UPDATE – September 2014.

Again and again it’s been pointed out at marking conferences and in marking schemes that YOU MUST RESPOND TO THE QUESTION. Stock learned off answers are not being rewarded – and rightfully so! Using what you know to offer your opinion is what counts – agree, disagree, partially agree, partially disagree – it’s doesn’t matter as long as your essay is directly responding to the Q asked throughout and is doing so in a comparative way.

Here’s an extract from the Chief Examiner’s Report

examiners were pleased when they saw candidates trust in their own personal response and demonstrate a willingness to challenge the ‘fixed meaning’ of texts. The best answers managed to remain grounded, both in the question asked and in the texts”.

Examiners complained that students had pre-prepared answers which they refused to adapt to the question asked. Don’t get confused here: in the comparative section you have to have done a lot of preparation prior to the exam. The similarities and differences are unlikely to simply occur to you on the day under exam conditions and the structure of comparing and contrasting, weaving the texts together using linking phrases and illustrating points using key moments is not something you can just DO with no practice. It’s a skill you have to learn. But you MUST be willing to change, adapt, and select from what you know to engage fully with the question asked.

This compliment, followed by a warning, was included in the 2013 report:

Many examiners reported genuine engagement with the terms of the questions, combined with a fluid comparative approach. As in previous years, examiners also noted that a significant minority of candidates were hampered by a rigid and formulaic approach“.

At the 2011 marking conference, a huge emphasis was placed on students engaging with the question – and the point was made that all too often they DON’T. You may have a general structure in your head but if this structure doesn’t suit the question that comes up DON’T just doggedly write what you’re prepared anyway. Use what you know to answer the Q. The basic structure will remain (text 1 key moment, link, text 2 km, link, text 3 km, general observation) – it’s not rocket science. But you must prove (if you want a grade above 70% in comparative) that you can engage with the question throughout your answer (not justthrow it in @ beginning and end) and conclude by showing how your essay engaged with the question asked. So the moral of the story is, if you puke up a pre-prepared answer & completely ignore the question, don’t be surprised when you then do badly!

Anyway, you still want to know what the basic comparative structure IS but remember you do not know what you will write until you see the question. Even then, your brain should be on fire non-stop as you write your answer. This is not about ‘remembering’ stuff – this is about knowing it so well, that it’s all there in your brain and you just have to shuffle it about so that it makes sense as a response to whatever question is asked.

Sorry, I don’t intend to scare you – but nor do I want to you be under some illusion that you just write one essay for each comparative mode during the year and that will do. IT WON’T…

UPDATE OVER

Right, here goes…

The quality of your links is REALLY SUPREMELY important. This section of the course is called ‘comparative studies’ for a reason. The more detailed a link is the more marks you’ll get for it. Thus just using the words ‘similarly’ or ‘by contrast’ isn’t really enough. Link individual characters from different texts, establish the ways they or their circumstances are similar but also point out subtle differences. You can extend this comparison throughout your paragraph/section if necessary (in fact this is a good idea) – but don’t simply repeat yourself.

Here’s some general advice on how you might structure your comparative essay, but I repeat, adapt, adapt adapt to the question asked.

Introduction:

Theme or Issue: Address the Q, introduce your theme, then your texts – genre, name, author and mention the central character who you will focus on in your discussion of this theme.

General Vision & Viewpoint: Address the Q, introduce the idea of GV&V (briefly), then your texts – genre, name, author and mention the major emotions you associate with each.

Cultural Context: Address the Q, introduce the idea of cultural context (briefly), then your texts – genre, name, author, plus where and when they are set. You may want to mention the aspects of cultural context you intend to discuss.

Literary Genre: Address the Q, briefly introduce what literary genre means, then introduce your texts – genre, name, author. Outline the aspects of literary genre you will discuss (depends on the Q asked).

Look at the following examples. Imagine the Q is “Exploring a theme or issue can add to our enjoyment of a text”

“I found it fascinating to explore the central theme of plagiarism in my comparative texts. In the novel ‘Old School ‘ (OS) by Tobias Wolff I was intrigued by the narrator’s self delusion after he entered a competition with a short story he had not written. By contrast, I found the film ‘Generous’ (GEN) directed by Frank Faulkner quite disturbing. It explores a young girl’s obsession with becoming famous as she ‘borrows’ outrageous online articles to make her blog more popular. Finally I found the play “IMHO” by Judy Price hilarious. It looks at how we all ‘copy’ ideas from others and pass them off as our own at dinner parties. Thus exploring this theme greatly added to my enjoyment of each text”.

