Stuck on page one when it comes to re-reading your set texts? Insight writer and Literature teacher Briony Schroor is here to help, with suggestions for getting the most out of the process.
As a Literature teacher, the best piece of advice I can give to students preparing for the exam is to return to the text. All the answers are in the book, after all! That being said, not all methods of re-reading are equally effective. In today’s post, we look at some specific approaches to purposeful re-reading to make sure you’re as prepared as you can be on the big day.
Read to remember
Although you may feel that you have studied your set texts exhaustively by this point, there is still merit to the idea of reading them again. Re-reading from start to finish will give you a broader sense of the text, and can help you place key events, quotations, themes and features in the context of the overarching narrative, collection or anthology. You never know, you might find you enjoy reading them again!
This is particularly important if you are studying a play or a poem. Find a quiet place to read each of your texts to yourself, listening for things like rhyme, rhythm and assonance in poetry, or interchanges and interruptions in a play. When reading prose texts, pay attention to descriptive passages, moments of direct speech or dialogue, and the variation between short and long sentences.
TIP: Try recording yourself and listening back for things you might not have picked up on the first read-through.
Read for an audience
Reading your texts to others, particularly an audience that is unfamiliar with them, can also be beneficial for focusing your reading. Try entertaining your family or friends with an evocative, dramatic rendition of your text and encourage them to ask questions about the specific chapter or section you decide to perform.
Read with a pencil or highlighter
In order to avoid passively re-reading your texts, make annotations as you read. Write comments in the margins that draw links between different sections, underline useful quotations that indicate consistent ideas or features that run through the text, and put stars next to sections that you love (or that you love to hate).
TIP: Try using different coloured highlighters to code your annotations and notes according to the key themes or features of the text.
Read with a friend
Enlisting the help of a reading buddy is a great way to keep your re-reading focused and on track. With your friend, select a number of poems, specific scenes from a play or chapters of a book to re-read, and set a strict time line to work through them. This will help you to keep each other accountable in terms of getting through the texts – particularly the longer ones.
Read and discuss
Consider organising a study group to talk about your texts. As well as motivating you to keep up with your reading, this is a great way to practise articulating your ideas. Ask each member of the group to contribute points of discussion to your meetings. These points could be important quotations from the text, favourite images, or a description of each person’s most despised character. To practise for Section A, you might ask everyone to select a quotation from the text that is relevant to a particular critical perspective; for Section B, you could ask for a quotation with significant sound features, a stage direction, or a metaphor or simile.
Read and write
Written reflection is an important part of purposeful and focused re-reading. It can help you consolidate your understanding of the text, as well as deepen your insights and analysis. While revisiting the text, try to keep detailed notes on interesting observations you make, as well as things you might have forgotten from the first reading. Practise expanding these comments into paragraphs, bringing in quotations and evidence from your notes.
TIP: Ask your friends for feedback on your observations and try to incorporate their comments into your work.
The Literature exam assessors are always on the look-out for authentic engagement with the set texts, supported by well-constructed and original interpretations. By focusing your re-reading, you can greatly deepen your understanding of each text and improve your ability to produce a strong and convincing analysis on the day of the exam.
Need extra help preparing for the Literature exam? Purchase Insight’s Literature Exam Guide 2nd edition by Robert Beardwood and Melanie Napthine. The Literature Exam Guide 2nd edition is a comprehensive resource for the VCE Literature exam; it explains the requirements of each section, unpacks the criteria and includes sample paragraphs and complete responses using popular texts.
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