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4 Steps to Approaching Prescribed Poetry Question

November 11, 2016

4 Steps to Approaching Prescribed Poetry Question

Prescribed poetry in the Leaving Cert

It can seem easy to get bogged down with the amount of poets & poetry when approaching the Prescribed Poetry question on the Leaving Certificate, but has created a guide to help you cope.

Planning and Studying for your Poetry answer

1.    Detailed knowledge of each poet

Make sure you have a good set of notes on each poet. In preparation you should also be familiar with sample answers on the poets. This will give you a good idea of the structure of an answer and how to weave the poems and quotes into your response.

2.    Four poems in detail, two poems in less detail

The syllabus requires you to have studied 6 poems per poet, but in reality, you will not be able to go into great detail on six poems in the time you have. As a result, I always tell students to discuss three/four poems in detail and refer to the other two/three if possible. This ensures that you are letting the examiner know how much work you have done and how you can connect the 6 poems from that poet (which you have studied) to the questions.

 For example, you may have written at length about Dickinson’s “despair” using “ I felt a funeral in my brain” and just briefly link it with “I heard a fly Buzz”. This shows the examiner that you are also knowledgeable about her other poems, as well as the ones you have analysed in depth. 

3.    Know what the examiner is looking for when they read your answer

They want to see good personal engagement with the works of the poets along with strong “textual support”. In other words, discuss how the poems made you think/ feel or respond, and know your quotes. If you look at the sample answers you will see how to show personal engagement and weave quotes into your answer. We will be looking at this further in our next blog post and there are good examples in our sample poetry answers.

4.    Know language and style as well as the themes of your poems

The higher scoring answers will have analysis of the language and style of the poet and not just an explanation of the poems. You must discuss theme, tone, language and style. This really pays off and shows you to be the high calibre student you are!

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