Text Analysis Questions
All text analysis questions, whether on the language or literature exam, require students to (1) identify devices and techniques of language, and (2) explain their effect. Usually (though not always), the effect is stated in one question and left to the student on the other. For example, the first text analysis question on the literature exam indicates that the effect of the prose passage is "comic;" students are asked to write an essay analyzing how the author produces that effect. Then, on the second text analysis question, a poem, the instructions read:
...taking into consideration the title of the poem, analyze how the poetic devices convey the speaker's attitude toward the sinking of the ship.
In this case, the student must determine and describe what the speaker's "attitude" is and then identify specific "poetic devices" that convey that attitude.
Similarly, Question 1 of the language exam instructs, "...write an essay in which you analyze the rhetorical strategies President Lincoln used to achieve his purpose." The first step is to explain what that purpose is, then which strategies he employs to achieve it. On Question 2, the effect is stated: Woolf conveys "the lasting significance of these moments from her past;" the student's task is to "analyze how Woolf uses language" to convey this purpose or significance.
The instructions on all of these essay questions emphasize that simply listing techniques, devices, or elements of language is only half the task, just as describing the effect or attitude is only half. The focus is on the interaction of language and meaning, form and content. Students must explain how the author achieves a specific effect or purpose. Students must develop that focus as they write their essays with specific references to the text, regardless of whether that instruction is stated explicitly in the essay question.