Now look at how this changes for a different mode. Imagine the Q is “The general vision & viewpoint of a text often offers the reader both joy & despair”

All of my comparative texts took me on a rollercoaster ride through the highs and lows experienced by the central characters. In the novel “Old School” (OS) by Tobias Wolff I experienced the narrator’s joy at the visit of Robert Frost, and his despair when his cheating was uncovered. Similarly, the film “Generous” (GEN) directed by Frank Faulkner begins in elation for Emily as her blog goes viral but ends in complete mental and physical collapse. By contrast, the lighthearted play “IMOH” by Judy Price offers a hilarious look at the falseness of modern dinner parties and the only despair the audience feels is lamenting the complete lack of self-awareness of the central characters. Thus the vision & viewpoint of each text offered me a  wide and varied range of emotions  from joy to depair”.

Now look at how this changes again: Imagine the Q is: “Characters are often in conflict with the world or culture they inhabit”

The novel ‘Old School’ (OS) written by Tobias Wolff is set in an elite American boarding school in the 1960’s and the unnamed narrator certainly comes into conflict with his world. This text explores cultural issues such as social class, ethnic identity and authority figures. Similar issues are explored in the film “Generous” (GEN) directed by Frank Faulkner and set in modern day London as Emily comes into conflict with her parents, peers and teachers. My third text the play “IMOH” by Judy Price set in Celtic Tiger Ireland also looks at the conflicts which occur as a result of people’s social snobbery and their desire to escape their cultural identity and heritage. In this text the major authority figure is Susan, the host of the dinner party, who desperately tries to keep her guests in line. Thus I absolutely agree that these three texts made me more aware of the ways in which people can come into conflict with the world or culture they inhabit”.

Finally look at this literary genre question: “The creation of memorable characters is part of the art of good story-telling”.

The unnamed narrator in Tobias Wolff’s novel ‘Old School’ (OS) is a fascinating and memorable character because he is struggling to come to terms with his own flaws. Similarly, the film ‘Generous’ (GEN) directed by Frank Faulkner has a central character Emily who we emphathise with despite her many flaws. Finally, the play ‘IMHO’ by Judy Price with its emsemble cast creates many memorable characters but for the purposes of this essay I will focus on the dinner party host Susan. These characters live on in our memories because of the writer’s choice of narrative point of view, because of the vivid imagery we associate with them and because the climax of the action revolves around their character.

NEXT you need to think about structuring the essay itself. The most important thing to decide in advance is what aspect you wish to compare for each page/section but this may need to change to adapt to the Q.

For theme or issue you might plan it out like this but at all times focus on answering the Q:

  1. How is this theme introduced? How does this theme affect the central character/characters?
  2. How is this theme developed? Do the central characters embrace or fight against it? How?
  3. Do other characters influence how this theme unfolds?
  4. How does the text end & what are our final impressions of this theme as a result?

Asking the same question of each text allows you to come up with the all important links (similarities & differences).

For general vision & viewpoint you might plan as follows but at all times focus on answering the Q:

  1. What view is offered of humanity (are the main characters likable or deplorable?)
  2. What view is offered of society (is this society largely benign or does it negatively impact on the characters)
  3. How does the text end & what vision are we left with (positive or negative) as a result?

Alternatively you could just take a beginning, middle, end approach but you must at all times focus on whether the vision/feelings/atmosphere is positive or negative and how this impacts on the reader/viewers experience.

For literary genre you must focus on the aspects mentioned in the question – possibly some of these:

  • Genre – diff between novel/play/film
  • Narrator / point of view
  • Characterisation
  • Chronology – flashback / flashforward
  • Climax / twist

For cultural context you must decide which of the following issues are most prominent in all three texts – try to find links before you decide. At all times focus on answering the Q asked

  • Social class / social status
  • Wealth / poverty
  • Job opportunities / emigration
  • Authority figures
  • Religion
  • Sex / Marriage (attitudes towards)
  • Gender roles
  • Stereotypes / Ethnic identity
  • Politics

You may find some overlap between 2 of these – for example social class often influences a person’s wealth or poverty; religion often effects attitudes towards sex and marriage; marriage can often be a financial necessity for those with limited job opportunities (mostly women, so this overlaps with gender roles). Choose your sections carefully so you don’t end up repeating yourself.

You might plan as follows for the example given above but everything depends on the texts & the question.

  1. Social status
  2. Ethnic identity
  3. Authority figures
  4. How does the text end? Do the main characters escape or remain constrained by their cultural context?

Once you’ve decided what sections to include your structure for each goes a little something like this:

STATEMENT – ALL 3 TEXTS e.g. All of the central characters are deeply aware of their social class and wish to ‘climb the ladder’ as it were in the hope that they will achieve recognition, the envy of their peers and ultimately a better life.

