15977emily
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Hey,

Any tips for doing an unseen poetry mock? I have one coming up in 17 days and don't know what to revise and what the best way forward is.

Thanks!
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microglia
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I don't know what level you're studying at, but I'm assuming you're doing A-level or Pre-U English. I did Pre-U, so that might be different to you, but here's what I did to prepare for some of my poetry unseens:

  • revised poetic forms. There are a lot of resources online for this, so it shouldn't take too long. I found it easiest to list the most common forms (such as sonnets) and list the criteria. It helps to read poems (online, from lessons or from your own reading) and identify their form. Once you've learned some common forms, it can be helpful to understand why those forms are used and what the poet is attempting to convey by using that particular form. This all helps you to include critical terminology in your essay (which is credited at least in the Pre-U markscheme) and to ensure that you have analysed form and structure.
  • revised rhyme schemes. This probably falls under form, but revising rhyme schemes (or even just remembering to comment on them - or the lack thereof) is helpful, even if you have little else to say.
  • revised meter. Again, there are lists online of different meters - so learning common ones shouldn't take too long - and you can practice identifying meters not only by reading poems but also by reading many other lines of literature or text. Also gains you points for use of critical terminology. As with poetic forms, make sure you know what the poet is conveying by their use of a particular meter if you decide to comment on it.
  • revised context. Is the poem Romantic? Was it written in the time of war? Was it written at the time of an industrial revolution? Are you aware of its connections to other works by the same author? If you study history, this may come naturally to you (I didn't, so sometimes struggled to include relevant context), but if not it's always helpful to try and build up a general knowledge of literary, historical and social context. Literary is arguably best, but I usually found myself defaulting to general, well-known social context in order to score points. I even found things such as memorising things such as regnal dates of English monarchs helpful, just in order to state that a work was Victorian or Edwardian, for example. Context is something you'll develop knowledge on as you progress, so don't try and memorise a lot in a short amount of time. Just make sure it's relevant and you're making a point out of it rather than just listing it.
  • revised poetry techniques. Exploring things such as alliteration, metaphors, assonance, anaphora, etc. and how the poet uses them is helpful in order to, once again, score you points for use of critical terminology and analysis of structure. It's also useful to remember them in case you find yourself in a situation in which the poem is difficult to understand or you have little to say about it. If you remember techniques and see one being used, you can discuss the author's intended effect when using that technique (it doesn't necessarily even have to be true - just believable). I'm sure there are many lists of these online, and you only have to learn a few common ones.

I'm sure there's more you can do to prepare yourself, but those are a few fairly low-effort things I found helpful. They might seem obvious to you (in which case, sorry!), or you might be daunted by this list - I know I would've been a couple years back. It's an unseen for a reason - they want to see your analytical skills in the absence of much background knowledge, so by the unseen's very nature, there's not a whole lot you can do to prepare. Doing this kind of preparation can certainly help you feel better before the exam and arm you with some extra knowledge, but it's not all necessary. I'd say the most important things are being able to identify very common forms such as sonnets and discussing rhyme scheme at some point.

Hope this helps, and feel free to ask anything if you need. Good luck!
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15977emily
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(Original post by microglia)
I don't know what level you're studying at, but I'm assuming you're doing A-level or Pre-U English. I did Pre-U, so that might be different to you, but here's what I did to prepare for some of my poetry unseens:

