Fiction texts and comparative studies on the English leaving certificate paper are known to scare some students. You will prepare for a very long time for these exams, studying, watching or reading a number of texts to prepare you for the questions.
While this question is long and takes up a lot of marks, it is often the most enjoyable on the leaving certificate course! Usually, the texts chosen are very interesting and important pieces of literature that have gone on to be turned into big Hollywood blockbusters, like Ridley Scott’s classic “Blade Runner”
Also, the fact that this section is about comparing can be very helpful to you. It gives you a clear framework and track to go on. When you are constantly comparing things to each other, you won’t get lost, as you know when you make a point on one text, you need a counterpoint to another one! I’m sure many of you know you have to do this, but maybe you need help with the how! If so, keep reading our useful Superprof guide on how to study and compare the fiction texts on the English leaving cert paper!
We cover the paper in-depth, so to learn more, check out our overall guide to the English leaving cert paper.
This question on the exam can be broken down into three sections. The cultural context, the theme and the literary genre. These might sound confusing to some, but they can really be broken down and simplified, and that is just what we are going to do here! When you break down the sections and questions into mini sections, it helps give you clarity and direction, leading to you being more relaxed and assured when it comes to the exam!
The cultural context is basically the setting and theme of the text. For example, maybe the text is set in a dystopian future, or a utopian past. Understanding this and being able to describe this really helps as it always gives you things to fall back on, and it allows you to answer the question in a variety of ways. It is important with the English leaving cert that you are flexible, and knowing the ins and outs of a text allows this flexibility!
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 very nice one. 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 among many others. You will certainly be able to find traces of these within more than one text, your job will then be to try and hone in on the specifics. Remember never to be too broad, you must frequently circle back to your point. It helps to write your mission statement somewhere you can see, so you can stay on track!
Looking for poetry tips instead? we have you covered, over on our Superprof guide to the poetry question.
The literary genre is basically how the story is told and what kind of narrative is used. Is it written in chronological order? Does the writer use flashbacks? If it is a movie, how is the camera used to tell the story, is it first person or second person? These are all things to consider here!
You can focus on the characters here too, as often the questions asked will be centred on them. You can consider, how are you introduced to you, and when? Are the characters telling the story, or just a part of it? You could ask yourself if a certain character is finding out about the plot as the reader is, or do we know before they do? By knowing the answers to these questions you are giving yourself a lot to work with here!
When you are considering all of the how, also consider the why. Why is the author or narrator choosing to tell the story like this, and what do they achieve by doing so?
This question is very broad, so it gives you guys a lot to work with, the more you know the more you can say!
This section has a lot to learn, and we help you through that, on our other article on the leaving cert fiction texts!
Get to Know the Texts with Podcasts and Videos
This next tip sounds obvious, but it is super important and one that can be taken for granted. When you are studying these texts, whether it’s a book, play or movie, it is important to rinse as much information out of them as you can! This means consuming as much media around the works of fiction as is possible!
This can come in many forms. If you are focusing on a book, you are likely to find video essays on YouTube that break things down for you. Also, podcasts are becoming very popular these days, with there being a huge number of review podcasts accompanying many popular texts. If you do a little bit of digging you will find these podcasts and YouTube videos that will really help you study.
Now, what are the advantages of these podcasts? Well, they offer some insights that you mind not find from your teacher or study notes. Often these podcasts have a few hosts, so you are subject to many differing opinions. The more opinions and viewpoints, the more you will be able to write.
Also, studying for the English exam can be intense, and these videos and podcasts offer a different kind of learning, a more passive form of learning where you can relax more. You can put the podcast on while you go for a walk or go about your errands, and this will help keep you relaxed and loose, which is really important!
As you know, there are two English papers on the exam, and we have covered them both!
Take Past Exam Papers
This is perhaps the best way to sharpen your English skills and prepare for the paper. Test yourself with past exam papers! These are available online as the state examinations committee understands how valuable these can be and has made them freely available, both papers!
You can use these in different ways, you can focus on specific sections that you feel you struggle with, or you can attempt to test yourself on the entire paper. You can take it slow, or test your speed. By going through the past exam papers, you will become familiar with just what it is they are asking of you. You will start to see trends with the questions, and this will help you build your answer! This also leads us nicely into our next tip!
One useful study tip we would recommend here at Superprof is to create your own timetable for studying! You can use this timetable maker to help you stay on track, and make sure you are putting in the right amount of hours!
Introduce and Abbreviate
This is something you can practice and it will help you save time on the day of the exam! At the start of your answer on this section, briefly introduce the texts you will be discussing and the author’s name, then abbreviate them. Use these abbreviations for the rest of your answer to save time.
In the introduction you don’t have to be very detailed, that comes later, so make sure you don’t confuse yourself or the examiner with too much information! A quick and well written intro alongside the abbreviations will do!
The Importance of Time Management
The comparative question is a long one, and the problem that some students face is that they run out of time. Time management is key here, and so are the past exams. Break the questions down into sections, and make sure you are not taking longer than you need because this will come back to bite you in other questions when you run out of time.
In the lead up to your exams, you should be slowly bringing down the time it takes to answer a question. You need to have a clear idea in your mind of how long each questions will take. However, don’t worry if you are going way over time, this takes practice and the more past exam papers you do the quicker you become. It is also damaging to rush your writing at the expense of quality!
Time management is also key to essay writing, and for more tips and tricks on this, check out our leaving cert essay writing guide!
There is a lot to take into consideration when it comes to the comparative English question, and the more you prepare the easier it will be, as this question is quite open and can offer students some flexibility!
First and foremost, be as familiar with the texts as you can be, using videos, notes and podcasts to beef up your knowledge on setting, theme and characters. Then you can focus on your timing and the technical aspects of your answer! Once you understand what is asked of you, you can relax and focus on getting a great result!
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