Advice for students: Introduction and initial questions

[A Level English Literature – Paper 2 Prose] [Section 1 – Introduction and initial questions] [Hilary Regan] Hi, my name is Hilary Regan, and I’m the principal examiner for paper
2, the prose paper. I work with Jen Smith who’s the Principal for paper 1 and Tom
Rank the principal for Paper 3 Poetry. You might have seen his videos about comparing
poetry. Today I’m going to talk to you about how students did in the 2018 exam paper, and
answer some questions that students frequently ask me. Just a reminder on this paper, you are writing
about two, out of a possible 24 set texts, one of which has to be a nineteenth-century
text and you are having to cover four Assessment Objectives. AO1 is the quality of your written
argument. AO2 is your analysis of the writer’s crafts, AO3 is the relevant contexts and AO4
is the comparisons and connections you make between texts. Making connections between the texts is one
of the hardest things to do in this exam I think, the best way to make connections is
to do it in detail. A lot of students make connections between different characters,
between the themes in the novels and maybe some plot points and sometimes that’s where
they stop. Now to do a little bit better, it’s better to include more detailed comparison
and more range and that’s going to let the examiner give you credit for making that range
of connections. So other things you could compare is genre, for example if you’ve
studied two science fiction texts like War of the Worlds and Never Let Me Go, or two
gothic novels such as Dracula and A Picture of Dorian Gray. You could compare the contexts,
the historical contexts in which they were written, may be the way that audiences responded
to the texts when they were written. You can compare the writer’s narrative style, the
literary style that they use, the way they structure their novel, the narrative voices.
The more detailed comparisons you can get in there and the more range of comparisons
you make the better. The short answer to this question is no, you
don’t always have to include the theme. Now that theme is there to give you a head
start in comparisons, so it might be relevant, for example if your writing about colonisation
and its aftermath with The Heart of Darkness and A Passage to India, or if you’re are
looking at the role of women in in Tess of D’urbervilles and Mrs Dalloway, but the
questions are very broad, so you don’t always need to shoe horn the theme in if it’s not
relevant. It’s a good idea not to just focus on the themes in your revision, revise a bit
more broadly because if the question isn’t focused on the theme of your grouping, don’t
include it. The exam has just had an extra 15 minutes
added on to it for Summer 2019, now that 15 minutes is intended as planning time. It was
decided that it was a little too much to ask for you to plan and write about two long novels
in just an hour, so we’re not expecting you write a longer answer, we’re expecting
you to have a better planned, better structured essay as a result of that extra 15 minutes.
So I would recommend using that 15 minutes to think about what you’re going to say
about the texts to answer the question, maybe what comparisons you’re going to make and
the quotes you might want to use. It’s a really good idea to practise planning, give
yourself 15 minutes and just write a plan, even if you don’t have time to write the
essay. It will help you write realistic plans, where you’ve not more than you can actually
write in the exam. If you don’t understand a word in the question,
don’t answer that question. You’re given two questions as choice, so don’t run the
risk of getting it wrong, just go for the other question.

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