  • revised poetic forms. There are a lot of resources online for this, so it shouldn't take too long. I found it easiest to list the most common forms (such as sonnets) and list the criteria. It helps to read poems (online, from lessons or from your own reading) and identify their form. Once you've learned some common forms, it can be helpful to understand why those forms are used and what the poet is attempting to convey by using that particular form. This all helps you to include critical terminology in your essay (which is credited at least in the Pre-U markscheme) and to ensure that you have analysed form and structure.
  • revised rhyme schemes. This probably falls under form, but revising rhyme schemes (or even just remembering to comment on them - or the lack thereof) is helpful, even if you have little else to say.
  • revised meter. Again, there are lists online of different meters - so learning common ones shouldn't take too long - and you can practice identifying meters not only by reading poems but also by reading many other lines of literature or text. Also gains you points for use of critical terminology. As with poetic forms, make sure you know what the poet is conveying by their use of a particular meter if you decide to comment on it.
  • revised context. Is the poem Romantic? Was it written in the time of war? Was it written at the time of an industrial revolution? Are you aware of its connections to other works by the same author? If you study history, this may come naturally to you (I didn't, so sometimes struggled to include relevant context), but if not it's always helpful to try and build up a general knowledge of literary, historical and social context. Literary is arguably best, but I usually found myself defaulting to general, well-known social context in order to score points. I even found things such as memorising things such as regnal dates of English monarchs helpful, just in order to state that a work was Victorian or Edwardian, for example. Context is something you'll develop knowledge on as you progress, so don't try and memorise a lot in a short amount of time. Just make sure it's relevant and you're making a point out of it rather than just listing it.
  • revised poetry techniques. Exploring things such as alliteration, metaphors, assonance, anaphora, etc. and how the poet uses them is helpful in order to, once again, score you points for use of critical terminology and analysis of structure. It's also useful to remember them in case you find yourself in a situation in which the poem is difficult to understand or you have little to say about it. If you remember techniques and see one being used, you can discuss the author's intended effect when using that technique (it doesn't necessarily even have to be true - just believable). I'm sure there are many lists of these online, and you only have to learn a few common ones.

I'm sure there's more you can do to prepare yourself, but those are a few fairly low-effort things I found helpful. They might seem obvious to you (in which case, sorry!), or you might be daunted by this list - I know I would've been a couple years back. It's an unseen for a reason - they want to see your analytical skills in the absence of much background knowledge, so by the unseen's very nature, there's not a whole lot you can do to prepare. Doing this kind of preparation can certainly help you feel better before the exam and arm you with some extra knowledge, but it's not all necessary. I'd say the most important things are being able to identify very common forms such as sonnets and discussing rhyme scheme at some point.

Hope this helps, and feel free to ask anything if you need. Good luck!
GCSE, sorry! Does all this still apply? I'm doing AQA
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microglia
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(Original post by 15977emily)
GCSE, sorry! Does all this still apply? I'm doing AQA
Sorry! I didn’t do unseens as part of my GCSE, so I didn’t realise! I have no idea what the format of those is like, but I’d say this is good general advice for unseens. You’ll probably have to do less preparation though, as I’d expect less knowledge (especially technical knowledge, and perhaps context) is expected of you. Can you discuss preparation methods with a teacher?

Having checked the AQA website, it says students ‘should be able to analyse and compare key features such as their content, theme, structure and use of language.‘ I think this is something that comes naturally with time and practice, but perhaps focusing on poetry techniques (and maybe revising some common forms) and remembering to comment on the effect of structure would be helpful? Luckily, you don’t need any extra knowledge to be able to analyse content and practice close language analysis.
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yellowbuttercup
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I did aqa too for gcse and I didn't learn all the poems because it's a waste of time. I focused on eight of the poems, learnt them well, learnt annotations etc. I picked 8 which I liked and which covered all the themes. (I hope that makes sense)
However, make sure you know what each poem is about and which themes it links into.
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Panjsuce
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Read lots of unseen poems and interpret their meanings (there will be several interpretations) and make sure you can justify your interpretations through the methods. Develop your understanding of methods, especially poetic methods, and read the poems aloud if you can to get a sense of rhythm and metre.
Look at example answers for unseen poetry analysis and practice planning and answering a response to some of the unseen’s you find!
I had a Unseen CGP guide for GCSE which had plenty of practice questions so try to find something like this or equally look online! Also recommend Mr Salles and Mr Bruff on YouTube
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15977emily
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(Original post by microglia)
Sorry! I didn’t do unseens as part of my GCSE, so I didn’t realise! I have no idea what the format of those is like, but I’d say this is good general advice for unseens. You’ll probably have to do less preparation though, as I’d expect less knowledge (especially technical knowledge, and perhaps context) is expected of you. Can you discuss preparation methods with a teacher?

Having checked the AQA website, it says students ‘should be able to analyse and compare key features such as their content, theme, structure and use of language.‘ I think this is something that comes naturally with time and practice, but perhaps focusing on poetry techniques (and maybe revising some common forms) and remembering to comment on the effect of structure would be helpful? Luckily, you don’t need any extra knowledge to be able to analyse content and practice close language analysis.
Thank you so much!
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