Choosing Good Points


There are a number of things that you can all do to make sure that the points you are making in your essay are good ones. Follow the guidelines below to help you choose good main points for your plan.



1.       Keep it general

A good essay should contain only about 4 main points (although these will be broken down into smaller sub-points). These points should be very high level so that you can then go into much more depth underneath them.


If one of your main points is the reference to the use of the phrase ‘club-footed ghoul’ in the text then you are going to run out of depth very quickly. There’s not much more you can say about it once you have talked about the threatening and deformed or corrupted connotations of the words.


Instead you need a more general main point to start with – something like MacNeice creates the impression that the innocence of the unborn persona in ‘Prayer Before Birth’ or the fact that while both ‘Prayer Before Birth’ and ‘Once Upon a Time’ explore dehumanization, MacNeice is concerned with a loss of self control and individuality in contrast to Okara whose persona speaks of an emotionless world where there is no sense of warmth, community or genuine human interaction. Underneath the first main point, for example, you could then go on to discuss the club-footed as an example of the childish fears that MacNeice begins exploring but that are ultimately replaced by more genuine, adult fears.


2.       Look for links

A good point will link up different points between the six poems that are related in some way. However, a link doesn’t just have to join up things that do the same job – you can draw links between ideas are the complete opposite or each other. In point two above, for example, you can see that there is a similarity in that there is a sense of dehumanization created in both poems but the point then goes on to explore the important ways in which these poems are different.


3.       Variety of evidence

Commenting on how the connotations of words, their sounds, their complexity, their length, etc, all work together to create a certain effect. See the examples on the ‘Making Points’ page.


4.       Be interesting

You should attempt to make some interesting, unusual or unexpected points to make the examiner think that you’ve really understood what’s going on. This can be hard because these poems are fairly straightforward but you could try to comment on the lives of the poets or the historical context at the time of writing which may have influenced the poem.


Another good way of making interesting points is by pointing out how two things are superficially different but at a deeper level very similar. Or, alternatively, how things are superficially similar but at a deeper level very different.


One final way of making good points is to understand that some things can be interpreted in a number of ways and to point out the existence of and evidence for both interpretations. A really good candidate will sometimes go on to explain why the poet may have wanted to leave their poem ambiguous (i.e. with more than one meaning).