Paper 1 Last Minute Reminders

Download our handout for 2015 JC2 Lit P1 Last Min Session.

Obligatory nannying because we can, no, we must

  • H1 Lit / H2 Lit Paper 1 happens Monday, 16 Nov, 2pm. Please be in school by 1:30pm. One of our best students in 2013 missed the paper. Please find alternative means of making history, with thanks and love, Mr Lim.
  • Pack all your exam copies into your bag early. Check that you have the right copies before you leave the house, obviously.
  • If you conspire to ignore our sterling advice, the invigilators (not from our school, as you would have realised) will have extra copies of texts, which they can issue you.
  • The library will not have its usual arsenal of texts, as I will be transferring them to invigilators on Friday. If you feel uneasy about not having a copy in your hands before entering the venue, you can look for me before the paper and I will pass you unmarked copies of the text. Just make sure you bring your exam copy, and life will be that much easier for us all.
  • If your text is flagged out for illegal marking, don’t panic. The invigilator is likely to ask you if you want to keep your text (and risk an ‘irregularity report’). Let it go; the invigilators will provide you one of the library copies to use. (Don’t be stupid. This is obviously not a licence to leave your text at home.) In the past 5 years, nobody has had their text confiscated…. so please just double check with us.
  • The Age of Innocence is in Section B, Question 2. This is the first question after Section A (Poetry / Poetry comparison).
  • All My Sons is in Section C, Question 9. This is the last question in the paper.
  • For the last time, please learn to label the titles properly. Titles of poems should be placed in quotation marks (e.g. ‘Waves’). Titles of All My Sons and The Age of Innocence should be underlined (since it’s rather difficult to write in italics).
  • Please do not, do not, do not use AMS, AOI, TAOI, ONY as lazy substitutes. It makes you look stupid. Remember – your markers are not Singaporean bureaucrats who love their acronyms. Write the whole darn thing. How many times do you need to refer to the full title, or Old New York anyway?

Actual tips and reminders

  • We generally advise that you attempt Section A (Poetry / Poetry Comparison) first but it’s completely up to you. If you feel less confident about Section A, by all means leave it to the last. If the poems appear too daunting and you feel stuck, just leave it for later (like you would a difficult Math question). Things will get better later.
  • Whatever your order of questions, manage your time very strictly. Take absolutely no more than 1 hour 5 min. We have had one too many “definite A” students end up with a “B” or “C” because they did not complete one question. Don’t add yourself to the body count, please!
  • Don’t freak out if you see something unfamiliar. The terms used by Cambridge might be different from what we use (we’ve tried our best to ‘confuse’ you the past year), so negotiate the question based on the concerns and methods we have taught you. If an obscure question (a la last year’s AOI question on ‘money’) turns up, just move on and try to answer the other option. For the desperate, we have laid out the anticipated triggers and passages below.
  • Know your triggers and how to use them to generate relevant ideas. Most of this is detailed in the Last Min Session handout and summarised here:
    – For Section A, always ask yourself, ‘what is the persona’s attitude towards this?’ or ‘what does the persona feel about this?’ This is essentially perspective+tone and will guide you through anything: the persona in ‘Considering the Snail’ reveres the snail for its strength and purpose; the persona in ‘Men Improve with the Years’ laments his own loss of youth; the persona in ‘Identity’ is defiant about his own ‘tall, ugly’ nature.
    – For the Essay Question, the importance of the trigger is self-evident:
    (i) A character-trigger will demand that you identify relevant concerns; differentiate between open, expository questions such as ‘Discuss the role and significance of…’ from the more focused questions such as ‘Joe never accepts the consequences…’. The latter will limit your scope, which is not a bad thing.
    (ii) A concern-trigger asks that you immediately split up this concern into smaller parts, or ‘ideas’ (e.g. guilt can be sub-divided into Chris’s survivor’s guilt, Keller’s wrongdoing). This process should help you organise your essay… and select relevant characters / episodes already.
    – For the Passage-based Question, use the given trigger (character, character relationship, concern) to lock your focus:
    (i) A character-trigger here similarly calls for concerns relevant to the passage.
    — In The Age of Innocence, consider the narrator’s description and commentary on this character. If on Ellen or May, consider Archer’s perspective of her as well.
    — In All My Sons, try to focus on that particular character’s dramatic language and action first; you can examine this character in a relationship if you want to (e.g. ‘Chris’ as trigger, with one para dedicated to ‘Chris’s estrangement from his father’).
    (ii) A character relationship-trigger, likely to be exclusive to All My Sons, means that you are not writing about what Chris believes, or what Keller believes, but about how their beliefs clash within the passage. Keep in mind that “family relationships” is itself a concern — the main concern for such a trigger. A strong response would nevertheless be able to discuss how Chris’s self-interest (another concern) threatens his relationship with Keller, or how Keller’s moral blindness pulls him further and further away from his son.
    (iii) A concern-trigger has provided a few of you with headaches. We would suggest linking this concern to characters. It would be really strange if you had to begin every sentence with ‘Truth is presented…’ or ‘Social form is presented as…’. It is more natural to write about ‘George’s pursuit of the truth’ or ‘Archer’s detachment from his wedding’. Nonetheless, the concern provided shapes the ‘purpose’ or ‘why’ in each body paragraph.

