Tess of the d'Urbervilles Contents
- Social / political context
- Religious / philosophical context
- Chapters 1-9
- Chapters 10-19
- Chapters 20-29
- Chapters 30-39
- Chapters 40-49
- Chapters 50-59
- Tess as a 'Pure Woman'
- Tess as a secular pilgrim
- Tess as a victim
- The world of women
- Tess as an outsider
- Coincidence, destiny and fate
- Disempowerment of the working class
- Heredity and inheritance
- Laws of nature vs. laws of society
- Nature as sympathetic or indifferent
- Patterns of the past
- Sexual predation
- Inner conflicts: body against soul
What makes a good English exam answer
Focus on the question
What are the terms of the question?
- Decide what the key words of the question are, and underline them
- Ensure that you have defined them at least in your own mind
- If you think they are problematic, define them at the beginning of your essay
- Make sure your definition is sound: do not try to stretch the meaning of words too far, but not just jump at the first possible idea.
What has been asked?
- Answer the question asked – not the one you would have liked to be asked
- Avoid being irrelevant.
- Be sure that you show explicitly how your ideas relate to the question.
If you are asked to analyse an extract:
- Read it through two or three times
- On your second reading, begin to underline key words and phrases
- Make a plan of your answer, ensuring that you cover every point asked in the question
- Concentrate on the passage and avoid irrelevant material.
Wake up the examiner!
Be willing to think:
- Do not adopt the first possible approach
- Try to range widely but keep to the terms of the question
- Be willing to dispute the terms of the question if you are given the opportunity (for example, in questions that ask ‘how far…', ‘to what extent' or ‘do you think'?)
Create a strong opening and closing
The examiner is going to be marking many similar essays. To send the examiner to sleep immediately:
- just repeat the words of the question ‘This essay asks about … and I am going to …')
- give a hackneyed dictionary definition of one or more of the terms in the question.
Instead, try to wake the examiner up. Try starting with:
- a short controversial statement
- a relevant quotation
- a striking piece of evidence.
The main thing is to demonstrate that you have thought about the question.
A strong ending is important in that it creates the final impression the examiner carries away from your answer:
- save a new, controversial idea until the end
- or finish with a useful quotation.
Illustrate amply with relevant material:
- Do not try to get by on ignorance and waffle – the examiner will spot it!
- Use a good number of brief but relevant quotations, derived from your thorough knowledge of the text.
Think about your style
Develop a fluent style
Give some thought, however brief, to each sentence before you write it:
- Does it say what you mean?
- Does it make the point?
Anyone claiming to be a student of English is expected to have a good knowledge of the mechanics of the language:
- If you have problems with spelling, grammar and punctuation take action before the examination
- You will be penalised for errors
- Examiners award marks for ‘quality of language'
- Try to leave time to read through your paper before handing it in.
- Say what you mean in the clearest and shortest manner
- Leave yourself time to make new points
- Avoid repeating ideas: if you find yourself writing ‘as I said earlier', be sure that it is really helpful to repeat the same point.
Use an appropriate tone and vocabulary:
Most of the exams (and essays) that you will write require a formal register of language:
- Contractions such as ‘don't' and ‘can't', used naturally in spoken and language are not appropriate in this form of writing.
- Also avoid slang or colloquial terms.
- Make use of literary terminology – words like ‘form', ‘structure', ‘style', ‘image' ‘symbol' – where they are appropriate
Make good use of quotations:
- You need to know your text well enough that all its ideas are in your head and that relevant quotations come easily to mind
- When you use quotations, remember to try to blend them seamlessly into your own sentence structure
- When you use quotations, make it work for you: a well-chosen quotation may, for example, enable you to comment on theme, style and character
- Do not use quotations simply because you have memorised them: make sure that they are relevant to your answer.
Organise your time
Divide your time appropriately:
In an examination, you will almost certainly have several essays to write or sections to complete:
- Decide on the order in which you wish to answer them
- Make sure that you answer them all
- Jot down ideas about any of the questions you expect to answer: don't hope to remember things – especially bearing in mind that you may be pressed for time towards the end
- Give each question the appropriate time and don't exceed it: a brilliant but overlong answer is no guarantee of success
- If you are allowed your text in the examination do not waste time in leafing through it in search of ideas: use it only for reference and checking quotations.
Plan your answers carefully
Have the confidence to take time to plan. You could usefully devote up to a quarter of the exam time to this process. It is worth it because:
- you will save time in the end
- it is much more efficient than sitting and trying to think of the next point
- you will have a much more fluent, sharper and more authoritative answer.
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