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Before you start writing, you need a clear list of points for comparing and contrasting. Use a graphic organizer to track the information. A simple column system is one option, making a column for each idea being compared and writing the traits for each idea in its column. The Venn diagram is another option. To create this organizer, draw two circles next to one another with an overlap of the circles in the middle. This shared area is where you'll write characteristics that are the same. The individual parts of each circle are where you write unique traits for each idea. Refer to the organizers as you write the essay.Choose an Organizational Format
The two main organizational methods for comparing and contrasting are the block format and the point-by-point format. In the block method, you explain all of the characteristics of the first idea, then switch gears and explain the traits of the second idea. The block format works well if you plan to spend more time on one idea than the other. With the point-by-point format, you alternate back and forth between the ideas, focusing on one point of comparison at a time. When comparing two politicians, for example, you might first look at political party affiliations followed by political backgrounds, and then compare and contrast their positions on key issues. This method draws more attention to the differences between the two topics.Introduce the Comparison
The introduction sets the stage for the comparison and contrast explained in the body. Your thesis statement introduces the ideas being compared. For example, you could write, "Phonics and whole language methods both teach reading skills, but each method approaches language acquisition from a distinct perspective that influences teaching methodology." The introduction also gives you a chance to reveal your stance. If you're comparing two breeds of dogs, for instance, you might indicate that one breed is better as a family pet because of its characteristics.Write the Body and Conclusion
Once you've introduced the subject, lay out your specific points using either the block or point-by-point method. Both methods flow better when you transition smoothly from one section to the next. Examples of phrases that emphasize comparisons and help transition include "on the contrary," "conversely," "compared to" and "similarly." Develop each paragraph around a topic sentence that outlines the points presented in that paragraph. All of these topic sentences and points of comparison should fit under the thesis you established in the introduction. State each point in specific terms rather than generic observations. Instead of saying one gym has a better atmosphere than another, for example, you might explain how the better gym offers clean facilities with a wide range of equipment that is arranged to allow ample space and flow of traffic. Conclude the essay with a recap of the thesis statement and reasons the reader should care.
Wed Nov 07, 2012 5:57 pm
Do you agree or disagree with the following statement. Grades encourage students to learn. Use specific reasons and examples to support your opinion.
There are different factors that encourage students to study harder. Some people say that grades are not useful for encouraging students to learn. On the other hand, others say that grades are a good motivatior in pushing students to try harder. I support the second group of people because competing for grades helps students learn learn more and because grades help students measure themselves compared to a standard.
Competing for grades can motivate students. Competing for grades with your classmates makes you study harder and learn more. If your graed is lower than average that's a sign that you don't study hard enough and that shuold be a motivation to try harder. On the other hand, if you have marks that are higher than average that means that you're doing a good job and you should continue doing it, which is also motivating. Grades help students to measure their knowledge. Most kinds of test enable students to see their weaker points, so they know what they should work harder on. In my opinion, grades can encourage students to learn, because no one wants to be the last in the class. That makes the motivation even stronger.
However, getting good grades is not the only thing that encourages students. Learning just to get a mark is useless, because you don't get any longtime knowledge that way. That's why I think it's better not to study just to get a good grade, but to make yourself a more intelligent and educated person.
In conclusion, grades can encourage students to study harder. Marks are actually good motivator, because they help students to compare themselves with the others and to measure their personal knowledge. Despite marks being motivational, they aren't the most important thing and that's why students should study to gain knowledge and not only to get good grades.
Wed Nov 07, 2012 10:03 pm
Here's a few notes:
1. Make sure that you put an empty line between your paragraphs! When you write it like this it is hard to the marker to follow along.
2. I did a word count and it came out at 306 words. Strive to be a little bit longer. Perhaps 350.
3. Save time at the end of your work to PROOF READ your work. Perhaps 5 minutes, if possible. You left in a number of mistakes that you could have spotted on your own. For example:
-"motivatior" is a spelling mistake
-"students learn learn more"
-"graed" and "shuold" and "longtime" are spelling mistakes, too.
4. Other than that typo, your introduction is very strong
5. Try: "Most tests" instead of the awkward "most kind of tests"
6. Your first body paragraph is strong
7. Your lack of paragraph breaks make it hard to tell, but I think your second body paragraph starts with "however." Avoid starting a whole paragraph with "however." This isn't a firm rule, but I don't like how it looks. Use "however" inside of a paragraph and start the paragraph with "On the other hand"
8. Try: "marks are actually a good motivator"
9. If your second paragraph does being with "however" it is too short.
10. Your conclusion is great.
Overall, this is very good work. Just proofread your essays! Really!
