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IB examination essay paper 1

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Hey Guys,

i sat for this exam in nov, and i screwed up big time.

i started at the prose for a long time and could not figure out what to do

any tips on how to get started for writing an unseen prose?

Thanks alot

retaking in May

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IMO the poetry is a lot easier to do than the prose, hands-down. Have you ever attempted it?

The way I've always approached these unseen commentaries (and without seeming exceedingly big-headed, it has earned me full marks in things so I have reason to believe it works!) is like so:

1. Read the poem/prose once through

2. Decide what the story/message and major themes are

3. Look through for the major things they do -- for instance, in poetry, this would be whether they have a lot of description, whether it's through choice of words, building up of atmosphere, use of extended metaphors, the way in which the verses are laid out, the rhyme/rhythm of the piece. They should be sufficiently major for you to pick these out first time through.

4. Write an introduction to the effect of "Passage/Poem [name of thing] is about [story/message]. In order to get across to the reader [major theme] they use a variety of methods including [major things they do]."

5. Start with line 1. Pick out all literary features* in line 1, with reference back to [story/message], [major theme] and [major things they do] as appropriate. Say what it is and why it is effective.

6. Move onto line 2. Repeat step 5.

7. Continue in this fashion making sure that you slot in anything which can't be done line-by-line into the poem as well such as comments about over-arching things -- rhythm, layout, rhyme and repetition often fall into this category. I usually slot these in either when I come to a line where there is a good example of this, or simply add in an extra paragraph based on layout, rhyme/whatever.

8. When you see something which matches up with an earlier thing, mention it and say why it's effective that there is matching/repetition and so on so you get more cohesion into your essay in that you can relate things in line 30 to line 3 and so on.

9. Conclude by repeating your introduction. You found that [story/message] and [major theme] were excellently conveyed by [major things they do] because [quick summary of how major things they do helped].

This method was always fail safe for me.

* Literary features = formal features such as metaphors, alliteration, onomatopoeia etc. but also things like "the verb constrained is particularly effective here because it is suggestive of a prison and consequently perhaps a wish or a struggle to get out" and that kind of thing -- basically why they may have chosen a particular word and what you TOOK from the word they did choose which made it really good.

Bonuses of this method: it is chronological so you don't have to waste time coming up with a "themed plan" and apart from reading it can literally just sit and write like mad.

Downsides: you have to work really, really hard all exam and will probably finish in the closing few minutes because you end up going into everything quite in-depth. Guarantees you marks, but you also have to be very sure you're going at a sufficient rate to get to the end of the poem before you run out of time. This could potentially be pretty bad if you don't finish in time but provided you keep checking the clock against how far through the poem/story you are, all should be well. I never had a problem with it anyway!

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hey yes that is really useful! Thanks so much.

One more question, so what my introduction should include should be a rough summary of what the poem is about and what ideas the writer is trying to bring out by writing this? both the implicit and explicit meanings? Also, do i specify the writers technique? like "so and so" mainly uses diction to bring his point across?

In terms of literary features, how could i show it was effective, as in writing out a sentence, im kinda poor at literature, always struggle with english!

would you put in a general paragraph on how for example rhyme or layout is effective in poetry?

This seems like a great way to approach the unseen paper.

Thanks,

Byron

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hey yes that is really useful! Thanks so much.

One more question, so what my introduction should include should be a rough summary of what the poem is about and what ideas the writer is trying to bring out by writing this? both the implicit and explicit meanings? Also, do i specify the writers technique? like "so and so" mainly uses diction to bring his point across?

In terms of literary features, how could i show it was effective, as in writing out a sentence, im kinda poor at literature, always struggle with english!

would you put in a general paragraph on how for example rhyme or layout is effective in poetry?

This seems like a great way to approach the unseen paper.

Thanks,

Byron

In answer to your question about the introduction, yes it should be a rough (and BRIEF!) summary of what the poem is about: a mention of the central ideas of the poem (e.g. death, happiness, suffering, new life, freedom, dreaming, whatever) and the main literary features they use in the poem (e.g. rhyme, creation of atmosphere, description and word choice, layout of poem). Your introduction should be brief, to the point, and consist of literally nothing more than you could have picked out at first glance. It's a waste of time to do much more with your intro than this because anything additional you'll only end up repeating again later! Not to mention a quick and to-the-point introduction gives your essay authority and confidence.

To be honest, I don't think it's worth bothering dividing explicit from implicit meanings. If you take some sort of meaning or idea from a poem, that's all fine and dandy, there's no value in sitting wondering whether they stated it very clearly or whether it was just a feeling you got. It's unnecessary to try and classify the types of meaning in a poem, you're meant to be explaining what the meaning was and how the author conveyed it to you. Simultaneously, therefore, you'll end up describing "explicit" and "implicit" meanings, but there's no need to state it -- it'll just happen. For the purposes of the introduction, whether a meaning was one or the other is nothing to stress about, you don't need to say it -- for the purposes of the poem it's overall meaning that counts, not implicit OR explicit, they're one and the same.

As for showing how it's effective, all I can really say is what's always worked for me -- if you think something is effective, ask yourself why it's effective. How does it make you feel? Is it the sound of the words, the way the middle is dragged out, the change in pitch of your voice as you read it, a particular word which makes the image more vivid in your mind, an appeal to the senses, onomatopoeic...? There's a massive, massive list of things it could be. I appreciate sometimes it's hard to describe something which may feel to you quite nebulous, but particularly if you're familiar with common explanations of why something makes you feel how it does, it's easy to pick something out. Literally, just describe what it does for you, if that makes any sense. It's not a science or a particular set answer, you're not trying to prove anything, just describe how you feel as you read it and what it is which makes you feel that way.

And to your last question: yes, if it hadn't been mentioned previously. They're important aspects of poetry which you mustn't forget to mention! Just make sure it's specific to your poem. I apologise if this seems obvious, it's just I wasn't sure whether to read your sentence as "in poetry in general" or not!

Hope that helps. To be honest, approaching English Lit. in a formulaic way is, I personally think, to not understand it. English Lit. is like a gift from the exam people -- you get to sit and write about how something makes you feel and why it makes you feel that way for 2 hours. Or 1.5 hours. Besides knowing a few technical terms to identify literary features with, there's nothing more to it than that :P

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