HazelBrown2004
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How can I prepare for ELAT exams? Which books should I use to prepare?
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Tash02
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(Original post by HazelBrown2004)
How can I prepare for ELAT exams? Which books should I use to prepare?
Hi! So for the ELAT, it's unseen analysis so there aren't really any books you can use. The best thing to do is use past papers and practice them under timed conditions. You don't get extra marks for context, it's more about understanding the text and the techniques used. It's a comparison task and you get given a few different texts, so don't choose one that you might have already seen (although unlikely). Best of luck to you! I'm doing the ELAT this year too, so this is just what I've found from research. If you'd like I can send you the link for Cambridge's past paper ELAT tests?
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HazelBrown2004
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(Original post by Tash02)
Hi! So for the ELAT, it's unseen analysis so there aren't really any books you can use. The best thing to do is use past papers and practice them under timed conditions. You don't get extra marks for context, it's more about understanding the text and the techniques used. It's a comparison task and you get given a few different texts, so don't choose one that you might have already seen (although unlikely). Best of luck to you! I'm doing the ELAT this year too, so this is just what I've found from research. If you'd like I can send you the link for Cambridge's past paper ELAT tests?
Oh..Thank you so much! Actually I'm not taking ELAT this year but the next year. And I'd love to receive the links. Thanks again!
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Parliament
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Practice papers! It's really the only way. You can also simulate your own practice papers by writing critical pieces about unseen texts; when I applied, I got my English teacher to provide unseens, but if that's not an option you can just open a poetry anthology (of *good* work) to a random page. You should also practice comparative analysis - not just writing about one extract, but comparing and contrasting multiple.

Your success will be decided by your thinking skills. There's a lot of ground to cover here for a TSR post and the point of going to uni in the first place is to develop these skills, but here are some tips I have:

  • Why has word x been chosen over word y? When you're reading good literature, every word has been selected for a reason. What nuances of meaning, of feel, of sound, of texture, does the particular word have which a substitute word doesn't have? When you drill down to this level you can start unlocking tone and meaning in a more substantial way than most school leavers. Look up Practical Criticism by I.A. Richards, and the work of F.R. Leavis. Cambridge home-grew this type of criticism and it's still dominant in Tripos today (and imo is a big reason why Cambridge's course is superior to most other Literature courses).
  • The 'who cares?' test. A lot of school leavers notice something interesting in a text, write it down, and sit back triumphantly. But who cares? So what? So you've noticed that (for example) there's a lot onomatopoeia. But what does that do for the text? How does that inform or change your understanding? Why is it there? Your ELAT answer shouldn't be a list of interesting things (or buzzwords - a lot of people just write down all the literary devices they've noticed); everything you notice should feed into an overarching argument you develop during your response.
  • Think before doing. When I applied, I didn't have to sit the ELAT but I did have to do a test which was basically the ELAT in all but name. They put us in a room and the two candidates either side of me immediately started writing as soon as the test started. By the end, they'd piled up pages and pages of paper and I was a little bit worried as I'd only written a couple of sides. But I never saw either of those candidates again - I spoke to my DOS about this test in my third year before I graduated and they said that what stood out about my work was the extent of the planning, and how concise and focussed everything I'd written down was. I guess the point here is to make sure that everything you write down directly answers the question in an original and concise manner. Don't be afraid to spend a lot of time thinking and planning.
  • Form is important. You'll be getting unseen work with minimal context and your job is not to try and deduce who wrote the work/when it was written or anything like that. But form is important. If you're comparing poetry with prose, or drama with poetry, that's important. Think about the conventions of each form, the basic features you take for granted but which are actually quite fundamental: characters speaking in rhyme or verse, soliloquies, music and sound in drama vs. other media, staging, the narrator's importance in prose vs. other media, etc etc. These can be really fertile grounds for comparison if for eg. you've got a common theme between a play and a poem, but the way in which that theme is approached is totally different due to the form. This can also apply to things like poetic form - you can identify that you've got a Shakespearean sonnet on your hands, for example, and that might change your approach to the text since that form comes with extra baggage.
  • Translations - similarly to the above point, works that have been translated can be a goldmine for easy free hits in a test like the ELAT. If we're thinking about why each word has been selected (as in point #1 of my ramble above), a translation obviously complicates that - because you've now got an intermediary voice between your experience as reader and the author themselves. Is this intermediary voice a critical voice? How does this type of intermediary interference compare to the interference of, for example, an editor's interference, or a director on stage? Can we really consider a literary work to be an individual's creative act any more, or is it more of a team effort? And what's your role as critic? There's a great quote from Nietzsche I like here which goes like 'it would be a shame if the classics were to speak to us less clearly because a million words stood in the way.' Is criticism itself an act of enlightening a reader, or obstructing their own efforts to find their own authentic meaning in a text?
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HazelBrown2004
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(Original post by Parliament)
Practice papers! It's really the only way. You can also simulate your own practice papers by writing critical pieces about unseen texts; when I applied, I got my English teacher to provide unseens, but if that's not an option you can just open a poetry anthology (of *good* work) to a random page. You should also practice comparative analysis - not just writing about one extract, but comparing and contrasting multiple.

