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October 21, 2019, 03:39:50 pm

Author Topic: Analytical Essay in Exam Conditions  (Read 237 times)

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K.Smithy

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Analytical Essay in Exam Conditions
« on: September 30, 2019, 11:52:39 am »
+2
Hi,
In Unit 2 we did an analytical essay in exam conditions. My class' text was 'A Thousand Splendid Suns' by Khaled Hosseini. I ended up getting 20/25 for this task ( :-\ ), so I would really appreciate some guidance in regard to how I can apply the feedback I received.

The marker's comment was:
"You wrote a strong response which focused on the novel like it was a real-world event. You need to focus more on how the author depicts real events and why he does this - what does he want the audience to learn and experience? You used a variety of language features and you included a detailed explanation of culture and events in the novel."

I should note that we were meant to write about power and powerlessness and how it is depicted or something like that... All I remember is power and powerlessness.

Also, one more question... My teacher told me that we needed to include external quotes for this exam, which I was confused about because it is an unseen question. After all, its hard to memorise quotes from outside of the book when you don't know what you're looking for (I tried my best to memorise a million different quotes surrounding all of the themes, but I found it a challenge). Will we be required to do this for the external exam at the end of Unit 4?

Cheers :)
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Bri MT

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Re: Analytical Essay in Exam Conditions
« Reply #1 on: October 10, 2019, 11:17:41 am »
+5
Hey,

I haven't looked into QCE English or read this text and so take this with a grain of salt but here's my thoughts:

Your essay does a great job at describing what the text does but it doesn't explain what the point is. I'm reading that a thousand splendid suns describes power dynamics within Afghanistan in a particular way but I don't know why particular authorial choices have been made. For example, why have characters such as Rasheed who exemplify more traditional beliefs? How is Babi used to stress the importance of education, aside from just saying it's important? What perceptions does the author position us to have about characters/events and why?

As an example using a different text, if you were analysing how wealth inequality is portrayed in the hunger games it would be a one thing to describe how the factions are set up, contrasted with the capital etc. It would be something else to explain how (for example) Collins uses the contrast between the point of view character, Katniss, and Gale to encourage the reader to see view Capital citizen's as products of their upbringing rather than as innately immoral.
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K.Smithy

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Re: Analytical Essay in Exam Conditions
« Reply #2 on: October 10, 2019, 09:36:28 pm »
+2
Hey,

I haven't looked into QCE English or read this text and so take this with a grain of salt but here's my thoughts:

Your essay does a great job at describing what the text does but it doesn't explain what the point is. I'm reading that a thousand splendid suns describes power dynamics within Afghanistan in a particular way but I don't know why particular authorial choices have been made. For example, why have characters such as Rasheed who exemplify more traditional beliefs? How is Babi used to stress the importance of education, aside from just saying it's important? What perceptions does the author position us to have about characters/events and why?

As an example using a different text, if you were analysing how wealth inequality is portrayed in the hunger games it would be a one thing to describe how the factions are set up, contrasted with the capital etc. It would be something else to explain how (for example) Collins uses the contrast between the point of view character, Katniss, and Gale to encourage the reader to see view Capital citizen's as products of their upbringing rather than as innately immoral.

Thank you so much for the feedback!
I always seem to forget to write about authorial intent and how a text positions its audience. I will definitely have to work on this for next year, hopefully I can improve my grade! I'll be studying 1984, which I think should be interesting (fingers crossed).

Thanks, again. This was super helpful :)
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literally lauren

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Re: Analytical Essay in Exam Conditions
« Reply #3 on: October 13, 2019, 01:59:27 pm »
+5
Hey K.Smithy!

Sorry it took me a while to get to this, but attached are a bunch of comments about this piece. Overall, you're absolutely on the right track - in particular, your intro and conclusion does an excellent job in setting up and then wrapping up your analysis. However, there are two key things I'd recommend focusing on for your next piece:

1. Authorial intent!!!

A neat cheat code for English essays is to use the author's name + an intent verb
For example:
 - The author depicts/portrays/explores/examines...
 - The author suggests/conveys/argues/elucidates...
 - The author celebrates/condones/extols/exalts...
 - The author condemns/critiques/censures...

Obvs if you do this for every sentence, your teacher is probably going to notice... but you can do this every 2-4 sentences throughout your body paragraphs pretty safely. Be flexible with it, and make sure you have a wide range of verbs to describe what the author is doing (the list above should help you get started!)

At the moment, you've got a bunch of interesting points throughout your piece, but you're lacking that final step of telling us the meaning and the author's intention... it's like you've baked an amazing muffin recipe, and you've spooned the batter into the muffin tins, but not put them in the oven! Without a sentence like 'thus, Hosseini explores the damage of patriarchal norms, and critiques the effects these have on vulnerable women' you can't get as much credit for your ideas.

