Literature

Last Minute Study for the Literature Exam

by
Emily Tang

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So there’s approximately a month to go before the Literature exam. Nervous? Confident? Over it?! You might be thinking that they best way to study up until the exam is to just churn out essays after essays after essays. This is a common misconception, and may even hurt your chances for the exam. You want your essays to be ‘fresh’ with original insight, not stale pieces that sound like you’ve written this a hundred times and you’re getting bored. Here are a few tips on how to study for the exam while still keeping your mind activated about Literature!

Critique critical commentary

Google critical commentary on your text. You might pick up a new insight or perspective that you’ve never thought of. These can help you inform your own original and individual interpretation of the text. It is important to note that while reading critical commentary is incredibly useful in providing ‘clever’ interpretations, examiners are really looking for your own interpretation – not a regurgitated version of other people’s analyses. Rather than passively reading critical commentary, critique it yourself! Acknowledge and file away its good points, but also form your own stance with whether you agree or disagree with that point of view. Ask yourself why that is your perspective. Developing this critical analysis skill is extremely valuable, and will put you in the mindset for the exam to provide your own original interpretation that pushes the boundaries and the envelope.

Choose random passages and annotate

Close your eyes and pick a random a couple of passages from your text. Photocopy them, print them, however you like, but the most important thing is to spend time annotating them in as much detail as possible. Focus on analysing the language for how the author constructs the text to create meaning. Note sentences that can link to the wider text. This really forces you to analyse the most random passage in the text in extreme detail, which you might have skipped over in class or in your own reading, because it might not have seemed important at the time. Who knows, the exam could throw in a surprise passage that students might not have thought to study in great detail, and you have because you’ve been analysing passages at random – not just the major key events!

Examiner reports and word bank

Look through VCAA examiner reports for sample excerpts from high scoring responses. Highlight words and phrases that sound ‘good’ – and adapt them to use yourself! There’s nothing wrong with drawing inspiration (stealing) from the examiner reports essays… after all they’re there for you to learn from. Key: you’re drawing inspiration from words, not ideas or sentences – otherwise that’s just plagiarism and won’t help at all. Create a word bank of vocabulary that suit your texts, which can be a great prompter when you’re struggling to think of a word that accurately expresses on paper what you want to say in your mind.

Timed conditions

The biggest issue with every literature student in the exam is timing. There’s always so many things you want to write and include, that it is simply not possible to include everything. Time yourself. Practice writing in timed conditions. Be disciplined with your time – going over time for the first essay to include maybe one more good point, is to sacrifice finishing your second essay.

Exams are without a doubt a stressful period of time for all VCE students, and it can be easy to get caught up and overwhelmed with expectations, wanting to prove yourself and balancing the workload of your other exams. Find time to do small things to benefit yourself for the exam without compromising your mental power (after a very long marathon). Good luck and believe in yourself!

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