practice essays.
It is a good idea to produce a single page revision sheet on each text, reducing all the detailed notes to a series of basic headings.
For example, if you are doing a play, do a bullet point list of the main stages of the plot in each act or in each chapter of a novel. SQA examiners often criticise essays which provide too much detail but have no sense of an overview of a text. An easily memorised checklist of the outline of the whole text will help you do a quick check during the exam that you haven’t missed out a key section of the book.
Similarly, make a list of the main points you would mention under the likely question types, which are:
Key scene or chapter [why is it important (a) in itself and (b) for the rest of the action?]
Main characters (a) individually [features of their personality; stages of their development]
Main characters (b) in relationship to each other [particularly in relation to conflict: beginnings; development; resolution]
Setting [if relevant to theme/character, etc]
Aspects of style [e.g. narrative point of view, symbolism, structure of the text, use of language, imagery, etc]
These headings will fit any prose or drama text you are studying.
On separate sheets, you might list the quotations you want to remember. These should be selected as they illustrate something about the characters, themes, etc. If they do not, they may not be worth quoting. [Remember: never talk about ‘quotes’ in an essay! Authors don’t write ‘quotes’ – YOU are quoting the author. Don’t say “in this quote…” Instead, say something like, “In this comment/in this speech ….”]
(B) IN THE EXAM
You have 45 minutes for each essay. The first five should be devoted to planning and the last five to checking and proof-reading. These aren't just optional extras that you might do if you have time - they are ESSENTIAL.
The people sitting around you might immediately start writing their essays as soon as they get the paper. That's up to them. What you should do first is PLAN. You should know where the essay is going to end up BEFORE you start writing.
If you do this, you'll find the essay flows better once you start writing.
Underline the key phrases in the question which you will be using in topic sentences at the start of paragraphs.
Identify the tasks in the question - e.g. choose . . . / explain . . . . / go on to show.. . .
etc. This should help to give your essay a step-by-step structure.
Remember that if you choose a question on a turning point scene or chapter, that doesn't mean the essay covers only that section. The question always asks you to relate the chosen section to the text AS A WHOLE.
At the end of each paragraph of your essay, look back at the question and ask yourself: "Am I still on track here, or have I wandered away from the question?"
At the end, proof-read carefully. Check that each paragraph is clearly related to the question. Correct any spelling errors and careless mistakes (e.g. there/their; calling a play a 'novel' by mistake). In particular, check PUNCTUATION and look out for any sentences where a comma has been put instead of a full stop ('comma splice'). Remember that your style of expression is being assessed as well as your knowledge of the text and the relevance of your essay to the question.
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