Alan Stanford, a very successful Irish director, has put together a series of Macbeth podcasts, specifically targeted at LC students. Find them here: http://www.rte.ie/radio1/podcast/podcast_macbethinmonaghan.xml
This site is operated by an award-winning teacher. The whole site is great, but this page http://leavingcertenglish.net/index-page/ has an amazing array of resources.
This is the same material that was given out in the block class:
6th Year Block – English
Exam Layout, Timings and Tips
Paper 1 – Wednesday, 5th, 9.30-12.30 (3 hrs)
· Eat a breakfast!!! Nothing that will upset your stomach, but you CANNOT set to on a three hour exam if the last time you ate was the previous evening.
· Arrive in plenty of time – this is your first LC exam so keep unnecessary stress to a minimum
o Remember you’ll have to leave time to find your desk, take what you need from your bag, use the bathroom and generally settle yourself
· Wear proper uniform
· Bring glasses if you wear them
· Know your examination number
· Have cleared any scraps of paper out of your pencil case
· If you have something like hay fever or asthma, bring anything you need to deal with it
· Have a tissue in your pocket – you do not have time to waste going to the bathroom simply for a tissue
· Bring blue/black and red pens (red for question numbers) and some highlighters
· Number questions carefully and clearly, but don’t waste time drawing margins – they’re already printed on the page
· Make sure you leave the right hand margin empty (a reminder is printed on the page)
· Bring a bottle of water and something that you can eat silently – you’ll be in the exam for 3 hours
· If you need anything, just raise your hand and a superintendent will come around to you. Raise your hand in plenty of time – don’t wait until you’re completely out of paper, or desperate for the bathroom
· Bring a watch that you can read easily and place it on your table (Tuesday evening, sellotape a big checklist of all the ‘Bring’ items to the inside of your front door)
· Be ruthless with your time – in each question, write your best points first so if you start to run over time and need to leave an answer unfinished in order to start the next, you’ll have your best material already down on paper
· PLAN your answers – Reading comp answers can be planned by simply jotting down the 3 or 4 key words, each one of which will be the focus of a paragraph. Essays should be more extensively planned. It’s helpful to use the back of one answerbook for planning so you can keep it open while writing the essay in a separate answerbook.
· Remember that all paper has to be handed up at the end – you can’t remove any piece of the answer book. Don’t put anything daft in it!
· Do not even think about leaving early. If you have finished early, you have not done the paper correctly. Go back and see where your answers are too brief and/or you have left out a section. You should have no ‘spare’ time.
· Keep time at the end for proofreading – check capital letters (especially I by itself, names (people and places) and incorrect capitals (random Js instead of js etc)); overly long sentences (“and then”, “so”, “and”); paragraphing and spelling. Make all the corrections you can but make sure you don’t go mad with tippex – far too many people end up leaving blanks.
· If you are too warm, take off your jumper. If there’s a window open that’s making you too cold, ask if it can be closed, even temporarily.
· The Home Ec. exam is on Wednesday afternoon – make sure you pack your notes etc so you can take a glance over them at lunchtime
· Reading at start – 10 mins
· A – 35 mins
· B – 35 mins
· Composing – 80 mins
· Reading at the end – 10 mins
· Read theme on front of paper
· Read essay options and start crossing out non-runners (literally draw a line through them so you’re not wasting time re-reading them later)
· Read through the options for the QBs taking careful note of the task you’re being asked to do – diary entry / letter / talk etc
· Choose your QB (but don’t write it yet)
· Choose your QA FROM THE REMAINING TWO TEXTS, NOT FROM THE TEXT YOU JUST PICKED QB FROM!
