How to get Good Grades



Consider how the writer has used all of the literary features at their disposal to create a certain effect. Make sure that you consider the text on a number of different levels – for example, Krishna is a frustrated teacher and you will be rewarded for exploring the ways in which Narayan creates the impression that he is frustrated. However, Krishna’s character is more than just this: on at least one level he is an autobiographical representation of Narayan himself (he was a teacher, a writer and his wife died young); he may also be used as a symbol of an India which is divided and uncertain of itself under the British Raj or he may be modeling a kind of spiritual journey of self-discovery that the author would like us all to undertake. Don’t just go for the superficial or obvious reading: be imaginative.



Make links and comparisons between different parts of the poem and show how a range of different of features from throughout the poem are working together to create a given effect. You should look out for contrasts, shifts, changes and developments that appear as the poem progresses.



Use short and precise quotations that pick out the words or other features that are really ‘doing the work’ i.e. really responsible for creating the effect that you are talking about. Embed these quotations smoothly into your sentences and make sure that you know the technical terms for the literary features you are talking about


Explain in detail:

Develop your explanations as much as possible: these should be the longest parts of your paragraphs. Try and develop ideas in detail and depth and come up with original interpretations of the effect of something or make unexpected connections. Remember, however, not to be too off the wall. The effect must always be sensibly related to the overall theme or Organising Principle of the text.


Write clearly and coherently:

Make sure that your arguments and explanations are clear and that your paragraphs follow on from each other logically. This doesn’t mean that there can be no breaks where you suddenly switch to a new subject; it just means that, when you do this, you have to use a clear linking phrase that signals this break from the previous paragraph e.g. ‘An alternative interpretation of …’


Give a personal response:

This does not mean that you have to fill your essay with phrases like ‘I’ or ‘In my opinion’. If you write passionately and excitedly about something then it will be clear that your response is personal. A good trick, however, for writing personally is to comment on what you find most effective or successful in a poem – judgments like this are necessarily personal because they talk about how much you have been affected by something.


Be careful with your language:

Make sure you get crucial spellings such as the name of the poet or poem correct. Avoid using slang because it suggests that you don’t know that exams are a situation where you should be writing formally. Equally avoid clichés because they suggest that you are not capable of coming up with your own inventive or original thoughts.