Since year 7, you have learnt that interpreting English texts means analyzing how their techniques create effects, including meaning and emotional impact.

Imagine you’re answering Question 1:

Question 1: How does Ezra Pound’s In a Station of the Metro represent the experience of urban life in the early twentieth century? (2 marks)
Pound, In a Station of the Metro
The apparition of these faces in the crowd;
Petals on a wet, black bough.

For a short response question like this, you need to do two things:
  1. Answer the question
  2. Provide one piece of evidence supporting your answer per mark.
You need to analyse the evidence using the TEE structure: technique, example, effect.
This hopefully sounds familiar, and quite simple. It seems simple to get full marks. So why does that not happen?
The problem is that this is just a description of what your answer needs to include. It doesn’t tell you how to construct that answer, and it certainly doesn’t cultivate a desire to engage with the subject, or push yourself to greater heights. Achieving those goals requires two things: practice and, at least to begin with, expert guidance.

It’s as complex as any other activity, like playing piano or learning a new language. Those analogies go quite far: being able to read the sheet music for a song doesn’t mean you can actually play the song. Knowing that the plural form of the Russian word gazeta is gazetiy doesn’t mean you’ll be able to make the plural in a real live conversation.

If technique analysis is a skill you would like to improve, here is a way to get started. Remember, there are no shortcuts here: if you want to get better, you ultimately need to practice often and with expert guidance.
Consider the question again. Have a pen and paper ready. If possible, don’t write on a screen.
Question 1: How does Ezra Pound’s In a Station of the Metro represent the experience of urban life in the early twentieth century? (2 marks)
  1. Don’t write anything yet. Time yourself: take thirty seconds to think of an answer and try to memorise it, or the gist of it. Focus on making a general answer to the question. Not some very specific, idiosyncratic answer. What is Pound basically suggesting it was like to live in a city during the early twentieth century?
  2. Write your answer.
  3. Move the poem away from eyesight. Now, what are the two bits of the poem – individual words or phrases – that show your answer is true? Don’t worry about techniques yet. Just select the quotations. Return to the poem and underline them.
  4. Now, what about these lines, what in their form, conveys the idea? This is where you identify the technique.
  5. Complete your answer.
This is a good way to start, but you will probably find some gaps in your understanding. What does ‘complete the answer’ really mean, for example It probably depends on what you’ve written so far. This is where you need to find a good teacher. When looking, try to find someone who:
  • Has experience, either as an exceptional student or as a teacher;
  • You sense has a genuine care and engagement with the subject and their students.
You need an expert for their ability to diagnose problems in real time, to identify the granular issues unique to you. An authority also adds the necessary pressure and sense of accountability most people need to improve. Most people also like to learn in groups. Try to find a class that:
  • Is supportive and promotes wellbeing;
Expansive in their thinking and goals, not just focussed on marks and systems.