For most HSC students, English prescribed texts are their worst enemy. They would rather eat a burnt dinner for 52 weeks straight than sit down and analyse an English prescribed text. I used to be that student, too, until I fortunately encountered a teacher who gave me some life-saving tips and tricks to find and analyse the best bits from my prescribed texts.
So following are those tips and tricks to breaking down and analysing your English prescribed texts.
Step 1: Read your text as you would read any other book
Grab your copy of the prescribed text and find a neat little spot to sit in, where you can get lost in your text and forget about the world around you. Trust me, it is possible to find that spot even somewhere in your house, despite your screaming siblings.
Now, without a notebook or a pen or any post-it notes, get down to reading your text and treat it like any other book that you are going to read i.e. without any prejudice, regardless of what your mates say about it.
If you like it, then remember the bits you liked the most and if you hate it, then remember the parts that made you hate it.
Step 2: Post it
Once you’ve finished the initial reading of your text, comb through it and find the sections that you think are relevant to your module and mark them with post it notes of a singular colour.
Mark any important descriptions, any monologues or dialogues. Even mark the parts that you liked and disliked passionately. The reason for this is that the author has employed tons of techniques in that part to make you love it or loathe it. This is going to be handy when you start analysing the text.
This will help you decipher what is important and distinguish it from the unimportant stuff.
Step 3: Colour me pretty
Once you are done posting your text with a singular colour, you should figure out your key themes which you think occur throughout the text or which your teacher has selected. Write down these themes on post it notes of 3 or 4 colours (each for a corresponding theme). Then use these themed post-it notes to mark the sections that have the singular coloured post-it sections.
Try to put the post-its closest to the section of the page that is the most relevant, instead of placing them just anywhere. This will make it easier for you to find out what you thought was important when you look at the page.
Step 4: Table it
The table. This table is very important in helping you analyse your text to perfection. I call it the Theme, Quote, Technique and Explanation Table (TQTET). This table basically categorises your quotes according to the themes that they fit under and then makes it easy for you to find the techniques in those quotes and then explain how your techniques will be able to further your theme in your chosen quote. See how all that flows nicely?
Below, I’ve provided an example for you to use as a model when analysing your own prescribed texts.
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Mansahaj Kaur completed her HSC in 2015 and now studies Bachelor of Commerce/Laws at USyd. She thinks that English is the most versatile and loveable language on planet Earth and she loves dabbling in anything English related, writing included. But then again, this could be because she hasn’t learnt French or German or Japanese yet. But it’s on her bucket list, mind you! Her desire to learn another language or two is only matched by her passion for eclectic tones and mystery dramas- yes yes, Sherlock, too. She is an avid reader and writer, her favourite series still being Harry Potter, despite her having read numerous renowned classics. Mansahaj likes to think that by becoming a lawyer, she might be able to make a slight, small-as-your-pinkie, teensy difference in the world; but that could be wishful thinking!