3 Effective Examination Tips for Literature StudentsJuly 03, 2019

Literature students shouldn't worry about every upcoming examination. It can be a multiple-choice test, but there are instances when it's an analysis of a poem or short prose, even a film. They must pay attention to meaning, purpose, and technique.

A dictionary is available for consultation in the examination room, yet you must analyse "A Blackbird Singing". It's a poem of sixteen stanzas, which starts with "It seems wrong that out of this bird." You're thinking of "The Raven", but this is not one of Edgar Allan Poe's works. There isn’t any similarity between the two poems, as Poe's poems (and short stories) have brooding features. It's a hallmark of Gothic fiction, which doesn't end with "But fresh always with new tears". It's a similar case with a prose of thirteen lines, which starts with this thoughtful sentence:

"Until he has nearly arrived at manhood, it did not become clear to Kipps how it was that he had come into the care of an aunt and uncle instead of having a father and mother like other little boys."

There's a Dickens-esque element in that sentence, but your professor rather prints it anonymously. It's the opposite in cinema, where the name of a filmmaker should give you a cue on how to discuss it. James Wan, a native of Perth, could be a focus of study in the years to come. The Conjuring Universe isn't over by any means, but attempting to analyse his film series could be a good exercise. "Annabelle Comes Home" doesn't come close to the scariest movies ever made, but it's not right to say it. Citing the numerous films that Wan had thought (while writing the script), "Ju-On: The Grudge", "Poltergeist", and "Night at the Museum" among others, would be a good start. The use of colours, which would convey strong emotions, could be similar to Dario Argento's style. Did this film succeed in its purpose? If you think the fog would be scary enough, recall your own similar experience. And make something out of it.

Stretching it beyond what is obvious could be taken against you, so you should make a mental note of certain terms.

Point of View, Person, and Voice: Terms Appropriate for Analysis

Analysing a poem requires a study of the following concepts. Meter, rhyme, and stanza are three terms that you would encounter often, and you would think that it should make the study of poetry easier than your first lesson. You're dead wrong if you haven't thought about a test similar to "A Blackbird Singing". You should have a good grasp of diction or the choice of words of phrases. You must be familiar with sentence construction or syntax. And you could distinguish imagery from figurative language. You must not forget the mood, which you've learned from Poe's poems. All of these should help you in deciphering the explicit and implied meaning (of a poem). Doing it in an hour or two would be a daunting task, but reading tens of poems have made you confident about your abilities.

When analyzing a prose, you must consider the following terms. You would be confused about subject, theme, argument, tone, meaning, ambiguity, and ambivalence, if all of these terms must be placed in that sequence. You also wonder if it's a short list that can be categorised. If you have reviewed well, you would guess that there's a reason behind it. You must study the structure, organisation, and development, which might not be possible. After all, you're working on a limited time. It should help if you read a related work before the examination, but this would be a case of luck. And your examination is not. Pay attention at the sentence structure a number of times. Looking at the figure of expressions would help. Working on the variation of language could take you longer than you plan, but you could try. You must be able to figure out the deliberate meaning, if not make a good guess.

Do you know these terms? A study of film requires a look at the list of terms that could be useful during the examination. In the case of "Annabelle Comes Home", you would notice backlighting, camera angle, and subjective shot. It should be an easy exercise, which prepares you to a challenging case. "Lawrence of Arabia", for instance, would require you to discuss the mise-en-scene and montage. If you notice that you're sounding like a critic, you're on the right track. You should know that analyzing a film won't be different from (analyzing) poetry or prose. And you shouldn't be confused about the technicalities. The ultimate challenge is to write an essay on an auteur. Think of Andrei Tarkovsky’s adaptation of “Solaris”, if not Akira Kurosawa’s mash-up of Ryūnosuke Akutagawa’s short stories. If you’re uncertain about your line of reasoning, read the book first. It won’t take half a day.

When Your Time is Up

It’s very important that you leave ample time for proofreading, as you’re certain to get a failing mark if you don’t read your analysis again. Ten minutes may be too short, but it would be enough. Experience is the best teacher, so you should adopt better on the next test.

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