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April 24, 2006

Being put to the test

Roberts, Ch.17 -- Jerz: American Lit II (EL 267)

“A major cause of low exam grades is that students often do not answer the questions asked” (288).

This, I can understand. If I can apply Roberts to my efforts on Paper 3, I find I want to revisit my thesis a bit and make sure what I’ve been trying to determine fits the statement I made. Sure, I can introduce the antithesis, but naturally I want my own argument to be the strongest it can be, so I have to answer my own questions: What in essence is my statement saying? Am I sticking to that idea in my argument? If there’s a problem, do I need to tweak or fundamentally change my thesis, or do I simply need to rewrite the argument to be more concise?

I don’t think I’m that far off, truth be told. That doesn’t mean I’m happy with what I’ve got. Sometimes, we have to write something the best we’re able when we’re not given a lot to go on or a topic we don’t like. Some subjects lend themselves to arguments, and some, like Flannery O’Connor (in my case) are a tough nut to crack.

But if I can whittle my focus to a few key objectives then I can narrow my efforts. And as I wring my hands over this, I need to cut myself a little slack and things will operate more smoothly.

I also agree with Roberts that preparedness is an advantage. Even if you can’t think like the fellow making the test, at least you know you’ve done all that you could do to prepare and the confidence that comes with it is worth a few points when all is said and done. I’ve always maintained if you can take a test with a confident air about you, then you’ll perform better. It’s when I’ve been all balled up inside that I’ve blanked out when the test was handed to me.

Having said that, I might humbly offer as test questions: “In what ways might one suggest Flannery O’Connor uses her main characters?” “Do Flannery O’Connor’s main characters learn ultimate lessons at the ends of her stories or is her intended target only the reader?” “What might you suggest is a reason Flannery O’Connor seems to end her stories before a lot of closure takes place?” “If there is a common thread running through O’Connor’s stories, what might that be?” “Select a main character from one of O’Connor’s stories in A Good Man is Hard to Find and detail that character’s motivation in the story.” “Write a short comparison/contrast essay about two of the authors we’ve covered this semester. Offer some examples from their stories to support the points you’ve made.”

Posted by MattHampton at April 24, 2006 10:17 AM


I'm the complete opposite when I take tests--I usually do my best when I'm nervous.

Posted by: ChrisU at April 25, 2006 09:14 AM

Your comments made me think of a recent Tribune Review article about high school students' complaints regarding the essay question on an AP English test. The question required them to think about the cycle of life and how everything on earth effects everything else. This seems fine, but I guess the problem was that the quote they were to respond to was a somewhat enigmatic one from a famous Native American (sorry for the lack of details, I'll blame it on pregnant brain). I was frustrated that the paper would give this so much attention since it seemed to me a perfectly reasonable question to respond to. Although I imagine that many high school students prepare for that test by focusing on actual works of literature. Too bad they didn't have Roberts to study from.

Posted by: jennifer Difulvio at May 3, 2006 10:45 AM

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