Examiner’s Advice


Look Carefully at the Questions:

Before deciding finally on a question, identify all the key terms in that question. If the question asks you two things, such as how a certain effect is achieved and the response of the audience to that effect, then you must answer both parts. If the question asks you to consider a specific literary feature then you must talk about that. If you cannot do these things then it is best to choose another question. You will be severely penalized for not doing what a question asks. Generally speaking, part of the question will address literary features and part will address the content of the text.


Choose Your Texts Wisely:

Remember that the questions are very general in nature and allow you a great deal of scope in your response. It is your responsibility to narrow that focus to specifically address two (I recommend no more) of your Part Three texts.


Think carefully about which two texts would work the best for the question you have chosen and be sure that you have thought through the examples you will offer as evidence so that they will be sufficient to carry you through an entire essay. The best way to do this is to spend some time at the start brainstorming examples that might be relevant to the question from all three (SL) or four (HL) of your texts. The texts which provide you with the most / best examples will be the obvious ones to choose.


Developing Points / a Thesis:

After you have sufficient material in your brainstorm you should be able to decide on a thesis, or point, that you are going to argue in response to the question. For example, in response to the question ‘Do actions speak louder than words? Discuss this statement with reference to the how actions or dialogue are used to convey themes in two of the texts that you have studied.’ You might answer “actions are more significant in conveying theme in ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’, but dialogue is of greater significance in The Crucible.” This, then, is your thesis statement. Remember that a thesis should always be argumentative in nature and that another candidate could take the opposing point of view and argue against you.


Remember, don’t give yourself too much work to do. On balance it is usually a better idea to  choose the narrowest approach to the question possible to force yourself to discuss the works in depth rather than in general. If, for example, you are asked to discuss how dialogue and action convey theme, don’t take on two or three themes for each work. You will have more than enough to do to relate dialogue and action to a single theme.


Once you have decided on your thesis or the point that you are going to make, you should spend some more time selecting which points you are going to include in the essay; only the best points from your brainstorm should end up in your final essay. Discard the rest. You can always come back to them if you find that you are going to finish too early and have run out of things to say. It is a good idea to pick points which will allow you to make direct comparisons between texts. These comparisons might be pointing out similarities, differences, similarities within differences or differences within similarities. These comparisons should be as interesting and innovative as possible. It is often best to choose works that are different rather than similar in regard to the issue you are discussing as this will tend to sharpen your critical thinking.


The Introduction:

The introduction of your essay should reflect careful preparation and thinking. In many ways, it is your considered ‘conclusion’ in terms of a response to the question and a decision as to how to argue your response. Therefore, it should not be left until the end of the essay and filled in after you have figured out what you have actually said. Instead, you need to know (roughly) what you are going to say before you start; the planning you have already gone through will help you to do this.


A good introduction, then, will make clear the thesis that you are going to argue or the points that you are going to make in your essay and the order in which you will make them. This will help you structure your essay clearly by letting the examiner know what to expect. However, this does not mean that you should slavishly cover every point you will make as this will make your essay boring and repetitive. A brief ‘taster’ of your two or three main points will be enough because you will go on to develop those points in detail in the rest of your essay.


The Essay:

Your next job is to prove your thesis, step by step. Be sure to exemplify each and every assertion that you make. As you analyze your texts, you will point out elements of dialogue and action in relation to the building of the theme and note how the balance in one play moves toward action and the other toward dialogue, if that is what you have decided. Be sure to build your discussion on the entire play, showing a careful and detailed knowledge of the text. Comment on as many literary or dramatic features as possible to assist in your response to the question.


In order to structure your essay clearly, you may want to discuss the balance between action and dialogue in the beginning of each of the plays, and then move to the middle and then the end, moving back and forth between the plays keeping a sharp eye on the differences between the two presentations.


No two writers are the same; no two plays are the same. The sharpness of your critical analysis will be in seeing the distinctions between the approaches of the two writers and not in glib generalizations that attempt to make the plays appear the “same”. Even if you feel the works respond similarly to the question, e.g. both plays rely more heavily on, say, dialogue, it is your responsibility to highlight the distinctions between the two plays that make them unique.


Always write your discussion from the viewpoint of how the writer has constructed the work in order to achieve a given effect. And, finally, keep the key words (in this case, theme, dialogue, and action) front and center in the discussion so that the examiner does not begin to wonder on page three just what question you are answering.


The Conclusion:

Your conclusion should clearly and precisely pull your essay together. Restate your thesis in a more relaxed and informal manner showing the reader that you are resting your argument. Alternatively you can end on a most effective point or most striking difference between your chosen texts. Your shift in tone should clearly indicate a sense of conclusion.


Don’t forget to save time to proofread your essay!