Preparation over the weekend

  • Do spend an hour over the weekend “practising” a Section A (poetry / poetry comparison) question. You can write an actual essay… or just practise annotating and organising your analysis. When it comes to the unseen, practice is your best weapon.
  • Read your own essays and ‘sample’ essays from your peers / seniors, to re-familiarise yourself with essay structure (introduction, body paragraph W-H-Y)… and your own areas for improvement. It is always good to know what you have improved on and what you are strong in!
  • Read up on your concerns and methods on the two set texts, if you must. Again, practise planning an essay question response, or annotating a passage and write a PBQ outline — use Roundtable P1, the 2015 JC2 Mock P1 / Mock H1 or the questions from the Last Min Session.

Suggestions for extra practice on H2 P1 Poetry Comparison

  • 2011 Q1b (Endurance) p25 + 2013 Q1b (Grief) p29
  • 2009 Q1b (Waste) p21 + 2010 Q1a (Abandoned rooms) p22
  • 2014 JC2 Mock (Absence / Female body) p48-50
  • 2014 JC2 Prelim (Ageing / Unrequited love) p45-47

Anticipated triggers + passages (what might appear)

  • The Age of Innocence
    – ‘Ellen‘ is long overdue in either the essay question (as New Woman, foreigner being cast out, or as a ‘maturing’ protagonist in her own right) or the PBQ. I’ve been saying this for 2 years, so c’mon, damn it, just happen already.
    – ‘Archer / the bildungsroman’ has yet to feature in an essay question. The main character’s growth is a relatively common feature in essay questions.
    Old New York and social convention may still feature in the essay question. Few areas are left, but we have tried to prepare you for the role of women, the importance of social form and obedience.
    – The PBQ could well be relatively devoid of Archer and focus on Old New York exercising / enforcing their social norms instead: see the various dinner scenes in Ch 5, Ch 16, Ch 26 and to some extent, Ch 33.
    – If the PBQ were to stay centred on Archer, I would pick Ch 13 because it provides us the ironic narrator at her most prominent. The prompt there could indeed be “the use of narration” or something along those vague, vague lines.
  • All My Sons
    – After a long series of character-triggers, the essay question should shift to concerns: social responsibility / moral idealism… and self-interest / materialism (American Dream)… and truth / denial / the past are all likely. We’ve tried to prepare you with our Mid Year, Prelim, Mock and Roundtable questions!
    – Cambridge could still torture us a little: there might be an essay question on the supporting characters: Ann+George (self-interest, truth / denial, familial loyalty), Jim+Sue (material pragmatism, lost idealism, Greek Chorus to comment on the Kellers and reveal the truth to the audience) and maybe Jim alone (more about materialism, pragmatism and idealism).
    – For the PBQ, it would seem logical to go to Act Three (because Acts One and Two have been tested) and specifically on Chris alone, Keller alone or Mother+Keller. We will just list a few possibilities that you should already be familiar with:
    (i) Chris, Act Three (p86-88) – your Prelim question
    (ii) Chris-Keller relationship, Act One (15-17, 40-42) or Act Three (88-90)
    (iii) Keller, Act Two (52-54) – your Mock question
    (iii) Mother-Keller, Act Three (p83-84) – covered in lecture
    (iv) Truth and denial / Chris-George, Act Two (60-62) – Last Min Session
    (v) Guilt and deception / Keller / Keller-George, Act Two (68-70)

Bogeyman triggers + passages (what we fear), or a lame attempt at ‘jinxing the jinxes’

  • The Age of Innocence
    – I would safely rule out May for the PBQ as that appeared last year. It seems unlikely that May would return as the essay question… but it’s worth thinking about. Consider May’s role and significance in relation to social conventions (she conforms… and enforces) and the bildungsroman (she ‘leads’ Archer to fulfil his social duty).
    Surveillance / lack of privacy, social change / stability and money have appeared as essay questions before. There is nothing stopping them from focusing on the relevant passage-based questions: we have already anticipated Ch 33 and Ch 26. They might surprise us with Ch 3 (the Beauforts), Ch 7 (the van der Luydens) and Ch 14 (Ned Winsett). It would be exceedingly cruel if we get Ch 20 (M Riviere) or any other minor characters.
  • All My Sons
    – ‘Mother‘ was my bogeyman last year; I thought it would be funny if Cambridge lined up Chris (Specimen), Keller (2013) and then Mother (2014), and guess what, it happened. They have set a Mother question every year in either the essay or PBQ (Mother featured twice last year, in fact)…. Nevertheless, let’s just keep an eye out for the George-Mother sequence in Act Two (p62-64).
    – We would also want to rule out Ann for both questions as the two Mother-Ann episodes have already been tested. Nevertheless, just stay mentally prepared for a PBQ on Mother-Ann (revelation of the letter, Act Three, 84-86) and to use Ann as an example of destructive ‘self-interest’, an unpleasant example of the American Dream.

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