STATEMENT – TEXT 1 e.g. In OS, the narrator hides his background (he comes from a broken home) from his wealthier peers.

KEY MOMENT TEXT 1 e.g. This is evident when he discusses how, at school, your social class was defined not just by your clothes but also by how you spent your summers – in his case “working as a dishwasher in the kitchen crew at a YMCA camp” a fact which he vows never to reveal to his classmates.

LINKING PHRASE & STATEMENT TEXT 2 e.g. Similarly, in GEN, Emily comes from a broken home, but it is her family’s absolute impoverishment which she keeps hidden from her classmates. Like the narrator in OS, she fears their pity but unlike him she is already dealing with the harsh reality of being a social outcast at school.

KEY MOMENT TEXT 2 e.g. During one key moment she describes leaning down to tie her shoes, all the while talking, only to look up and find her friends have walked off and are now laughing at her for talking to thin air. Thus her desire to escape the limitations of her background is more urgent than in OS.

LINKING PHRASE & STATEMENT TEXT 3 e.g. By contrast, in IMHO, Jane, Lucy, Joel, Zach & Max all come from upper middle class backgrounds. Their social status is more secure than the narrator in OS or Emily in GEN, yet they are all obsessed with creating the impression that they have links to the aristocracy – or in Zach’s case, royalty.

KEY MOMENT TEXT 3 e.g. Several key moments spring to mind, the funniest of which is when Lucy boasts about the diamond necklace she’s wearing being a family heirloom bequeathed by her Aunt Tess, only to have one of the so-called diamonds fall into her soup. Joel the jeweller then delights in pointing out the evident ‘fake’ in the room (the woman AND the diamond).

STATEMENT ALL 3 & PERSONAL RESPONSE TO QUESTION ASKED e.g. Thus I found it fascinating, tragic and at times hilarious to see how all of these characters were so deeply affected by their obsession with their social status and to observe the conflicts – both internal & external – which resulted.

This all sounds very technical but if you break it down as follows it’s not so complicated (easy for me to say!)

STATEMENT ALL 3 TEXTS

STATEMENT TEXT 1 & KEY MOMENT

LINKING PHRASE & STATEMENT TEXT 2 & KEY MOMENT

LINKING PHRASE & STATEMENT TEXT 3 & KEY MOMENT

STATEMENT ALL 3 & PERSONAL RESPONSE TO QUESTION

Now look at how the paragraph/section flows when you put it all together.

All of the central characters are deeply aware of their social class and wish to ‘climb the ladder’ as it were in the hope that they will achieve recognition, the envy of their peers and ultimately a better life. In OS, the narrator hides his background (he comes from a broken home) from his wealthier peers. This is evident when he discusses how, at school, your social class was defined not just by your clothes but also by how you spent your summers – in his case “working as a dishwasher in the kitchen crew at a YMCA camp” a fact which he vows never to reveal to his classmates. Similarly, in GEN, Emily comes from a broken home, but it is her family’s absolute impoverishment which she keeps hidden from her classmates. Like the narrator in OS, she fears their pity but unlike him she is already dealing with the harsh reality of being a social outcast at school. During one key moment she describes leaning down to tie her shoes at her locker, all the while talking, only to look up and find her friends have walked off and are now laughing at her for talking to thin air. Thus her desire to escape the stigma of her background is more urgent than in OS. By contrast, in IMHO, Jane, Lucy, Joel, Zach & Max all come from upper middle class backgrounds. Their social status is more secure than for narrator in OS or Emily in GEN, yet they are all obsessed with creating the impression that they have links to the aristocracy – or in Zach’s case, royalty. Several key moments spring to mind, the funniest of which is when Lucy boasts about the diamond necklace she’s wearing being a family heirloom bequeathed by her Aunt Tess, only to have one of the so-called diamonds fall into her soup. Joel the jeweller then delights in pointing out the evident ‘fakes’ in the room (the woman AND the diamond). Thus I found it fascinating, tragic and at times hilarious to see how all of these characters were so deeply affected by their obsession with their social status and to observe the conflicts – both internal & external – which resulted.

This paragraph only establishes that the characters want to hide or improve their social class. You could now look at some of their attempts to improve their social status.

If a paragraph gets too long, break it into two. The linking phrase will make it clear that you’re still talking about the same issue.

For the 30 / 40 marls question just take all of your statements & key moments for Text 1 and put them together, all the while answering the question and offering personal response. This is your 30 marks part.

Then take all of your statements & links for texts 2 & 3 and put them together, all the while answering the question and offering personal response. This is your 40 marks part. You will refer back, in passing, to Text 1 but only when establishing your links.

