English Exam: Semester 1

This exam is made up of three sections. Section C is worth 50%.

A.   Language structures: 10 ‘true or false’ questions about parts of a sentence: subject/verb/object; verbs, adverbs, adjectives, nouns, pronouns, sentence structures

B.  English Language: short answer questions based on two non-literary texts.  Key knowledge: mode, text types, function, audience, sentence types, sentence structures.

C. Unseen Poetry Analysis: an extended analysis of ONE poem from a selection of three poems.

Write in pen.



Poetry Analysis: think before you write

Auguste Rodin’s The Thinker

  1. Read the poem first, slowly, taking care of the punctuation. Remember that the end of a line of poetry may not be the end of a unit of meaning, a thought, an expression.
  2. Look up any unfamiliar words and write their meaning above the word on the poem.
  3. Form a theory – what do you think the poem is about?
  4. Annotate: What I get/What I don’t get yet.  The bits you don’t get are likely to be important.  Don’t ignore them; take the time to ponder them. Come up with a theory to test on your next read-through.
  5. Read the poem again. Annotate  using the question: ‘What does this suggest?” to interrogate each unit of meaning (reading between punctuation) and hopefully support your theory!
  6. Annotate the poem using the question: ‘What does the speaker of the poem think or feel or do?’
  7. Annotate the poem using the question: ‘What is the reader supposed to think or feel or do about this?’
  8. Highlight the evidence from the poem (words or phrases) – look at the poetic techniques being used and how that contributes to the poem’s message or impact.
  9. Think about HOW the poet achieves these things or WHY they create the effects they do.
  10. What does the poem  suggest about what it means to be human?

Now you are ready to write up your response in a concise piece of prose.


Introduction: identify the purpose of the poem – the poet’s subject matter and message and a brief outline of the intention of the poem so that you can outline how this is achieved in more detail.

Body paragraphs: Use your common sense when organising your response.  You could allow your paragraphs to follow the structure of the poem chronologically (stage by stage) – this may not be delineated by stanza or line but by units of meaning (read between the punctuation!).  Your paragraphs might be based on the presentation of key people, places or ideas in the poem, or by the structure itself.  You will PEE on your work, naturally.

Point. Evidence. Explanation.

 (or an alternative acronym if you are more genTEEL)

Your analysis will get to word-level.  This is not an essay to spot poetic device; this is to provide an interpretation of what the poet is communicating and how and why the poem is so written.  You will quote key words and phrases and link these to the poem’s message and the poet’s techniques.

Conclusion: return to your introduction’s assertion – sum up how the poet’s intended impact is achieved and place this in a broader context: what the poem might be suggesting about what it means to be human.



What does this suggest?”

‘What do I get/What don’t I get yet?’

What does the speaker of the poem think or feel or do about…?’

‘What is the reader supposed to think or feel or do about….?’

‘How does the author achieve this?’ (techniques, language choices, structural features)

‘What does the poem suggest about what it means to be human?’

‘Sonnet 29’ by William Shakespeare

Sonnet 29 by William Shakespeare

When, in disgrace with fortune and men’s eyes,
I all alone beweep my outcast state,
And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries,
And look upon myself and curse my fate,
Wishing me like to one more rich in hope,
Featured like him, like him with friends possessed,
Desiring this man’s art and that man’s scope,
With what I most enjoy contented least;
Yet in these thoughts myself almost despising,
Haply I think on thee, and then my state,
(Like to the lark at break of day arising
From sullen earth) sings hymns at heaven’s gate;
For thy sweet love remembered such wealth brings
That then I scorn to change my state with kings.

‘God’s Grandeur’ by Gerald Manley Hopkins

God’s Grandeur by Gerald Manley Hopkins

The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
    It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
    It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
    And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
    And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.
And for all this, nature is never spent;
    There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
    Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs —
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
    World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.

‘The Old Prison’ by Judith Wright

Image source: Sandra Milliken

The Old Prison by Judith Wright

The rows of cells are unroofed,
a flute for the wind’s mouth,
who comes with a breath of ice
from the blue caves of the south.

O dark and fierce day:
the wind like an angry bee
hunts for the black honey
in the pits of the hollow sea.

Waves of shadow wash
the empty shell bone-bare,
and like a bone it sings
a bitter song of air.

Who built and laboured here?
The wind and the sea say
-Their cold nest is broken
and they are blown away-

They did not breed nor love,
each in his cell alone
cried as the wind now cries
through this flute of stone.

The Old Prison is a poem by the famous Australian poet, Judith Wright. It reflects on the ruins of the jail at the historical settlement of Port Arthur, which is located on a narrow peninsula jutting out into the Southern Ocean on the far south-east coast of Tasmania. Established by Governor George Arthur in 1830 and in service until 1877, the jail housed around 2000 prisoners, most of whom had re-offended since their arrival in Australia as convicts. The prison was virtually escape-proof, surrounded as it was by cold, shark-infested waters. There was only a narrow land access route and that was guarded by a line of ferocious dogs. Although it was planned as a ‘model prison’, it was more like hell on earth for the inmates, who had sentences ranging from several years to life. (Source: Sandra Milliken)

The following is Sandra Milliken’s choral interpretation of the poem. Scary.