· Complete QA as outlined below
· Complete QB
· Make final choice on essay and complete it
· Proofread all writing
· Two sections, A and B
· Three texts to choose from
· You must choose an A from one text and a B from a different text
· A section: reading comprehension questions
o 3 questions – 15, 15, 20 – 1 point / paragraph for every 5 marks
o Read questions FIRST
o Underline key words / task – use different coloured highlighters if possible
o Ensure you have enough to say for the 20 mark question – 3-4 developed points
o It is likely that one of the questions will ask about language / style – make sure you have practised this! You have notes on it – go over them!
o Another question could relate to pictures in the text – answer these sensibly and logically, relying on the written text for support
· B Section
o This is a shorter piece of writing than the essay but should still be planned
o Good structure is always rewarded and it is very obvious if a student is simply writing down ideas as they occur to him / her
o Make absolutely sure that you are writing what you have been asked to do
§ Diary – date/time, ‘Dear Diary’, sign off, thoughts/feelings on past events, hopes/expectations for future ones, write as if you ARE the person (not “I think Kate would write about...”)
§ Letter to ed – addresses (2!) in correct places, date, Sir, - to open and – Yours, etc., to close
§ Talk – be aware of audience to ensure you use the right language (register), try to strike a balance between formal and light-hearted if appropriate
§ Article for newspaper/magazine – ensure you have something to say on the topic! Pitch language appropriately. Structure intelligently
o Only choose a topic you are able to write about – if the topic is sport, and you have absolutely no interest in it, pick a different topic!
o Write about a page and a half (but know if your handwriting means you need to adjust this length)
· Know in advance which type of writing you find easiest – personal writing / debate or speech / article / short story – and be on the lookout for these
· If your ‘preferred’ style is asked in an awkward way, be open to checking out the other options
· You don’t have to include the quotation
· Make sure you read the actual instruction (under the quotation) carefully
· Plan very well – you must have enough to fill 4½ to 5 pages. Remember this is worth 100 marks, more than any other question on either paper
· In a personal essay, make sure you use the ‘I’ voice.
· Articles can be padded by using ‘human interest’ (“Julie, 18, says that stress is the biggest factor for her when it comes to exam time...”)
· Don’t forget that you can make extensive use of the printed texts on the paper for vocabulary or plot ideas (once you’re not just re-writing it – the work has to be yours, but you can be inspired by the paper)
· In your plan, divide your ideas into paragraphs. You should have an introductory paragraph, where you set out your ideas; 5/6 ‘body’ paragraphs, where each idea is dealt with and fully developed in a paragraph of its own; and a concluding paragraph where you gather your ideas together and come to a conclusion or final word on the topic. (Exception is the short story – “interest me at the beginning, surprise me at the end”. Include believable characters and a good mix of dialogue and description. Be subtle in your writing – “John rolled the coin between his fingers before finally handing it over” works better than “John was a miserly man who didn’t like having to spend money”.)
· Proofread after each paragraph and ensure you’re still answering the original question
· Make certain that your tenses are consistent – don’t flick from past to present.
Paper 2 – Thursday, 6th, 2pm – 5.20pm (3h 20m)
· Re-read the ‘General’ section at the start of Paper 1 – almost all of it is still relevant, especially the ‘Don’t leave early’ bit!
· If you do Engineering, this will be your second exam of the day. Make sure you get some fresh air between the two.
· Eat a decent lunch, but nothing too heavy or it will make you sleepy for the afternoon exam. (Equally, this is not the day to experiment with spicy food.)
· Drink plenty of water. (Try to avoid fizzy drinks and a good night’s sleep is infinitely more helpful than an “energy” drink full of sugar and caffeine.)
· Friday is still a busy day (Geography and Maths 1) but do try to get out for a walk after English 2, even if just to stretch your legs and clear your head. You must move on after each exam – there is absolutely no point fretting about what you could have done. Focus your energy on the next exam.
· Reading at the beginning – 5 mins
· Single Text – 55 mins
· Comparative Study – 65 mins
· Unseen Poetry – 15 mins
· Studied Poetry – 50 mins
· Proofreading at the end – 10 mins
· Unlike in Paper 1, it doesn’t give you an advantage to do the paper in a specific order. I would tackle my strongest section first, then weakest, finishing with the remaining section.
· The most important thing is not to allow yourself stray over your time limit for each question – it is pointless doing an A-grade Poetry essay if you have no time left to even attempt Comparative.
· There are lots of questions in each section on Paper 2 – be confident about how many questions you have to answer to ensure you don’t get flustered or panicked. If you are unsure in the exam, go back to the front cover of the paper, and read it slowly and carefully.
