Last minute advice

Here’s some advice for actually doing the exam papers.

Firstly and most importantly




Right now that I’ve got that off my chest, some other things to consider:

If you want to do badly, ignore your timing and leave out a section.

If you want to do well, stick to your timing and complete every section.

Pay attention to how many marks each section is worth in Paper One.

If one comprehension Q is worth 10marks and another is worth 20marks, then the 20mark answer needs to be twice as long as the 10mark answer. D’oh!

Question B is worth 50, the essay is worth 100, so the essay should be twice as long as your Question B. Not 3 pages for each. 2 for QB, 4 – 5 for your essay/story. OK?

If you want to do badly, tell the story of Macbeth. In case the examiner’s never heard it before!

If you want to do well, plan your answer. Structure into paragraphs. Focus on answering the question throughout. Include quotes.

If you want to do badly, keep writing that comparative no matter how much time it’s taking you, because you’ve prepared it God damn it and you’re going to get it written no matter what!

If you want to do well, make sure you answer the question. Comparisons are vital – it’s called comparative studies for a reason. If you’re running out of time for comparative, STOP where you are. Write a conclusion. Move on to the next section.

If you want to do badly, keep writing that poetry answer no matter how much time it’s taking you, because you’ve prepared it God damn it and you’re going to get it written no matter what!

If you want to do well, make sure you answer the question. If you’re running out of time for studied poetry, STOP where you are. Write a conclusion. Move on to the next section.

If you want to do badly, leave out unseen poetry.

If you want to do well, give it the time it deserves. Easiest 20 marks you’ll ever get.

Your timing is as follows:

Paper 1

Comprehension: 45 minutes

Question B: 45 minutes

Composing / Essay: 1hr 20minutes

Paper 2

Single Text / Macbeth: 1hr

Comparative: 1hr 10 minutes

Studied poetry: 50 minutes

Unseen poetry: 20 minutes

All that’s left for me to say is good luck, keep the head. May the force be with you 😉

17 responses to “Last minute advice

  1. Supposing if the theme or issue comes up and you already have prepared a few lines at the end of each section e.g It is sad to see that within all three texts each character is experiencing some isolation within their community bla bla bla!well on the day do you still write that prepared piece after each section or do you change it completely to answer the question??? 🙁

    • I would say you MUST change it to answer the question but that doesn’t mean you change it ‘completely’… For example, if the theme question was “A theme/issue offers us valuable insights into life” then your sentence could become “I got a very sad insight into the way these characters were isolated from their communities”. So the important thing is that you directly use the words from the question. I would also say that you don’t just mention the question at the end of each section but that you try to use the words from the question throughout. For example you might say “In HMB we get an insight into Alec’s upbringing blah blah blah … and this makes it much easier to understand why he is such a socially awkward and isolated individual”…. “Similarly, in DAL, we get an insight into the small minded mentality of rural Ireland when blah blah blah… and this made me feel real sympathy for the plight of the Mundy sisters”. So the key word from the question – whatever it is – in this case I’ve used INSIGHT as an example – must form a core part of your answer throughout. Hope that helps. Good luck today, see you afterwards.

  2. I actually love you! I just want to print that page out and pin it to my bedroom ceiling. It was very helpful, thank you. 🙂

  3. Hey Evelyn,
    Thanks a million for that fair play! Any ideas as to what may come up on Paper 2? As in Poets and also the Comparative: Will Cultural Context be there?!?! If you were doing the LC now what would you be studying mostly before the English exam(s)..

    • Hi Mark, in the interests of not committing professional suicide, I won’t be making any predictions. I usually do in the privacy of my own head, and most of the time I get it horribly wrong. So in the interests of not sending you off down the wrong path, I’ll stay stum. Best of luck tomorrow and Thurs. Evelyn

  4. Hi Evelyn , Thanks this is great!
    Just wondering does the comparative answer have to be confined to comparing key scenes if the question doesnt ask for key scenes. Can a mixture of scenes and ideas be brought into the one paragraph?

    • I’d say you should always combine IDEAS with EXAMPLES OF KEY MOMENTS which illustrate those ideas. You don’t have to go into loads of detail in discussing key moments, but it’s always good to support any point you make with a specific example (that might be a quote and/or a key moment). You only have to offer loads of detail if the question everyone dreads comes up: the question that asks you to select one key moment from each text. I honestly don’t know how the person setting the exam thinks it’s possible to write an entire essay based around one key moment per text… anyway, hope that helps.

    • Thanks for innudorcitg a little rationality into this debate.

  5. Right well any tips on studying Paper 1? I’m just far more inclined to study Paper 2 at the moment?!?!

    • hmmm. I guess to my mind this is pretty important for comprehensions so downloading techniques.doc from here might be helpful but you must analyse the effectiveness of the technique IN THE SPECIFIC EXAMPLE in front of you.
      QB there’s so much that could come up – just make sure you know what layout is expected in each genre.
      As for the dreaded essay, do you know who all the various government ministers are in case you want to quote/attack them? Can you make up facts / statistics from the ERSI? The OECD? The CSO? (do you know who they all are???). Did you read/watch the news today in case you want to work in recent news events to your speech / article / personal essay? Have you got any quotes from famous writers / leaders / thinkers that you can possibly work into your essay???
      And at the risk of sounding like your mammy, get a good night’s sleep!

  6. OMG! why were you not teaching me these last two years.
    Very helpful, cheers for that 🙂

  7. hi there, does a character question always come up in macbeth or could we be facing two questions regarding themes? thanks 🙂

  8. Thanks for this entire website – it’s a lifesaver! With regards to paper 2, is a female poet sure to come up?

    • No guarantees I’m afraid. The new course began in 2001 and there has been a female poet on every year since it began. However, in recent years (pretty much since 2009) the questions have gotten more and more specific. Every English teacher I know keeps joking that one of these years they WON’T put a female poet on the paper but we don’t really know and we certainly have no influence over it… Sorry I can’t give you a definitive answer but there ya go, unfortunately I don’t have the gift of prophecy like the witches in Macbeth 😉

  9. I don’t have a question but I just wanted to say thanks for all the great help you offer here on your website ! 🙂