Also, I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again: the more detailed a link is the more marks you’ll get for it. Thus just using the words ‘similarly’ or ‘by contrast’ isn’t really enough. Link individual characters from different texts, establish the ways they or their circumstances are similar but also point out subtle differences.

This structure applies no matter what the mode – theme or issue / general vision or viewpoint / cultural context / literary genre.

P.S. If you’re wondering why you’ve never heard of the film Generous or the play IMHO, I can explain. I made them up.





   

Tagged with:
 

65 Responses to Comparative essay structure

  1. garfield18 says:

    Hi just wondering if there is a 40 mark question and a 30 mark question (2006 cultural context) and the first question asks you to compare two of the texts you have studied and the second question asks you to talk about your third text..well do you only compare two of them in the first part and not even mention the third text? And then for the second question do you mention the two texts from question one at all?

    • Yes, you only discuss the two texts in part one (40 marks). Then in part two (30 marks) the marking scheme says you are not required to make links to the first two texts but you may do if you wish. You obviously discuss your third text but you could link back occasionally to what you said in part one, only for the purposes of comparison.

  2. martin says:

    Why did you choose to answer this question with two texts that you made up? I mean surely that just allowed you to make connections and links that wouldn’t be as easy to make with some of the prescribed texts. Would it not have made more sense to compare 3 of the texts currently on the LC or that have been in the past or even just 3 real texts?

    • Hi there, good point. Basically I’ve heard horror stories of students accidentally selecting texts that were on in previous years but failing to check the prescribed texts for their particular year. If you write on a text that’s not on the list the result is pretty severe in terms of how badly you are marked down in the exam. Also, because I won’t be changing the essay structure post every year I decided to focus on the ideas rather than on actual texts. As for how hard it can be to link them, I guess that’s why comparative is considered so difficult! But I can also tell you from years of practice that it is possible. Chin up, the end’s in sight 🙂

  3. Brian Hanney says:

    What about key moments? If the term “key moment” is used, do you really have to limit most of your answer to just one moment? Do you lose marks if you discuss other examples from the text?
    PS Are you the Evelyn O’Connor who’s coming to INOTE in Galway? It’s unlikely that there are two of you!

    • It depends on the question. It may specify that you should focus on one key moment but more often it says one or more key moments. Obviously it would be very difficult to sustain an entire answer focusing only on one key moment from each text… I think the point I wanted to illustrate is that students don’t have to discuss everything that happens – it simply wouldn’t be possible. Zooming in on three or four key moments in each text (in some detail) which illustrate the points you want to make is better than skimming over twelve or fourteen things that happen in the novel/play/film because if you do this multiplied by three texts if would be incredibly difficult to achieve any kind of coherence in an answer.
      And yep, I’m the Evelyn who’s doing a talk in Galway Education Centre in December! See you there maybe?

  4. how long does your comparative essay need to be?

  5. Rosanna Ring says:

    Evelyn, just had to say to Thanks so so much! Your structure on Cultural Context is just impeccable, so helpful! Had my christmas exam Monday and you were literally the saving factor for me, Why couldn’t I be lucky enough to have a teacher like you!! 🙁

  6. Tess says:

    Hi evelyn, for the comparative studies do you need to add quotes from the texts studied? Your notes are great!

    • Quotes aren’t necessary the way they are with the single text. However, to get a high grade (above a B3 say) a few well chosen quotes here and there which are relevant to whatever you’re discussing would really impress an examiner.

      • Just an update on this one – I was at an inservice recently and quite a few teachers said they do expect quotes in comparative answers. Perhaps one per section per text. That’s about 4 quotes for each text, which is 12 in total in your answer. This is NOT specified in the marking scheme but as I said above a few well chosen quotes (even two per text, or six in the entire essay) can make the difference between a C / D and an A or B.

  7. Leo says:

    Hi Evelyn,

    Would it possible to restrict a cultural context question to one particular comparison? For example, say I wanted to talk about social status, like you have above. Would it be possible to form the essay like this:

    – Initial introduction/uncertainty surrounding the central characters’ social status.

    – A moment of change in the main characters’ acceptance of their social status

    – Final acceptance of social status in closing stages.

    I worry that this would look too much like a theme-based essay, rather than a cultural context, but my texts don’t have an awful lot to compare in the form of cultural context, as the main comparisons would mainly just overlap with social status.

    Any advice would be hugely appreciated!