The quickest fix would be to just remind yourself to use this author + verb combo as often as possible (without making your writing too repetitive) as this will instantly change the scope of the essay, and help you avoid spending too much time on all of the socio-historical/contextual info! :)

2. Avoid sentence fragments

This isn't as important, as your teachers will probably care more about your ideas than the grammar of your expression (so long as it's relatively clear). But since this is the only issue with your expression atm (the rest is great!) I thought I'd break this down here...

A sentence fragment is an incomplete sentence that is missing either its main noun phrase or its main verb phrase.

For example, a complete sentence would be:
Every morning, the cute, brown kitten cuddled the grumpy man to cheer him up.

Obviously, if we took out the red or green stuff in the above sentence, it wouldn't make sense. We also have to have red before green, so you couldn't have a sentence like 'every morning, cuddled the grumpy man the cute, brown kitten did to cheer him up' - some languages allow this, but in English, it just sounds like weird Yoda speak :P

Sentences can of course be much more complex than this. To take a good example from your essay: Commenting on the continuously shifting power dynamics amongst individuals, warlords, and religious factions, Hosseini alludes to the patriarchal and misogynistic nature of Afghan society, and the omnipotence of particular religious factions.

You can add all sorts of extra information before and after, but every sentence HAS to have these two elements in this order.

Where we run into problems is in sentences like:
A life defined by subserviency, silence, and suffering.
This is a noun phrase, but it's missing a verb phrase. --> What are we trying to say about a life defined by subserviency?

Likewise:
Transitioning from a sense of hopefulness, to hopelessness, and back again to hopefulness.
This one is only a verb phrase --> who is transitioning between a sense of hopeful/hopelessness?

In spoken and informal English, we use sentence fragments all the time. Like this. Or this. Seems fine, right? But when writing a formal essay (or any QCE writing task) you have to make sure you're writing in complete sentences since, as the syllabus stipulates...


In general, understanding sentence fragments is enough to help you avoid them in formal writing, so please let me know if this doesn't make sense! And it might help to keep an eye out for any fairly short sentences in your essays, since they're the ones most likely to be fragments.

Also, one more question... My teacher told me that we needed to include external quotes for this exam, which I was confused about because it is an unseen question. After all, its hard to memorise quotes from outside of the book when you don't know what you're looking for (I tried my best to memorise a million different quotes surrounding all of the themes, but I found it a challenge). Will we be required to do this for the external exam at the end of Unit 4?
The syllabus doesn't specify that you have to use external quotes in the exam, but it also doesn't say you're not allowed to do so. The exam is all about "communicat[ing] an informed and critical perspective" about the text, so if an external quote from a literary critic helps you do that, you can include it. I'd probably only learn a handful of generic ones (maybe ~5) about really central themes, or just the overall text itself, and just weave in between 1-3 of them depending on what the prompt was. The focus of the syllabus is the text itself. That's what the markers will be focusing on, and so that's what you should be focusing on.

Either way, make sure you don't let a critic speak for you. You can use them to complement your own ideas and interpretations, but you shouldn't base your whole argument on their views, or be quoting so often that it seems like you don't actually have an opinion yourself.

(To go back to the muffin analogy, external quotes should be like the powdered sugar you dust on top of the muffins - totally optional, but a nice addition in moderation. On the other hand, quotes from the text and your own close analysis are like chocolate chips... ADD AS MANY AS POSSIBLE AND IT ONLY MAKES THINGS BETTER! ;D )

Hope this helps - hope you have a fun time with 1984! ;D

K.Smithy

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Re: Analytical Essay in Exam Conditions
« Reply #4 on: October 13, 2019, 07:52:32 pm »
+1
Hey K.Smithy!

Sorry it took me a while to get to this, but attached are a bunch of comments about this piece. Overall, you're absolutely on the right track - in particular, your intro and conclusion does an excellent job in setting up and then wrapping up your analysis. However, there are two key things I'd recommend focusing on for your next piece:

1. Authorial intent!!!

A neat cheat code for English essays is to use the author's name + an intent verb
For example:
 - The author depicts/portrays/explores/examines...
 - The author suggests/conveys/argues/elucidates...
 - The author celebrates/condones/extols/exalts...
 - The author condemns/critiques/censures...

Obvs if you do this for every sentence, your teacher is probably going to notice... but you can do this every 2-4 sentences throughout your body paragraphs pretty safely. Be flexible with it, and make sure you have a wide range of verbs to describe what the author is doing (the list above should help you get started!)

