HERE are a few crucial tips and guidelines for ‘A’ Level Literature students faced with final examinations in less than two months.
- First, carefully study again and again, not just read your syllabus. Make sure you answer your questions to the requirements and expectations of examiners. What is he asking you to do . . . not what you think he wants you to write?
- Remember you are also a writer. The examiner expects you to display a logical and persuasive argument or analysis made in recognizable style. Like the writers you are assessing, studying, evaluating and judging, please demonstrate own interesting styles of communicating, presenting your answer.
- Remember at this level examiners are interested in your personal response and not group or rehearsed perceptions. Acknowledge that other readers and audiences may have this or that opinion or point of view . . . of course those may be sensible and possible interpretations, but what is your own response? That is the point. Your own understanding and feeling, your own thoughts and conclusion about what you have investigated and identified.
- Commentaries are other people’s opinions. They do matter and it is important to know them. But what are your own comments, based on your own evaluation and comprehension? Literature is communication between writer and reader, and readers never have the same responses to literary stimuli. The examiner will reward you for a personal depth and sensitivity of response, not knowledge of the stories or what other audiences and readers think and feel. This is crucial to know for ‘A’ level Literature students.
- Make sure you know and fully understand specific literary terms / techniques and devices by name: Tone, Mood, Plot-structure (storyline – the narrative), Setting, Characters (protagonists / round/ flat/characters), Style, Meaning, Intention or Purpose, Themes or sub-themes. In poetry what are verse, free verse, ballads, lyrical ballads, odes, epics, elegies, sonnets and their types, apostrophes? What are run-on lines, ellipses, quatrains, octaves, sestets, rhyming couplets, personification, first /second/ third persons, caesuras, assonance, alliteration, allusions, onomatopoeia-the list is endless?
- 6. Bear in mind that identifying literary techniques or poetic devices is not enough. This is where most students miss the bus. Ensure that you say what the author/poet etc achieves by using these devices, clarifying their effectiveness, their impact in the piece of work.
If you thoroughly understand the above, that’s enough for one day. Let’s proceed one day at a time. Join me again next Friday. I will give you more tips and guidelines which are always a concern for examiners both at Cambridge and Zimsec Examination Councils.