Writing about unfamiliar poetry in the exam

This post is about how to approach an unfamiliar poem in an exam situation.

  • Read the poem through very carefully several times before starting to write about it.
  • Avoid rushing into hasty judgements about the poem – I know that is hard in exam conditions – but you must think before you write.
  • I know many of you rely on discussion to be able to understand a new poem but you won’t be able to do that in an exam. Close reading of the poem is essential!
  • After you have read the poem, make notes. You can mark lines, underline words – whatever helps.
  • You will be writing in exam conditions but don’t rush! The marker will be aware of the constraints that you had to work under. Remember – quality not quantity will get you the higher grade.
  • Try to write logically. Do not write your comments in a haphazard way. Try to organise your ideas under one main approach, depending on what you feel is the most important aspect of the poem.
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