Advice to Candidates

I’m busy marking AS-level papers on the subject of WW1 literature, and would like to offer a small piece of advice to any candidates who might chance to Google this page in future times.

It is simply ā€“ avoid negatives.

Far too often, a candidate writes something like: There are no metaphors in this poem. If you write that, you can. I’m afraid, count on your marker being an awkward bastard like me, who will pick up a copy of the poem, hunt through the text and almost certainly find a metaphor. Now if the candidate had written: ‘The poem is written in direct colloquial language, with little in the way of metaphor,’ it would have been OK.

A young woman whose work I marked yesterday wrote of Ted Hughes’ ‘Six Young Men’ that it had no rhyme or rhythm. Actually, it’s in free iambic pentameter with half-rhymes. If she couldn’t be sure of herself in such matters, it would be best to keep quiet on the subject. In an exam, write what you know, not what you don’t know.

Some papers are infuriating, when they miss the point or labour the obvious. The most infuriating come from centres where teachers have obviously filled the heads of the whole class with drivel. Other papers are inspiring, though, showing what can be achieved in a short time under difficult conditions.

I have to feel sympathy with a paper I marked today. At the end of it, the candidate wrote:

Could you please take into consideration during the first half of the exam concentration was impossible with children screaming outside the room. Thanks.

I wonder how many schools this happens in.

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