I’ve never been known for my future telling abilities, but there are at least some observations that can be made about the English papers that we’ll be sitting in a few short weeks. However, the one important thing to remember is to be very careful about predictions – nobody will ever be able to predict exactly what’ll come up. These are just a guide to help you, not a guide to instruct you.
Unfortunately, first and foremost, there is very little that can be predicted about English Paper 1. There’s a different general theme every year, which we can be anything under the sun. The three texts can’t be predicted in any way. The Question B’s are usually something to do with writing letters, or writing speech’s, or diaries, but I’d say be prepared for it all. Know where your strengths lie before the exam, but don’t just focus on one form of writing. Have a few up your sleeve in case the one you’re good at doesn’t come up! And lastly, for the composing section, which is worth the most marks, the only preparation you can do is to know what area you’ll write in beforehand. Don’t make up your mind what kind of essay you’ll write on the day, that’s bad planning, and bad planning means bad grades. You still have time to make your mind up on these things!
Paper 2, on the other hand, is easier to predict, however it isn’t particularly simple either. For the single text, most students will probably be studying Shakespeare’s Hamlet. We’ve been told in school to focus on women in the play (Gertrude and Ophelia) and themes like revenge and corruption. If you’ve got the Mentor Notes, they can be very helpful to read through the themes. But be careful and don’t rote learn off answers. This is never a good idea, because the examiner will often know if you’re not engaging with the question. I’d say also make notes on all the characters and try and know as much about them as possible. A question on a single character is always a nice question to do. Make sure you know the play inside out. Know the key scenes – what happened in the Nunnery Scene, the Prayer Scene, etc. Know about Hamlet’s soliloquies too.
The Comparitive Study is easier to predict. Last year Theme or Issue came up. That is, of course, supposed to be the easiest section to do. Because it came up last year, it’s unlikely to come up this year, but yet again, be very careful. Don’t leave it out, because it wouldn’t be the first time it came up two years in a row. Have it prepared, but I’d say have General Vision and Viewpoint and Literary Genre prepared in most detail. And if Theme or Issue does come up, then don’t just automatically write about friendship. Bear in mind that about 90% of students will write about this theme. Yours will stand out if you write about, say isolation instead.
The Unseen Poetry is utterly unpredictable. There are observations we can make about the Prescribed Poetry section, luckily. There are eight poets on the course: Eavan Boland, Robert Frost, Seamus Heaney, Patrick Kavanagh, Adrienne Rich, Thomas Kinsella, Philip Larkin and Sylvia Plath. I haven’t studied Kinsella and Larkin personally, which is unfortunate as both are likely to come up. Sylvia Plath is also very likely, as she hasn’t come up for a few years. Seamus Heaney is I think the most likely to appear on the paper. The liklihood is that Boland and Frost are not going to come up as they both came up last year. Rich and Kavanagh are unlikely, but it’s important to study them in detail too, as it wouldn’t be the first time an unexpected poet came up. So in conclusion to that, I’d say be fully prepared for the following: Kinsella, Larkin, Plath, Kavanagh, Rich, and Heaney.
Good luck with the English papers everyone!