1. How do you produce a stand-out essay?
There is only one thing that lets you stand out from the thousands of talented students in Literature: originality. This means coming up with your own ideas about texts, and writing in a personal style. If you find this difficult, don’t stress: lateral thinking can be learned by practicing analysis, and my answer to the next question gives some ideas for developing creativity.
2. How do you even study for Literature?
As Literature has no conclusive answers, there are infinite methods of study. Here are some suggestions of things to do other than churning out essays:
- Read around your texts. Don’t rely on study guides like most students, but find online analyses, literary critiques from your library, interviews with authors; options are endless. Do not substitute these concepts for your own ideas, but rather allow them to function as the basis for your own arguments.
- Read books other than your school texts. This is something that I know most students dismiss as too difficult, but never underestimate the power of reading. Read the newspaper if you can’t manage a full book! It’s impossible to improve writing without reading.
- Write out short paragraphs on your overall thoughts about your text – focus on what complex ideas you think the author is trying to convey. This is a great way of engaging deeply with the text, synthesising your own ideas, and will lead to impressive, complex essays
3. How do you manage time on the exam?
Writing two essays in as many hours is taxing! Ultimately, this is solved by strict time-management. Although people have different methods, usually it works best to complete the “passage analysis” first, while the passages from are still fresh in your mind from reading time. Always cut yourself off at an hour to move to your “perspectives” essay. You should even aim to write these essays in under an hour each, leaving all-important editing time and the opportunity to finish an incomplete essay in case all doesn’t go to plan.
My final tip is not to push yourself too early! If you aren’t ready, don’t attempt a full exam months before exam-time – work your way up to it throughout the year, and try to handwrite lots of essays (not always under time pressure) if this is an area of difficulty.
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