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Studying For English Exams- Text Or Passage Analysis And Sample


									For first and second year university English exams, students are commonly asked to
identify passages from texts studied in class, which could be classic novels, drama, or
poetry, as well as write one or two short essays. For students accustomed to memory
work for science-based courses, studying for the more subjective English exams in
university can be intimidating. But like other courses, there is in fact a formula to
excel on English exams. Writing English exams will be much easier if students have
mastered basic English grammar skills such as comma use. Studying for Passage
Analysis In order to conduct a proper analysis of a passage of text, students really
need to have read the full text; however, this is not always possible given the large
amount of reading English students have to do. Students therefore should focus on
passages that their professors have highlighted in class, as well as be familiar with key
themes and characters in the prose or poetry work. Students will usually be given at
least four lines of a passage of text in order to provide them with enough text on
which to write an analysis. How to Study for Text Analysis When studying for
English exams, students should be prepared to answer the following questions when
asked to provide an analysis of a passage of text: Who is speaking and/or to whom are
they speaking? Where in the novel, play or poem does this passage occur? What is the
significance of this passage? For example, does it reveal the character's lack of
confidence, fears, untruthfulness, ulterior motive, true nature? Is it an example of
dramatic irony or other literary devices? Does the passage advance the plot? Is it a
turning point in the literary work? How does the language or imagery used illuminate
the significance of the passage or strengthen the theme? Sample of Analysis of Text In
the following passage from one of Shakespeare's plays, Antony and Cleopatra,
Cleopatra is described using language, imagery, and tropes that emphasize her power,
royal status, and sensuous nature: The barge she sat in, like a burnish'd throne, Burn'd
on the water: the poop was beaten gold; Purple the sails, and so perfumed that The
winds were love-sick with them; the oars were silver, Which to the tune of flutes kept
stroke, and made The water which they beat to follow faster, As amorous of their
strokes. For her own person, It begarr'd all description: she did lie In her
pavillion--cloth-of-gold of tissue-- (Ant. Act II, Sc. ii, 1-9) Cleopatra is being
described by the Roman Enobarbus and it is clear that even he is mesmerized by the
Egyptian queen. The imagery of the boat as a "throne," the "purple" sails, and the
"gold" poop deck conjures riches and royalty and also indicates that Cleopatra rules
over the sea. Anthony, in contrast, rules over land. In the whole passage, Cleopatra is
associated with water, which represents a generative quality, reflective of Cleopatra
herself. Cleopatra is always in the process of change, a fact that confounds Antony.
The passage also establishes binaries between "fire" through diction such as "burn'd,"
and "burnish'd," and "water." Cleopatra represents these qualities in that she is
attractive like water to Antony, yet like fire, she is also dangerous to him. Cleopatra is
so exotically seductive that even the "winds" become "love-sick." The water is
personified as it is seduced by the beating of the oars, a phallic symbol, and the sexual
connotation alludes to Cleopatra's sexual allure. Cleopatra was able to lure Antony
from Rome to Egypt, a fact which his critics claimed emasculated him. The use of
diction and sensual, powerful imagery creates credibility for her persuasive ability and
seductive power. Passage analysis is not difficult once students know what is required,
and have an understanding of the main characters, their function in a literary work, the
themes, as well as how the author has used literary devices to support the themes. In
fact, because passage analysis is not an exact science, it allows for many
interpretations. Thus, many argue that studying for English exams is easier than the
sciences because English relies on students' creativity and interpretation rather than
putting facts to memory.
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