Juggling the Comparative Texts
The Comparative Text question is worth 70 marks. This means that it is the only question on the paper which is worth more than the essay. How can you ensure that you achieve the maximum amount of those marks?
In the Comparative Text question, you will have to write an answer that compares and contrasts three different texts. It’s no mean feat, but it is very possible. We look at the actions of past A grade pupils, and at the guidelines set out by the Chief examiner in order to see where marks are being awarded in this question. If you follow this guideline to answering the question on the comparative texts, it will help you iron out the common difficulties students have, and will also give you an edge when it comes to getting your hands on every one of those 70 marks.
Firstly, as with all questions, study and planning is key. The good news here is that the areas of Theme or Issue, Literary Genre and General Vision and Viewpoint are already determined for you. The only unpredictable element will be the approach of the questions that fall under these headings. This means that you can have quite a large part of your answer well rehearsed before entering the exam hall.
Study and planning for the Comparative Question:
Comparative answers are simply multitasking by another name.
Comparative answers are unlike anything you would have experienced in the Junior Cert, but can very easily be mastered. The first step is accepting that you do not need the in-depth knowledge that is required for the single text. The second step is to familiarise yourself with exactly what the examiner is looking for in a high grade answer.
Of all the questions on the English paper, I always feel that this question takes the most discipline when answering it. However, contrary to popular belief, it is actually the easiest to prepare for.
1. How well do I need to know each text?
Students often panic when it comes to answering the comparative question, because they feel they have to know each of the texts as well as they know their single text. This is not the case.
All you need to have is a clear understanding (main events and key issues for characters) of each of the texts along with good notes on each under the headings of Theme or Issue, Cultural Context and General Vision and Viewpoint.
Check out the website here
for these headings, and you can apply them to your texts.
The essential ingredient is for students to personalise their answer and form their own opinions. These clever individuals are well rewarded with a high grade, so use these notes to develop an opinion in the light of your chosen texts.
You must also ensure that you have a strong knowledge of a number of key moments for each text. I would recommend four from each text to reflect the Comparative studies headings. That means 4 for Cultural Context, 4 for Theme or issue and 4 for General Vision and Viewpoint. Some of these will overlap - happy days, because juggling three texts is enough to deal with!
2. “I never know what to say for the comparative answer! It’s just so complicated!”
Be confident with your opinions and structure your answer around the following key elements.