The Unseen Poem [in the exam]

Some of the different exam boards, like WJEC [Welsh Board] and the 9715 [AQA] have a thing in the Lit exam where you are required to write an analysis of the texts you have studied and then you have to spend some time writing about a poem, or a pair of poems [WJEC] so that you can show you can write about something literary without any revision or planning.

Now a few years ago, my school opted to take part in the WJEC course and I write a full 2 year scheme of work for it. Indeed, the thing on here called UNLOCKING A POEM is from their teacher pack and appears as guidelines for students as they write their answer in the literature exam.

So, how do you answer it when it appears? For the purposes of this, I am going to use something from a previous AQA exam paper where a poem appeared called Long Distance II. It is a poem about loss and the student is expected to write an analysis on this one. My question then, relates to how you view this and what you do with it, in the first few seconds.

You need to annotate it [make notes near it] so that you can then have something to guide your writing. Here is what I did with it for a student.


The comments in red are short and snappy, for a reason and took about 30 seconds to add in. They are put there to make me see the thing I need to write about. If you like, each one is my point I will then make in my PEE chains, with the idea of the PEED, or development, [see previous posts if seeing this first] being my thoughts from life that I can add into it.

As each verse progresses, so too would my thoughts and ability to use each word and phrase, mentioning any stylistic devices [similes, metaphors etc] as and when needed in my analysis.

This would make me find it very easy to write about this unseen poem, but I also see that the exam texts it was paired with [Duffy etc] were all about loss as well, so there seems to be a link between section A and section B like in the other exams. Thus, when you are completing section A and it is on a certain theme, do not be too surprised if this theme carries on into the final section.

Finally, one thing for you to consider. You may think that this poem has a slightly different meaning to the notes I have put on. This is for one simple reason; your life experiences are different to mine. Because of this, you will react to this poem slightly differently and this is perfectly normal for you to do so, but the thing to remember is that you need to get both ideas written into your analysis [more than two is even better].

In other words, you need to write about your thoughts and then add words like “However, these words could also mean that…” and add other thoughts. The more varied your answer, the higher the grade. The more ‘sophisticated’ the answer, the better chance of getting the A grades and above.

Using this poem, write an analysis of this poem called Long Distance II. Over the next few days, I aim to do the same to show you what I mean, so watch this space. Happy reading folks.