At the moment, you've got a bunch of interesting points throughout your piece, but you're lacking that final step of telling us the meaning and the author's intention... it's like you've baked an amazing muffin recipe, and you've spooned the batter into the muffin tins, but not put them in the oven! Without a sentence like 'thus, Hosseini explores the damage of patriarchal norms, and critiques the effects these have on vulnerable women' you can't get as much credit for your ideas.

The quickest fix would be to just remind yourself to use this author + verb combo as often as possible (without making your writing too repetitive) as this will instantly change the scope of the essay, and help you avoid spending too much time on all of the socio-historical/contextual info! :)

2. Avoid sentence fragments

This isn't as important, as your teachers will probably care more about your ideas than the grammar of your expression (so long as it's relatively clear). But since this is the only issue with your expression atm (the rest is great!) I thought I'd break this down here...

A sentence fragment is an incomplete sentence that is missing either its main noun phrase or its main verb phrase.

For example, a complete sentence would be:
Every morning, the cute, brown kitten cuddled the grumpy man to cheer him up.

Obviously, if we took out the red or green stuff in the above sentence, it wouldn't make sense. We also have to have red before green, so you couldn't have a sentence like 'every morning, cuddled the grumpy man the cute, brown kitten did to cheer him up' - some languages allow this, but in English, it just sounds like weird Yoda speak :P

Sentences can of course be much more complex than this. To take a good example from your essay: Commenting on the continuously shifting power dynamics amongst individuals, warlords, and religious factions, Hosseini alludes to the patriarchal and misogynistic nature of Afghan society, and the omnipotence of particular religious factions.

You can add all sorts of extra information before and after, but every sentence HAS to have these two elements in this order.

Where we run into problems is in sentences like:
A life defined by subserviency, silence, and suffering.
This is a noun phrase, but it's missing a verb phrase. --> What are we trying to say about a life defined by subserviency?

Likewise:
Transitioning from a sense of hopefulness, to hopelessness, and back again to hopefulness.
This one is only a verb phrase --> who is transitioning between a sense of hopeful/hopelessness?

In spoken and informal English, we use sentence fragments all the time. Like this. Or this. Seems fine, right? But when writing a formal essay (or any QCE writing task) you have to make sure you're writing in complete sentences since, as the syllabus stipulates...


In general, understanding sentence fragments is enough to help you avoid them in formal writing, so please let me know if this doesn't make sense! And it might help to keep an eye out for any fairly short sentences in your essays, since they're the ones most likely to be fragments.
The syllabus doesn't specify that you have to use external quotes in the exam, but it also doesn't say you're not allowed to do so. The exam is all about "communicat[ing] an informed and critical perspective" about the text, so if an external quote from a literary critic helps you do that, you can include it. I'd probably only learn a handful of generic ones (maybe ~5) about really central themes, or just the overall text itself, and just weave in between 1-3 of them depending on what the prompt was. The focus of the syllabus is the text itself. That's what the markers will be focusing on, and so that's what you should be focusing on.

Either way, make sure you don't let a critic speak for you. You can use them to complement your own ideas and interpretations, but you shouldn't base your whole argument on their views, or be quoting so often that it seems like you don't actually have an opinion yourself.

(To go back to the muffin analogy, external quotes should be like the powdered sugar you dust on top of the muffins - totally optional, but a nice addition in moderation. On the other hand, quotes from the text and your own close analysis are like chocolate chips... ADD AS MANY AS POSSIBLE AND IT ONLY MAKES THINGS BETTER! ;D )

Hope this helps - hope you have a fun time with 1984! ;D

Hi Lauren!

Thank you so much! Your feedback really clears everything up. Authorial intent is always something I seem to forget about, but your feedback make it seem a lot easier to implement than what I always made it out to be :)

I'll definitely work on my grammar and sentence structure! I didn't even notice I was writing fragmented sentences until now...

I completely forgot to ask this, but one comment my teacher made after this task (and pretty much every task this year) is that my writing is too sophisticated for the audience. I have received this comment for the past three tasks, and I don't know what I can do about it. My teacher was talking to me on Friday about how I have an "extensive vocabulary" and that is why I'm losing a lot of marks in my assessment. Do you have any tips? I'm scared about changing my writing style, because up until this year it hasn't been a problem (and even then, it's not a problem in any other subject).