If you want to improve further, perhaps you could work on building your vocabulary.
I hope this helps!Re: Independent essay - Grades
Wed Nov 07, 2012 10:14 pm
Thanks a lot. I had to retype this essay twice because of my computer and that's why I did some typos in the end..I'll keep in mind your advice and will proof read my works from now on. As for my vocabulary I started to read more in English and I hope that this will help.
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UPDATE – September 2014.
Again and again it’s been pointed out at marking conferences and in marking schemes that YOU MUST RESPOND TO THE QUESTION. Stock learned off answers are not being rewarded – and rightfully so! Using what you know to offer your opinion is what counts – agree, disagree, partially agree, partially disagree – it’s doesn’t matter as long as your essay is directly responding to the Q asked throughout and is doing so in a comparative way.
Here’s an extract from the Chief Examiner’s Report
“examiners were pleased when they saw candidates trust in their own personal response and demonstrate a willingness to challenge the ‘fixed meaning’ of texts. The best answers managed to remain grounded, both in the question asked and in the texts ”.
Examiners complained that students had pre-prepared answers which they refused to adapt to the question asked. Don’t get confused here: in the comparative section you have to have done a lot of preparation prior to the exam. The similarities and differences are unlikely to simply occur to you on the day under exam conditions and the structure of comparing and contrasting, weaving the texts together using linking phrases and illustrating points using key moments is not something you can just DO with no practice. It’s a skill you have to learn. But you MUST be willing to change, adapt, and select from what you know to engage fully with the question asked.
This compliment, followed by a warning, was included in the 2013 report:
“Many examiners reported genuine engagement with the terms of the questions, combined with a fluid comparative approach. As in previous years, examiners also noted that a significant minority of candidates were hampered by a rigid and formulaic approach “.
At the 2011 marking conference, a huge emphasis was placed on students engaging with the question – and the point was made that all too often they DON’T. You may have a general structure in your head but if this structure doesn’t suit the question that comes up DON’T just doggedly write what you’re prepared anyway. Use what you know to answer the Q. The basic structure will remain (text 1 key moment, link, text 2 km, link, text 3 km, general observation) – it’s not rocket science. But you must prove (if you want a grade above 70% in comparative) that you can engage with the question throughout your answer (not justthrow it in @ beginning and end) and conclude by showing how your essay engaged with the question asked. So the moral of the story is, if you puke up a pre-prepared answer & completely ignore the question, don’t be surprised when you then do badly!
Anyway, you still want to know what the basic comparative structure IS but remember you do not know what you will write until you see the question. Even then, your brain should be on fire non-stop as you write your answer. This is not about ‘remembering’ stuff – this is about knowing it so well, that it’s all there in your brain and you just have to shuffle it about so that it makes sense as a response to whatever question is asked.
Sorry, I don’t intend to scare you – but nor do I want to you be under some illusion that you just write one essay for each comparative mode during the year and that will do. IT WON’T…
Right, here goes…
The quality of your links is REALLY SUPREMELY important. This section of the course is called ‘comparative studies’ for a reason. The more detailed a link is the more marks you’ll get for it. Thus just using the words ‘similarly’ or ‘by contrast’ isn’t really enough. Link individual characters from different texts, establish the ways they or their circumstances are similar but also point out subtle differences. You can extend this comparison throughout your paragraph/section if necessary (in fact this is a good idea) – but don’t simply repeat yourself.
Here’s some general advice on how you might structure your comparative essay, but I repeat, adapt, adapt adapt to the question asked .
Theme or Issue. Address the Q, introduce your theme, then your texts – genre, name, author and mention the central character who you will focus on in your discussion of this theme.
General Vision & Viewpoint. Address the Q, introduce the idea of GV&V (briefly), then your texts – genre, name, author and mention the major emotions you associate with each.
Cultural Context: Address the Q, introduce the idea of cultural context (briefly), then your texts – genre, name, author, plus where and when they are set. You may want to mention the aspects of cultural context you intend to discuss.
Literary Genre: Address the Q, briefly introduce what literary genre means, then introduce your texts – genre, name, author. Outline the aspects of literary genre you will discuss (depends on the Q asked).