· We did “Macbeth” – Shakespeare. You must answer on Macbeth in The Single Text, even if you recognise other texts!
· There will be a choice between 2 essay questions, each worth 60 marks.
· Read the options carefully and consider what you could write for each before making your choice.
· Plan the answer – it should answer the question directly, then make 4 or 5 points to support your initial argument. Each point should have at least one quotation to back it up. (Use PEE system – Point, Example, Explanation)
· Write about 4 pages, making sure you don’t go over time.
· Studying – focus on characters – Macbeth, LM, Banquo, Macduff, better kings - and themes – ambition, power, kingship, appearance v reality etc. You have LOTS of notes for this – use them.
· Don’t forget that this is a play! Refer to scenes (not chapters) and play, not book or novel.
· Always spell characters’ and authors’ names correctly – it looks dreadful if you make such a basic error at Leaving Certificate.
· As with all sections, watch spelling, capitalisation, paragraphing and punctuation. Proof-read as you go.
· Choose your question very carefully.
· There are 3 “modes” on for your year – Literary Genre, Cultural Context and Theme or Issue.
· 2 of the 3 modes will appear on the paper, and 2 questions will be asked for each mode (i.e. 4 comparative questions total)
· Of the two questions for each mode, one will be a 70 mark essay, the other will be divided into 2 parts, worth 30 and 40 marks. Regardless of which you choose, you are marked out of 70, but I strongly suggest you do the 30+40 question. This allows you to write about one text on its own, without having to compare. In the second part, you’re asked to compare the other two texts. This style suits a lot of people better.
· In each paragraph of the comparison part of the question, use LOTS of comparative language (similarly; however, this is different in; we see the opposite in; the same thing happens in; this is treated differently in)
· Be absolutely sure that, when asked to compare, you don’t just write a piece about one text, then a piece about the other. You must take a particular point (e.g. the choice of narrator is very important in literary genre) and then compare the extent to which this is true for each of your two texts.
· 30 mark section should be about 2 pages; 40 mark section should be about 3½. Remember, it’s worth 70marks total – more than Single Text or Studied Poetry.
· Ensure you give this section the time and planning that it requires – do not rush through it.
o A poem you have not read before will be printed on the paper and some short questions will follow
o It’s generally better to go with the ‘broken down’ questions as these offer more guidance
o There are only 20 marks going for this – there are 400 marks total. If you don’t get the poem, don’t panic. Write the most sensible thing you can think of for the answers and move on.
o Always read the title of the poem and any introductory sentence – they often contain major clues to the meaning of the poem.
o Refer to poet, not author.
o There are 8 poets on the course this year – Bishop, Hopkins, Plath, Kinsella, Wordsworth, Shakespeare, Rich and Mahon.
o There will be a question on each of four poets from the above list. This means you MUST have FIVE poets that you are willing and able to write an essay on. You cannot study any fewer than five.
o The question will be about the poet’s work generally – it is up to you to name the poems you have studied and intend to write about.
o It is also up to you to learn quotations from each of your studied poems.
o The questions are becoming more specific – you are unlikely to be asked to write a personal response / introduction to a poet’s work. Much more likely is a question that identifies two aspects of the poet’s work and asks you to discuss them. (E.g. Sylvia Plath’s personal anguish is presented to the reader through vivid imagery and startling metaphors.) When answering these types of questions, you must keep referring back to the terms of the questions – it is marked on your answer every time you do.
o Plan the answer, listing quickly the poems you will use and the opening words of the quotations that are relevant.
o Try to work your quotations into sentences. Quotations that are ‘plonked’ are less effective and demonstrate little beyond an ability to learn things off by heart. You want to demonstrate that you’ve made a mature point about the poem, that this quotation demonstrates the point you’ve made, and that you’re sufficiently in control of your writing to work the quotation into a sentence.
I've added the notes given out recently in class for Macbeth, Mahon, Bishop and Shakespeare (sonnets).
Let me know if you're missing anything!
I'll put details for the block classes up here as soon as I have them.