Thanks again!!
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literally lauren

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Re: Analytical Essay in Exam Conditions
« Reply #5 on: October 13, 2019, 08:55:33 pm »
+3
I completely forgot to ask this, but one comment my teacher made after this task (and pretty much every task this year) is that my writing is too sophisticated for the audience. I have received this comment for the past three tasks, and I don't know what I can do about it. My teacher was talking to me on Friday about how I have an "extensive vocabulary" and that is why I'm losing a lot of marks in my assessment. Do you have any tips? I'm scared about changing my writing style, because up until this year it hasn't been a problem (and even then, it's not a problem in any other subject).

Thanks again!!
No worries at all ;D As for your teacher's comments... I'm not really sure why you'd ever lose marks for having a vocabulary that's too extensive! It's possible that it's more a question of purpose and what would be considered 'suitable' for that particular task (see criteria 1, 2, 9, and 11 in the image above).

Definitely don't stress about changing your writing style - I actually think your writing voice is pretty spot on for analytical essays. But what you should be conscious of is how you can tailor your vocabulary to suit your purpose and audience. So if you're writing a piece that's meant to be targeted at average Australian adults, then you wouldn't use words like 'elucidate,' because that's quite fancy-schmancy. But you might also refrain from using highly formal words like 'thus' or 'ramifications,' since you can instead use words like 'so' or 'results' and still convey the same meaning, just in a more accessible way. It's not about "dumbing down" your work so much as learning which words to use in which context! It's like using a kitchen whisk instead of a spatula - one isn't inherently "better" than the other; they're just each more suited to different things ;D
When you're working on the piece for a public audience, you have to make it sound believable and suitable for that audience, but when you're just writing the analytical piece in the exam, you can use whatever vocab is going to best let you unpack the text's ideas.

In short, I think your teacher wants you to consider suitability, rather than just sophistication. But a good way to check might be to take this piece, or anything you're working on at the moment, and see if your teacher can highlight the specific words or sentences that they think aren't appropriate for the task. (obvs don't do this in an antagonistic way, like "you think something's wrong with my writing!? PROVE IT!" - rather, show them that you genuinely want to improve and ask for their help in identifying the problem. Goes without saying, but you don't want to rock the boat with the teacher who's deciding a fair chunk of your mark, haha ;) )

Beyond that, I'd say you should aim to emulate the kind of language and formality in the types of pieces you're trying to write, so if your teacher has given you some samples already, it might be worth deconstructing those to find some alternate structures or phrasing that would work for you.

If not, let me know what your teacher says (or feel free to post another essay or excerpt) and /i'll hopefully be able to give you some more specific advice :) :)

K.Smithy

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Re: Analytical Essay in Exam Conditions
« Reply #6 on: October 14, 2019, 10:42:03 pm »
+1
No worries at all ;D As for your teacher's comments... I'm not really sure why you'd ever lose marks for having a vocabulary that's too extensive! It's possible that it's more a question of purpose and what would be considered 'suitable' for that particular task (see criteria 1, 2, 9, and 11 in the image above).

Definitely don't stress about changing your writing style - I actually think your writing voice is pretty spot on for analytical essays. But what you should be conscious of is how you can tailor your vocabulary to suit your purpose and audience. So if you're writing a piece that's meant to be targeted at average Australian adults, then you wouldn't use words like 'elucidate,' because that's quite fancy-schmancy. But you might also refrain from using highly formal words like 'thus' or 'ramifications,' since you can instead use words like 'so' or 'results' and still convey the same meaning, just in a more accessible way. It's not about "dumbing down" your work so much as learning which words to use in which context! It's like using a kitchen whisk instead of a spatula - one isn't inherently "better" than the other; they're just each more suited to different things ;D
When you're working on the piece for a public audience, you have to make it sound believable and suitable for that audience, but when you're just writing the analytical piece in the exam, you can use whatever vocab is going to best let you unpack the text's ideas.

In short, I think your teacher wants you to consider suitability, rather than just sophistication. But a good way to check might be to take this piece, or anything you're working on at the moment, and see if your teacher can highlight the specific words or sentences that they think aren't appropriate for the task. (obvs don't do this in an antagonistic way, like "you think something's wrong with my writing!? PROVE IT!" - rather, show them that you genuinely want to improve and ask for their help in identifying the problem. Goes without saying, but you don't want to rock the boat with the teacher who's deciding a fair chunk of your mark, haha ;) )

Beyond that, I'd say you should aim to emulate the kind of language and formality in the types of pieces you're trying to write, so if your teacher has given you some samples already, it might be worth deconstructing those to find some alternate structures or phrasing that would work for you.

If not, let me know what your teacher says (or feel free to post another essay or excerpt) and /i'll hopefully be able to give you some more specific advice :) :)

Awesome! Thank you so much, that makes much more sense :)
QCE 2020: Physics || Psychology || Biology || Mathematical Methods || General English || Study of Religion