Look at the following examples. Imagine the Q is “Exploring a theme or issue can add to our enjoyment of a text”
“I found it fascinating to explore the central theme of plagiarism in my comparative texts. In the novel ‘Old School ‘ (OS) by Tobias Wolff I was intrigued by the narrator’s self delusion after he entered a competition with a short story he had not written. By contrast, I found the film ‘Generous’ (GEN) directed by Frank Faulkner quite disturbing. It explores a young girl’s obsession with becoming famous as she ‘borrows’ outrageous online articles to make her blog more popular. Finally I found the play “IMHO” by Judy Price hilarious. It looks at how we all ‘copy’ ideas from others and pass them off as our own at dinner parties. Thus exploring this theme greatly added to my enjoyment of each text”.
Now look at how this changes for a different mode. Imagine the Q is “The general vision & viewpoint of a text often offers the reader both joy & despair”
“All of my comparative texts took me on a rollercoaster ride through the highs and lows experienced by the central characters . In the novel “Old School” (OS) by Tobias Wolff I experienced the narrator’s joy at the visit of Robert Frost, and his despair when his cheating was uncovered. Similarly, the film “Generous” (GEN) directed by Frank Faulkner begins in elation for Emily as her blog goes viral but ends in complete mental and physical collapse. By contrast, the lighthearted play “IMOH” by Judy Price offers a hilarious look at the falseness of modern dinner parties and the only despair the audience feels is lamenting the complete lack of self-awareness of the central characters. Thus the vision & viewpoint of each text offered me a wide and varied range of emotions from joy to depair”.
Now look at how this changes again: Imagine the Q is: “Characters are often in conflict with the world or culture they inhabit”
“The novel ‘Old School’ (OS) written by Tobias Wolff is set in an elite American boarding school in the 1960’s and the unnamed narrator certainly comes into conflict with his world. This text explores cultural issues such as social class, ethnic identity and authority figures. Similar issues are explored in the film “Generous” (GEN) directed by Frank Faulkner and set in modern day London as Emily comes into conflict with her parents, peers and teachers. My third text the play “IMOH” by Judy Price set in Celtic Tiger Ireland also looks at the conflicts which occur as a result of people’s social snobbery and their desire to escape their cultural identity and heritage. In this text the major authority figure is Susan, the host of the dinner party, who desperately tries to keep her guests in line. Thus I absolutely agree that these three texts made me more aware of the ways in which people can come into conflict with the world or culture they inhabit”.
Finally look at this literary genre question: “The creation of memorable characters is part of the art of good story-telling” .
The unnamed narrator in Tobias Wolff’s novel ‘Old School’ (OS) is a fascinating and memorable character because he is struggling to come to terms with his own flaws. Similarly, the film ‘Generous’ (GEN) directed by Frank Faulkner has a central character Emily who we emphathise with despite her many flaws. Finally, the play ‘IMHO’ by Judy Price with its emsemble cast creates many memorable characters but for the purposes of this essay I will focus on the dinner party host Susan.These characters live on in our memories because of the writer’s choice of narrative point of view, because of the vivid imagery we associate with them and because the climax of the action revolves around their character.
NEXT you need to think about structuring the essay itself. The most important thing to decide in advance is what aspect you wish to compare for each page/section but this may need to change to adapt to the Q.
For theme or issue you might plan it out like this but at all times focus on answering the Q:
Asking the same question of each text allows you to come up with the all important links (similarities & differences).
For general vision & viewpoint you might plan as follows but at all times focus on answering the Q:
Alternatively you could just take a beginning, middle, end approach but you must at all times focus on whether the vision/feelings/atmosphere is positive or negative and how this impacts on the reader/viewers experience.
For literary genre you must focus on the aspects mentioned in the question – possibly some of these:
For cultural context you must decide which of the following issues are most prominent in all three texts – try to find links before you decide. At all times focus on answering the Q asked
You may find some overlap between 2 of these – for example social class often influences a person’s wealth or poverty; religion often effects attitudes towards sex and marriage; marriage can often be a financial necessity for those with limited job opportunities (mostly women, so this overlaps with gender roles). Choose your sections carefully so you don’t end up repeating yourself.
You might plan as follows for the example given above but everything depends on the texts & the question.
Once you’ve decided what sections to include your structure for each goes a little something like this:
STATEMENT – ALL 3 TEXTS e.g. All of the central characters are deeply aware of their social class and wish to ‘climb the ladder’ as it were in the hope that they will achieve recognition, the envy of their peers and ultimately a better life.
STATEMENT – TEXT 1 e.g. In OS, the narrator hides his background (he comes from a broken home) from his wealthier peers.