  8. I think if the question specified social status and the impact of social class / wealth and poverty, then you’d be OK. On only 1 occasion so far has one specific aspect of cultural context been asked – it was “The roles and status allocated to males or females can be central to understanding the cultural context of a text”. However, generally speaking, comparative questions ask for a wider discussion of several aspects of cultural context – generally 4.
    That said, a really well written answer, with links which are complex rather than obvious, and a good focus on responding to the question asked will get you the best grade, regardless of how many (or how few) ‘aspects’ of cultural context you discuss.
    I know it might seem like I’m not really answering your question, but it depends if the question asked demands a narrow response (as above) on one aspect and it also depends if that aspect is specified or not.
    So if the question was
    “Discuss one or more aspects of the cultural context which you feel profoundly affected the central characters” you’d be fine.
    But if the question was
    “Many aspects of the culture or society we live in shape our values and attitudes” then the bit which says “many aspects” would demand more than a narrow focus on JUST social status…
    Hope that helps…
    Evelyn

    • Leo says:

      Yes, I know exactly what you mean thanks very much for the reply, it has helped :]. I’ll certainly look out for the question and try to dig up a few more aspects in the meantime.

  9. Maria says:

    Hi Evelyn ,
    In the theme or Issue question , can you just have few themes prepared before going into the exam and kind of just learn off the answer or does it really depend on what’s asked? Themes that i have been working on are isolation in society , power of women , limitations due to poverty . Are these suitable?

    • Hi Maria,
      The ‘themes’ you’ve mentioned sound more like aspects of cultural context – do women have power IN SOCIETY, are people isolated IN SOCIETY, is poverty an issue? You seem to be focusing on the impact of society on the individual which is basically cultural context.

      If I were you I’d select ONE theme – isolation is a theme, poverty is a theme. Pick ONE because the questions always ask you to discuss ONE theme which is common to all three texts you have studied.

      It’s important to know what points you want to make about that theme, what moments it is most evident in and what comparisons (similarities and differences) you want to make across texts – your links are actually the most important aspect of comparative.

      As for learning off an answer? Know what you want to say but you MUST adapt it to suit the specific question that comes up.

      Hope that helps!

  10. Anna says:

    Hi Evelyn! Thanks, this is really helpful! What would be the best way to study the comparative and how do you pick out the key moments?

    • Choose key moments that work well together. You can know in advance more or less what comparisons you want to make between texts. Make sure there is depth in your comparisons – don’t just state obvious similarities, look at both subtle and obvious differences as well. Once you have strong comparisons, you’re half way there. The other half involves using what you know to respond to the questions asked. This is the bit you have to improvise on the day. However, as I said already, you should know more or less how you’ll link the texts and what comparisons you want to make. Hope that helps.

  11. Emma says:

    Hi thanks this is really helpful! For the comparative essay, is it necessary to compare all three texts in each paragraph or could I compare : A and B in one, B and C in the next and then A and B again or ; A and B, B and C, then ABC .
    Thanks again, this website is brilliant!

    • Wow, I had to read that three times and I’m still not fully sure. My lot compare all three x 4 sections in their essay. They might not always compare them in the same order. They might look at the first two texts being similar when it comes to the role of women, but then point out how their third text is different. In the next section of their essay, they might discuss how text 1 and text 3 have similar attitudes to social status, but point out that social status doesn’t really influence characters in text 2. So it’s about making the comparisons that make sense, discussing similarities and differences, in whatever order makes the most sense. As long as these comparisons have depth, you’re ok.
      I pointed out recently to my class that the comparisons shouldn’t be superficial and obvious. One of them asked ‘what do you mean’, to which one of the others replied “Rick in Casablanca is a boy and Alec (in Babylon) is also a boy” – lol!! So, yeah, avoid just stating really really obvious similarities or differences…
      Hope that helps!
      p.s. If you did A & B, then B & C (as you mentioned above) you’d never ever compare A & C, which seems kind of weird?

  12. sally says:

    Hi, I don’t know if this would be as important as some of the other questions posted per say. I was just wondering about a few things though. The first thing is when we do our introduction should be give a brief summary in whatever comparative heading we’re asked; be it theme or issue or cultural context or Literary Genre. Also I was just wondering how long you think this answer should be to secure maximum marks??
    Thanks.

    • hi Sally, I think your introduction should be fairly brief (this is something I struggle with personally).
      On one or two occasions the question has asked students to define the mode – cultural context / literary genre / general vision and viewpoint (gv&v is not one of the 2013 modes) before discussing it but unless they ask you for it you don’t have to define the mode.
      As for summarising, I don’t think it’s necessary but it’s no harm either. What’s most important is that you engage directly with the question asked.
      As for how long your essay should be…. I dunno. I spent my life hearing other people boast about how much they’d written in exams. I’m a slow writer so I had to accept that I would never be one of those people who wrote loads in exams. Instead I made every single word count and became an expert at efficient language use. It worked.
      There are certain expectations – see how much to write – but 5 really well written pages completely focused on answering the question, with complex links – is far better than 9 pages of complete waffle.
      Not sure I’ve really answered your question, hope that helps a little!

