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How to do well in English?


I take SL A1 English, and right now my predicted grade is dwindling between a 4 and a 5. I would really want to get at LEAST a 5 for English though, as it is really important for my University applications.

Any English experts out there that can kindly give me some tips and advice on how to do well, and what to do to improve?

Any input would be greatly appreciated. :)



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English is a tricky one, as people who're into it tend to have been good at it since they were yea high and all that stuff, so it's always hard to pin down exactly what it is that helps. One big suggestion would be to read novels and poems in your spare time with the particular intent of working out what you like and what you don't like about literature. Not only will it expand your vocabulary and general way of phrasing your words, but it'll also be a good lead in to start working out WHY you like or don't like things. This is very difficult to do straight off the bat with things you are ambivalent about. My advice would therefore be, if you're not into reading, to pick up challenging books. By this I mean books in very different or very challenging styles, not as in necessarily very complex. To work out how to distinguish things and features, you should always start out with the obvious, and that'll lead you into how to identify the more obscure.

Reading can be the 20 minutes you'd usually spend staring out of the window on the bus, the 10 minutes before you drop off to sleep, whenever. Personally I find reading as a structured activity defeats the point of reading, which is of course enjoyment! :D

Ultimately english is sitting down for an hour and saying why somebody did something - what they did and what effect it had. The easiest way to do this is to think what impact it has on you. At this point in time, it helps to be sensitive to literature and its effects on you (hence the reading of the books suggestion!).

Also, I don't know how you structure your essays, but there are two main ways of doing it and it just so happens that what doesn't work for one person works for another. If you write essays by theme, practice writing one of them line by line. Work out exactly how to structure essays and you'll find it a whole lot easier. For instance, if you were going line by line, you might start out with a small commentary on what the piece as a whole is trying to achieve (thinking Paper 1, here) and roughly how (not as in listing literary features unless they're pretty densely used), before launching off into a line by line, linking a few things to each other as they crop up. If you were going thematically, you'd spend some time at the start looking at structure, character etc. I think the little thing people tend to use is SCASI - Setting, Character, Action, Style, Ideas.

Honestly, if you just think of english as a structured personal response, with some analysis, to whatever they put in front of you, you're all sorted.

Off the top of my head, some 'contrasting' novels you might want to pick up and at least start reading might be (and these are reasonably extreme manners of writing):

A Clockwork Orange (kinda disturbing, but a superb example of how to use language to get across a whole psyche and sub-culture)

The English Patient

The Catcher In The Rye

Tess of the D'Urbervilles

The Great Gatsby

That's all I can think of.

As for poets, I don't know if you can get hold of any anthologies, but stuff like "The Nation's 100 Favourite Poems" is always a good place to start. Read through until you find one you like (or some you like!) and then look up other stuff by that poet and most importantly work out why you like it. Obviously for you to like it, it's had an effect on you, so it's just identifying it :) Effects of poems are always cumulative. It's almost always the atmosphere of the poem, and that comes from every single line. A dud line ruins the poem. So it's easy to start there.

Write a lot. I don't know if you take any essay subjects (those can help a bit) but also write in your spare time. I'd consider what I'm doing now to be writing :) It gets you used to expressing yourself quickly and also establishing your vocabulary and generally seeing how things fit together. It always amazes me how people are often unused to using certain words and actually, if you asked them, would write down phrases wrong, purely because they've never practised. You can't actually practice intentionally, but all writing is practice. It's also possible to develop a 'style' of writing which'll help your essay stick out in the exam if you write quite frequently. Reading is more important, though :D

Keep writing english essays until you've hit the nail on the head, is my advice. English is a technique, and once you have the technique right, you're off and away, with nothing to worry about in the exams except for memorising enough quotes for Paper 2! :D

Good luck.

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for the world lit: Do not take this as just another essay. It is 20 percent of your grade, so make sure you read and redraft and redraft... a lot of people lose marks in my school because they dont take it as seriously as they should

for the oral presentation: make sure your teacher likes you :) jk, but seriously, the same as the world lit applies: don't just treat this as a nother random class project, you could really pick up marks here so prepare properly! and look at the criteria!

for Paper 1: This is primarily skill based, but what helps is to read other people's commentaries - just ask any 7/6s in your class - and stock up on impressive phrases that can be reused easily such as 'An atmosphere of *** is induced in' /'This further reinforces the point outlined earlier'/ 'It is evident that'... improving the level of interpretation you are capable of is very hard, but improving your structure could be an easier way of picking up a few marks - practice this and writing in a persuasive tone if you have the time rather than in your interpreting ability

for Paper 2: Memorise, memorise, and know two books inside-out (do the third one as a backup if you have time) - "knowledge of works" is the easiest criterion to pick up marks on for someone that isnt naturally good at interpretation/ mastery of english writing etc. Also learn a few fancy sentences about the book in general like above :) And lastly, little known tip: about 20 percent of this exam is marked on the appreciation of literary features... sooo as part of the quotes make sure you have a few similes/ metaphors etc - you could really pick up significant marks with some preparation in this area :D

And just Overall: PRACTICE

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hmm im HL in A1 and though i am getting 6s i am still struggling and want to get once a 7 or something

we concentrate much on commentaries and identifying themes literary features and all that in a text

i guess so far i can say, try to read read read and understand also identifying necessary features

as you read

try to be as detailed as possible and try to analyze how the features contribute to the text

good luck :)

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