KEY MOMENT TEXT 1 e.g. This is evident when he discusses how, at school, your social class was defined not just by your clothes but also by how you spent your summers – in his case “working as a dishwasher in the kitchen crew at a YMCA camp” a fact which he vows never to reveal to his classmates.
LINKING PHRASE & STATEMENT TEXT 2 e.g. Similarly, in GEN, Emily comes from a broken home, but it is her family’s absolute impoverishment which she keeps hidden from her classmates. Like the narrator in OS, she fears their pity but unlike him she is already dealing with the harsh reality of being a social outcast at school.
KEY MOMENT TEXT 2 e.g. During one key moment she describes leaning down to tie her shoes, all the while talking, only to look up and find her friends have walked off and are now laughing at her for talking to thin air. Thus her desire to escape the limitations of her background is more urgent than in OS.
LINKING PHRASE & STATEMENT TEXT 3 e.g. By contrast, in IMHO, Jane, Lucy, Joel, Zach & Max all come from upper middle class backgrounds. Their social status is more secure than the narrator in OS or Emily in GEN, yet they are all obsessed with creating the impression that they have links to the aristocracy – or in Zach’s case, royalty.
KEY MOMENT TEXT 3 e.g. Several key moments spring to mind, the funniest of which is when Lucy boasts about the diamond necklace she’s wearing being a family heirloom bequeathed by her Aunt Tess, only to have one of the so-called diamonds fall into her soup. Joel the jeweller then delights in pointing out the evident ‘fake’ in the room (the woman AND the diamond).
STATEMENT ALL 3 & PERSONAL RESPONSE TO QUESTION ASKED e.g. Thus I found it fascinating, tragic and at times hilarious to see how all of these characters were so deeply affected by their obsession with their social status and to observe the conflicts – both internal & external – which resulted.
This all sounds very technical but if you break it down as follows it’s not so complicated (easy for me to say!)
STATEMENT ALL 3 TEXTS
STATEMENT TEXT 1 & KEY MOMENT
LINKING PHRASE & STATEMENT TEXT 2 & KEY MOMENT
LINKING PHRASE & STATEMENT TEXT 3 & KEY MOMENT
STATEMENT ALL 3 & PERSONAL RESPONSE TO QUESTION
Now look at how the paragraph/section flows when you put it all together.
All of the central characters are deeply aware of their social class and wish to ‘climb the ladder’ as it were in the hope that they will achieve recognition, the envy of their peers and ultimately a better life. In OS, the narrator hides his background (he comes from a broken home) from his wealthier peers.This is evident when he discusses how, at school, your social class was defined not just by your clothes but also by how you spent your summers – in his case “working as a dishwasher in the kitchen crew at a YMCA camp” a fact which he vows never to reveal to his classmates. Similarly, in GEN, Emily comes from a broken home, but it is her family’s absolute impoverishment which she keeps hidden from her classmates. Like the narrator in OS, she fears their pity but unlike him she is already dealing with the harsh reality of being a social outcast at school. During one key moment she describes leaning down to tie her shoes at her locker, all the while talking, only to look up and find her friends have walked off and are now laughing at her for talking to thin air. Thus her desire to escape the stigma of her background is more urgent than in OS. By contrast, in IMHO, Jane, Lucy, Joel, Zach & Max all come from upper middle class backgrounds. Their social status is more secure than for narrator in OS or Emily in GEN, yet they are all obsessed with creating the impression that they have links to the aristocracy – or in Zach’s case, royalty. Several key moments spring to mind, the funniest of which is when Lucy boasts about the diamond necklace she’s wearing being a family heirloom bequeathed by her Aunt Tess, only to have one of the so-called diamonds fall into her soup. Joel the jeweller then delights in pointing out the evident ‘fakes’ in the room (the woman AND the diamond). Thus I found it fascinating, tragic and at times hilarious to see how all of these characters were so deeply affected by their obsession with their social status and to observe the conflicts – both internal & external – which resulted.
This paragraph only establishes that the characters want to hide or improve their social class. You could now look at some of their attempts to improve their social status.
If a paragraph gets too long, break it into two. The linking phrase will make it clear that you’re still talking about the same issue.
For the 30 / 40 marls question just take all of your statements & key moments for Text 1 and put them together, all the while answering the question and offering personal response. This is your 30 marks part.
Then take all of your statements & links for texts 2 & 3 and put them together, all the while answering the question and offering personal response. This is your 40 marks part. You will refer back, in passing, to Text 1 but only when establishing your links.