Your success will be decided by your thinking skills. There's a lot of ground to cover here for a TSR post and the point of going to uni in the first place is to develop these skills, but here are some tips I have:

  • Why has word x been chosen over word y? When you're reading good literature, every word has been selected for a reason. What nuances of meaning, of feel, of sound, of texture, does the particular word have which a substitute word doesn't have? When you drill down to this level you can start unlocking tone and meaning in a more substantial way than most school leavers. Look up Practical Criticism by I.A. Richards, and the work of F.R. Leavis. Cambridge home-grew this type of criticism and it's still dominant in Tripos today (and imo is a big reason why Cambridge's course is superior to most other Literature courses).
  • The 'who cares?' test. A lot of school leavers notice something interesting in a text, write it down, and sit back triumphantly. But who cares? So what? So you've noticed that (for example) there's a lot onomatopoeia. But what does that do for the text? How does that inform or change your understanding? Why is it there? Your ELAT answer shouldn't be a list of interesting things (or buzzwords - a lot of people just write down all the literary devices they've noticed); everything you notice should feed into an overarching argument you develop during your response.
  • Think before doing. When I applied, I didn't have to sit the ELAT but I did have to do a test which was basically the ELAT in all but name. They put us in a room and the two candidates either side of me immediately started writing as soon as the test started. By the end, they'd piled up pages and pages of paper and I was a little bit worried as I'd only written a couple of sides. But I never saw either of those candidates again - I spoke to my DOS about this test in my third year before I graduated and they said that what stood out about my work was the extent of the planning, and how concise and focussed everything I'd written down was. I guess the point here is to make sure that everything you write down directly answers the question in an original and concise manner. Don't be afraid to spend a lot of time thinking and planning.
  • Form is important. You'll be getting unseen work with minimal context and your job is not to try and deduce who wrote the work/when it was written or anything like that. But form is important. If you're comparing poetry with prose, or drama with poetry, that's important. Think about the conventions of each form, the basic features you take for granted but which are actually quite fundamental: characters speaking in rhyme or verse, soliloquies, music and sound in drama vs. other media, staging, the narrator's importance in prose vs. other media, etc etc. These can be really fertile grounds for comparison if for eg. you've got a common theme between a play and a poem, but the way in which that theme is approached is totally different due to the form. This can also apply to things like poetic form - you can identify that you've got a Shakespearean sonnet on your hands, for example, and that might change your approach to the text since that form comes with extra baggage.
  • Translations - similarly to the above point, works that have been translated can be a goldmine for easy free hits in a test like the ELAT. If we're thinking about why each word has been selected (as in point #1 of my ramble above), a translation obviously complicates that - because you've now got an intermediary voice between your experience as reader and the author themselves. Is this intermediary voice a critical voice? How does this type of intermediary interference compare to the interference of, for example, an editor's interference, or a director on stage? Can we really consider a literary work to be an individual's creative act any more, or is it more of a team effort? And what's your role as critic? There's a great quote from Nietzsche I like here which goes like 'it would be a shame if the classics were to speak to us less clearly because a million words stood in the way.' Is criticism itself an act of enlightening a reader, or obstructing their own efforts to find their own authentic meaning in a text?
Oh.. Thanks a million!!
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