  13. Steven says:

    Hi,
    Is theme guaranteed? And for theme in the 70 mark question, is it possible to answer A and B in great detail with little reference to C?
    Also if the question states “with reference to at least 2 texts” does that mean you can only discuss 2?

    • Theme is not guaranteed. There are 3 modes of comparison – for 2013 HIGHER LEVEL they are THEME or ISSUE, CULTURAL CONTEXT and LITERARY GENRE. 2 of these modes will appear on the paper so to be guaranteed a question you need to have covered 2 of the 3 modes (in your case, if you only know theme, and cultural context and literary genre come up you won’t be able to answer a question).
      If the question asks you to discuss at least 2 texts, then yes, you can only discuss 2 and still get full marks. However, most years for higher level they don’t give you this option but instead expect you to discuss all three. Usually for ordinary level you are asked to discuss just 2 texts.
      For those who are doing ordinary level this year, the modes are similar to higher level – theme, social setting (which is pretty much the same as cultural context) and aspects of storytelling (which is pretty similar to literary genre). This isn’t always the case though, the modes change every year.
      Hope that helps.

  14. Rosie says:

    Hi evelyn, as you know english paper 2 is tomorrow ! I’m just wondering about the comparative do the points below you gave us all make up one paragraph? or can they be cut into little sections under 1 heading (e.g. poverty) Thanks 🙂

    STATEMENT ALL 3 TEXTS

    STATEMENT TEXT 1 & KEY MOMENT

    LINKING PHRASE & STATEMENT TEXT 2 & KEY MOMENT

    LINKING PHRASE & STATEMENT TEXT 3 & KEY MOMENT

    STATEMENT ALL 3 & PERSONAL RESPONSE TO QUESTION

    • I think if you tried to cram all of this into one paragraph you’d end up with a “paragraph” which was over a page long and as you know you should NEVER write more than two thirds of a page without a paragraph break. Think of this as a ‘section’. I reckon you’d fit text 1 & 2 into one paragraph and then have a shorter second paragraph which deals with text 3 and links back to the other two. Hope that makes sense.
      To my mind your entire essay would have about 4 of these ‘sections’ with as many in depth comparisons as possible. Remember it’s not about your knowledge of the individual texts, it’s about your ability to compare and contrast. Good luck tomorrow.

  15. Jack says:

    I just want to thank you for all your amazing tips and guides on your website! I don’t think I would have been able to prepare as well for the exams if it wasn’t for your help. Much appreciated. 🙂

  16. Darlin says:

    Hi Evelyn i was just wondering how much you should write for a comparative Q. or the entire P2 for ordinary level, I had a look on one of your guide (how much to write?] but didn’t know was it for HIGHER LEVEL or Ordinary or for both. When we finished our exam i was told by some of me mates dat they wrote about 16 pages for a comparative Q., bcze I personally did less than 10 for de whole paper,
    thanks

    • For ord level 3 pages single text, 4pages comparative, 1page unseen and 2 n half to three for poetry would be a rough estimate. I’d say you did grand, lots of students would write less than 10pgs total at ord level. Best of luck with the rest of the exams.

      • Darlin says:

        Thanks Evelyn for all your information, one of my though question was that I only did a page for Macbeth I never had a clue about it 🙂

  17. Serena says:

    Hi Evelyn for the cultural context question is discussing 3 issues ok or should it be 4?

    • I think 3 seems a bit skimpy but there’s no hard and fast rule. Discuss three and then the ending of each text would prob work. Also, you’re better to do three and keep within the time frame than obsess over getting four in and run over time, which lots and lots of students do with the comparative. To my mind one of the most important things student should do in the exam is STICK TO THEIR TIMINGS. Paper 2 – 60 marks, 60 minutes, 70 marks, 70 minutes, 20 marks, 20 minutes, 50 marks, 50 minutes.

      • Serena says:

        Thank you, this site is so helpful. Could I ask if you’re familiar with Purple Hibiscus, Sive and Children of Men what issues would you choose to discuss in the CC question? Our teacher has us doing role of men, role of women, family and role of the individual but I know I’ll end up repeating myself and I don’t want to do those so I was thinking of doing role of women, religion, authority figures and maybe another. If you’re not familiar with these texts it’s all good though!

