Paper 2 in English has obviously a lot more work to prepare for than English Paper 1, but it is also the paper that even weaker students with a good work ethic can actually do well on. If you know your texts and can quote from them and give enough points, you will do fine. There are four essential ingredients to be put into doing a good Paper 2 in my opinion and these are key words, key points, key moments and key quotes.
1. Key Words; Every questions you get on Paper 2 must be read at least twice to fully understand what they are asking for. Underline the key words in these questions and keep using them again and again throughout your answer. Don’t be afraid to over use these key words as it shows the examiner you are very focused and they keep you from going off the point
2. Key Quotes; Each time you make a statement try to follow it with a key quote from the text to show that you know what you are talking about and are able to back it up. Examiners love quotes as it shows you have actually studied the play or novel and not just watched the DVD!
3. Key Moments; Again, it is vital to pick out a key moment to back up your points and show the examiner you understood the most important areas or turning points in your texts. You can pick out a few key moments if you like – just make sure they are important moments for certain characters in the texts and bring about some change
4. Key Points; As always, you must plan your answer before you ever start your essay and with the key words in mind, pick out the points you are going to use. Have at least 6 with a general opening and closing
5. Don’t rely on pre prepared essays; You cannot guarantee that the essay you have prepared will come up. This is especially true for poetry. Heaney for example may come up on the higher lever or then again he may appear for the ordinary students – or not at all!
6. Study at least one group; For example, all the female poets as well as two others if you want to cut down on your workload for poetry. As there is a good choice, if you have five poets covered you should be ok. Remember if you limit yourself however, the type of questions on your studied poets may not be to your liking and you will still be forced to do it if you have nothing else prepared. 45 minutes should be spend on the studied poetry for 50 marks.
7. You must do the unseen poem; This is nothing to worry about, except remember to analyse it carefully and look for the language question. They will usually ask about the style of writing in some form or another so have our definitions learned off; eg similes, metaphors, hyperbole, onomatopoeia, alliteration etc and know how to identify them. About 15-20 minutes should be spent on this question for 20 marks.
8. Revise themes as well as characters; For the higher level, MacBeth is the single text and themes such as conflict, power and the supernatural should be revised carefully. Remember this question is worth 60 marks and you should give yourself 55 minutes to complete it.
9. Cultural Context, Theme and Issue, General Vision and Viewpoint; These are the types of questions which could come up in the comparative study. DO which ever one you have practiced the most and the most important thing to remember is to compare everywhere you can. Don’t just tell the story, you must use comparative language or your are going to lose huge marks on this question. Remember it is worth 70 marks and should take about 1 hour and 5 minutes to do.
10. Students often score higher marks if they do the questions which are divided into (a) and (b) style questions, instead of an essay, students often do better as they tend to stay more focused when the questions are broken down.
Like every paper you’re going to deliver for your Leaving Cert, you must make sure your answer engages with the question asked and you are extremely clear, as well as being able to manage and control your language. Be careful of your grammar and spelling as they will bring your grade down if your making obvious mistakes again and again. Don’t rely on notes. Know your texts and be able to analyse them in the exam. The examiner wants to see that you can think for yourself and not just reproduce some essay you and half the class has learned off. Look at the film again if possible.
Overall, be confident in your writing, plan and write enough because you have done the work so show off all you know.
Best of luck – stay positive and you will do great!!