Also, I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again: the more detailed a link is the more marks you’ll get for it. Thus just using the words ‘similarly’ or ‘by contrast’ isn’t really enough. Link individual characters from different texts, establish the ways they or their circumstances are similar but also point out subtle differences.
This structure applies no matter what the mode – theme or issue / general vision or viewpoint / cultural context / literary genre.
P.S. If you’re wondering why you’ve never heard of the film Generous or the play IMHO, I can explain. I made them up.
Hi just wondering if there is a 40 mark question and a 30 mark question (2006 cultural context) and the first question asks you to compare two of the texts you have studied and the second question asks you to talk about your third text..well do you only compare two of them in the first part and not even mention the third text? And then for the second question do you mention the two texts from question one at all?
Yes, you only discuss the two texts in part one (40 marks). Then in part two (30 marks) the marking scheme says you are not required to make links to the first two texts but you may do if you wish. You obviously discuss your third text but you could link back occasionally to what you said in part one, only for the purposes of comparison.
Why did you choose to answer this question with two texts that you made up? I mean surely that just allowed you to make connections and links that wouldn’t be as easy to make with some of the prescribed texts. Would it not have made more sense to compare 3 of the texts currently on the LC or that have been in the past or even just 3 real texts?
Hi there, good point. Basically I’ve heard horror stories of students accidentally selecting texts that were on in previous years but failing to check the prescribed texts for their particular year. If you write on a text that’s not on the list the result is pretty severe in terms of how badly you are marked down in the exam. Also, because I won’t be changing the essay structure post every year I decided to focus on the ideas rather than on actual texts. As for how hard it can be to link them, I guess that’s why comparative is considered so difficult! But I can also tell you from years of practice that it is possible. Chin up, the end’s in sight
Brian Hanney says:
What about key moments? If the term “key moment” is used, do you really have to limit most of your answer to just one moment? Do you lose marks if you discuss other examples from the text?
PS Are you the Evelyn O’Connor who’s coming to INOTE in Galway? It’s unlikely that there are two of you!
It depends on the question. It may specify that you should focus on one key moment but more often it says oneor more key moments. Obviously it would be very difficult to sustain an entire answer focusing only on one key moment from each text… I think the point I wanted to illustrate is that students don’t have to discuss everything that happens – it simply wouldn’t be possible. Zooming in on three or four key moments in each text (in some detail) which illustrate the points you want to make is better than skimming over twelve or fourteen things that happen in the novel/play/film because if you do this multiplied by three texts if would be incredibly difficult to achieve any kind of coherence in an answer.
And yep, I’m the Evelyn who’s doing a talk in Galway Education Centre in December! See you there maybe?
how long does your comparative essay need to be?
I think 3 seems a bit skimpy but there’s no hard and fast rule. Discuss three and then the ending of each text would prob work. Also, you’re better to do three and keep within the time frame than obsess over getting four in and run over time, which lots and lots of students do with the comparative. To my mind one of the most important things student should do in the exam is STICK TO THEIR TIMINGS. Paper 2 – 60 marks, 60 minutes, 70 marks, 70 minutes, 20 marks, 20 minutes, 50 marks, 50 minutes.
Thank you, this site is so helpful. Could I ask if you’re familiar with Purple Hibiscus, Sive and Children of Men what issues would you choose to discuss in the CC question? Our teacher has us doing role of men, role of women, family and role of the individual but I know I’ll end up repeating myself and I don’t want to do those so I was thinking of doing role of women, religion, authority figures and maybe another. If you’re not familiar with these texts it’s all good though!
Does the structure you have above for the cultural context question work for the theme or issue just as well?
STATEMENT ALL 3 TEXTS
STATEMENT TEXT 1 & KEY MOMENT
LINKING PHRASE & STATEMENT TEXT 2 & KEY MOMENT
LINKING PHRASE & STATEMENT TEXT 3 & KEY MOMENT
STATEMENT ALL 3 & PERSONAL RESPONSE TO QUESTION
Hard to say. I used to use this structure as my bible but I felt some of the comparisons I was getting back were very simplistic. Basically some students were only pointing out obvious similarities but failing to comment on subtle differences between the texts. As long as you bear in mind that subtle differences matter every bit as much as similarities, you should be fine to use this structure. This example might also help (it’s cultural context rather than theme but the same basic principles apply) http://leavingcertenglish.net/2013/12/sample-comparative-link/
Ooh, also, this example compares TWO texts. For honours English you generally have to compare THREE! So this example is fine but you’d then need to continue with a short paragraph which links your third text to what you said about the first two, again pointing out similarities and differences. HTH, Evelyn