  18. Serena says:

    Hi Evelyn
    Does the structure you have above for the cultural context question work for the theme or issue just as well?
    STATEMENT ALL 3 TEXTS
    STATEMENT TEXT 1 & KEY MOMENT
    LINKING PHRASE & STATEMENT TEXT 2 & KEY MOMENT
    LINKING PHRASE & STATEMENT TEXT 3 & KEY MOMENT
    STATEMENT ALL 3 & PERSONAL RESPONSE TO QUESTION

    • Hi Serena,
      Hard to say. I used to use this structure as my bible but I felt some of the comparisons I was getting back were very simplistic. Basically some students were only pointing out obvious similarities but failing to comment on subtle differences between the texts. As long as you bear in mind that subtle differences matter every bit as much as similarities, you should be fine to use this structure. This example might also help (it’s cultural context rather than theme but the same basic principles apply) http://leavingcertenglish.net/2013/12/sample-comparative-link/

      • Ooh, also, this example compares TWO texts. For honours English you generally have to compare THREE! So this example is fine but you’d then need to continue with a short paragraph which links your third text to what you said about the first two, again pointing out similarities and differences. HTH, Evelyn

  19. michaela says:

    This was really helpful thanks!

  20. Megan says:

    just wondering do you have to talk about 3 texts or can you just compare 2 for theme or issue ?

    • For higher level you must discuss three, unless the question says “discuss two or more”. Usually higher level requires a discussion of three texts and ordinary level requires a discussion of two but not always!

  21. gimstar says:

    What aspect of a film should you discuss in general viewpoint? I know it depends on the question but I mean to support as sort of quotes. And I’m referring to only general vision and viewpoint. Apart from the endings and the start.

    • A film communicates through the dialogue (so you can quote what the characters say) but also through the mise-en-scène (sets / locations / props / actors / lighting), the soundtrack (sound effects and music), the cinematography (framing / atmosphere) and the editing.

      To keep it simple, ask yourself how the atmosphere is created? What emotions are created in you as you watch it and how? What does the director want to communicate emotionally about the characters and the society they live in? This is the vision the director is creating and the viewpoint on the world he/she is offering you the viewer.

  22. Maria says:

    Really helpful, and concise. I’m glad I’m able to avail of this now, and not the night before! Thanks so much for bringing it all together for us….M

  23. Anon says:

    Hi for a general vision and viewpoint question involving 3 texts what happens if you discussed a different topic I.e society or key relationship for each text?

    • I’m not really sure. Choosing gv&v but then not discussing that would mean you’d be quite heavily penalised I’d imagine but it’s impossible to know how relevant or not what you wrote was without reading it. For example, the view of society offered by the author is an element of the GV&V. The relationships between the characters effect the GV&V so it completely depends whether or not you linked it in to GV&V and to the question asked. Anyway, as Lady Macbeth would say, “these deeds must not be thought of after these ways, so it will make us mad. What’s done cannot be undone”.

  24. Anon says:

    Hi, can you give us definitions of “Theme or Issue”, “General Vision and Viewpoint” and “Literary Genre” please. I’m struggling to answer questions on this section because I don’t really know what they mean.

  25. Anon says:

    Hi Evelyn,

    I have a broad knowledge of the cultural context of my three comparative texts, however this not a section on the course for 2015. Would it be possible to address Social Difficulty as a Theme / Issue in the texts that I have studied?

    Thanks.

    • It’s not one I’ve ever come across but that’s not to say it’s not an option. I don’t know if social difficulty is the right term. Perhaps the issue of social mobility? But I don’t know if you’d get enough detail in all of your texts for that.

      Perhaps “The issue I examined was the impact of societal norms on the individual”. Make sure you pin down EXACTLY what your theme or issue is. Don’t leave it vague (but it can be broad, if that makes sense).

  26. john reynolds says:

    hi,
    should we take one text as an anchor text to which we use as a basis of our answer and relate our other texts back to it or should we treat the three equally?

    • Either works as long as you engage with the question throughout and achieve depth in your comparisons. Best of luck with it, the comparative is a tough section of the course.

  27. Fiona says:

    Hi Evelyn, for the general vision and viewpoint I’m not sure what I’m doing to be honest. Wondering if you could read this and put me on the right track?
    This is part of a second paragraph I wrote to g v & v:
    ‘when Daisy tells Nick “that’s the best thing a girl can be in this world, a beautiful little fool”, I felt a sense of hopelessness. Daisy believes her life is devoid of meaning and I was depressed by this. I realized Daisy was living in a society where women are valued for their beauty and not much else. Such a twisted world leads to the ugly behavior of the men and women who inhabit it. Therefore the general vision and viewpoint is one of hopelessness; the outlook is bleak.
    Similarly in I’m Not Scared, Michele is oppressed by the corruption and lack of morals of his community. Yet he begins to realise he has a choice: he can stay quiet or he can struggle to overcome the unjust society he lives in.’ etc.

