The comparative is one of the largest and heavily weighted questions on the leaving certificate paper. With a whopping 70 marks available, it can really set you up for a great mark if you do well! The majority of work on this question will be done in the year leading up to you sitting the exam, so it's one you will be well prepared for.
The first step is of course to be familiar with all of the texts on your list. Don’t spend more time on one than the other, as this will not help you with this question. the examiner wants to see if you can effectively identify and expand on the similarities between the texts, so you will need equal knowledge of them all!
The more you are familiar with the easier it will be to see the stark contrasts between them. While it will be tempting to simply point out differences and similarities, you still need to focus on the specific question asked, making sure to consistently tie off your points and linking them with the thesis statement of your answer.
This question can be daunting for some, but it is actually one of the friendliest questions, and a big opportunity to pick up marks, as you are given a very clear framework of what you have to do, the question is how, and it is one we will try to answer for you!
Keep reading to see the Superprof guide to the English paper two comparative question!
Need some help preparing for the exam in general? Check out the Superprof English study guide!
Looking for Exam Experience? Try Past Exam Papers
The state examinations committee provide a free service that lets you view all of the papers of all of the leaving cert subjects, down through the years! You just choose the paper you want, in this case, English paper two, and download the PDF, simple as that!
You can focus on specific questions or do the entire paper, it’s up to you! If you need extra help and practice with the comparison question, we would recommend downloading as many of the exams as you can and working your way through them, it doesn’t have to be in chronological order either!
Start off by just focusing on the question, highlighting keywords and familiarizing yourself with how the question is asked. The more of these you do, the more you will notice trends, and that although the texts will change, the themes will more often than not remain the same.
The more you do, the quicker you become, and this is so important, as by the time you sit your exam, you will need to have your timekeeping sharp and know how long it takes you to do a question. This takes a while of course, but practice makes perfect. Initially, focus on the answer, and the intricacies of this. Then, once you are comfortable with this, focus on the timekeeping!
Time yourself, giving yourself the same amount of time as you would have on exam day! To really test yourself, when you time yourself, do a question you have not seen before! When you sit down on exam day, it will become muscle memory and you will feel more confident, having already done a mock exam!
Do you want to learn more about the CAO and their points system? Do you want to see the list of university courses available to you? It helps to familiarize yourself with the CAO online page where you will find the answers to your questions
What is the Setting?-Cultural Context
The cultural context is essentially the setting of the story and the society in which they live! These are two things you need to be familiar with, even more than the plotline itself! What is the world like where it is set? Similar to our world in any way?
Is it a dystopian or utopian society? These are key things to remember, as you can then compare and contrast all of the texts. How do the characters behav1 in this world? Are they happy? Are they rebellious?
If you want, you can also discuss the political landscape, and the effect this has on the characters, always with the other texts also in mind. The more flexible you are, the better, as it will allow you to answer your favourite question on exam day!
Need more info on the layout of this question? Check out our extra article with all the info you need on the fiction texts on the leaving cert!
The Importance of Theme and Issue
This is another key question that will come up, and one you need to familiarize yourself with.
The themes that pop up on the English paper are very similar year to year, and if you prepare well this question can be a great opportunity to pick up some handy marks. Your job for the comparative question is to find links and common ground between your chosen texts. This is a nice question because it gives you a nice framework to go on. Basically, when you make a point about a text, make a similar one about another, focusing on the same aspects. Remember to use words like “similarly” “mirrored” and “reflected”
The themes you will be asked to discuss are universal. These include love, hope, change, oppression etc. as you go through the past papers, you will notice reoccurring themes, even if the texts are different. Remember never to be too broad, highlight the themes mentioned in the question, even though it may be tempting to write about something you now well, you need to keep it contained and focused, the examiner will reward you for this.
Feel ready to tackle this question already? How about the poetry section? Why not check out our guide to leaving cert poetry!
Want to Study on the Go? Try Podcasts and Video Essays
The issue for many students with this question is the broad nature and the sheer amount of info you have to consume and remember. From plot points to characters and themes, there is a lot to cover! This is where this next tip comes in handy, it really helps you cut down on the workload!
Between all of the reading, note-taking and essay writing, you will really have your work cut out, so, studying on the go, stress-free is essential. This is where podcasts and video essays come in handy.
Let’s start with podcasts! Podcasts are becoming increasingly popular, which means there are even more at your disposal. They come in all forms, from deep dives on texts to plot summaries. The more popular the text, the easier it will be to find a podcast on it.
You can do your own research here to find what suits you, perhaps you have trouble remembering the plot, or characters names, or perhaps you want to explore the complexities of the theme and or setting. These can really help.
This is also what you can call passive learning. Meaning you can learn on the go, while you are going for a walk, lying down in bed, or cooking some food! You will be soaking up the info without even realising it!
Mix and match between different kinds of podcasts, from different hosts to get the best results! You can find these on apple podcasts, acast, or with a simple google search.
Now onto video essays. These are free, very useful and often quite academic, which is perfect for the comparative question! You can find these on YouTube. These have the added bonus of being visual (though it’s more active learning, as you have to watch the screen, though you always have the option of just listening!)
Some of these insert clips from the movies/plays they are referring to as they talk, so this is a great aid to visual learners! It helps to be able to put a face to the characters you are writing about, especially if you are having problems remembering!
Much lie the podcasts, there are different types focusing on different aspects. Sometimes the video essay has a very specific point and can offer great insight into a topic that may even come up on your leaving cert paper. Be careful, however, not to just plagiarize! It can be helpful to hear another opinion on a text, as it can help you formulate your own ideas.
Don’t Forget to Introduce and Abbreviate!
This is so simple, but often forgotten about! The person correcting your essay will have to wade through hundreds of answers, so you will be doing yourself a favour by making their lives easier. An enticing intro will get them on your side!
The opening paragraph doesn’t have to be long, but it does have to introduce your answer and include your thesis statement. This is basically what you are talking about specifically, what themes you are looking to discuss etc.
This is also where you introduce your texts and abbreviate them. This will save you, and the examiner some time. Once you introduce them, stick with them, you don’t need to use the full name again (just when you first introduce them) It's important to stick to the same abbreviations too, any change in the slightest could cost marks, and confuse the examiner.
To keep your answer coherent, take regular looks back to your intro to make sure you are answering the question you said you would!
Students can use all the help they can get in the lead up to exams, so we really hope you find this list of tips helpful, you may even be doing some of these already, but we're sure there are some new ideas here that will improve your results!
Want to write a better essay? We have you covered over our tips on writing an English essay article!
It is also worth considering your own private English tutor, of which there are many over on Superprof, some for as low as 10 euro an hour!
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