English & EAL

VCE Comparative: Finding Similarities and Differences with the CONVERGENT and DIVERGENT Strategy

Lisa Tran

August 26, 2020

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[Video Transcription]

Most people commonly mistake Comparative (also known as Reading and Comparing, and an array of other names) as just two Text Responses rolled into one essay. They think that Comparative is Text Response, except that instead of writing about one text, you’re writing about two.

And boy are they wrong.

Most people are also aware that the main difference is that Comparative looks at similarities and differences between the two texts. However, this is where the challenge begins.

As you study your texts in detail, you’ll come to realise that the majority of students keep using the same old examples – example X for similarities, and example Y for differences.

To stand out from hundreds of other students studying the same texts, you need a strategy. You need something that will wow your examiners and will catapult you to the top of the VCE cohort.

*Drum roll*

Introducing you to my golden rule, the CONVERGENT and DIVERGENT STRATEGY!

This strategy is simple. It’s simple to understand and it’s simple to incorporate into your essays. Its beauty is that despite its simplicity, it’ll advance your essay beyond the average English student. All my students who have applied this strategy have seen their English scores improve by at least one grade (from B+ to an A, or from an A to A+).

Let me explain.

PART 1 – CONVERGENT 

The word, ‘convergent’ means coming closer together. When we start looking for similarities in Comparative, keep this word CONVERGENT in mind. Having CONVERGENT at the forefront of your mind will ensure that you are always aware of the fact that your examples are never the same. Notice how the blue arrows never touch:

Sometimes, students fall into the trap of referring to examples in each text as the ‘same,’ but this won’t ever happen to you if you keep CONVERGENT in mind. No two texts are ever exactly the same, no two examples are exactly the same, so avoid falling into this trap. 

Instead, you’ll be using phrases like: "similarly to Text 1, Text 2 also…" or "likewise, in Text 2….’"

Awesome! So this is the simple part done. Let’s move onto the most powerful part of this strategy - DIVERGENT.

PART 2 – DIVERGENT

The word ‘divergent’ means developing in different directions. We can use the CONVERGENT and DIVERGENT strategy for any example you include in your essay. Since no examples from two texts are exactly the same, this means there is always an opportunity for you to first compare the similarities, then compare the differences.

Rather than just a simple ‘on the other hand’ or ‘however’, which you probably have written a dozen times, and felt like you’re repeating yourself, we show you advanced ways to DIVERGE as in this example for Photograph 51 and The Penelopiad:

In The Penelopiad, the resigned way in which Penelope confides in the reader alludes definitively to the ‘overlooked woman’ stereotype being, in fact, a very well-used one. Atwood (the author of The Penelopiad) does, however, accord some power to Penelope by ensuring that she alone tells her own story, a privilege which is not given to Rosalind in Photograph 51.

See how in this example, we don’t even use the overused comparative words such as ‘however’ or ‘on the other hand’ which can make a comparative feel simple. Instead, we show you unique ways to compare the two texts so that your essay stands out amongst all the others that are just using the same old words and methods to compare.

If you’ve ever received feedback that you needed to ‘elaborate,’ ‘go into more detail,’ or needed ‘more analysis’ in your essays, this strategy will help eliminate those criticisms. It will also show your teacher that you are comfortable writing an in-depth analysis using fewer examples (because you’ll be spending more time on each example - firstly by discussing a similarity, then a difference), rather than swamping your essay with as many examples as possible because you barely have anything to say about each one.

Too many students miss out on the opportunity to elaborate or expand on an example because they only write about either the similarity or the difference. But with the CONVERGENT and DIVERGENT strategy, we can see that no matter what example you choose from each text, there is always an opportunity to discuss both similarities and differences. This is an extremely powerful approach to comparative because it enables you to spend time comparing, rather than getting lots of examples of for one text in the first half of your body paragraph, slapping in an ‘on the other hand’ in the middle, then lots of examples for the second text in the second half of the body. I see students doing this all the time, pretending to compare these examples when they’re not - you know what I mean right? We’ve all been there once or twice - so you’re not alone in doing this if you’ve tried in the past. The thing is, with examiners, in particular, they’re really good at noticing when a paragraph looks like it’s a comparison, rather than a truly in-depth comparison between the two texts.

That’s why in my How To Write A Killer Comparative, I show you how to use CONVERGENT and DIVERGENT in multiple essay examples across many text pairs. It’s not just about one way of comparing similarities too, it’s all the different ways to can discuss ‘similarities’ - what I mean is, it can be easy to slip into a template of ‘similarly to text A, text B does this by…’ but in this study guide, written by myself, and study scorers who have achieved 50 in English, we show you how to unique discuss comparisons. We also show you how to advance your comparative discussion through Advanced Essay Paragraph Structures which truly showcase the power of the CONVERGENT and DIVERGENT strategy.

COMPARATIVE GUIDES

How to Write a Killer Comparative Ebook

A Killer Comparative Guide: The Crucible and The Dressmaker

A Killer Comparative Guide: I am Malala and Pride

A Killer Comparative Guide: The 7 Stages of Grieving and The Longest Memory

A Killer Comparative Guide: Ransom and The Queen

USEFUL RESOURCES

The Ultimate Guide To VCE Comparative

Reading and Comparing essays

How to get A+ in Reading and Comparing

Compare the Pair: A guide to Structuring a Reading and Comparing essay

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