    Thanks

    • Hi Fiona, it’s grand but it could be better. It’s a bit repetititive. There’s no key moment focus, just a quote, but no context for when she says this or what she’s referring to. The major problem with it though is that you’re not weaving the texts together – you’re just pointing out something quite obvious (both of these female characters feel oppressed by society) but there’s no depth in your observation.

      Here’s your paragraph re-written to remove the repetition and add context and depth – see what you think:

      When Daisy tells Nick “that’s the best thing a girl can be in this world, a beautiful little fool“, I felt a deep sense of hopelessness. Daisy’s lack of ambition for her own infant daughter and her sardonic acceptance that, in this society, women are valued for their beauty and not much else, is deeply depressing. From these opening moments, the author establishes a bleak despairing vision, introducing us to a twisted world in which the ugly behaviour of the men and women who inhabit it in disturbing, but also somehow unsurprising. Similarly, in I’m Not Scared, Michele feels oppressed by the corruption and lack of morals in his community, but unlike Daisy, rather than cynically accept that that’s just the way things are, he realises that he has a choice: he can stay quiet or he can struggle to overcome the unjust society he lives in. This is clear when he ……. (key moment). Thus, although these opening moments of INS, like TGG, also establish a bleak despairing vision of the society these characters inhabit, I felt less hopelessness, less profound despair, as here at least the characters seemed willing to challenge injustice and corruption.

      Don’t let it get you down that mine is “better” – I’ve got a degree, a masters and 12 yrs teaching under my belt – I’d be a bit worried if mine wasn’t pretty good at this stage in my life! Also, it took a good few minutes to write and lots of thinking time! The key is to have done your thinking about the ways in which the texts are similar and different (aim for deep comparisions not superficial ones) BEFORE you’re sitting in the exam. If you’ve put in the thinking time, you should be able to adapt what you’ve got in your head to whatever question comes up.

      Hope that helps! Evelyn

  28. Tara says:

    How long should answers for the 30m and 40m questions be? We have only written 70m answers in school where we write 6-8 pages.

    • Personally I think 5 – 7 pages is enough for the 70 mark answer but that’s just me. Quality over quantity. And it depends how big or small your writing is – if you’ve got very big writing (only 8 words per line) then you may need to write 7. If your writing is small 5 might be enough. Then if you think it through logically, you might write 3 pages for the 30 mark part and 4 for the 40 mark part. Or at the very minimum, 2 for 30 marks and 3 for 40 marks if your writing is very small. Hope that makes sense.

  29. nicola87 says:

    For the 2 part question, am I only allowed to discuss the 2 texts when finished discussing my anchor text? Would it be possible to discuss all three when answering the second part?

    • You can refer in passing to your anchor text but that’s all really. Your time is limited and you don’t want to repeat yourself. However, if you briefly touch on something you’ve already discussed in order to illustrate a point or connect the texts more clearly, that’s fine. But the word ‘briefly’ is key here. Part two asks you to discuss your other two texts, so you need to give what you’re being asked for not repeat what you’ve already said…

  30. Verlein says:

    Hi Evelyn,

    I have a question about a question from the 2013 paper (B, 1). It is a 70m question where it says compare two or more texts. I’m finding it hard to interweave my third text with the other two. For a 70m question, is it a good idea to only focus on two? (The King’s Speech and HMMTB are easy, The Great Gatsby is giving me the trouble.)

    Since my links with the third text are tenuous at best, would I be best leaving it out? Or should I focus on it briefly at the end, referring back to the other two occasionally within it, but have it more self-contained as opposed to the other two texts which are interwoven in the paragraphs?

    Thanks!

    • So sorry for the delayed reply. I’ll answer anyway in case your query is helpful to someone else in the future.

      You must be prepared to answer on three. You need to find a way to interweave them all. Yes, it’s difficult (the comparative in general is really difficult) but you cannot go into the exam thinking ‘I’ll only answer on two”. You most likely will not have that option at higher level.

      Yes, on a few occasions, the question has given you the option to refer to “two or more texts”. If that happened, by all means just refer to two. But that doesn’t happen very often. Most of the time you’re expected to discuss 3 so you need to figure out how to do that.

      I wouldn’t have one self-contained text, if at all possible. Interweave them all. But it’s fine to have one text which acts as a contrast to the other two – just be able to point out where they link and where they are completely different.

  31. Sharon says:

    this webpage is brilliant. i’ve read it from top to bottom, thank you for taking the time to share this advice!! you’v saved me to my lc paper which is in a couple months

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *